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What Does 2021 Hold for the Ornamental Plant Industry?

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As I look back at all that has occurred in 2020, I feel excited about the future. The pandemic brought us an unprecedented period of acceleration that put the ornamental plant industry to the test. We all witnessed how companies and individuals rapidly adopted new technologies, virtual gatherings, in-home learning, telemedicine, and delivery services. This adoption has likely catapulted us forward an entire decade.

Our industry experienced several months of sustained Black Friday demand. The usually slow months of summertime brought many unprecedented sales. It is estimated that in Spring 2020, we recruited 16 million new gardeners. The pandemic was a game-changer, and it made pandemic gardening a trend. I continuously ask myself, ‘Will this pandemic-gardening trend slow down in the future?’

My answer to this question is summarized in the following four trends that will forever shape our world and bring our industry into this new decade of growth.

1. RESIDENTIAL COCOONING

Our home has become the backdrop of our lives. We live, work, and study there 24/7, and this will likely continue well into the latter half of 2021. Some consumers might see this temporary adjustment become permanent. This shift translates into increased home renovations, upgrading to bigger spaces, and creating wellness spaces in the home (like a garden) to retreat.

Biophilic designers such as Plant Me Rosey are teaching consumers how to incorporate greenery inside their homes to help them connect better with the natural environments that surround them.
Photo by Plant Me Rosey

Biophilic design (defined by Wikipedia as the increased occupant connectivity to the natural environment) is a micro trend that has been on the rise in large commercial and residential spaces. But now, Biophilic design is going mainstream. According to Google trends, biophilic design experienced a significant uptick during 2020, particularly in the months of April, July, and September. Biophilic designers such as Plant Me Rosey (@plantmerosey) have been offering on-line workshops that teach consumers how to bring more greenery inside their homes.

2. GREEN CONNECTION

In this time of global change, we’ve discovered our dependence and intimate connection with Mother Nature. This inherent need is seen in the popularity of social media channels like Instagram and the rise of like-minded communities such as #plantparents. This collaboration and sharing of plant experiences served many during the pandemic as an outlet for creative energy and as a soul-comforting activity. It became an anchor to focus on self-care by taking care of their #greengurls. Many new Instagram followers recently opened an account to show off their plant collection. Plant lovers on Instagram indicate a desire to acquire more plants for their collections.

The new “plantfluencers” such as @plantkween and @plantthejungle have contributed to the rise in popularity of plant enthusiasts. These plantfluencers love to educate and inspire their followers. They work collaboratively with growers while still maintaining an objective and independent view. The typical influencer has about 15,000+ followers and earns an average of $75 per sponsored spot.

In a recent research study conducted by Floramedia Group in the Netherlands, it reported that an average of 72% of respondents who follow plant related accounts on Instagram say they have occasionally bought plants after seeing them on the platform. The conversion rate is there.

3. IMPORTANCE OF VALUE

The pandemic has ushered in a period of frugality where value, quality, and locality are key drivers in consumers’ purchase decisions. Consumers have taken stock on what’s important in life; namely they are focused on living better and not on acquiring more. In consumers’ minds, value might not necessarily come in the way of a lower price point. In our category, it might come in the form of a high-quality statement plant. Also, combination planters carry a lot of weight in the value game. Lastly, promoting the locally grown messaging will have a broader interest since the pandemic raised awareness of the importance in supporting local business for the overall health of the surrounding community.

4. RISE OF AGING POPULATION

Life expectancy is on the rise, and Baby Boomers are starting to think differently about living. Baby Boomers’ desire for continued engagement in gardening translates into ongoing opportunities for the industry to continue to grow this consumer group in creative ways. Recent research by the National Garden Bureau reported that more than 75% of boomers said they will purchase more container gardens due to their prêt-à-porter nature. Also, raised-bed gardens are on the rise to make gardening easier. To keep this core-customer engaged, we need to consider some of the limitations that might exist for this customer group and develop easy, small and portable solutions for their gardens.

Rise of Aging population combo

This combination planter is a prime example of an easy, portable product with appeal to Baby Boomers looking for easier ways to garden.
Photo by Marta Maria Garcia

Current events and new technologies have catapulted us into a new realm of the blended work-school-home environment. The need for clever plant products is growing, and a market share is awaiting to meet consumer demand of young and senior gardeners seeking to blend their environments in harmony with nature. The call is on us to provide a new approach as we enter this fresh decade, and the reward is there to be had by both the consumer and the ornamental plant industry.



