What a video-first economy could look like

Rarely has the nature of our interactions changed so profoundly and so quickly. Suddenly, nearly all of our personal and professional relationships are being built and nurtured online—predominantly through video. Following the pandemic, our new normal will look vastly different as many of the new routines we’ve adopted solidify into long-term behaviors that far outlast the coronavirus crisis.

Video is providing a lifeline to companies, schools, and health institutions, as well as their employees, customers, students, and patients. After getting over the initial shock of sheltering in place, many employees have found that they love working from home and are more productive than ever thanks to workplace collaboration tools like Zoom and Slack. (My firm, Emergence Capital, is a Zoom investor and customer.) 

Employers, too, are realizing that remote work keeps productivity high and provides an opportunity to reach talented professionals wherever they live. Meanwhile, small and midsize businesses (SMB) that used to deliver services in person are now operating over video. 

No longer geographically constrained, these SMBs can scale whatever service they provide, be it tutoring, painting night, or yoga classes. Universities and K-12 schools, too, are being pushed headfirst into online education. Meanwhile, telemedicine, long dangled before us as a perk of the future, is finally coming to fruition. 

In short, we’ve entered a video-first economy.

As investors, we’ve seen this kind of seismic shift before when legacy on-premise systems migrated to the cloud. In fact, that shift actually inspired the creation of our firm 18 years ago, and ever since we have witnessed how the cloud has democratized software and services for SMBs. It created a renaissance of innovation that has improved countless lives and has led to the creation of numerous iconic companies. 

However, the difference between now and then is that Salesforce led the shift to the cloud to empower salespeople. (Emergence was an early investor in Salesforce.) In contrast, videoconferencing providers like Zoom have led this shift to video to empower the world. And, as before, with transformational change comes enormous opportunity. 

Iconic companies are going to be built in the emerging video-first economy. As with any market shift, the first movers will gain the advantage. Here are areas we think are particularly ripe for innovation in

Read more: https://fortune.com/2020/08/15/video-remote-economy-collaboration-tools/

Back-to-school uncertainty prompted these 2 employers to give parents new perks

Two U.S. banking giants are rolling out more benefits to parents juggling childcare and homeschooling while keeping the companies running through the pandemic.

Citigroup Inc. will offer employees discounts on test preparation and tutoring services as many continue to work from home while their kids start the new school year. Bank of America Corp. is extending backup childcare payments for staff with children as old as 12.

Workers at Citigroup can get help finding an educational caregiver to supervise their children’s online learning, Sara Wechter, the bank’s head of human resources, said on LinkedIn. If employees decide to try small-group learning at home, it can also help them find families and educators to join their pod.

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“I can’t believe it’s already time for back to school,” Wechter said in the post. “I know that I’m not alone feeling some anxiety around balancing work and my children’s education.”

The world’s largest employers have been grappling with how to help workers who remain at home to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. This fall, many employees will split daylight hours between doing their jobs and helping their children with school work as districts across the country stick with remote learning — so any aid companies provide may also help their own productivity.

At BofA, eligible employees can get daily childcare reimbursements of $75 or $100, depending on their compensation, while they’re working from home or in the office through Dec. 31. The bank is also providing online resources on finding childcare and virtual learning, and will help employees get access to discounted childcare and tutoring.

“It’s going to be a very fluid situation” for working parents, BofA’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I had one of my own team say to me, ‘Gosh, I need a Ph.D to figure out when my four kids are going to school in the fall.’”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. still has about 150,000 people working remotely and is trying to be “very flexible” about that structure, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon told CNN in an interview this week.

“We’re going to try to enhance childcare benefits, or let people know where the childcare is,” he said.

More on the most powerful women in business

Read more: https://fortune.com/2020/08/15/back-to-school-uncertainty-prompted-these-2-employers-to-give-parents-new-perks/

Europe is suffering from a fresh wave of coronavirus infections. Is the sacred summer vacation to blame?

