Mark Carney – EU Should Offer Transitional Period to Banks and Finance Firms to Adapt to Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 30 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Bank Of England
James Stringer/Flickr

The European Union desperately needs finance from Britain and will face severe knocks to its economy if member nations do not agree to a transitional period to give banks and finance firms time to adapt to Brexit, Mark Carney has warned.

The Governor of the Bank of England wants a smooth changeover when Britain leaves the EU, to give companies time to adapt to the new setup, and avoid any wrenching change in the economy or in the financial markets.

That means Britain would not necessarily switch overnight from one regime to another when leaving the EU, which is expected to take place in early 2019.

“Banks located in the UK supply over half of debt and equity issuance by continental firms, and account for over three-quarters of foreign exchange and derivatives activity in the EU,” Mr Carney said.

“If these UK-based firms have to adjust their activities in a short time frame, there could be a greater risk of disruption to services provided to the European real economy, some of which could spill back to the UK economy through trade and financial linkages.”

“These activities are crucial for firms in the European real economy, and it is absolutely in the interests of the EU that there is an orderly transition and there is continual access to those services.”

The Governor has been criticised for his interventions on Brexit in the past, facing accusations that he wanted the UK to remain in the EU and tried to sway the debate.

Presenting the Bank of England’s financial stability report, he sought this time to align himself with Theresa May.

“As the Prime Minister has said, it is preferable that the process is as smooth and orderly as possible,” he said.

“It is preferable that firms know as much as possible about the desired end point [of the Brexit negotiations] and as much as poss as soon as possible about the potential path to that end point.”

That should mean businesses on both sides of the Channel are able to prepare for Brexit when it takes place, minimising any disruption.

“[Finance] firms are making contingency plans for a variety of potential outcomes, as we’d expect them to do. As supervisor, we have direct line of sight to those contingencies, and we know exactly what they currently intend to do under any circumstance,” said Mr Carney.

He believes that the average bank would need less than two years to implement its contingency plans for Brexit, once it knows exactly what it is preparing for.

That sets the scene for a much shorter transition period than the five to 10 years sometimes proposed by finance bosses and lobbyists.
China is the biggest risk to financial stability

Other risks to financial stability identified by the Bank of England include the buildup of debt in China, the potential for Donald Trump’s spending plans to cause the US economy to overheat, political risks in the eurozone, and the increase in household debt in the UK.

“The most significant risks to UK financial stability are global,” said Mr Carney.

“China’s non-financial sector debt has risen…. to 260pc of GDP. This is extraordinary leverage for an advanced, let alone emerging, economy.”

That is an increase from 160pc of GDP at the time of the financial crisis, and the Bank of England fears it leaves China “vulnerable to external shocks”.

Donald Trump could destabilise markets

One such shock could be a sharp rise in US interest rates, potentially prompted by President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to slash taxes and hike government spending.

“A significant fiscal stimulus at a time when the US economy is increasingly operating at close to full capacity … the consequence of that has been an increase in US market rates, the first elements of so-called snap-back risk, and a strengthening of the US dollar,” said Mr Carney.
Snap-back risk is a central banking term for a sharp jump in interest rates, rather than the slow and steady change which officials hope will take place in the coming years.

Higher rates would be expected to push up the dollar and encourage flows of capital from emerging markets and into the US, potentially hitting growth in those markets and creating financial instability.

Britons at risk from debt binge

In the UK the Bank of England noted that households are starting to increase borrowing, for the first time since the financial crisis.

Households’ debt as a proportion of their incomes has fallen by around 20 percentage points since the credit crunch.

That is now increasing, in part because higher house prices mean homeowners need bigger mortgages, but also because credit card debt is on the up.

“The good thing is households and businesses, young families looking to buy a home, can get access to credit, and get it on quite competitive terms,” said Mr Carney, arguing that the low interest rates which encourage this “are necessary for the economy, given the headwinds the economy is facing.”

But he said the Bank of England also has to make sure those loans are being given out responsibly: “We have tools that can help ensure the underwriting standards are responsible, that [the loans] are going to people who are likely to be able to pay off those debts. It doesn’t do anybody a favour – the individual, the bank or the economy as a whole – if we slip into a position where that discipline is lost.”

