Why Finance And Innovation Are Perfect Business Partners

The importance of innovation is oft-discussed – in media, books and, perhaps most importantly, in the boardroom. What’s little discussed, however, is how to execute on that innovation and who to partner with to get it done. At Blue Shield of California (BSC), a symbiotic relationship has formed between the finance and innovation teams, highlighting the benefits of working closely together for business efficiency. This month I spoke with BSC CFO, Sandra Clarke, to learn more about her perspective on innovation, how she works with the chief innovation officer and why finance and innovation ultimately go hand in hand.

Jeffrey Thomson: You recently assumed the role of CFO at Blue Shield of California (BSC), previously serving as CFO at Daiichi Sankyo’s U.S. subsidiary, a global pharmaceutical company. What do you like about working in the healthcare industry? What unique challenges does the finance and accounting function face in this competitive, highly regulated industry?

Sandra Clarke: I really like being able to contribute to the health and well-being of our society and the opportunity to innovate in an industry that touches every person in our country. Our mission at Blue Shield is to provide access to high quality healthcare that is worthy of our family and friends, and that is sustainably affordable. We have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal. But I like a challenge, and I’m energized by what lies ahead.

Being part of a nonprofit healthcare organization also really resonated with me. We are driven by the needs of our members, not the returns for shareholders. We voluntarily cap our net income at two percent of revenue, returning anything above that to our customers and the community. From a finance perspective, this somewhat limits our access to capital for the investments we need to make to change the way care is delivered, but there are also benefits. Because we are focused on the satisfaction of our members and not on the satisfaction of investors, we can make long-term investments that will improve the member experience, healthcare quality and affordability without having to worry as much about their initial impact on quarterly earnings.

[“source=gsmarena”]

SIP investment: Why you need to accept losses

are indeed low

To create wealth from stock markets, one should stay invested.

By Dhruv Desai

It is a good practice to remain invested in a falling market or better still, invest more to ensure great returns when market recovers. Majority of the investors would know this but unfortunately, majority of them fail to stick to this advice.

To create wealth from stock markets, one should stay invested. Likes of Warren Buffet, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala didn’t become rich overnight. They have seen all ups and down in the market and had managed to stay invested. In fact, they managed to invest when the market was at the lowest or at least the stock was trading cheap.

Stay invested
When we buy the stock for long term, we feel we will remain invested or invest more when the market falls. But do we actually do it? Let us take an example : Suppose we start systematic investment plan (SIP) of Rs 1,000 every month in HDFC Equity Fund from January 2007. I am taking this year since the market before that was roaring and that would convince many investors to start their investing in the stock market. From January 2007 to January 2008, the returns would be 29.68% where we would have invested Rs 13,000 and we would be getting a return of Rs 16,859. Then in October 2008, the investment would be worth Rs 13,370 from an investment of Rs 22,000. So we would be looking at a loss of 39.22%.

I doubt if any investors would still continue their SIP. I have seen many investors taking a loss and withdrawing from market stating stock market is not meant for them. In fact, if they had continued for another year, i.e., till December 24, 2009, the return would be Rs 53,533 and amount invested would be Rs 36,000 which would give us the return of 48.70%. In fact, if the investor would have continued the same SIP of Rs 1,000 every month, the return currently would be Rs 3,35,060 from an invested amount of Rs 1,43,000. That would give a return of 134% in a span of 10 years.

Investor’s confidence
Falling market tends to shake off investors’ confidence in the market. This is psychology, where fear prevails common sense. When the market is touching new highs, in spite of a warning from the back of our mind that the market is overbought, greed prevails and we find ourselves over committing in the market.

Investors should remove the notion from their mind that equity market will give high returns no matter what. We have seen where in a span of one year, the return was negative 39.22%. It is a volatile asset class and will remain so. Investors need to accept this. Investors who have seen high returns in past are less likely to be swayed by fear compare to investors who have seen low returns in past.