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As Connecticut edges closer to legalizing recreational marijuana, pot growers are ready to do business

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Marijuana buds are shown at Huron View Provisioning in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. The first year of state-licensed recreational marijuana sales in Michigan saw $511 million of sales in recreational and $474 million in medical sales, generating over $100 million in tax revenue, but the state also found that the industry drastically failed to attract minority business owners. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

2020 market numbers are incredible despite pandemic

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Alex Krumm
 |  Special to the Herald-Tribune

Our final 2020 market numbers are in – and frankly, they’re shocking. In the year since U.S. lockdowns first went into effect, we’ve seen an enormous drop in the number of homes for sale (total local homes for sale are down 45% from this time last year) and a huge increase in the total number of sales (up almost 12% across both counties). This huge demand and inadequate supply have caused local home prices to appreciate, on average, a full 1% per month.

One would think, looking in from the outside, that we shouldn’t be seeing numbers like these. After all, if people are spending more time at home than ever and we’re in the midst of a recession – not to mention a global pandemic – then what could possibly be bringing such heat to southwest Florida? And are we in a housing bubble?

The answer to the first question, of course, is that this ‘heat’ started long ago. Waves of retiring baby boomers, drawn from the frigid north to our beaches, climate and friendly tax outlook, will continue to hit us for years to come. Home prices here are still low compared to other areas in the country. Interest rates are the lowest they’ve ever been. Many builders are limiting the number of contracts they’re writing, creating constant price increases for new homes – homes that often won’t be completed for an entire year. These supply side factors aren’t going to change anytime soon.

This has created an incredible opportunity for sellers.

People everywhere have equity in their homes, and they’re putting it to good use by reinvesting it as a down payment for their dream home (secured by the same cheap rates that brought them qualified buyers in the first place). Real estate marketing has pivoted to COVID-safe techniques with 3D virtual home tours, online open houses and more. Owners can often pick and choose their best buyers from multiple offers.

The old rules still apply, of course; the homes that are in the best condition, marketed in the best ways possible, and priced according to the market fetch the best prices in the shortest amount of time. Realtors still net significantly higher returns for owners than owners get for themselves (an average of $77,000 more, in fact), and homes marketed by Realtors are typically selling in under three weeks.

Does this mean we’re in a bubble? Absolutely not. Remember that our sales activity is way up, but the number of homes available for purchase are almost half of what they were a year ago. We could dramatically increase the number of homes for sale and we still wouldn’t make a dent in the demand. This is one of those very quirky times when it’s good to be a buyer – but it’s great to be a seller.

Alex Krumm is the President of the REALTOR Association of Sarasota and Manatee

Crashing to a halt. A four-legged octopus was a sign of the times in Massachusetts this week.

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A four-legged octopus with a question mark hanging over its head is certainly not the image you want to see when you log on to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But after months of waiting for protection from the deadly coronavirus, that’s exactly what Baby Boomers found Thursday morning — a quizzical cephalopod and a message that read, “This application crashed.”

Gov. Charlie Baker had announced just a day earlier that people 65 and older, or with two or more underlying health conditions, including asthma, could begin booking appointments. The signups would start at 8 a.m., he said. No need to stay up all night.

It felt hopeful. And then …

“My hair’s on fire about the whole thing,” Baker told GBH’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

Yes, it was that kind of week. 

Another vaccine hiccup

Within a few hours, the site was back up and running, and though still frustrating to users, 60,000 people were able to book new appointments, the administration said Friday. But not even his singed follicles and a mea culpa from the state’s Maryland technology vendor PrepMod could clean up the fallout the governor was left with after another hiccup in the state’s roller coaster rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The concept of a politically damaging website failure is one Baker should be familiar with since he campaigned against Democrats on it in 2014 after the state botched its Health Connector launch. This newest technology setback also came at a time when the administration was in need of a win and trying to push the narrative that its vaccine distribution performance had been improving vis-a-vis other states. 

Massachusetts now ranks sixth in the country for first doses administered per capita, according to the CDC. But that was cold comfort to many lawmakers fielding calls from frustrated constituents desperate to get an appointment for themselves, their parents or a loved one.

“We need the next few months to go a lot smoother,” said state Rep. William Driscoll, D-Milton.

Paging Gov. Baker

Driscoll and state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, were recently appointed by Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka to chair the new Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness. The oversight committee didn’t have to look far or wait long to find its first subject.

Driscoll and Comerford will convene a hearing on Thursday to explore what’s gone right and wrong with the state’s vaccination program, and they’ve invited Baker to take the hot seat. 

The oversight role is not one the Legislature tries to play often, and when it does it can sometimes be an uncomfortable fit. But Baker is not the only one whose hair has been on fire lately, and Mariano may have helped set the tone as he went on the Sunday show circuit last weekend criticizing the vaccine program.