By Tim Wallace

Brexit worries fade as British firms plan to take on more worker

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 29 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Union Jack
Mikey/flickr.com

Businesses plan to hire more workers into the new year, as service sector employers’ worries in the summer after the EU referendum turn to cautious optimism.

Their longer-term plans are more uncertain, however, leading to investment cutbacks, a survey of service sector members of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found, with spending on vehicles and machinery reduced.

Consumer companies are the most positive about their financial prospects, with households remaining upbeat since the Brexit vote and spending more in the shops.

The CBI found the proportion of consumer companies reporting above-normal business volumes outweighed those reporting low business levels by a margin of 22 percentage points. Firms are also increasingly optimistic about the coming months.

Companies serving other businesses, particularly in professional services markets, are less positive, however. A net balance of 10pc said business levels are below normal, and a balance of 17pc are pessimistic on the overall business environment. Companies in both sectors expect to keep on hiring workers, however, at an accelerating pace.

That bodes well for Britain’s wider economy, where unemployment is currently at an 11-year low and has fallen since the EU referendum in June, defying fears of an immediate slump.

The CBI’s chief economist, Rain Newton-Smith, said: “Employment growth remains strong and service sector firms are looking to hire in the months ahead. Many firms still plan to invest in IT, but uncertainty over future demand could act as a restraint.

“The Autumn Statement will have offered some comfort to businesses as the Government looks to build on the UK’s economic strengths, with an industrial strategy that helps deliver growth across the country.”

By Tim Wallace

 

UK urges to be careful with its plans to raise the National Living Wage:OECD

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk/news – – Mon, 28 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

UK public finances
London Skyline/Megan Trace/flickr.com

The UK should be careful with its plans to raise the National Living Wage, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD said “caution” was needed in the roll-out of the policy, given its possible impact on employment.

In the Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to raise the wage to £7.50 an hour next April.

The OECD also forecast that the UK would have one of the lowest growth rates among G20 countries by 2018.

The National Living Wage was introduced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget in July 2015.

It came into effect in April this year, and was set at a rate of £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and over, with the aim of increasing it to £9 an hour by 2020.

Pay rise
The UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility estimated it would give a pay rise to 1.3 million workers this year.

The OECD said the UK’s labour market had been “resilient”, although job creation had moderated recently.

“Real wages have been growing at a time of low inflation, but the fall of the exchange rate has started to increase price pressures,” it said.

“Caution is needed with the implementation of the policy to raise the National Living Wage to 60% of median hourly earnings by 2020.

“The effects on employment need to be carefully assessed before any further increases are adopted, especially as growth slows and labour markets weaken.”

The organisation’s stance echoes the widespread claims of business organisations in the 1990s that the introduction of the UK’s national minimum wage – which started in 1999 – would lead to widespread job losses.

Those fears proved to be groundless, with the number of people in employment rising from 27 million then to nearly 32 million now.

The OECD says the world economy has been stuck in a low growth trap for five years. It says government spending and tax policies could be used to provide a boost.

The report expects action on these lines from the administration of President-elect Donald Trump in the United States and predicts that will result in a modest boost beyond US borders.

It also suggests that other countries could afford to take similar steps.
But the OECD says that any benefit could be offset if countries resort to measures that restrict trade to protect their own industries.

Brexit ‘unpredictability’
The OECD predicts that the UK’s economy will grow by 1% in 2018, slower than both Germany (1.7%) and France (1.6%).

However, the organisation has raised its UK growth forecasts for this year and 2017.

It now predicts the UK’s economy will expand by 2% this year, compared with an earlier forecast of 1.8%, while in 2017 it has lifted the growth forecast to 1.2% from 1.0%.

The OECD said the upward revision was specifically because of Bank of England action and the depreciation in sterling since the Brexit vote.

Looking ahead, the organisation warned that the UK’s unemployment rate could rise to more than 5% because of weaker growth.

It also predicted a sharp rise in inflation as the pound’s slide against the dollar and euro starts to be reflected in prices in the shops.

“The unpredictability of the exit process from the European Union is a major downside risk for the economy,” it said.

The OECD’s forecast for growth in the US has risen since the election of Donald Trump as the country’s next President.

It revised its prediction for 2016 up to 1.5% from 1.4%, and next year’s estimate to 2.3% from 2.1%. In 2018 it is forecasting 3% growth.