In rising markets, it is easy to say we will remain invested when the market falls but when it really falls, investors tend to crash out and take a loss rather than seeing it as an opportunity to invest more. They feel that the market will fall further and then they will invest. But it is impossible to time the market or catch low. In fact, even if they are getting cheaper stocks, they will wait more in fear that it will fall more.
My aim in this article is to highlight that one needs to accept losses too when doing their SIP. If your tolerance is low in the falling market, teach yourself to overcome your fears when things get bad. Otherwise, you will miss the opportunity of investing when prices indeed are cheap.

[“source=forbes]

ESR-Allianz Real Estate JV to invest $1 billion in India

Warburg Pincus-backed ESR is one of Asia’s largest developers and operators in logistics and warehousing. Photo: Bloomberg

Warburg Pincus-backed ESR is one of Asia’s largest developers and operators in logistics and warehousing. Photo: Bloomberg

Bengaluru: Asia Pacific-focused logistics developer e-Shang Redwood (ESR) has entered into a strategic partnership with global asset manager Allianz Real Estate to invest around $1 billion, including debt, into India’s rapidly growing logistics and industrial property market.

The joint venture will focus on developing large-scale logistics and industrial facilities in eight key cities—Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad—with an opportunistic approach to investments in other markets in India, the companies announced on Friday.

In addition, the investment programme will also identify opportunities to acquire assets in these cities.

“We are delighted to partner with Allianz, an existing strategic partner of ESR in other geographies. This JV with a leading institutional investor who has deep experience in Asia marks a key milestone in our regional growth plan,” Charles de Portes, co-founder and president of ESR, said in a statement.

The proposed investment programme will start with an immediate equity commitment of $225 million, to be funded on a 50:50 basis by Allianz and ESR. This would subsequently be converted into a $1 billion assets under management platform. The programme’s strategy is to leverage structural trends in tier one and selective tier two cities to build a long term, cash flow-positive logistics portfolio by acquiring a blend of develop-to-core, forward purchases, and stabilized or stabilizing assets.

On Thursday, ESR kicked off its first project in India, an industrial and logistics park in Chakan MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation), Pune.

Warburg Pincus-backed ESR is one of Asia’s largest developers and operators in logistics and warehousing, formed by the merger of e-Shang Cayman Ltd and Redwood Group Asia Pte. Ltd in 2016. Based out of Hong Kong and Singapore, it owns and manages around 7.3 million sq. m of assets in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Alongside the growth in the e-commerce sector in the country, the increasing internet and smartphone penetration, growing acceptance of online payments and favourable demographics will continue to propel e-commerce growth, spurring demand for modern logistics facilities, ESR said.

“India’s logistics sector is coming of age. The sector is benefitting from a lot of favourable trends, such as stellar consumption patterns, continued infrastructure spending, increasing transparency and the nation-wide implementation of a uniform indirect tax system,” said Rushabh Desai, Asia-Pacific CEO of Allianz Real Estate.

In India, the warehousing and logistics sector attracted investments of more than a billion dollars in 2017 and is witnessing a huge interest in building businesses around steady rental income. Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is planning to enter the industrial real estate space, while Sydney’s LOGOS Group and Assetz Property Group from Singapore partnered in 2017 and are scouting for land. Embassy Industrial Parks Pvt. Ltd, Ascendas-Singbridge Group and Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd also plan to build industrial parks and clusters.

[“source=cnbc”]

Five Ways To Prepare Your Business For Small Business Saturday

young smiling customer looking excited and carrying many paper bags in clothes shopGetty

American Express’ Small Business Saturday has fast become an American tradition for the Saturday following Black Friday. Small businesses across the country will be celebrating the ninth year of this annual shopping event on Saturday, November 24. It can mean a big day of sales; in 2017 alone, consumers spent almost $13 million. Gear up your small businaess to make the most of profits this Small Business Saturday with these five tips.

1. Promote your participation as soon as possible.

American Express offers materials and resources you can use to promote your business and sales. You can create customizable online, in-store and social media marketing materials. This is a cost-effective way to promote your participation. Print signs and banners at a local printer to support another neighborhood business and get your materials sooner. 

