Baloise Group, one of the biggest institutional property owners in Switzerland, is snapping up online platforms for services related to real estate, including relocation, maintenance, and housekeeping. Insurance companies need more than a digital strategy, they need “a strategy for a digital world,” says Alexander Bockelmann, who joined Baloise as chief technology officer earlier this year.
In today’s global economy, products are put together in one country from components sourced in other countries, and then sold all over the world. That model is about to change, thanks in part to the U.S.-China trade dispute, says Lars Kalbreier, chief investment officer at Vontobel Wealth Management. The uncertainties over trade will spur businesses to invest in technology, such as robotics, in order to produce closer to their consumer base.
Switzerland’s financial supervisor on Tuesday highlighted negative interest rates as a major risk for the country’s banking industry, saying they undermine profitability and business models. It was the first such report from Finma and it comes amid a growing debate over the need for subzero rates to protect exporters. “We’re always happy if the franc is not too strong, but the companies are used to it,” says Eugen Perger, senior analyst at Research Partners. He says many have taken steps to cope, including by diversifying production and hedging.
With many asset classes doing extremely well in 2019, investors are facing challenging decisions. “What you see is a picture that is assuming more positive than negative news,” says Christopher Gannatti, head of research in Europe at WisdomTree.
Switzerland is witnessing a growing backlash to its subzero interest rates even as the Swiss National Bank continues to remind currency markets that it can go lower. The central bank needs to do a much better job of explaining its policies to the public, says Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin.
In a bleak year for active funds, asset managers are looking to the insurance industry as a new source of growth for their beleaguered business. In particular, they are trying to persuade insurance companies to outsource management of complex, illiquid assets such as private debt and infrastructure, says Christina Böck, partner at Indefi.
Many large companies and organizations finish off their year with an annual engagement survey. According to Marco Meister, co-founder of Volunty, companies should rather focus on regular pulse checks and ask their employees about their needs in order to measure their engagement. With the current skills gap and a new generation entering the labor market, employee engagement is more crucial than ever.
OPEC and its allies have taken action to avert a crash in oil prices after agreeing to one of the deepest output cuts in a decade. The Saudi Arabia-led cartel and Russia (collectively known as “OPEC plus”) met in Vienna on Thursday. CNN’s John Defterios is covering the OPEC meeting and gives his analysis.
EU efforts to classify sustainable financial products have stumbled amid disagreements over which investments to designate as green. Despite the setback, the mere fact that the EU is working on the issue is raising interest in sustainable finance among investors who might not be “intrinsically motivated,” says Carlo Funk, EMEA head of ESG investing at State Street Global Advisors.
With trade talks, a UK election, and central bank meetings, the next 10 days will be pivotal in setting the tone for 2020, says David Riley, CIO at BlueBay Asset Management. He adds that U.S. President Donald Trump—with his mixed messages on the progress of trade talks with China—is proving to be “the Grinch” in the typical year-end market rally.
Europe’s banks are focused right now on adapting to new rules, cleaning up their balance sheets and preparing for a digital future, says François Lavier, an analyst and portfolio manager at Lazard. Still, he’s confident cross-border mergers will eventually happen. “The European Commission is pushing to build a European banking union, and if we want to have a banking union, we need European banks.”
Stock markets tanked Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump signaled that a U.S.-China trade deal may not happen until after the 2020 election. The rally of the past few months would probably “go up in smoke” if more U.S. tariffs against China kick in as scheduled on Dec. 15, said Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at REYL Singapore.
Meyer Burger activist shareholder Sentis Capital is calling for a shake-up of the solar panel company’s Swiss holding structure, calling it too expensive and too big. Anton Karl, co-managing director at Sentis, questions the need for certain management positions in Switzerland when its business operations are run out of Germany.
Stocks are still a good bet, especially when paired with gold, says Thomas Wille, head of research and strategy at private banking group LGT. In addition to being a hedge against equity volatility, the precious metal also provides a cushion against any “experiments from the central bank.”
Schmolz + Bickenbach received permission from shareholders to raise at least CHF 325 million in fresh capital to keep the struggling Swiss steelmaker alive. The approval came after Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg agreed to let Swiss billionaire Martin Haefner take a controlling stake. “It is a victory for Martin Haefner who really played hard ball with Viktor Vekselberg,” says Andreas Schaffner, CNNMoney Switzerland’s editor in chief.