 

Sky Plc About to jump into the U.K. Wireless Market

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 28 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Sky Plc is about to jump into the U.K. wireless market, betting that even as a latecomer it can pry customers away from the four established competitors by harnessing its powerful entertainment brand and millions of existing subscribers.

Prospects for Sky’s mobile offer remain hard to pin down for analysts. Their forecasts for the company’s share of the 15.2 billion-pound ($18.9 billion) U.K. market range from as little as 1 percent to 10 percent, which would bring it close to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three U.K., now the No. 4 player.

The outlook for Sky’s offer remains clouded by a lack of details, including pricing. Guy Peddy, an analyst at Macquarie Bank Ltd. in London, originally estimated Sky could capture about 2 million customers by mid-2021. He’s raised that figure by more than 50 percent to 3.12 million, saying this week in a report that the opportunity is bigger than he thought and the offer is more sophisticated. “Wireless risks for the existing operators are understated,” he wrote.

The type of customer Sky attracts is as important as the number. That’s because its biggest rival, BT Group Plc, has been busy establishing itself on Sky’s home turf in pay-TV. The former U.K. phone monopoly this year expanded its slate of Premier League soccer matches, long a Sky stronghold, and acquired mobile operator EE. That gave it a “quad-play” lineup of fixed and mobile phones, broadband and television. By adding a mobile offering, Sky has a chance to retaliate.

‘Substantial’ Potential

“The fact that they will be entering the quad-play space after BT/EE means that competition for similar customers could be intense by the time they come to market,” Ameet Patel, an analyst at Northern Trust Securities LLP in London, said in an e-mail. EE and Sky will be fighting for a broadly similar subscriber base of “higher-value, more data-hungry users,” Patel said.

Sky says it sees “substantial” potential for the cellular service. What little it has revealed suggests that the company, whose biggest investor is Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc., is confident it can poach mobile customers from its rivals by bundling services across platforms. Existing Sky customers who indicate their interest in the mobile product online are told it will be “the smart network for your smart phone.”

Sky’s experience delivering content to mobile platforms means the new service is a natural extension, Sky Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Darroch said last week at an investor conference in Barcelona. Sky will first focus on signing up its existing customers, who currently get their mobile service from a range of providers, he said.

“It’s a market where I think we’ve got the right skills to be successful,” Darroch said. Sky’s success with broadband and its high-definition TV service show the company is good at marketing new products, he said. “Our ability to upsell that scale is very, very strong.”

EE’s Share

EE had a 29 percent share of U.K. retail mobile subscriptions at the end of 2015, according to industry watchdog Ofcom. It was followed by Telefonica SA’s O2 with 27 percent, Vodafone Group Plc with 19 percent and Three with 11 percent.

Representatives for EE, Three and the Vodafone declined to comment. A Telefonica spokesman said the company will benefit from the traffic generated by Sky because the pay-TV provider is buying space on O2’s network for its mobile offering.

Sky built its pay-TV business on ownership of premium programming like top-flight soccer, rather than discounting, so analysts don’t expect it to try to undercut rivals on price in pursuit of volume. Still, its entry into an already crowded U.K. mobile market will intensify competition.

Some analysts underestimated the growth of Sky’s broadband business. After more than a decade of investments, including the acquisition of Telefonica’s U.K. fixed-line business, Sky has become the second-largest internet provider in the U.K. after BT. Its market share rose to 23 percent in 2015 from 15 percent in 2010, according to Ofcom.

BT mobile subscribers that don’t get broadband from the carrier may already pay for Sky services and may be the most likely candidates for switching to its cellular offering, said Allan Nichols, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Amsterdam.

Broadband Success

“They’ve been way more successful with their broadband than I ever thought they would,” he said.

Research suggests two-thirds of Sky customers would consider the company’s mobile offering, Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive officer of the U.K. and Ireland business, said at a capital markets day last month. They’ve been able to register since October.

“We’ve long had our eyes on the size of the prize,” he said. “The mobile market is huge.

By Rebecca Penty  and Kasper Viita

U.K. Economy Registered a Resilient Performance Following the Brexit Vote

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Mon, 28 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Brexit Vote
Rareclass/flickr

Consumers and businesses increased their spending in the third quarter as the U.K. economy registered a resilient performance following the Brexit vote.
Household spending rose 0.7 percent from the second quarter and business investment increased 0.9 percent, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. Growth overall was unrevised at 0.5 percent, with trade providing the strongest contribution. A separate report from the Confederation of British Industry showed retail sales grew at their fastest annual pace in more than a year in November.