2. Prepare digitally.

Online shopping is increasing every year. Make sure your website is up to date with available inventory, all promotional offers and holiday hours. In 2017, almost half of all online retail traffic during the holiday shopping season came from a smartphone, according to data from Adobe. You don’t want to miss out on that traffic, so be sure to check that your website is mobile-friendly for customers shopping on the go.

Schedule social media posts announcing your participation in Small Business Saturday and any sales in advance by spending an afternoon planning out your posts. Reach new customers by advertising with Google Adwords, Twitter and Facebook. You can provide consumers with a customized experience by launching geo-targeted ads to your desired audience.

3. Prepare your team.

The holiday season often requires more employees, but hiring seasonal help can be a challenging process. Get a head start by accepting applications in early November, and in order to get the best help, accept applications in person and online.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Once your team is in place, training is imperative. Customer service should be your No. 1 priority on Small Business Saturday, and your employees need the necessary skills to help make that priority happen. Teach all your employees to help customers find the proper products, and explain which additional products would complement the rest of their order. Remember, this is the perfect opportunity to turn first-time visitors into life-long customers.

4. Prepare your inventory.

Your distributors may be flooded with other client orders before Small Business Saturday and the rest of the holiday season, so place your orders well in advance. It is essential to have enough inventory to last the weekend, but you should also be judicious in how much you order. You don’t want to run the risk of overstocking. Review your previous year’s performance to get an idea of how much you need to order. Even if you did not actively participate in Small Business Saturday last year, many consumers knowingly shopped at small businesses that weekend. That means previous years’ sales can provide you with a good starting point.

5. Prepare your financing.

Additional employees, marketing materials and inventory will require additional working capital. Finance your Small Business Saturday campaigns by finding the right financing fit to help. You can calculate how much you’ll need to finance your campaigns or secure more inventory by reviewing your previous budget and sales from the prior years.

Some business funding options include SBA loans, merchant cash advances, lines of credit, term loans and invoice factoring. Your financing needs and your business’s credit score will help determine which type of financing option is best. The length of time you can repay the amount you’re looking to borrow is also an important factor in your decision, and the age of your business can affect which products are available to you.

Preparation is key to a successful Small Business Saturday. Consumers will be inundated with messages about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But with some careful planning, you can stand out from your competition, both big and small.

[“source=forbes]

Government looks to super funds to back $2 billion small business plan

Superannuation funds will be courted to participate in the federal government’s $2 billion push to increase funding for small business.

The government’s two part policy announced on Wednesday features a potential $2 billion investment in a  securitisation fund to help small businesses access debt finance outside the big banks and the “encouragement” of the establishment of a growth fund to provide longer term equity funding.

Mr Frydenberg told Fairfax Media on Friday there was a clear need for the funds “with the big banks responsible for more than 80 per cent of small business loans that are less than $2 million, there are few alternative funding routes.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the two funds on Wednesday.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the two funds on Wednesday. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Securitisation fund

The securitisation fund will operate through the government buying bonds that are drawn from a pool of small business loans and providing cheaper funding to smaller banks and non-bank lenders through new or existing warehouse facilities.

The government will receive interest from these loans on a monthly basis which is where it will make its money and a well placed source said the government hopes superannuation funds will also participate in a similar way.

Ultimately the source said the government envisages it will not have to keep investing as the market matures which could take around three to five years.

Looking to superannuation funds

Joseph Healy, is the co-founder of SME lender Judo Capital, which is likely to benefit from the fund and said if the government is willing to invest money through the fund, superannuation funds may be willing to invest as well.

Related Article

Frydenberg's $2b plan is a solution searching for a problem
Finance

Frydenberg’s $2b plan is a solution searching for a problem

“Being able to invest into the securitisation fund and access a pools of funds rather than individual funds is a much better way for SMEs to access the superannuation market,” he said.

