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Trump ally America First Policies: Key research, polls, reports

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National Immigration Reform Poll Results
This 34-page series of results from an August poll offered a first glimpse of what would become large parts of the Trump administration’s plan for immigration reform. For example, there was strong support for the line, “We should first secure our borders before passing any immigration reforms,” which was used frequently last fall. But support was weakest for arguments that were cultural, such as “Immigration is occurring too much and changing American culture and values in a way I don’t like.”

National Tax Reform Focus Groups Analysis
Also in August, focus groups were helping to inform White House and congressional Republican talking points on tax reform. Here’s one example in this report: “For filing your taxes, a simple page of paper works, a postcard does not.” Participants didn’t believe the long-held GOP mantra that you could file your taxes on a postcard. Soon after, Trump started talking about a single sheet of paper, not a postcard.

Trump Announcement of Afghanistan Strategy
This flash report on media and influencers’ responses to Trump’s Aug. 21 speech on U.S. Afghanistan strategy shows how carefully America First Policies is tracking positive, negative and neutral responses to the president across media platforms. Here, they note that conservative outlets aren’t being as friendly as usual to the president.

Trump’s Handling of Hurricane Harvey
This flash media in late August tracked and catalogued the reactions of influential people and news outlets to Trump’s handling of Hurricane Harvey during its first few days after making landfall in Texas. The findings are unsurprising, but the specificity of these reports, and how carefully they measure every tweet, is fascinating.

Trump Announcement of Afghanistan Strategy
This flash report on media and influencers’ responses to Trump’s Aug. 21 speech on U.S. