Bots, Buffet and Business-Casual

By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy

Off the fence For the first time since the referendum vote, a difference in policy positions on Brexit has emerged between Labour and Conservative. Finally moving off the fence, Labour’s position is now that it would seek to remain a member of a / the customs union, positioning Labour as the party of soft Brexit, contrasting with the Conservative’s hard Brexit stance. Regardless of one’s persuasion, this appears to offer voters a democratic position on the subject that was previously lacking. Or does it? Labour’s position is only material if: (a) there is a General Election prior to agreeing terms with the EU (on the assumption that terms need to be agreed this year, odds imply 25% probability of such occurrence), or (b) there is enough Conservative backbench support for Labour’s position, and the PM honours a Parliamentary vote. This feels like a smart move by Corbyn. He can wash his hands of any negative hard Brexit impacts, without having to deliver the soft Brexit that half of his supporters would oppose.

Our.Crew  WeWork’s drive to converge work and life continues in a new partnership with J.Crew. In a moving-the-mountain-to-Mohammed play, the retailer will exhibit its Spring collection in WeWork spaces in the US, with clothes being modelled by the service office operator’s members. WeWork cites shared values between the two brands, but presumably most importantly is the shared customer base. WeWork brings a new type of worker to J.Crew – one with a liberalised dress code and a social pressure to look sharp. J.Crew offers a solution. With the recent adoption of a new business-casual dress code here at C&W, I expect that we’ll be inundated with offers from retailers to set up catwalks in our meeting rooms. Either way, retail and office space continue to move closer together

City of things  According to a recent data release by IoT Analytics, most IoT projects under development relate not to buildings, but instead to largely government-led smart city projects (with traffic management and utilities taking the lion’s share). Europe, which trails in building-level IoT volumes, significantly outperforms in the smart city category. London is at the heart of this trend having recently appointed its first Chief Digital Officer to oversee the Smart London Plan. The question of who is best placed to run our digital infrastructure is an interesting one, with large tech-cos already building big urban data sets through private enterprise. The answer could rest in data systems provided by the likes of Shared Streets that offer open-APIs which private companies and the public sector alike can plug into and share data. However, with increasing value attaching to this data, and with private businesses owning ever-larger swathes of our cities, opening up these data sets may amount to giving up a competitive advantage.

Tweet and delete  There is increasing evidence of the existence of a shadowy group of people who at the stroke of a finger can wipe billions of dollars off the stock market. No, not the Illuminati, but a cohort of powerful former reality TV stars. Kylie Jenner’s recent tweet, ‘Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore?’ precipitated a $1.3bn fall in Snap Inc.’s market cap. Meanwhile, a whole industry has been set up around ex-Apprentice boss, and current US President, Donald Trump’s tweets. This includes the ‘Trump and Dump’ bot, which instantly analyses the sentiment of Mr Trump’s tweets concerning listed companies and, if negative, immediately short sells the subject’s stock. So far the platform has outperformed the S&P 500 by 675%. Thankfully the reach of UK reality TV stars appears more benign, with the more significant impacts being felt in the size of a typical Saturday night’s queue at the Sugar Hut.


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