Eva Scheerlinck, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, said new investment opportunities are always welcome but it’s too early to say what the response will be from super funds.

“Super funds have a fiduciary duty to their members to ensure that every investment made is the right one for their portfolio and the investment outlook,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the assets that trustees invest in still have to be of investment grade and assessed against a rigorous criteria to ensure members get the best outcomes.”

Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Eva Scheerlinck.
Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees chief executive Eva Scheerlinck.Credit:Steven Pam

Small business ombudsman Kate Carnell helped develop the policy and said the securitisation fund would encourage smaller banks and non bank lenders to lend to small businesses.

“For second tier banks the cost of lending is a mix of risk and cost of capital,” she said. “Why don’t they lend now?  The cost of capital is high and the dilemma of lending to small business or SMEs is that the risk is higher. By bringing down the cost of capital you can make the business case for some of these lenders to focus on small business.”

Small businesses having trouble securing finance

01:16

Small businesses having trouble securing finance

Small businesses are being promised easier access to finance through a new $2 billion fund to be unveiled by the Morrison Government.

Growth fund

The second part of the government’s policy is to promote the establishment of a growth fund.

The government is consulting with the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority and the banks over how the fund would work.

The fund would provide passive equity investment to small businesses to enable them to grow without taking on additional debt or giving up control of their business and is likely to be modelled on similar funds in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Since its establishment in 2011, the United Kingdom’s business growth fund has invested some $2.7 billion in a range of sectors across the economy.

Unlike a traditional private equity investment or a ‘Shark Tank’ style investment, businesses would not have to give up control or offer a board seat.

A similar fund doesn’t exist in Australia in part because the amount of capital APRA requires banks to hold for these investments makes it unprofitable for the banks however this treatment is under review.

The government’s role will be limited to setting up the rules around the funds operation and ensuring reporting and auditing.

[“source=ndtv”]

Square adds to its small-business ecosystem with benefits like health insurance

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018.

Anushree Fadnavis | Reuters
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018.

Square is ramping up its bet on small businesses by offering big company benefits.

The fintech firm, run by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, announced on Wednesday it would give small businesses using its payroll platform the option to offer perks like health insurance and retirement savings to employees.

“It’s a new enhancement to the Square platform and a powerful solution that has historically been cost-prohibitive to small businesses,” Alyssa Henry, head of Square seller and developer business units, said on a call with reporters.

The San Francisco-based company partnered with only “technology-focused” firms — SimplyInsured, Guideline 401(k), Alice, and AP Intego. The available benefits range from health insurance, retirement savings, pre-tax spending, and workers’ compensation.

Businesses that use Square Payroll, a product that became available nationwide last month, can pick one or all of the benefit options for their employees. Those benefits will sync with Square Payroll and automate deductions and business contributions, which also helps with tax compliance, the company said.

The move came after a recent company survey showed that 42 percent of Square users listed “benefits” as the top new product request.

“That confirmed what we’ve been hearing anecdotally,” said Caroline Hollis, head of Square Payroll. “Offering access to benefits was the most difficult thing we hadn’t solved for in the space.”

Square has significantly expanded its small-business product suite since the company launched in 2009. It started with credit card processing and payment hardware but now includes payroll services, and loans through Square Capital. It also launched a payment installment option in October.

The company reported earnings last week that beat Wall Street’s expectations for the top and bottom line, but came up slightly short on fourth-quarter guidance. The stock has been on a tear this year, up more than 110 percent since January.

Square is also well-known in the payments sector for its popular Cash app, which CEO Jack Dorsey said customers are now using as a traditional bank in many cases.

“We do see people use the Cash App fundamentally as you would expect them to use a bank account,” Dorsey said on a the earnings call last week. “They store money with us, it’s accepted anywhere Visa is accepted. They can send and receive money from friends and family.

