Our trend map for 2009: The vital Trends, Risks, and Red Herrings you must know

By Ross Dawson on December 20, 2008 | Permalink

Following our extremely popular Trend Blend 2007 and Trend Blend 2008 trend maps comes…. Trend Blend 2009!
Created by Future Exploration Network’s Chief Futurist Richard Watson, also of NowandNext.com, the 2009 trend map moves on from the subway map theme of the last years to show the multi-tentacled hydra that is the year ahead.
Click on the map to download the pdf (810KB)

To pick out just a few noteworthy elements of the trend map:
CORE THEMES include:
Global Connectivity
Power Shift Eastwards
SOCIETY: Search for control, enoughism
TECHNOLOGY: Simplicity, Telepresence, Gesture based computing
ECONOMY: De-leveraging, 2-speed economies, Shorter product lifecycles
ENVIRONMENT: Bio fuel backlash, Negawatts, Nuclear power
POLITICS: Virtual protests, Globalisation in retreat, Immigration backlash
BUSINESS: Networked risk, Transparency, Asset price uncertainty
FAMILY: Debt stress, Allowable luxuries, Middle class unrest
MEDIA: Flight to quality, Facebook fatigue, Skimming, Micro boredom
Climate change crisis
Fall of US Empire
Nuclear power
Device convergence
Major Internet failure
Influenza pandemic
Major earthquake in economic centre
Electricity shortages
People taking trend maps too seriously
As usual, this is released on a Creative Commons license, so feel free to play with it, adapt it, and improve it!
Wishing everyone a fabulous 2009 – be sure to take advantage of these upcoming trends!

The Future of Financial Services – the Indian perspective

By Ross Dawson on September 19, 2008 | Permalink

I’m writing at the Vision 2020 Financial Services Sector conference in Mumbai where I’m giving the keynote speech. I’ll post a review of my presentation later, and here will post notes from the interesting speakers and my conversations on the day, combined with my own reflections.
The conference is organized by NDTV Convergence and Wipro. NDTV runs all of the online operations of NDTV, a diversified media company centered on its business TV channel. Wipro is one of the top three IT services companies in India – for each of Wipro, TCS, and Infosys financial services is their largest client sector.
Public sector banks and transformation to a true market economy
India has 23 public sector banks, which means they are owned at least 51% by the government. In most cases these are listed companies with a wide variety of investors. While it is now well over a decade since India began its transition from a largely nationalized economy, there is still a long way to go. There is unlikely to be large scale privatization for the foreseeable future, and in many sectors other than banking there remains major shifts required to move to open market attitudes and competitiveness.


Funds management and investment in the modular economy

By Ross Dawson on August 31, 2006 | Permalink

Last week’s 25th anniversary issue of BRW focused on the future 25 years forward, so not surprisingly included interviews with both Richard Watson, Chief Futurist at Future Exploration Network, and myself. The extensive interview with Richard was a fun and broad-ranging discussion on the future of technology, which unfortunately is not available online. I was interviewed for an article on the future of superannuation (the British/ Australian term for retirement plans). One of the points I made was about living longer healthy lives, the shift to flexible working structures, the blurring of the age of retirement, and the need for legislative structures to adapt to these changes. What I think was the more interesting issue I raised was about how investors will need to seek new investment vehicles.

“The fact is that listed companies represent quite a small proportion of the economy. We will need increasingly to look outside the stockmarket for investment opportunities,” Dawson says. “Private equity and venture capital are going to become far larger. Even today, private equity funds are pushing valuations up.”
“There will also be a growth in companies that are less capital intensive. They will need less money and so will not be so attractive to investors. Over the net 25 years we will have more services companies and flexible, loosely arranged organisations that do not need investment funds,” Dawson says. “Whole new layers of investment companies will build up around smaller sectors, such as micro-caps. In 25 years, althought it will have taken a long time, there will be pretty large segments of portfolios going into sectors that are currently classified broadly as alternatives.”

There is no question that we are shifting to an increasingly modular economy. Technologies such as web services and Web 2.0 are creating an intensely modular online and application environment, in which elements are combined at will. These technologies, together with the modularization of business processes, and easy flow and integration of processes across organizational and national boundaries, are creating a truly modular economy. The ultimate unit of the modular economy is the individual. Certainly there will be many reasons for organizations to exist in the future, not least in those industries that require significant capital. However as the economy inexorably shifts to the intangible, an increasing proportion of value will be created by aggregations of individuals or small organizations providing knowledge-based services, that mesh with other organizations large and small in economic networks. In many cases they will require little capital, and thus there will be no or little need for investors. Stockmarkets can only function effectively with large, highly capitalized companies that have highly liquid shares. Already the proportion of the economy that investors can reach is limited to fairly large companies, at most one third of the economy. It is likely that an increasing proportion of the economy will fall outside the listed sector, and thus be not directly available to investors. Much is made of private equity companies, but these focus on an extremely small subclass of opportunities. Venture capital also works within quite defined parameters, though it plays a very important role. There is a massive potential market in providing capital and services to very small participants in the modular economy, while also providing opportunities for investors to participate in this burgeoning sector. Mechanisms such as sharing in defined ways in future cash-flows of individuals or very small organizations could prove to be viable for both entrepreneurs and investors. While it is hardly a representative situation, Tom Cruise’s recent deal to fund his production company’s overheads suggests the kind of model that could be implemented on a smaller scale.

Peer-to-peer banking

By Ross Dawson on March 29, 2006 | Permalink

A new peer-to-peer bank, Prosper.com, is launching in the US, attracting articles in both the New York Times and BusinessWeek, with the latter titling the story “The eBay of Loans”. The principle is simple – you lend to individuals at interest rates based on their credit rating, and since you’re cutting out the bank as middleman, both lender and depositer get more attractive interest rates than they can get commercially. This is not a new idea – UK-based Zopa has been running for almost a year with essentially the same business model. Anecdotally Zopa is doing well, and intends to set up in the US soon. One of the differences is that Prosper.com focuses on groups that know each other or have common interests. It also has a more evolved bidding model so lenders bid to have the lowest (and thus winning) interest rate for a particular lender.
Banks are the archetypical intermediary, in this case between depositers and lenders. They get a very hefty spread for lending to individuals, however they do some things to create that value, including insurance (by pooling loans), risk assessment (making independent and accurate assessment of creditworthiness), and convenience (at their best!). Prosper.com allows lenders to split their loans across many borrowers, giving some loan pooling and security against default. Certainly, an online marketplace cuts out the middleman and the spread it charges – all part of e-commerce 101. However rhe really interesting part of this model is the risk assessment. In the first instance, people can find out about someone as an individual and make a personal assessment on their default risk. The next phase is when more sophisticated models are used to assess credit risk, aggregating a wide range of perspectives. This is not possible by a financial institution. However, with a borrower willing to disclose information, arguably more accurate credit assessment is possible. If some kind of effective deposit insurance through pooling or other mechanisms is put in place, in addition to superior credit assessment (not difficult given the paucity of the bank’s data and models), then there is no reason peer-to-peer banking will not over time become a competitive issue for mainstream banks.

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