The Knowledge: Talking points

Posted: 07/01/2019

BL_Talking PointsA quantum of solace
A new report from US space agency Nasa and Standard Chartered bank says that quantum computing promises to make dramatic improvements in investment decision-making, according to the Financial Times. Quantum computers, in case you didn’t know, are “computers which make use of the quantum states of subatomic particles to store information”, and they are powerful. Very powerful. According to the new research paper, asset managers will be able to use these super-duper computers to create optimised portfolios, for instance, by finding the perfect balance between risk and return. But it’s early days yet. Alexei Kondratyev, Managing Director, Financial Markets, at Standard Chartered, one of the report’s authors, told the FT there has been little uptake so far among asset managers of quantum computers because of their cost, which starts at $15 million. He expects that to change in the next couple of years “as fund managers are able to rent computer firepower through the cloud”.

Wheels of misfortune
The arrival of ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft has led to an increase in fatal car crashes in a series of US cities, according to research by the University of Chicago and Rice University in Texas. Before Uber launched in San Francisco in 2010, US traffic deaths were at their lowest point for half a century, says the study. But since then, fatal accidents have started to rise. In a draft of their paper, researchers John Barrios of the University of Chicago, along with Yael Hochberg and Livia Hanyi Yi of Rice University, wrote: “The arrival of ride-sharing is associated with an increase of 2%-3% in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents.” They tracked the rollout of Uber and Lyft across the US and correlated it with accident statistics to reach their damning conclusion. 

Economic powerhouse
More than two-thirds of middle-market companies in the UK expect to achieve growth of between 6% and 10% in 2018, according to the 2018 EY UK Growth Barometer survey. These figures compare with the International Monetary Fund’s forecast of 1.6% for the UK economy, and demonstrate the extent to which middle-sized companies are the key to prosperity, says EY. However, UK companies are less optimistic than their EU neighbours, with just 24% of UK businesses expecting to grow by more than 10%, compared with the Netherlands (38%) and France and Germany (both 31%). Many cited slow or flat growth in the local market, plus the threat of supply chain disruption caused by Brexit, as the biggest external risks to their business.

Unequal retirement    
The gap between the pension income of men and women in the UK is nearly 40%, according to analysis by the trade union Prospect – more than twice the corresponding gender pay gap. The union carried out a study in which it took data on all sources of retirement income from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Family Resources Survey in 2016-17, including state, personal and workplace pensions. Its stark conclusion? The retirement income of women was 39.5% lower than that of men – around £7,000 less. Prospect puts this disparity down to lower pay, gaps in employment due to caring responsibilities, and the greater proportion of women doing part-time work. “These figures reveal the shocking scale of the gender pension gap and clearly demonstrate the need for urgent action to address this issue,” says Sue Ferns, Prospect’s Deputy General Secretary. 

A perk too far
Four in 10 business travellers admit to using corporate cards for personal purchases, according to research commissioned by global travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). Some 46% of American and European travellers and 38% of Asian travellers ‘fessed up to making illicit use of the company plastic. “Travel managers need to address the misuse of company cards – and also work out why travellers don’t follow the rules,” says Christophe Renard, Vice President of CWT’s consultancy arm. Quite what these ‘personal purchases’ are is left to the imagination.

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