Even With Backlash, Open Office Layout Remains

Bletchley Park codebreakers use open office

Bletchley Park codebreakers use open office

A recent New York Times article suggested that the open office backlash may be a temporary setback, and actually does build a sense of community within the work culture after all. It’s just experiencing growing pains. This is in stark contrast to several articles a mere two years ago, including a Fast Company article, that called for an exorcism of the open office layout immediately.

The idea of changing the physical infrastructure of office space has been an ongoing discussion for decades, though one would be hard-pressed not to see an open office layout in most offices, even in the formerly formal financial sector. With the rise of the startup element in the tech part of fintech, many fintech companies are open office and are most likely staying that way.

There has been some cynicism and critics (with graphs and charts to back up their opposition) who have said that open office has been a way for greedy CEOs to save space, cramming as many worker bees as possible in each square area whilst claiming it is a collaborative bonding. But in many companies, even the CEOs are on the floor amongst their colleagues. What proponents to open culture, like Google, aimed to do with the creation of the wide open spaces, was to disrupt the white collar industries and white collar thinking. In theory, the intention was a good one, though the pushback has been severe.

As open-space offices have spread like wildfire through Silicon Valley (and Wall Street in some instances), complaints abound, and with studies to confirm the limitations of the layout.

The NYT article submits that the layout is a “first-generation” issue that will most likely ease in time because “[g]reater openness is here to stay given our flattening hierarchies, a profound and irreversible shift increasingly reinforced by the ever great flow of digital information across offices.”

Interestingly enough, contrary to the author’s article, opponents or proponents, open office culture is nothing new. Telephone operators, motor pool workers, and even WWII’s Bletchley Park codebreakers used the floor plan decades before first generation grievances started pouring in, and with much less complaining.

Bletchley Park


How Different Is U.S. Work Culture From Japan’s?

Though this semi-documentary is from 2009, Japan’s work culture most likely still resembles this in present day 2016. Long hours, the betterment of the group are both things that Americans at work have also adopted. Luckily for us, work culture today in the U.S. is increasingly incorporating mindfulness and other methods of decompressing from a long day. In that way, the way the Japanese work and the way we are working today is very different.

Video source: OMF via Youtube

Biometric Banking: The Eyes Have It

The Apple iPhone with the fingerprint security sensor was an introduction to biometrics, and the technology (as all technology today) has gone into overdrive since. Regardless of the contentious nature of Samsung’s relationship with Apple, each claiming the other stole this or that, the sneak peek into tech was too good to be ignored. Samsung included a similar fingerprint reader on its phone thereafter. Theft or inevitability? For the purposes of this article, let’s just stick to biometrics.

Biometrics -- Irises

Biometrics — Irises

Biometrics first and foremost is meant to keep your information secure: passwords, banking, information. At an age where information is power and hacking is gaining on cyber security methods, biometrics is the next line of defense against the ‘bad guys’.

According to the Pew Research Center, 57% of people have used their smartphones for banking. Smartphones like Samsung have merged the tech of fingerprinting sensor and added it to some banking apps, Bank of America being one. Along with setting up your fingerprint as a login to your smartphone, those same ridges and swirls can unlock the BofA app. Easy peasy. Maybe.

Since black hats catch up as soon as new groundbreaking technology is launched, tech has to constantly be advancing. The newish en vogue advance is the iris scanner. Sometime in the very near future, Samsung, will have an eye scanner to unlock your smartphones which they think will be safer than your fingerprint. Afterall, a fingerprint could be lifted, but an eyeball? Less likely.

Woori Bank in South Korea has already entered a partnership with Iris ID to develop a program whereas clients will be able to access their deposit boxes with, you guessed it, their irises. If this is successful, the bank’s nearly 1000 branches will use this iris system.

Charles Koo, president and chief executive officer of Iris ID says with great enthusiasm, “We intend to work closely with Woori Bank to capitalize on this agreement and introduce advanced iris recognition technology to South Korea’s Fin-Tech industry. Our plans are to include iris information linked to banking networks and in transactions with other banks.”

But banking and smart-phoning aren’t the only place the biometric space is exploding. Two leading companies in the biometric movement are Grabba and Bi² Technologies. The two companies are leaders in the homeland security, border patrol, and public safety. With their efforts, law enforcement.

In Homeland Security states:

[…] if someone is pulled over by a police officer on the highway, the usual routine is for the officer to take the driver’s license and registration and return to his or her patrol car. With a Grabba device, the police officer is able to scan the driver’s license and immediately receive real-time background data on the officer’s smartphone. The data is encrypted and available over cellular or Wi-Fi connections – letting the police officer know who he or she is dealing with. The same process is utilized by CBP agents who can quickly scan a passport or other immigration document through the Grabba device and acquire immediate information.


This begs the question of whether biometrics is too much a good thing. The same question could actually be asked across the board when we’re talking about technology. Yes, the speed in which we’re developing what would’ve been deemed science fiction a mere 15 years ago is staggeringly breakneck. But, does it really offer more security and to whom?


Are we finally in the correction?

The market has experienced many pullbacks in the past few years that have had many pundits questioning whether we are in the long awaited stock market correction, only to see the market bounce and make new highs. As we are experiencing another pullback: off the highs of the year with the Dow : -5%, SP500 : -3%, NDX: -4% is this finally the time we see a further decline?

The preconditions of this move are more ominous than the past.  Transports, Dow Theory has all triggered classic warning signal. But there are other macro signs that say the probability is high that we are in the midst of a move toward correction territory:

1) Commodity price declines, 2) China’s struggles to manipulate support for its stock markets and its implications for growth 3) the aftermath of the Greek bailout – kicking the can down the road. 4) US monetary policy   5) dollar strength. 6) global liquidity asset bubbles

Finally, certain widely held stocks such as Apple are on critical support levels (120) which if broken would lead the market lower. From our vantage point the catalysts for higher prices are few and far between and we put the highest probability so far we are in store for the long awaited correction, as such we have the largest cash position in years, and converted our two favorite positions $DIS and $FB into options strategies. This is the first time we have not bought the dip and may as many in the past been wrong about this bull, but we are not willing to bet on it for now.$AAPL$SPX

It’s all about earnings for BABA

Since its 10% drop in late January of 2015, Alibaba Stock $BABA has traded approximately 7 points either side of 85. With periodic declines and pops, such as on Amazon earnings, the stock typically retraces back to the  85 price level, which has served as support and resistance throughout the past 6 months. Most of the moves in the stock occur on earnings. Given the reaction markets have had to earnings of companies this season, it looks like earnings day will be critical to whether the stock breaks out of the range.$BABApre earnings

Technology is Humanizing Finance

David Klein discusses how technology is causing finance to take a more human approach. Read more below:

“A recent article from TechCrunch’s David Klein focused in on how technology is forcing finance to humanize its approach. This may not be a sector-wide conclusion, but Klein makes some intriguing points. The finance sector faces difficult decisions to keep pace with the evolving landscape where technology, competition and a new generation of potential business all can break or build many financial institutions. As Klein opens with a quote from Bill Gates, ‘Banking is necessary – banks are not,’ he notes that this is now viewed by many as the unofficial beginning to the shift in financial technology. Just over 20 years from his proclamation in 1994 and Gates’ words are finally showing its validity. Since fintech began gaining mass exposure in the market a few years, the shift in finance has come in several key facets: regulation, technology and consumers…”

Read the full post here.