Not only did Mariano say he thought the companion policy made little sense, but the former public school teacher said teachers should be moved up the priority ladder. Teachers happen to be in the next grouping.

The governor’s office has not said if he will accept the invitation to testify, but the committee has also asked Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and top public health officials to appear.

Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Baker said in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that he thought it was “appropriate” and “absolutely necessary” that MCAS exams, even modified tests, be given to Massachusetts students this spring.

The governor’s comments came as a collection of education and civil rights groups, including the two major teachers unions, wrote to lawmakers pleading for them to push the Department of Education to seek a federal waiver to cancel the tests this spring.

Baker didn’t seem at all open to the idea, describing the exams as necessary to get a sense of if and how far students had fallen behind over the last year. 

Pointing to the substantial amount of money for K-12 education that would be headed to Massachusetts if President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed, Baker said he’d like some of that money to be put toward summer school and programs to help students make up for lost school time. And that would be harder to do if educators don’t know where students must catch up.

They said it…

“We always said, ‘Jules is here to make it delicious and Sam is here to make it beautiful.” — Jules Remenar, co-owner of the Dulce D Leche bakery in Framingham and Ashland, recalling the impact his wife and business partner, Samantha Amenta-Stavar, had on the business. Amenta-Stavar was found dead last week. She was 47. 

“I am prepared to defend my actions as proper and legitimate, although it seems clear that a majority of the Board already has arrived at negative determinations prior to hearing from me and before any investigation occurs.” — Milford Police Chief Michael Pighetti, in a letter to the community this week addressing his decision to pull over a vehicle that ran a red light. On Feb. 8, the Board of Selectmen voted to put Pighetti on paid leave, pending an investigation into “allegations he exercised unauthorized and unnecessary police powers.”

Contributors to the Political Notebook this week include Deputy Director of Multimedia Dan O’Brien and the State House News Service.

Farm and equipment markets continue to increase | News

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NORFOLK – Farmland and equipment markets are on the up and up, and many factors are playing a role.

Co-CEO of BigIron Auctions Mark Stock says in terms of machinery rates there are high commodity prices driving that as well as baby boomers retiring which has some folks expanding their land and in return expanding their arsenal of equipment.

Stock says COVID-19 is playing a role as well.

“Some of the manufacturers had to slow down their production runs because of COVID and now it’s a little while longer to get new items in your possession of you’re an end user and that is what’s creating also a drive up in our equipment markets.”

Stock says looking at the auction block now semis and grain trailers are hot items.

He adds you should keep your attention on carbon credits when it comes to your farmland.

For more information go to BigIron.com.

Robinhood’s time in the barrel

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Robinhood’s time in the barrel — The world has moved on a bit from the “meme stock” craze that most prominently featured a giant run-up in the shares of fading retailer GameStop alongside other troubled stocks like that of movie theater chain AMC.

But Robinhood, the online trading platform favored by chatroom stock jockeys, will still get its moment in the Congressional hot seat at noon today with a remote hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. You can stream it here.

Panelists will include Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, Melvin Capital CEO Gabriel Plotkin, Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman and investor Keith Gill. The hearing — competing with Covid issues and the deep freeze down south — might not generate the heat it could have a few weeks ago. But there are still major issues to explore and potentially embarrassing moments for all the panelists.

What to watch for — Via George Mason law school’s J.W. Verret: “My hope for the hearing is detailed questions with follow up about how Robinhood decided to halt trading and whether they coordinated with Citadel.

“My worry is that it will be partisanship and sound bites. Expect Citadel to emphasize the difference between Citadel hedge fund and Citadel Securities (the latter pays Robinhood millions in payment for order flow). Given that Ken Griffin owns and controls both, it should be treated as a distinction without a difference.

“Citadel will say that payment for order flow leads to price improvement for retail shareholders, but they are judging that relative to the slow public feed… Reminds me of how everyone gets a trophy in my son’s t-ball league. It’s a low bar to measure best execution to say the least.”

Robinhood CEO flatly rejects allegationsFrom Tenev’s opening statement: “I want to be clear at the outset: any allegation that Robinhood acted to help hedge funds or other special interests to the detriment of our customers is absolutely false and market-distorting rhetoric.”

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING — Email me on [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @morningmoneyben. Email Aubree Eliza Weaver on [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @AubreeEWeaver.