The ONS report covers the first full quarter of gross domestic product since Britons upended U.K. politics and roiled financial markets by voting to leave the European Union. While there are few signs of any significant effect for now, growth is expected to slow next year.

In its twice-yearly review, the Office for Budget Responsibility on Wednesday slashed its 2017 forecast to 1.4 percent from 2.2 percent, saying uncertainty will lead firms to delay investment while the falling pound squeezes consumers by pushing up the cost of imports.

“Investment by businesses held up well in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, though it’s likely most of these investment decisions were taken before polling day,” said ONS statistician Darren Morgan. “That, coupled with growing consumer spending fueled by rising household income, and a strong performance in the dominant service industries, kept the economy expanding broadly in line with its historical average.”

The jump in business investment surprised economists, who had widely predicted a decline as the Brexit vote took its toll.

“In light of Brexit there was a case for uncertainty holding back investment,” said Alan Clarke at Scotiabank in London. “However, things are never black and white. Projects to build planes, ships, buildings etc. will have been signed off 12-18 months ago and that activity won’t shut off overnight.”

The increase in consumer spending was down from 0.9 percent growth between April and June but in line with the average of recent quarters.
Pound Effect

The CBI said its monthly retail sales index rose to 26 in November — the highest since September 2015 — and stores anticipate another gain next month. They may be getting a boost from overseas visitors taking advantage of the weak pound, economists say.

The exchange rate may also be starting to boost trade by making British exports cheaper and imports more expensive. Net trade added 0.7 percentage point to GDP in the three months through September, the biggest contribution since the start of the 2014 and the first this year. Exports rose 0.7 percent and imports fell 1.5 percent.

An index of the dominant services industry rose 0.2 percent in September, leaving output 0.8 percent higher on the quarter. That more than offset declines in industrial production and construction. GDP growth overall was down from 0.7 percent in the second quarter.

Article Link:http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-25/u-k-economy-shows-no-sign-of-brexit-effect-as-spending-rises

By Lucy Meakin

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Why Brits are Shunning the High Streets On Black Friday For Bargins Online

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 25 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

It’s the super-shopping day of the year: the so-called ‘Black Friday’ where we spend billions chasing bargains and cut-price goods. But this year more than any, British shoppers have been shunning the actual shops to instead get their deals from the comfort of their computers or phones. Whilst it means stores on the high street have been quieter than expected, it’s been a different story for online sales.

British retailers reported strong online demand in early “Black Friday” trading, as shoppers chased deals in a spending spree that is expected to top last year’s record level.

Shoppers are looking for bargains ahead of an expected rise in prices in 2017 as a weaker pound starts to push up the cost of imports, putting household finances under pressure.

Last year marked a change in the nature of the U.S.-imported discounting day. It generated record revenue but was subdued in terms of store-based sales, with shoppers put off by bad weather and memories of chaos and scuffles in 2014. This year, shoppers are focussing even more online.

Currys PC World – part of Dixons Retail (DC.L), Europe’s largest electricals and telecommunications retailer – reported its highest ever number of orders, up 40 percent on 2015, with over half a million visitors to its website before 0600 GMT.

Electricals to toys retailer Argos (SBRY.L) saw similarly robust trade with over half a million visits to its website between midnight and 0100 GMT, up 50 percent year-on-year.

“It will be the busiest trading day of the year,” Argos CEO John Rogers told Reuters.

“It’s becoming an increasingly mobile (phone) shopping day. We’d expect to be north of 60 percent online and almost 80 percent of our online orders are coming from mobile,” he said.

John Lewis [JLP.UL], Britain’s biggest department store group, said its website was taking five orders every second.

UK retailers will be hoping the promotions kick-start Christmas trading, building on a strong October when cold weather and Halloween boosted sales.
Many, including Amazon (AMZN.O), Argos, Dixons Carphone and Tesco (TSCO.L), have extended Black Friday to run for a two week period either side of the main day.

PRESSURE

UK consumer spending has held up since June’s vote to leave the European Union. However, the Bank of England and many economists fear higher prices caused by the Brexit hit to the value of the pound and slower jobs growth will eat into households’ spare income next year.

Wednesday’s fiscal statement from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond also did little to ease looming pressure on household budgets.