[“source=ndtv”]

Government called upon to reform tax system to aid small businesses

Sue O’Neill was speaking at the SFA’s annual lunch in Dublin, which was attended by about 400 members

Sue O’Neill was speaking at the SFA’s annual lunch in Dublin, which was attended by about 400 members

The Government needs to urgently implement “real reform” within the tax system to ensure competitiveness and end discrimination against the self-employed and entrepreneurs, the head of the Small Firms Association has said.

Sue O’Neill, chairwoman of the SFA, said taxation remains one of the most powerful tools available to the State as it urged the Government to do more to support small business.

“The opportunity to address areas of our tax policy that hinder our ability to compete with our nearest neighbours in particular, were missed in Budget 2019 and instead of ensuring that no additional costs were imposed on small business, we see the reinstatement of the 13 per cent vat in sectors that reinvented themselves and significantly contributed to our recovering economy,” she said.

‘Important pillars’

“One of the most important pillars of a national small business strategy is a comprehensive tax policy. As a country we need to urgently implement real reform within our tax system to ensure sustainable competitiveness for small business and finally end tax discrimination against the self-employed and entrepreneurs,” Ms O’Neill added.

Ms O’Neill was speaking at the SFA’s annual lunch in Dublin, which was attended by about 400 members.

Warning about the dangers Brexit poses for small firms, Ms O’Neill also spoke of a softening of confidence among members with a recent study showing that the number of companies who feel the business environment is improving has declined.

[“source=ndtv”]

Don’t misuse I-T laws, tax rates already low: CBDT to industry

CBDT Chairman Sushil Chandra addressing a CII interactive session on Union Budget 2017-18 in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chief Sushil Chandra today asked the industry to refrain from misusing provisions of the law to evade taxes, saying the effective tax rate for big companies is already 26% on account of various exemptions.

He said the industry should act more responsibly than the salaried class in paying taxes and help build a tax compliant society.

“I want to drive home that point very clearly before the industry that you should be more tax compliant, automatically rates will come down. We are ready to move with you for making the society tax compliant. Industry has got much more responsibility than a salaried person,” Chandra said while addressing the CII post-Budget meet.

In 2018-19 Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed to lower corporate tax rate to 25% for businesses with turnover of up to ₹250 crore.

Over the last three years, the government has announced reduction of taxes in a phased manner for various categories of corporates and currently only 7,000 corporate houses are still in the 30 per cent slab.

However, Chandra said that the effective tax rate for large companies works out to be 26 per cent after taking into account various exemptions which they enjoy.

“26 per cent is the tax rate for bigger companies after exemption, because all exemptions cannot go overnight… So we have covered all the companies into low tax regime that is 25 and 26 per cent, so rates are quite good at this moment,” Chandra said at the CII post-Budget meet here.

He further said that had the government cut tax rates for all corporates to 25%, then the cost to the exchequer would have been ₹60,000 crore.

The Chief of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said that despite the government coming out with anti-black money measures and picking up lesser number cases for scrutiny, there are people who are misusing the income tax law provision.

“I would urge the industry that you should not yield to the temptation of misuse of sections so that at least our work of adding the anti-abuse provisions should be reduced and one-fourth of the Budget work can go away.

“When the law is so simple, when rates are reasonable, which the industry generally asks from us … Now I’m asking from you (industry) that at least be tax compliant,” Chandra said.

[“Source-thehindu”]

Entering A New Industry? 8 Ways To Break In Successfully

It’s never easy to get your foot in the door of a new industry. Whether you’re looking to start a business venture or simply collaborate with a brand in that market, the process of breaking in is a tricky one that must be handled with care: You can’t expect to be welcomed with open arms without proving yourself to industry veterans.

We asked eight members of Young Entrepreneurs Council about what it takes to successfully enter an unfamiliar industry. From making the right connections to offering a prototype or free services, here’s what they had to say.

All images courtesy of YEC members.

Entrepreneurs share tips for entering a new industry.