Robinhood hearing begins at noon … Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this afternoon will participate in a virtual conversation at the winter meeting of The Business Council and will push President Biden’s Covid relief plan … Jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. expected to dip slightly to 760K from 779K

Warren wants more answers — Via our Victoria Guida: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … said she wants more information about Robinhood’s ties to hedge funds and other Wall Street firms …

“The senator published a Feb. 12 response from Robinhood in which the online brokerage reiterated that it blocked customers from buying the stocks of GameStop and other struggling companies because it needed to meet financial margin requirements it owed to clear the trades.”

More fintech regulation?Via new Morning Consult data out this morning: “39% of all U.S. adults say fintech companies should face increased regulation; 16% say the opposite. Nearly half of Democrats (45%) say the U.S. government should protect consumers from fintech companies by increasing regulation. At 35%, Republicans are 10 points less likely than Democrats to say they wanted fintechs to be more regulated.

“Older generations are more likely to say there should be more regulation of the industry, including 44% of Baby Boomers. At 25%, Millennials are the most likely group to say the government should decrease regulation to encourage fintech innovation.”

GLOBAL WEIRDING — Via our Mike Grunwald in POLITICO Nightly on the Texas weather nightmare: “The real problem in Texas is the freaky weather, and unfortunately, climate change is delivering a lot more freaky weather. It may seem counterintuitive that global warming would create a record cold wave, but that’s why Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe calls it ‘global weirding.’

“It’s not just about heat, although 19 of the 20 hottest years in the Earth’s recorded history have occurred in the last 20 years. It’s about the discombobulation of the atmosphere — hotter hots, colder colds, bigger and wetter and stronger storms, odd toggles in the polar vortex and Gulf Stream and other natural forces we take for granted. Today, only a fool expects a hundred-year drought or flood or snowfall event to happen once every hundred years.”

MNUCHIN GOES BUCK-RAKING — Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin and Robert Schmidt: “Steven Mnuchin has joined the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Bono, Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama, offering himself for speaking engagements for tens of thousands of dollars in fees.

“Mnuchin, who was Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary, has hired the Harry Walker Agency to manage such engagements. Mnuchin said he would charge about $250,000 to speak in person. An advertisement obtained by Bloomberg News noted a $75,000 fee for a virtual address, although Mnuchin said that figure could be closer to $100,000.”

BIDEN DIALS IT DOWN ON STUDENT DEBT RELIEF — Our Michael Stratford: “In the starkest terms he’s used to date … Biden made explicit … that he favors modest student loan debt relief over the ambitious proposal his progressive base — and party leader in the Senate — is demanding.

“Then, on Wednesday, his White House suggested that even that modest package may not happen. Speaking to reporters at the daily briefing … White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden planned to hold off on making any decisions on student loan debt executive action until his appointees at the Justice Department have a chance to review the issue.”

STOCK MARKET DRIVES TREASURY BOON — Our Brian Faler: “The stock market is booming — and the U.S. Treasury is cashing in. Taxes on capital gains are surging, pouring into government coffers much faster than analysts had expected and propping up federal revenues despite the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

“The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it now expects ‘realizations’ — that is, sales of assets — to jump by 45 percent, topping $1 trillion, compared to what it had expected just six months ago. That is 10 times the rebound it predicts this year in wages and salaries.”

NASDAQ ENDS LOWER AS TECH SLIDES — Reuters’ April Joyner: “The Nasdaq closed lower while the S&P 500 was little changed on Wednesday as investors rotated out of technology shares and concerns about inflation added some pressure on stocks.

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose, however, aided in part by gains in shares of Verizon Communications Inc and Chevron Corp. Those stocks gained after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc disclosed major investments in the companies on Tuesday. Verizon shares climbed 5.2 percent, and Chevron shares advanced 3 percent.”

GAMESTOP FRENZY PROMPTS SEC TO WEIGH MORE SHORT SALE TRANSPARENCY — WSJ’s Dave Michaels and Dawn Lim: “Wall Street’s main regulator is weighing whether to require more transparency of short selling and the opaque network of stock lending and borrowing that facilitates it, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission was ordered 11 years ago to impose such rules but never did it. Now, dealing with the fallout from frenetic trading in GameStop Corp. shares, the agency under new leadership is considering using its authority to shine more light on the mechanics of the bearish trades.

LAWMAKERS READY TO FACE OFF WITH GAMESTOP SAGA’S KEY PLAYERS — AP’s Marcy Gordon: “The GameStop saga has been portrayed as a victory of the little guy over Wall Street giants but not everyone agrees, including some lawmakers in Washington.”

FED OFFICIALS SEE EASY-MONEY POLICIES STAYING IN PLACE — WSJ’s Paul Kiernan: “Federal Reserve officials agreed at their most recent policy meeting that they would need to hold interest rates very low and continue central bank bond purchases to help spur the economy’s recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most of them thought that the $900 billion federal stimulus package approved in December, the likelihood of more fiscal support and continued distribution of Covid-19 vaccines ‘would lead to a sizable boost in economic activity’ this year, according to minutes of the Fed’s Jan. 26-27 meeting.”