PwC, the accounting and consultancy firm, is forecasting revenue from Black Friday promotions to grow by 38 percent to 2.9 billion pounds.

Researcher ShopperTrak forecasts Friday’s in-store shopper numbers will be down by 2.8 percent year-on-year – a second straight year of footfall decline.

Some analysts argue Black Friday discounts pull forward Christmas sales that store groups would otherwise have made at full price and can dampen business in subsequent weeks.

Retailers, however, say carefully planned and targeted promotions with global suppliers allow them to achieve a sales boost while maintaining profit margins.

“DECEPTIONS”

An investigation by consumer group Which? Found half of the products “on offer” in last year’s Black Friday were actually cheaper in the months before or after the event.

Peter Ruis, the boss of fashion chain Jigsaw, told the BBC that Black Friday discounts were “deceptions” as the goods are often not worth the original price. Shops risk being perceived as “traders peddling cheap stuff on a market stall,” he said.

Argos’s Rogers countered by saying there was no “smoke and mirrors” at his firm. “Customers are great at sniffing out a bargain. They know when something’s a good deal,” he said.

And the popularity of Black Friday is spreading overseas.

“1.2 percent of the population of Denmark was on our Danish website at 1 minute past midnight … looking at our Black Friday deals. 60,000 people,” tweeted Dixons Carphone CEO Seb James.

By James Davey

Using Smart Billing Strategies to Increase Profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Fri, 25 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Ken Teegardin/Flickr
Ken Teegardin/Flickr

I used to work at a writing mill, churning out page after page of promotional material on technical subjects. I was not, thank you very much, a “tech writer.” Business writers view tech writers as failed engineers or talentless hacks who are one economic downturn from working at Taco Bell. Tech writers, in turn, think business writers to be technological maladroits who could not pour water out of a boot if the instructions were not written on the bottom.

I was new to the job and eager to impress. I was designing a training program, and I asked the program managers how many hours had been billed to the project; he looked at me blankly and shrugged. He didn’t know. Not to be dissuaded, I went to the CFO who told me, “We don’t track that.” When I asked him how many hours they based the quote on, he was equally clueless.

Ask me no questions.

So there I was working on a project without knowing how many total hours had been bid and how many of those had been used. Madness. By now self-conscious because I believed my questions sounded more accusatory than inquisitive, I gently inquired how in the living Hell the company knew whether or not it was making a profit. I was informed with withering condescension that we billed customers, and that was called gross revenue, and then we subtracted our costs, which revealed our net profit. Madness; all around me, madness.

I grew to accept that loosey-goosey accounting method that they don’t teach you in accounting classes. There were no lofty terms like depreciation and debits, and no such pesky acronyms as FIFO and LIFO inventories. No, this was something easier and somehow more pure. Truthfully, it removed any and all accountability: I was absolutely at peace with it. Still, this company did eventually collapse, largely because of its amateurish cash-flow system, but I had abandoned ship long before.

There can’t be two.

I had another job in a velvet sweatshop writing training. I was sure the first company was an outlier: there couldn’t be two companies that didn’t manage profit and labor on an individual basis. I was wrong.

I was again plunged headlong into a world of madness where nobody kept score until the game was over. This time the company only tracked overhead, code for: You useless fool! You aren’t working making money for the company. Here, to have over 10 percent overhead on your timesheet was to put a bullseye on your back, although everyone quickly learned how to game that system.

If you are an entrepreneur — whether you are a sole proprietor or the owner of a medium- to large-sized company, you must know how much each project is costing you relative to how much you are billing for it. This is easier than it seems, but there are some rules you should follow:
Spell out exactly what is billable and what is not.

In your quotes to prospective clients, detail what’s billable. Is travel to and from the customer site billable? How about kickoff meetings? A clear understanding of exactly what constitutes billable activity is essential; what’s more, it avoids disputes over billing.

Share the quote with the team.

Too many business owners are paranoid about their billing; in their minds, they don’t dare share that information with their employees. They fear that if their employees knew the rate at which they were being billed to a client, they would demand a raise. If you fear that, explain to your employees the concepts of burden rate (how much it costs a business owner to actually employ a worker) and profit (the reason you’re in business). Most people will get it, and the conversation will end well — except for ones where the employer is actively ripping off everyone in the equation. (You know who you are. So, in that case, you might want to fix that first, you greedy, dishonest pig.)

