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HOW PURGING YOUR CORPORATE ART COLLECTION CAN POSITIVELY IMPACT CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Patrick McCrae, CEO of arts and cultural consultancy ARTIQ said:

 

This year, British Airways made headlines following its decision to sell off some off the oldest and most valuable parts of its art collection. Struggling with mass redundancies, data breaches and a stream of cancellations, the company began purging artworks in a bid to offset its pandemic losses.

Over the past few months, other major corporations have followed suit.

London’s Royal Opera House last month sold a prized David Hockney at auction for 12 million and UK travel agent Thomas Cook likewise parted with a 3,000-year-old Egyptian statue, held in its archives since the end of 19th century. Meanwhile, the Royal Academy is facing criticism for its retention of a Michelangelo during a period of mass staff redundancies.

Corporates selling their art collections is not a new phenomenon, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated that trend. More businesses are looking at where they can extract latent value in assets, which has encouraged bigger collectors to dispose of their collections. Over the summer BA consequently sold 17 pieces of art that had previously decorated its executive lounges, including works by Damien Hirst and Bridget Riley.

These sales were primarily triggered by BA’s efforts to ‘preserve funds and protect jobs’, but other corporates have been purging their artworks as a result of changing tastes and an evolution in ideas surrounding corporate responsibility in the arts. Deutsche Bank, who boasts one of the largest corporate collections in the world, for instance, recently announced it would be reducing its art collection by over 4,000 pieces, in part to improve “the contemporary quality” of its collection. By selling corporate collections made up of household names, the company is freeing up money to invest in young or emerging artists.

In comparison, stagnant collections made up of Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin might look good but do little to support the long-term art ecosystem. This sort of art is primarily viewed as an investment avenue whose value is tied up for years on end in the hopes that one day it will return a profit. The sales we are seeing now are a case in point. There is a whole new generation of artists in need of long-term support and mentoring that can only be achieved through the acquisition or renting of new artworks.

It is no surprise then that corporates who are increasingly conscious of their image and brand are purging their household names in favour of collections made up of new, more culturally relevant, artists. The writing appeared to be on the wall with BA’s announcement in June, but in truth the trajectory of corporate collecting had begun to shift before the pandemic.

We have also seen an increasing number of businesses selling their collections all together in favour of art rental, which offers bespoke collections and flexible leasing terms for a small fraction of the cost of ownership. Corporates are able to engage and improve the wellbeing of their teams, meet their social responsibility targets and provide economically sustained support of artists.

Not only is the trend of selling off art collections making physical space in lounges and lobbies for new flexible artworks to be installed, it is also creating space for new names to arise in the industry. Through art rental, artists who are at the beginning of their career are given a viable and sustained income by corporates looking to enhance their CSR portfolio. This is particularly value for those who, due to their background or economic circumstance, may not be able to afford to support themselves until they reach gallery representation or develop a market for their work.

Corporates, likewise, are able to curate collections that can be scaled up and scaled down depending on business and social requirements. With the rise of flexible working, this is something that is will become increasingly important post pandemic. Offices are set to be transformed into cultural hubs and will need to be culturally relevant and consistent with business values. With equality becoming one of the defining narratives of 2020, businesses that are championing issues related to sexuality, gender, race and socioeconomic equality – for instance through the very visual displays of artwork – will be the ones that come out on top.

We are also seeing a rise in the number of companies giving staff creative agency over their working environments. This is particularly important when it comes to art. According to a recent study by Dr Craig Knight, individuals work 15 per cent more productively in environments containing artworks and plants, a figure that doubles to over 30 percent for spaces where participants had a say in curation.

It is no surprise then that demand for art rental businesses such as ARTIQ has remained strong during the pandemic. International banking group Investec are shortly to install a recently curated a collection of London and South African artists to show their passion and commitment to promoting diversity. The firm has been with ARTIQ for a number of years, after the consultancy helped sell off its static corporate collection.

Corporate patronage has long been a core part of business identity and will continue to be as we emerge from the pandemic, however the manner in which corporates support the cultural economy is modernising. The value placed on arts and culture by corporates is being sped up by the pandemic as they try harder to engage all stakeholders in a more visible way. We are thus unquestionably witnessing a marked shift away from how companies have traditionally collected art. Emerging in the place of stagnant collections is a new type of arts patronage, one that can truly support the arts ecosystem and champion diversity across not only the arts but society as a whole.

 

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FUNDS’ RUSH TO THE CLOUD MUST NOT BE A BOX TICKING EXERCISE

By Ed Gouldstone, Global Head of R&D for Asset Management at Linedata

 

The fund management industry has held up remarkably well against the strains of Covid-19 – from a dramatic spike in market volatility to the sudden shift to remote working. However, the quantum leap in digitalisation spurred on by the pandemic has underscored the disparities between fund houses’ journeys to cloud – some are quite far along, while others are quickly having to play catch-up.

However, the need to rapidly advance digitalisation efforts must not result in cloud migration becoming a box ticking exercise. Some managers may be tempted by the convenience of a ‘lift and shift’ approach. That is, simply building their cloud infrastructure as if it was their existing data centre without optimising it for cloud. This is by far the quickest option but, if rushed, it doesn’t necessarily bring the cost-saving and flexibility benefits that managers are looking for. Cloud provides for advanced levels of security that go beyond traditional deployed models, but only when the necessary tools are put in place. Fund managers therefore need to put in the required thinking beforehand, to ensure the optimisation and any necessary re-engineering of tools whilst accelerating shift to the cloud.

