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Successful flexible work requires planning and investment – Financial Times

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Georgia’s London-based team in an investment bank was made redundant last July. The 44-year-old, who preferred not to give her real name, had been working four and a half days a week as a business analyst since 2014. Her job hunt has been a revelation. Roles are billed as flexible, she says, but in reality, that flexibility only means remote working at a time when most white-collar workers are at home due to social distancing restrictions.

“The mention of four days is greeted with horror,” she says.

The pandemic forced many employers to switch to remote working overnight. Some have committed to long-term remote working as part of a hybrid pattern, including some time in the office.

Yet white-collar employees worry the flexibility does not go far enough. As Georgia’s job hunt shows, “flexibility” may only translate to homeworking, ignoring part-time work, compressed and annualised hours. At a time of mass job losses, many employees will feel pressure to acquiesce to employer demands.

A sparsely populated office in London. One City law firm has has decided to allow employees to work from home two days a week once the Covid-19 vaccine programme allows a relaxation of social distancing rules © Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

A recent survey by Timewise, a flexible recruitment specialist, found the proportion of jobs in the UK advertised as offering flexible working rose from 17 per cent at the start of 2020, to 22 per cent after Covid disrupted work patterns. Emma Stewart, co-founder of Timewise, worries that businesses are still timid. “There’s a huge gap between crisis-driven remote working and a systemic approach to flexible working. We need to design jobs properly.”

The pandemic has conflated flexibility with homeworking, says Gemma Dale, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. She is concerned that managers will too easily blame problems — such as staff errors or the erosion of corporate culture — on remote working. This could then create the conditions for a backlash against flexible working more generally.

“Managing by keeping an eye on people is all they [some managers] know,” Ms Dale says. “We would be naive to think they have all had a revelation.” She is concerned that managers will have their views “confirmed” that people cannot work remotely.

While employees say they want a hybrid future, few managers know how to implement this. “It is easy now we are all mostly remote,” says Ms Dale. “But it will get very messy once some people are back and some are not.” 

Presenteeism

One City lawyer, who prefers not to give her name, is heartened by the direction that her firm is taking. It has decided to allow employees to work from home two days a week once the vaccine programme permits a relaxation of social distancing rules. Yet she is disappointed that the policy is still fairly rigid. “Most of us have worked from home, we’ve all ticked along. The work has still been completed. There is still an emphasis on presenteeism. There is a lot of praise when people appear on videoconference and the office is visible in the background.”

Law, she adds, is particularly slow to change. “I am sometimes shocked at the law firm that they’ve only just discovered video-conferencing tech. A lot of our associates will be very disappointed that there isn’t going to be a bigger shift towards flexible working, there’s still a thought that it isn’t real work.”

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, a non-profit group, says if companies return to “a culture of presenteeism [it] would be a disaster for employers who want to attract and retain employees, increase their productivity, and close their gender pay gap.”

Since the pandemic started working parents, particularly mothers, have been

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, says a return to a presenteeism culture ‘would be a disaster for employers who want to attract and retain employees, increase their productivity, and close their gender pay gap’ © Handout

squeezed by the dual pressures of work and childcare. While organisations have offered paid parental leave to cope with the squeeze, some parents were reluctant to take it for fear of appearing insufficiently committed to their work. 

Flexibility, it seems, is a double-edged sword. Laura Empson, director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms at City’s Business School, University of London, is troubled by what the pandemic has taught us about flexibility. “We have demonstrated our ability to work at any time of the day. I don’t call that flexibility, I call it work intensification.” Efforts to deal with overwork, such as wellbeing apps or resilience training are misguided. “They are individualising the problem which is institutional.”

One London-based PR executive says that “employers have weaponised the virus . . . a lot of businesses have used this time to decrease salaries”. In her own case, the pressure to be available all the time, despite working part-time is “extreme”. “You just have to drop everything. You’re always on to a degree.”

Flex-washing

Flexible working policies require meaningful changes by managers. In the past, employers have been guilty of “flex-washing” — meaning that a company puts a glossy spin on a job to portray itself as enlightened, particularly when it is trying to recruit more women.

One advertising executive recalls a pre-pandemic incident when she was wheeled out publicly by her former employer to demonstrate that part-time work and having small children were no barriers to promotion. The disparity between her real life and her role as poster-girl for flexibility was brought home to her on International Women’s Day when she locked herself in the toilet at a conference, overwhelmed by juggling children and work — before going on stage to extol the virtues of flexibility.

While most businesses realised the desire for flexible working during the pandemic, says Timewise’s Ms Stewart, the “risk is that they do it without fundamentally thinking through what needs to happen to equip managers to manage flexible teams and shifting work practices”. “The organisations that are doing it well have invested in the managers overseeing flexible work,” she adds. “You have to do something about it.”