Don’t schedule mandatory nonbillable meetings and events.

Too many employers fill employees schdules with nonbillable meetings and then punish employees for being nonbillable. Now, assuming a 40-hour week (HA! LOL … sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face), an employer scheduling a daily, two-hour staff meeting instantly cuts employees’ billable time by 20 percent. Think about that, but also know I’m being kind here. I have worked for companies that harp on people for the level of their overhead billing and yet routinely schedule 20 hours of nonbillable activities (meetings, training, employee birthday parties, etc.). This practice puts the employee in an intolerable dilemma: either he or she can cheat and bill the customer for that time, or the employee can log an extra 20 hours or so of work outside the workweek to retain a high, useful billability rating.

Keep good time sheets.

Everyone hates doing timesheets. Show me someone who enjoys doing timesheets and I will show you someone who probably eats food they find on the side walk (“Oooh, street pizza”). Good time keeping allows you to understand how much effort a project really takes; it differentiates between people who are good at their work and those who aren’t.

Learn from your failures.

Just because you lost money on a project doesn’t mean you’re workers failed to perform. When you lose money on a project ask yourself why? Was it scope creep (where the project slowly grows but the price stays the same)? Was it poorly quoted? Did you miss listing key assumptions that affected your ability to bill the project more? By knowing exactly why you lost (or for that matter, why made money), you can correct the error and do better next time.

By Phil La Duke

Training Corporate Security Teams in The Event of Cyber Attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Thu, 24 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Computers
Longmont/flickr.com

Despite billions of dollars invested in antihacking technology over the past 10 years, companies appear to have little idea of how to respond to a cyber attack. When Target was hacked during the busy 2013 Christmas season, investigators found the company had missed early warnings that might have prevented the loss of data belonging to 70 million customers. When the news came out, lawsuits were filed, and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel resigned. Sony Pictures Entertainment’s fumbling response a year later to North Korean hackers turned a bad situation into a terrible one, costing Amy Pascal, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, her job as co-chairman.

IBM, which has spent five years buying companies to make itself the world’s third-largest cybersecurity provider, wants to train corporate security teams, CEOs, and PR departments to handle those kinds of crises. Shortly after Election Day, the company unveiled a facility that combines gaming techniques and millions of dollars of sophisticated hardware to re-create scenarios like Target’s and Sony’s in white-knuckle, stock-plunging detail.

The idea is borrowed from the Pentagon, which uses a similar approach to train soldiers for cyberwar. Instead of the pressure of combat, the facility at IBM’s security division headquarters on the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., wants to re-create a postbreach pressure cooker that can move rapidly from a regulatory investigation to a call from the FBI to whatever else the range’s multimedia producers can conjure. “We don’t want to scare the crap out of people,” says Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security. “We do want people to feel a little of the adrenaline burst and the pressure.”

By the time IBM’s cyber range is fully operational in January, it will offer 12 training programs. Think of them as plays, Barlow says, with settings, acts, and an unusually wide range of actors, including general counsels, marketing teams, and C-suite executives.

The staging area is a bit like a flight simulator built for two dozen. Theater-quality video panels cover the front wall, and the ceiling is studded with the same sensors that allowed Tom Cruise to manipulate data with his hands in the movie Minority Report. (The ceiling array, made by Oblong Industries in Los Angeles, is the most expensive thing in the room.) Racks of servers located a floor below simulate the data stream of a full-size corporate network.

During a recent afternoon demo, the training program began with a phishing e-mail sent to a fictitious HR rep. The hackers made off with a cache of data before the IT crew could isolate the source of the breach. Then an insider leaked news of the breach, and the pressure mounted. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an investigation. More pressure.
As the afternoon wore on, events spun out of control. The security team discovered that the hackers hadn’t just stolen information, they’d also altered the company’s financial data shortly before its quarterly earnings report. Uh-oh.

$200 million: IBM spending on its cyber range and teams for intel and incident response

All this realism doesn’t come without risks. The range is designed to test out some of the most virulent malware, so the whole thing is air-gapped, which means it’s not connected to the real internet. Instead, developers collected data from thousands of web pages to create a miniature, self-contained internet.