 

The risks of rushing cloud adoption

Elasticity is one particular area where cost savings come from in the cloud, because cloud is designed to scale up and down as and when you need it. When migrating infrastructure to the cloud, fund managers must ensure that the all applications are optimised in a way that enables horizontal scalability, as many legacy applications are built around a fixed number of servers. This could impede the potential to quickly scale up operations in rapidly changing markets, inhibiting fund managers’ growth ambitions and ability to compete.

Ed Gouldstone

Another risk of rushing the transition to cloud, is that a lift and shift approach can actually increase costs when computing and storage practises are not rationalised. Migrating existing infrastructure as it is also means migrating all existing inefficiencies along with it, such as zombie servers, duplicated workloads, and outdated records. By not doing the due diligence to ensure excess computing capacity is left behind, companies could seriously diminish the cost savings they would have otherwise enjoyed.

Building resilience into operations is of paramount importance for fund managers who are planning to migrate to the cloud. Although infrastructure is more secure with cloud, the greater accessibility it allows means that points of entry on the client side can be weak spots if not properly protected. This must not become overlooked in a rushed cloud migration. Unlike with private data centres and VPN access where hardware offers protection, extra layers of authentication need to be added to endpoints to ensure the security of the system, while enabling access from any device. This is even more necessary in our highly regulated industry, where fund managers are dealing with large client funds and processing vast quantities of real-time financial data.

 

Realising the opportunities provided by cloud

When handled correctly, a successful migration to cloud offers fund managers a great opportunity to drive digital transformation, scale their businesses and upgrade the technology they rely on. Perhaps the biggest driver for cloud adoption, the pay as you go, on-demand scalability offered by cloud providers, enables rapid growth and reduces costs. Previously, in order to scale up, businesses would have to install new hardware and pay for its maintenance, as well as acquire the physical space that new servers take up. This process is much slower and more expensive than the quickly scalable, pay-as-you-go cloud, but expert guidance is crucial to avoid the aforementioned risk of transferring excess computing power, and ensuring applications are scalable so that potential cost savings are realised.

Another major driver to migrate infrastructure to the cloud is the data analytics capabilities available. The cloud’s ability to support data lakes that can store structured and unstructured data at any scale and operate real-time analytics, provides unique opportunities to create new insights and therefore greater value. The data lakes enable better use of the artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that are reaching maturity and are increasingly mission critical. This is crucial in a market where margins are getting smaller and traditional investment models are being challenged. Analytics can create value throughout all operations, from the front office through to the back office, whether it is sentiment analysis of client engagement, or reducing operating costs through process automation.

In terms of security, while moving to public cloud does imply some inherent loss of in-house control compared to historic ‘installed’ technology models, the bottom line is that cloud providers offer robust levels of security unmatched by in-house technology installations. But it is still critical that firms have the requisite knowledge about cloud deployment and cybersecurity, or partner with a technology service provider that does, who can protect endpoints with new identity and access measures such as two-factor authentication.

The need to migrate to cloud infrastructure has become more pressing at a time when fund managers are increasingly introducing flexible working for the long-term. While implementing a cloud first business strategy is now considered crucial for longevity, it must not be rushed at the risk of costly mistakes and the perpetuation of outdated operating models that limit adaptability. A rapid, productive cloud migration is still possible, but firms need to ensure they have well-considered plans and strong partnerships with experts in place to ensure success.

 

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MORE THAN HALF OF EUROPEAN SMES CONFIDENT IN 2021 BUSINESS RECOVERY

  • Finland most confident in Europe followed by France, UK and Germany – Spain, doesn’t show the same optimism
  • Hope for the new year comes mainly from the agriculture (60%), real estate (58%), business services (55%), and food & drink (55%) industries

 

Despite continued uncertainty, 57% of SMEs across seven European markets feel positive about the future and think that economies will recover to pre-Covid levels within the next two years, according to a research conducted by CapitalBox, leading online pan-European SME funding platform.

A further 18% are still confident about a recovery, but believe it will take at least two years. However, when it comes to their own businesses’ recovery as opposed to the wider economies, over half of SMEs (51%) feel that their business will in fact recover this year, in 2021.

SMEs in Finland are the most confident in their own business recovery in 2021 (57%), compared to:

  • 50% in France
  • 50% in the UK
  • 48% in Germany
  • SMEs in Spain, with 27%, are the least confident in their own recovery

Optimism for the new year mainly comes from the agriculture (60%), real estate (58%), business services (55%), and food & drink (55%) industries. As hospitality looks towards a new normal in the new year, 52% are confident of their business recovery this year. The least optimistic industries for the new year are healthcare (28%) and wholesale, retail and franchising (31%).

Most of this optimism is reflected in how trusting SMEs are in their respective governments’ support. 53% of SMEs stated that they are certain their governments will continue to provide the right support going into 2021. The most confident in their government support are those most optimistic SMEs, in Finland (58%), France (51%), and the UK (55%). On the other hand, the least confident are SMEs in Spain, with 35% of respondents not feeling like their government will provide the right support moving forward.

 

Scott Donnelly, CEO of CapitalBox commented: “The pandemic continues to have a big impact on businesses and economic recoveries around the globe, and there is certainly a bumpy road ahead to get there. SMEs in Europe, however, are confident that this new year will bring positive changes, and that their businesses will return to growth. As the backbone of many economies, it is great to see SMEs being optimistic about the future and the ‘new normal’, putting effort into getting back on track.” 

“As small and medium businesses look toward a road of recovery, it is critical that the right financing is available to them to help guide them. From government support to alternative lending, they need to feel confident in their recovery in 2021. At CapitalBox, we will always strive to help those financially underserved SMEs.”

 

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