1. Talk To Industry Veterans, Potential Customers And Advisors

When it comes to getting a firm grasp on a new industry, one of the best ways is to leverage the experience of the veteran entrepreneurs in your industry. If you meet with them and ask many questions, you can learn quickly what it took them years to learn. If you combine this with reading books, the effect compounds. The next step is to meet with customers in the industry to understand their pain points to determine how you can innovate and differentiate yourself in this new space. Write down notes and reflect on the stories you hear to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The last step is to find a problem to solve and make an assumption you can measurably test to validate your business idea and meet advisors who can guide you before you go fully commit yourself. – Dan San, Meural

2. Partner With An Industry Leader

In my career, I have had many opportunities to enter into a new industry I really knew nothing about. Then I developed a mentality I like to call, “don’t buy it, sell it.” Why purchase a product or service you know you can sell, with just a little more knowledge and understanding? If you partner up with the right person or company, not only do you gain access to an unlimited supply of whatever that product or service is, but you also gain access to knowledge that you cannot read in FAQ or terms and conditions. Sometimes, the best way to break into anything when it comes to “the unknown,” is to admit your own ignorance to yourself, bite the bullet, and ask for help or advice. And, anyone will let you sell their products or services in exchange for more information. – Jason Criddle, Jason Criddle and Associates

3. Offer Free Or Discounted Services At First

One awesome tactic to break into new territory is to offer to do the project for free, or at a reduced rate, in exchange for feedback. This allows you to work with a client who will help you understand the industry. You will be upfront that this is your first project for this industry, but you are applying the same knowledge from other industries so it should work out fine. The client is getting great work, but at a discounted rate. You are getting inside knowledge on how to build a better service or platform. If there are any mistakes, both you and the client know this is a first time and so expectations are not as high. It takes a good client to make this work, but can be a success for both parties. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

4. Network With Anyone You Can

The best strategy for breaking into a new industry is to meet people in that industry. Research industry organizations and get involved. Become a member, join a committee, go to the events. Meet your new peers, learn about their work, care about their work and then show them your struggle. People want to help. Obviously, you don’t want to reach out to a potential competitor. However, you can reach out to just about anyone else. The best referrals that I have ever received came from someone random. Not the “big fish” everyone is always trying to meet at networking events. Especially if you are among other business owners, we’ve all been there, ask for help. – Allyson Case, Integro Rehab LLC

5. Be Continually Curious

Who said curiosity killed the cat? Following your curiosity is the key to learning a new industry. We hold the library of Alexandria at our fingertips with the internet today. It has never been easier to become more intelligent than 99 percent of the population on a given subject. I start by going down the Google rabbit hole. I open 10-15 tabs, watch the top rated YouTube videos, add the expert’s names to an Evernote file and circle the subject like a shark. If the idea is to understand autonomous cars, Google the biggest companies, top YouTube videos, “why autonomous cars will change world,” and on you go. Once you start watching experts and realize you know what they are about to say, you’re an expert. – Codie Sanchez, Www.CodieSanchez.com

6. Create Prototypes To Showcase Your Industry Knowledge

I always believe in creating some prototype software to showcase my knowledge and understanding of an Industry. When I wanted to reach out to a transportation industry, I first talked to a few people and figure out the issues they are having. Then based upon the issues, I created a prototype and showcased to C-level executives. It takes around one month to build a prototype, efforts pay off as I can use it to earn business. Don’t be afraid of barging into new verticals, all that is needed is energy to learn and solve problems. There is always a beginning. – Piyush Jain, SIMpalm

7. Make A List Of Questions You Have, Then Find The Answers

When I want to dive into a new venture, I start going to the bookstore to learn everything and anything on the subject. Then I create a list of what I want to search online and the questions I have pertaining to the venture. Before you know it, I am looking into forums and connecting with people who have already succeeded in the particular venture. I want to be able to learn from them and areas of improvement as well. For example, I was looking to create a new travel app that made it easy for young women to coordinate their travels. I connected with travel agencies, started reading books about travel journeys to get inside the head of a traveler, and reaching out to a network of well-traveled young women. The community of women was how I was able to build traction for the app. – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