Like many of the range’s features, that idea came from Joe Provost, the project’s threat modeling and simulation architect and a former master hacker for the National Security Agency. Two days after hackers took some of the world’s most popular websites offline in October with a botnet of infected home routers, TVs, and other internet-connected devices, Provost figured out how to replicate the attack so he could add it to one of the range’s scenarios. In the simulations, he also plays the main bad guy.
The facility is expensive, and IBM wouldn’t say exactly how much it costs to run. Barlow says the company had spent a combined $200 million on the range and the development of cyber intelligence and incident response teams for on-site investigations of major hacks. He may be reticent to break out spending on the facility, because there’s no guarantee the investment will pay off. IBM says it’s not planning to charge people who come in for the training sessions; it’s more of a marketing tool, an effort to convince companies there’s enough value in IBM’s various cybersecurity technologies to make them worth buying. “This is in some ways a grand experiment,” Barlow says.

Roland Cloutier, chief security officer of payroll-services provider ADP, says that based on what he knows of the gaps in traditional cybersecurity training, IBM’s plan should work. “What IBM has been able to do is take two very different processes and combine them into a single training,” he says. “One is technology-based—I have an attack going on, and I have to stop it. But then you have crisis management, which is about leadership in tough situations. That’s a whole different skill set.”

The bottom line: IBM has built a cybersecurity training center to test corporate readiness. Now it has to persuade customers to buy its gear.

By Michael Riley

(Updated second paragraph to correct IBM’s global market position.)

Pro-Brexiters Rallied at Old Palace Yard Calling For Swift Exit

Pro-Brexiters rallied at Old Palace Yard, just outside of the Houses of Parliament, on Wednesday, calling for a hard Brexit following a court ruling that the British government would need parliament’s approval to trigger article 50 to leave the EU.

Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies addressed the crowd, claiming that while the Brexit camp had “won a battle” they “did not win the war”. The Tory MP went on to state that the referendum result was “being undermined by a rather shadowy bunch of people” who were finding “loopholes to try and prevent the voice of the British people from being heard.”

The landmark challenge to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ability to trigger Brexit negotiations without a vote in Parliament was ruled on by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd at the High Court of Justice on November 3. The British government has stated that it will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.

Chancellor Philip Hammond Delivers Britain’s Autumn Statement

In his first Autumn Statement to Parliament Wednesday, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will outline a series of measures to help “ordinary working-class families” and stress that a stable economy, fiscal discipline and better productivity are the best ways to raise living standards. Watch the address live right here on YouTube.

Chancellor £1.4bn funding injection to help thousands of families buy a home

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 23 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Construction
Omar Bárcena/flickr.com

Housebuilders will receive a major boost in the Autumn Statement today as the Government steps up its affordable housing drive to help address a chronic shortage.

Philip Hammond will use his first fiscal statement since becoming Chancellor to announce a £1.4bn funding injection to help thousands more families to buy a home.

It came as a jump in corporation tax receipts helped to reduce public borrowing last month to its lowest since 2008, handing a boost to Mr Hammond on the eve of the Autumn Statement.

Higher national insurance, VAT and a 24pc jump in corporation tax revenues pushed down public sector net borrowing, excluding public sector banks, to £4.8bn in October, down from £6.4bn a year ago.

This is the lowest October deficit since 2008, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and well below economists’ estimates for a fall to £6bn.

The Chancellor will announce measures today to help renters and aspiring homeowners as part of a pledge by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to ensure the economy “works for everyone”.

The Government estimates that 40,000 new homes will be built as a result of the funding injection, which will be used to help first-time buyers, existing shared owners who wish to move and former homeowners who can no longer afford to buy.

Mr Hammond will abandon the rigid framework set by the current Affordable Homes Programme, with the £4.3bn of current and £1.4bn of additional funding allocated “flexibly” between existing shared ownership and affordable rent schemes.

Previous plans indicated that 88pc of funds would be used to build at least 135,000 homes for shared ownership, which are targeted at families with incomes of £80,000 or less, or £90,000 in London.

Around 10,000 homes were expected to be built under the Rent to Buy scheme, where prospective buyers pay a discounted rent for five years while saving for a deposit.

Allocations will now depend on demand from local authorities and housebuilders.

The Chancellor’s announcement will be part of a package designed to help people’s money go further and boost living standards as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

A modest infrastructure boost will be announced alongside a warning from the Government’s independent fiscal watchdog that slower growth due to the Brexit vote will reduce tax receipts and force up borrowing over the next five years to plug the gap between revenues and expenditure.
The Government has borrowed £48.6bn so far this financial year, according to ONS data.