Sarah Jackson, a workplace consultant, agrees, saying that the real lesson of working from home is that managers have to learn to work better. “They have to be clear about what the objectives are. This will save us from the flexibility backlash. People are expecting to work more flexibly. Next year, lazy organisations will be able to [go back to the way things were] at a time when they need to be productive.”

Louisa Symington-Mills, founder of City Parents, a networking group for working parents, says it is too early to predict post-pandemic working patterns. She anticipates the time to make longer-term plans will be when the social distancing rules relax, since it is hard for business leaders to determine which flexible work practices work while in the middle of a pandemic.

“When you’re in the thick of a crisis, it’s hard, [there’s] so much firefighting and dodging the next hurdle.”

Prof Empson adds that “people need a period of time to recover from our collective exhaustion and anxiety to take stock and separate out the broader concerns [of social distancing, health concerns]. It’s all conflated.”

The greater future challenge for employers is to enable flexibility for those jobs that cannot be done from home. “We have a lot to learn if we open our minds,” says Ms Stewart.

 

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Rothschild Investment Adds to Grayscale Bitcoin Holdings – Yahoo Finance

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TipRanks

2 Biotech Stocks Wells Fargo Says Are Ready to Bounce

The biotech sector has started the year with a bang. The industry benchmark, iShares NASDAQ Biotechnology ETF (IBB), is up ~11% so far in January — far better than the S&P 500’s 3% return. Covering the sector for Wells Fargo, 5-star analyst Jim Birchenough is upbeat about what he sees. “Overall, we see roughly 20% to 30% additional upside for the sector by historical metrics and would argue that accelerating pace of innovation and greater pipeline de-risking should ultimately support higher returns on investment,” Birchenough noted. An environment like that will be manna from heaven for any investor interested in pharmaceutical stocks; an improved political climate will just add some icing to this cake. “While a split House and Senate supporting continued legislative inertia would have been best received, in terms of maintaining a positive status quo for biotechnology growth, we believe that value proposition for emerging biotechnology therapeutics should win-out under any administration and House/Senate mix,” Birchenough added. With this in mind, we wanted to check out some of Wells Fargo’s recent picks in the biotech space to see if the investment firm could steer us towards any game-changers. After running the tickers through TipRanks’ database, we found out that two recently scored Buy ratings from the rest of the Street, enough to earn a “Strong Buy” consensus rating. Karuna Therapeutics (KRTX) We will start with Karuna Therapeutics, a specialty pharma company whose focus is mental health. Specifically, Karuna works on the development of new drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia and dementia-related psychoses (DRP). With a potential patient base exceeding 2.7 million people, this is a large market. And the state of current treatment options is widely considered less than satisfactory. Medication side effects are severe, while therapeutic effects are less than desired. This leaves an opening for a company that can put a new, more effective, treatment on the market. Karuna is currently enrolling the pivotal Phase 3 EMERGENT-2 Study of its leading drug candidate, KarXT, for the treatment of acute psychosis in adults with schizophrenia. KarXT has showed a differentiated safety profile and efficacy in Phase 2 data. Furthermore, Phase 1b data in healthy elderly volunteers for DRP remain on track for 2Q21. This solid pipeline, with a new drug in multiple studies to treat several aspects of a serious disorder, has piqued Wells Fargo’s interest. Covering KRTX for the firm, analyst Jacob Hughes writes, “Karuna Therapeutics is our top idea in 2021. While KRTX shares have had an impressive run… we see a very attractive setup for the stock over the next couple years and several important catalysts in 2021 to drive the shares higher… We think the pipeline has been de-risked and we like the risk/reward at these levels as the value of KarXT is proved out.” To this end, Hughes rates the stock an Overweight (i.e. Buy), and his $163 price target implies an upside of ~59% for the coming year. (To watch Hughes’ track record, click here) It’s not often that the analysts all agree on a stock, so when it does happen, take note. KRTX’s Strong Buy consensus rating is based on a unanimous 6 Buys. The stock’s $138.80 average price target suggests a 35% upside from the current share price of $102.80. (See KRTX stock analysis on TipRanks) Zymeworks, Inc. (ZYME) Vancouver-based Zymeworks is a clinical stage biotech involved in researching new drugs for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders, and inflammatory diseases. The company focuses on biotherapeutics, drugs precisely engineered for their target diseases. The company’s lead candidate, zanidatamab, has indications for biliary tract cancer, breast cancer, and gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma. The drug is in Phase 1/2 testing for these cancers. Zymeworks’ second clinical candidate, ZW49, like zanidatamab, is an HER2 bispecific antibody in early stage study as a solid tumor treatment. Initial data will be presented at an investor event on January 27. Based on Zymeworks’ recent study results, Wells Fargo’s Jim Birchenough writes, “[We] expect zanidatamab to differentiate from current HER2 standards by virtue of depth of response in both refractory and frontline patients and to attract a prominent partner to pursue neoadjuvant and adjuvant breast cancer studies, and for ZW49 go-forward dose to demonstrate consistent responses to support further development, with upside potential from additional dose escalation.” In line with his bullish stance, Birchenough rates ZYME an Overweight (i.e. Buy) and his price target, at $71, implies a ~47% growth ahead. (To watch Birchenough’s track record, click here) Turning now to the rest of the Street, it appears that other analysts are generally on the same page. With 4 Buys and 1 Hold assigned in the last three months, the consensus rating comes in as a Strong Buy. In addition, the $60.82 average price target implies ~26% upside from current levels. (See ZYME stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for biotech stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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EU sustainable investment rules need better corporate data: banking report – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett

LONDON (Reuters) – European Union rules aimed at defining sustainable investments should help reduce “greenwashing” by businesses, but better quality corporate data is needed to ensure they work effectively, a banking report said on Tuesday.

The sustainable finance rules will classify investments that can be marketed as sustainable, a move aimed at steering much-needed cash into low-carbon projects to deliver the bloc’s climate goals.

From January to August 2020, 26 of the region’s biggest lenders tested the EU framework across a range of core banking processes, including retail banking, trade finance and lending to smaller companies.

As the main providers of finance to companies across the EU, the ability of the banking system to track and report on whether corporate activities are sustainable or not could prove crucial in assessing the rules’ success or otherwise.

The lenders broadly welcomed the regulations as they seek to align their businesses with the transition to a low-carbon economy, the report by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the European Banking Federation found.

However, they also raised a number of issues, many of which were data-related and could require a phasing in of reporting requirements.

While many large companies are already required to disclose certain environmental and social information by law, the bulk of smaller and mid-sized banking clients are not, hampering banks’ assessment of their alignment with the rules.

Concerns over the quality, detail and standardisation of data is also an issue when looking at banks’ lending overseas, something that would be made more complex as other regions launch their own regulations.

The banks who tested the EU rules called on regulators to seek global alignment of regulations, and for better tools to manage data from clients, such as a centralised EU database.

While under no compulsion to lend to activities that can be classed as sustainable, banks see sustainable finance as a growth area that is likely to take on more importance in coming years should policymakers tighten environmental legislation.

With more investors globally looking to become shareholders of companies with a good record on managing environmental risk, banks are also likely to look to reduce their exposure to environmentally or socially harmful activities over time.

The European Commission is expected to finish the section of the rules covering climate change in the coming months, before they take effect in 2022.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett; Editing by Pravin Char)

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EU sustainable investment rules need better corporate data: banking report – The Journal Pioneer

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By Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett

LONDON (Reuters) – European Union rules aimed at defining sustainable investments should help reduce “greenwashing” by businesses, but better quality corporate data is needed to ensure they work effectively, a banking report said on Tuesday.

The sustainable finance rules will classify investments that can be marketed as sustainable, a move aimed at steering much-needed cash into low-carbon projects to deliver the bloc’s climate goals.

From January to August 2020, 26 of the region’s biggest lenders tested the EU framework across a range of core banking processes, including retail banking, trade finance and lending to smaller companies.

As the main providers of finance to companies across the EU, the ability of the banking system to track and report on whether corporate activities are sustainable or not could prove crucial in assessing the rules’ success or otherwise.

The lenders broadly welcomed the regulations as they seek to align their businesses with the transition to a low-carbon economy, the report by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the European Banking Federation found.

However, they also raised a number of issues, many of which were data-related and could require a phasing in of reporting requirements.

While many large companies are already required to disclose certain environmental and social information by law, the bulk of smaller and mid-sized banking clients are not, hampering banks’ assessment of their alignment with the rules.

Concerns over the quality, detail and standardisation of data is also an issue when looking at banks’ lending overseas, something that would be made more complex as other regions launch their own regulations.

The banks who tested the EU rules called on regulators to seek global alignment of regulations, and for better tools to manage data from clients, such as a centralised EU database.

While under no compulsion to lend to activities that can be classed as sustainable, banks see sustainable finance as a growth area that is likely to take on more importance in coming years should policymakers tighten environmental legislation.

With more investors globally looking to become shareholders of companies with a good record on managing environmental risk, banks are also likely to look to reduce their exposure to environmentally or socially harmful activities over time.

The European Commission is expected to finish the section of the rules covering climate change in the coming months, before they take effect in 2022.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett; Editing by Pravin Char)

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