8. Connect With Trusted Influencers And Get Their Endorsement

One of the best ways to make your brand or business well-known or respected in any space is to connect with a brand, website, or influencer who is already trusted and has a massive following. This is something we are commonly seeing in the world of social media, and specifically on Instagram, where visual content is king. No matter what it is you have to offer or sell, simple brand association can go a long way when trying to connect with a new audience. The important thing here to remember is that you don’t want to go in too strong and come off as just a paid placement or advertisement. Instead, it should be able to the value provided and blending in with the user experience that is expected from the people or brands they are already following. – Zac Johnson, Blogger

[“Source-forbes”]

UK gambling regulator calls on industry to stamp out sexism

The UK’s gambling regulator will on Monday call on the industry to stamp out sexism, warning that women attending an annual conference taking place this week are “expected to wear nothing more than swimsuits”.

Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison will warn that the regulator could boycott the ICE Totally Gaming event, the world’s largest gambling industryconference, unless attitudes change. Past guests at the conference have said companies hosting stands frequently use “scantily clad” women to attract people to their product displays.

Harrison’s warning comes amid fierce debate about the treatment of women employed to provide hospitality at events, following revelations about the men-only Presidents Club dinner, where female staff were allegedly groped and sexually harassed.

Formula 1 last week took the decision to stop using “grid girls” – models who display sponsor and driver names at Grand Prix – while darts events have scrapped so-called “walk-on girls” to escort players to the oche.

Harrison will say that last year’s ICE event inspired her to urge senior figures from the world of gambling to follow suit by addressing a “significant stain on the industry’s reputation”. “This is an industry where we have a number of talented, powerful and successful women,” she will tell the International Casino Conference, an event held on the eve of the ICE event.

“Yet from walking around the exhibition you wouldn’t know this. Instead you saw men representing their companies wearing expensive tailored suits whilst their female colleagues were expected to wear nothing more than swimsuits. I say bring this to an end now.”

“And to go further, any future participation by the Gambling Commission in events like this will depend on there being change,” Harrison will add.

Previous guests at the ICE conference, held at the ExCel conference centre in London’s Docklands, told the Guardian that event was renowned for the use of underdressed women, including Playboy models, to advertise gambling products.

“A lot of the promotional activity involves attractive young ladies, often not wearing that much,” said one previous delegate. “It’s not all skin, but there’s quite a lot on show typically. Girls in body paint and not much else. One company had a Playboy-themed slot machine on display and they brought along Playboy centrefolds.

“You had paunchy slot machine buyers going up to get their pictures taken with them. It was a bit pathetic, but I’ve never seen any predatory behaviour like the Presidents Club.”

As the industry prepared for the event, the European Casino Association (ECA) and Clarion Gaming, which organises the ICE conference, urged companies planning to exhibit to be aware of potential allegations of sexism.

“In the spirit of the 21st century, when both women and men play strategic and decision-making roles in businesses, we encourage all exhibitors to mindfully represent support staff promoting their products at the show in a non-offensive and non-stereotyping way,” they said in an open letter.

“For both organisations, it is clear that presenting a modern and diverse gaming industry should be at the heart of the show. For this to be successful and ensure that all participants feel equally welcome, the respectful representation of genders is crucial,” the letter added.

ECA chairman Per Jaldung said: “It is imperative that our industry presents its positive image … Our industry is modern and inclusive, and we call on exhibitors to showcase the great products and services they offer in a respectful manner that does not rely on outdated stereotypes.”

Ewa Bakun, head of content strategy at Clarion Gaming, said: “We have been exerting a soft pressure on our exhibitors and educating the ICE audience on the ways the industry can evolve to create a more inclusive culture and improve gender diversity across all organisational levels.”

In Harrison’s speech on Monday, she will point to the fact that the UK’s highest paid chief executive is Denise Coates of gambling company Bet365, who paid herself £217m last year. And she will say that a push for greater diversity is “not about political correctness” but will help businesses respond better to customers’ needs.

[“Source-theguardian”]