While this is £5.6bn less than a year ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), warned last month that the current borrowing target of £55.5bn for this fiscal year was “very unlikely to be met”.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, expects borrowing for the current financial year to be revised up by around £10bn.

Mr Hammond has already abandoned a goal to balance the books by the end of the decade and some economists believe the hit to the public finances could be as large as £100bn over the next five years.

The Chancellor will present new borrowing rules in the Autumn Statement that will give the Government flexibility to respond to fiscal shocks.

A spokesman for the Treasury said Mr Hammond remained “committed to fiscal discipline” and would “return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time”.

Separate data published by the Confederation of British Industry showed factory bosses reported their healthiest order books in November since before the Brexit vote.

Britain’s biggest business group said manufacturers were at their most optimistic about the near-term outlook in nearly two years.

However, its monthly survey showed many were poised to raise prices at the fastest pace in almost three years, reflecting the sharp fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum result.

By Szu Ping Chan

October borrowing 25 percent less lowest since 2008 beating all economists’ forecasts.

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 22 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –

Economy
UK in Spain/flickr.com

British finance minister Philip Hammond got some rare good news about the country’s finances on Tuesday as he finalises his first budget statement, which is still likely to forecast a surge in borrowing as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Breaking with a pattern of borrowing overshoots earlier in the financial year, official figures on Tuesday showed public borrowing in October was 25 percent less than a year earlier at 4.8 billion pounds ($6.0 billion), its lowest since 2008 and beating all economists’ forecasts.

But Hammond still stands little chance of meeting the budget deficit reduction target for the current financial year which his predecessor, George Osborne, set out in March. He has already abandoned Osborne’s goal of reaching a budget surplus by 2020.

Instead, economists predict Hammond could announce more than 100 billion pounds of extra borrowing on Wednesday, as Britain’s independent budget office is likely to forecast slower growth, weaker tax revenues and higher social security costs in the wake of June’s vote to leave the European Union.

“To put it bluntly, Brexit will be assumed to make the UK poorer which means the government must eventually lower spending, raise taxes, or permanently borrow more,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Robert Wood said.

Hammond played down expectations of much extra spending on public services or infrastructure to cushion the effect of years of uncertainty as Britain negotiates to leave the EU on Sunday, and described debt levels as “eye-wateringly” high.

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Bank of America’s Wood said he expected Hammond to announce extra discretionary stimulus that amounted to just 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, in part because he may want to keep his powder dry in case of a sharper economic slowdown.

This could include freezes to taxes on vehicle fuel and air travel, and modest further investment in infrastructure such as roads and broadband internet connections.

Britain’s economy has slowed much less than most economists forecast since the Brexit referendum, and on Tuesday the Confederation of British Industry reported the fastest growth in factory orders since the June 23 vote.

But analysts see tougher times ahead for households as a 15 percent fall in the value of sterling against the dollar feeds into higher prices.

The public finances were underperforming even before the Brexit vote. Borrowing since the start of the tax year in April is 10 percent lower than in the same period of 2015 at 48.6 billion pounds, the Office for National Statistics said, versus a 27 percent fall needed to meet Osborne’s 55 billion pound target for the whole tax year.

“The government is committed to fiscal discipline and will return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time, in a way that allows space to support the economy as needed,” a finance ministry spokesman said after Tuesday’s data.

Britain’s budget deficit was 4 percent of GDP last year, down from 10 percent at the height of the financial crisis but still more than almost all other big economies.

The ONS said net public debt rose to a record 1.642 trillion pounds in October, equivalent to 83.8 percent of gross domestic product.

October’s improvement in the public finances was driven by faster growth in tax revenues. Overall these were up 6.8 percent on the year, with particularly strong growth in corporation tax. The ONS was not able to say if the trend was likely to last.

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce

President Elect Trump says Nigel Farage would do ‘a great job’ as the UK ambassador to the US.

Donald Trump says that Nigel Farage would do ‘a great job’ as the UK ambassador to the US. But is another diplomatic role a possibility?
On the night of the US elections, Mr. Farage was asked by Andrew Neil if he’d consider the role of US ambassador to the EU, if he was given
US citizenship.