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If this summer was supposed to offer hope that coronavirus was under control in Europe, spikes in cases across the continent and ensuing travel chaos have given governments a worrying reality check.

From France down to Ukraine, the number of positive tests for COVID-19 is rising sharply as more people seek vacations and after lockdown measures were eased to allow citizens to congregate. Germany reported the most new cases since May, while France said the situation is worsening, particularly in the cities of Paris and Marseille.

The British government added France and the Netherlands to a list of countries from where people must quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the U.K. Travel stocks slumped. In Eastern Europe, which had been hit less hard by the pandemic, some countries approached near record number of daily cases.

French Health Agency chief Jerome Salomon said large family reunions, such as weddings, and work places are prevalent places of infection. “One can only be worried as hundreds of new people are hospitalized,” Salomon told France Inter. He urged people to socially distance to avoid the crisis of March and April that “no one wants to go through again.”

It was always going to be a gamble as countries sought to open up their economies in an attempt to mitigate the unfolding financial collapse. Closing businesses and ordering people to stay at home again is something political leaders remain reluctant to do given the dark economic forecast and millions of jobs at risk, particularly in tourism.

Spanish Warning

As infections continued to rise in Spain, the main business lobby on Thursday warned that any second lockdown would have catastrophic consequences and urged the government to promote the use of a new app developed by the Economy Ministry to trace cases of Covid-19. New cases in Spain jumped to the highest since at least May 25, when the government changed its methodology for reporting data.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been removing lockdown measures, though he has been concerned not to trigger a second wave of cases from arrivals from abroad. His government already faces an inquiry into its handling of the crisis after Britain recorded Europe’s highest death toll.

Hundreds of thousands of British tourists now fa

Read more: https://fortune.com/2020/08/15/europe-covid-cases-second-wave-coronavirus-summer-vacation/

What’s driving the new gold rush?

The new gold rush is on. Suddenly, the precious metal has regained its long-lost glitter, jumping to over $2,000 an ounce during the first full week of August, its highest inflation-adjusted level in a decade. That new peak roughly matched its all-time record in 1980 when the Hunt brothers of Texas notoriously cornered the silver market and gold joined the ride. Then gold collapsed from what everyone in retrospect recognizes as delirious heights. Now, the goldbugs are claiming that it’s the safest port in these stormy seas, while history warns that a rerun of 1980 could be looming. Who’s right?

Over the past few days, the shiny metal has retreated a bit, closing 5% off its summit at $1,946 on Aug. 12. Still, the 24% liftoff this year easily bests stocks and bonds, beating the S&P 500’s modest bump 5 to 1.

On the surface, the story that gold’s fans are advancing to justify its comeback seems to make sense. Banking on this classic store of value, they argue, provides the best insurance against the threat of rampant inflation raised by the U.S. government’s unprecedented fiscal stimulus and the Fed’s money-creation binge. Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley, recently expressed the widespread view that gold’s resurgence has legs, because stocking bullion furnishes a safe haven in these dangerous times. On Aug. 8, as its price hovered over $2,000, Sharma wrote in a New York Times editorial that “Gold appears relatively cheap,” adding that “unless a vaccine emerges quickly, central banks stop printing money frantically, and real interest rates start rising again, it’s difficult not to be a goldbug right now.”

If gold’s advocates are right, the metal should have a long history of first, predicting when inflation is about to take off, and second, providing protection when it happens, in periods when consumer and producer prices are rapidly rising. Over many decades and cycles, gold has failed on both counts. In fact, fear of looming inflation probably isn’t the main motive behind today’s mania. The puny yields on 10- and 30-year Treasuries are forecasting the opposite scenario of prices rising at an unusually slow pace in the years ahead. Even if Treasuries way underestimate the risks of heavy inflation, and that’s highly possible, gold has reached such excessive highs that it’s unlikely to keep rising substantially from here, which is what’s needed to keep you even with a galloping consumer price index (CPI). Catc

Read more: https://fortune.com/2020/08/15/gold-price-what-is-driving-rise/

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