They also expressed concerns over the slowing economy — AP’s Martin Crutsinger: “Federal Reserve officials were convinced last month that the U.S. economy and job growth had slowed as coronavirus cases surged across the country, noting that the outlook is heavily dependent on the course of the virus. The minutes of the Fed’s January discussions show officials believed that the ongoing public health crisis is still posing ‘considerable risks’ to the economy.”

COVID RESPONSE DRIVES $24T SURGE IN GLOBAL DEBT — Reuters’ Marc Jones: “The COVID pandemic has added $24 trillion to the global debt mountain over the last year a new study has shown, leaving it at a record $281 trillion and the worldwide debt-to-GDP ratio at over 355 percent.

“The Institute of International Finance’s global debt monitor estimated government support programmes had accounted for half of the rise, while global firms, banks and households added $5.4 trillion, 3.9 trillion and $2.6 trillion respectively.”

EUROPE’S PANDEMIC DEBT IS DIZZYING, BUT WHO WILL PAY? — NYT’s Liz Alderman: “For households trying to balance their budget each month, the fact that European countries are incurring trillion-euro debts is dizzying. In France alone, the national debt has topped 2.7 trillion euros ($3.2 trillion) and will soon exceed 120 percent of the economy.

“But governments are far from worried about piling up debt right now, as rock-bottom interest rates empower them to spare no expense to shield their economies from the pandemic. And spend they do.”

WELLS FARGO LOOKS TO SLASH COSTS WITHOUT ANGERING REGULATORS — WSJ’s Ben Eisen: “Plenty of companies are cutting costs to weather the pandemic recession. Few are trying to do so while also spending billions of dollars to satisfy their regulators. These are the tasks facing Wells Fargo & Co. Chief Executive Charles Scharf, who is attempting to slash at least $8 billion from the San Francisco bank’s annual budget. The bank’s expenses last year were $57.63 billion.”

U.S. ECONOMY SURGES INTO 2021 AS SALES, OUTPUT TOP FORECASTS — Bloomberg’s Reade Pickert: “The U.S. economy started 2021 with a bang as retail sales and factory output accelerated and expectations continue to build for another jolt of government stimulus, setting the stage for what could be the best year of economic growth in nearly four decades.

“Retail sales rose in January by the most in seven months, increasing 5.3 percent after a disappointing December and beating all forecasts, Commerce Department figures showed. Meanwhile, factory output rose by more than expected last month and a measure of producer prices advanced by the most in records back to 2009.”

BAI Finds Consumers Confident in Financial Services Organizations’ Fraud Response

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CHICAGO–()–According to research recently conducted by BAI, a nonprofit independent organization that delivers the financial services industry’s most actionable insights, fraud and security remain the biggest frustration with digital banking customers. Today’s consumer is faced with greater challenges relative to fraud due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent relief efforts, and increased digital usage. However, the research found that consumers express confidence in their primary financial services organizations’ efforts to resolve and mitigate fraud issues.

As part of the BAI Banking Outlook program, BAI surveyed financial services leaders and customers to understand their recent dealings with fraudulent activity. The majority of respondents indicated an increased or equal amount of concern regarding fraud over the past six months. There were generational differences, though, with Millennials reporting the greatest increased concern among the generational groups at 55%. When asked about the frequency of fraudulent activities, Generation Z and Millennials reported higher instances than members of Generation X or Baby Boomers. Furthermore, 68% of all financial services leaders surveyed said fraud challenges have increased, with hacking attempts ranking first and credit card and malware attempts tied for second.

The most frequently cited third-party fraud instances have been in the form of stimulus check and debit card fraud, the latter taking the place of economic relief scams which was witnessed in 2020. The most common first-party fraud has been in the form of check fraud, followed by deposit account fraud.

“Financial services leaders are working at an accelerated rate to protect their customers against fraudsters and fraudulent activities,” said Karl Dahlgren, managing director at BAI. “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most financial services organizations have instituted additional employee training and customer communication to mitigate and respond to instances of fraud. 66% of financial services organizations have increased their efforts to combat fraud, including 50% of participating financial services organizations noting their utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) today alongside an additional 32% of financial services organizations indicating they will implement AI in the next year.”

Financial services organizations have also taken additional steps such as revising employee policies and procedures (50%), hiring or working with a crisis management company (29%), and partnering with a fintech company (28%) to address and prevent fraudulent activities. Furthermore, financial services organizations are proactively addressing fraudulent activities by encouraging their customers to protect themselves. Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 60% of consumer respondents note they are reviewing their transactions closely, and 39% use a free monitoring service.

About BAI

As a nonprofit, independent organization, BAI has delivered the financial services industry’s most actionable insights for more than 95 years, helping leaders make smart business decisions every day. We provide in-depth, proprietary research to more than 40 of the top US banks, support more than 2,100 financial services organizations with compliance and professional development training, provide trusted, relevant thought leadership through BAI Banking Strategies reports, podcasts and webinars, and offer specialized events and programs. For more information, visit www.bai.org.

Generation Z Is Bringing Dramatic Transformation to the Workforce

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As younger generations infiltrate the workplace, we’ll see companies deploy technology to fill the skills gap, train remote workers and drive real-life applications.

Though Generation X still holds the power in 64% of organizations, Millennials are becoming decision makers and Gen Zers are infiltrating the workforce. These milestones reveal a generational shift driving the next phase of business practices. There’s no question the younger generations will transform the future of work, and as a result, we’ll see companies deploy technologies to fill the skills gap, train remote workers and disrupt industries through game-changing digital initiatives.

Image: boygostockphoto - stock.adobe.com

Image: boygostockphoto – stock.adobe.com

While Gen Zers and Millennials are coming into their own in the workforce, Baby Boomers are leaving in droves, taking valuable expertise and experience with them that’s often not documented throughout the organization. Pew Research reports 3.3 million people retired in the third quarter of 2020 — likely driven by staff reductions and incentivized retirement packages created by the pandemic. The change in rank will inevitably drive how people interact with technology, particularly around the transfer of knowledge to bridge the skills gap.

While this transition is still in flux, we’ve already been able to imagine the impact. Coding languages risk becoming extinct, and machinery risks grinding to a halt. Data from recruitment firm Robert Half reveals three quarters of finance directors believe the skills gap created by retiring Baby Boomers will negatively impact their business within 2-5 years.

To that point, the COVID pandemic is not only creating turnover in the workforce but is also making in-person knowledge sharing difficult. Technology is helping to soften this challenge, ensuring business resiliency against the “disruption” of retirement. Where practical knowledge handovers are less viable, in the case of remote work or global organizations, programming languages or process-specific knowledge can be taught through artificial intelligence (AI). AI can learn from experts, allowing companies to re-apply that knowledge in the future to employees, minimizing the impact of generational change.

Remote trainings delivered through AI and enabled by IoT

As COVID forces more aspects of the workplace to take place remotely, technology is driving the future of training. Many employees entered the workforce for the first time during the pandemic and experienced a fully remote onboarding and work experience. Recent GenHQ data reveals that Gen Zers find remote work challenging overall, more than other generations, and feel they require better tools from employers to effectively work remotely.

Technology is one solution to deliver a more connected training experience. A virtual reality or augmented reality-enabled headset allows experienced engineers to train newer engineers and walkthrough tasks virtually. Another example of technology-enabled training is AR software company RE’FLEKT, which combines AR visualizations with machine data from IoT sensors to make troubleshooting and technical training for maintenance, repair, and overhaul processes easier. Real-time IoT data can improve first-time fix rates on machinery, making technician training faster and more efficient.

Thorough training can be difficult for large companies to implement at scale. Remote training delivered through AR and VR, enabled by IoT, makes it safer and more efficient, especially for employees working in hazardous environments. For industries with dangerous equipment or higher risk of accidents, allowing an employee to put in hours of practice virtually can protect themselves, colleagues, and the business from risks associated with real machinery.  

Millennials’ trust in technology opens doors of possibility

The last 10 years of digital transformation investment have been building to a future where every company is inherently digital. Where predecessors may have seen software as a “nice to have”, digital natives want to go beyond the basics to optimize and derive value for their “must-have” software. Younger generations will bring an expectation that technology will help employees on a day-to-day basis through real-life applications.

Until recent years, AI has been met with skepticism, especially as to its impact on the workplace and fears of displacing jobs. The incoming generation of employees not only expect assistance from AI but will also look to it as a trusted partner. AI and automation will play larger, more strategic roles across industries. Gartner predicts automation in manufacturing and farming will mean the customer will be the first human to touch more than 20% of products and produce in the world by 2025.

Additionally, as Millennials become decision makers, technology will naturally become more integral to key initiatives. In the battle against climate change, German startup Breeze Technologies uses smart sensors and AI to provide accurate, live data about air quality to drive decisions about air pollution. In the coming years, as Millennials own their power, we’ll see a noticeable evolution where relatively simple technology — like IoT sensors and AI — can better inform and enable true movement in the fight against climate change. 

Companies have been focused on digital transformation efforts for years, but technology investments accelerated dramatically in 2020, with three out of five IT professionals reporting their organization went through a “large amount” of change. While customers see the most benefits of digital investment, employees are the second biggest beneficiary. As each new generation enters and disrupts the workforce, we’ll likely see this increase as technology transforms work in new ways and drives the next phase of business practices.

Jon Weiss is SVP of emerging technology at Software AG. He is a technology executive with a passion for delivering problem-solving solutions and developing high-performing teams. He specializes in emerging technologies such as IoT/IIoT, analytics, AI/ML and process automation, specifically for manufacturing and industrial companies as well as organizations with advanced supply chains.

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT … View Full Bio

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Surprising Ways Gen X and Boomers Are Worlds Apart Financially

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dusanpetkovic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

dusanpetkovic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

While older Americans proved especially vulnerable to the coronavirus’ worst ravages, no age group was immune from the pandemic’s economic fallout. All demographics were forced to change their money habits, adjust their strategies and, in many cases, do whatever they had to do to make it through. It wasn’t the first time.

Related: Surprising Ways Gen Z and Millennials Are Worlds Apart Financially

Generation X (born between 1965-1980) experienced the rise of the tech bubble, the dot-com bust, and the Great Recession. Baby boomers (1946-1964) remember the energy crisis and runaway inflation of the 1970s.

Read: Americans’ Savings Drop to Lowest Point in Years

The two groups came into working age during radically different eras and, naturally, don’t see eye to eye on everything when it comes to money. To find out what separates baby boomers from Gen Xers in terms of finance, GOBankingRates talked to experts who work directly with both groups.

Last updated: Feb. 15, 2021

Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill (showing former president Washington).

Stock Market Graph next to a 1 dollar bill (showing former president Washington).

Boomers Tend To Be More Risk-Averse

Gen Xers know the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl from “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Wizard of Oz.” To baby boomers, those events were living memories that helped define the identities of their parents, aunts and uncles. That living memory often makes them more gun shy when it comes to investing, according to Michael Shea, certified financial planner (CFP) with Applied Capital in Nashville, Tennessee.

“A big difference between baby boomers and Gen X when investing their money is their risk tolerance and expectations of the stock market,” Shea said. “Boomers can be much more reluctant when investing in the market. This results in them leaving large amounts of cash on the sidelines that is not working for them. This is partly due to their stages of life, but also that boomers grew up with their parents experiencing the Depression, which created a lot of fear and anxiety that trickled down to them.”

Find Out: Surprising Ways Gen X and Millennials Are Worlds Apart Financially

Money Business shopping and saving concept.

Money Business shopping and saving concept.

Gen Xers Tend To Spend More

Carol Tompkins is a personal finance expert who currently serves as the business development consultant for online accounting software service AccountsPortal. She’s one of the many professionals who report that Gen Xers are more likely than their baby boomer parents to dispose of their disposable income.

“Gen Xers tend to spend more of their annual income than baby boomers,” she said. “It is also important to point out that the Gen Xers earn slightly more than baby boomers annually. These higher incomes could account for Gen Xers’ willingness to spend more.”

Read: 17 Tips for Baby Boomers To Tackle Their Student Debt

Full length shot of a jar of coins and wads of cash on a desk in an office.

Full length shot of a jar of coins and wads of cash on a desk in an office.

But They Might Actually Be Better Savers

In the showdown between Gen Xers and boomers, “neither generation is known for being great savers,” according to Zachary A. Bachner, a CFP with Rivendell Capital Management. But even though they tend to spend more of their incomes, the middle-aged Gen X demographic might actually be the better savers of the two.

“Gen X has had more time to recover from the financial crisis and they have been more focused on savings as they begin to near retirement,” Bachner said. “Many baby boomers on average have little to no savings and are heavily relying on employer retirement plans and employer pensions.”

Did You Know: Baby Boomers, Gen X or Millennials — Who Really Had It Worst Financially?

Retirement Financial Planning Concept.

Retirement Financial Planning Concept.

Just Not When It Comes To Retirement

If it is true that Gen Xers are more likely to build personal savings, it’s certainly not a given that they’re better than their parents at retirement planning.

“A large proportion of Gen Xers are lagging behind in terms of saving for their retirement,” Tompkins said. “A significant proportion have made early withdrawals from their retirement plans. Baby boomers have more in savings than Gen Xers, and many of them are looking to work past 65 years.”

Read: 27 Most Lucrative Side Hustles for People Over 50

Best city to buy a home

Best city to buy a home

Gen Xers Still See Real Estate as the Investment of Choice

Adam Garcia is the CEO at investing site The Stock Dork. According to his data, the two generations are more starkly divided by their outlook on real estate than just about anything else.

“45 percent of Gen Xers state that their primary goal is to buy a house,” Garcia said. “Whereas, only 15% of baby boomers are willing to invest further in property.”

That, of course, could have more to do with their ages and stations in life more than any philosophical differences on the profitability of real estate.

More from GOBankingRates

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Surprising Ways Gen X and Boomers Are Worlds Apart Financially

David Carroll’s News and Notes: Bouquets for the living

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By David Carroll, commentary

Recently I was honored to deliver the eulogy for my uncle, Owen Norris of Ider, Alabama. He was a child of the Great Depression. He learned how to build and fix things out of necessity, he served our country in a MASH unit in Korea, and he started his own business. He raised a great family, traveled the world, helped his neighbors, was an expert woodworker, a believer, an athlete, and a great storyteller. That’s the short version of an incredible 90-year life. (If you would like to read my full tribute, send me an email.)

Despite his declining health, Uncle Owen was sharp as a tack until the very end. We knew the end was near, and we told that we love him, face to face. He appreciated that, and returned our love many times over. I am glad he went to his eternal home knowing he was loved.

Baseball’s true home run king, Henry “Hank” Aaron knew he was loved too. In the decades since he hung up his cleats, countless Braves fans told him how much he meant to them. I was lucky to be among them. When he died last month at age 87, I renewed my efforts to convince the bank that owns the naming rights at the Braves stadium to name the field in his honor.

That could happen soon, as the bank yields to fan pressure to honor “Hank” in a proper way. The bank had ample time to do that during his lifetime, but chose not to do so. When they finally do the right thing, I will be there to cheer for this American hero, but I will be sad that the ceremony will not include Mr. Aaron himself.

As we “baby boomers” age, we are sadly saying goodbye to the entertainers, political figures, athletes, and role models we admired. In the age of COVID, we have been doing so at an alarming rate.

In recent weeks and months, we have lost 100-year-old George Shultz, who fought in World War II, and served three different presidents in four cabinet posts, helping to bring the Cold War to an end.

Also, we have said farewell to a full baseball team of Hall of Fame players: Don Sutton, a durable pitcher who became a popular Braves announcer; the ageless Braves knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro, who always made time for fans; Bob Gibson of the Cardinals, the most fearsome fastball pitcher of his era; his teammate Lou Brock, one of our great base stealers; Joe Morgan of the Big Red Machine, Tom Seaver of the Amazin’ Mets; Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers, who was one of the game’s best managers and goodwill ambassadors, and a Country Music Hall of Famer, Charley Pride, who played minor league ball for the Dodgers.

We have also said goodbye to a Who’s Who of entertainment figures: the great actress Cicely Tyson, who was 96; the master interviewer Larry King; the world-class actor Hal Holbrook, who was still doing his one-man Mark Twain stage show four years ago at the age of 91; Regis Philbin, one of the best live broadcasters of all time; and the “Jeopardy” game master Alex Trebek, who showed us it was cool to be smart.

This avalanche of notable departures is by no means complete. So rather than wait until it’s too late, here are a few familiar names who are still with us, who have earned my eternal respect and admiration.

Carol Burnett will soon turn 88. She doesn’t even need a script to make us laugh. She can do it simply by answering questions from the audience.

Betty White just turned 99. She was a legend even before “The Golden Girls” transformed her into a national treasure.

Bob Barker is 97. Anyone who knows me can tell you, he has been my idol since I learned to talk. I’m still trying to be as smooth as Bob. Spoiler alert: it’s not gonna happen.

Charles Osgood is 88. I’m still trying to be as good a writer as “Charlie.” That won’t happen either.

Dick Van Dyke is 95. Never has there been a more graceful comedian. The Kennedy Center is honoring him this year. A bit overdue, don’t you think?

Herb Alpert. Bob Newhart. Angela Lansbury. Sidney Poitier. Tony Bennett. Jerry Lee Lewis. Clint Eastwood. Norman Lear. Mel Brooks. Berry Gordy.

Here’s to all of you, and so many others for your remarkable longevity, and for enriching our lives.

One final note on bouquets for the living. As I write this, there is talk of a permanent honor for Dolly Parton at the Tennessee State Capitol. Of course, one state representative is concerned about this, because she is still alive. Not me. I agree with Snuffy Smith. “Time’s a wastin’!” Why wait?

(David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.  You may contact him at [email protected], or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)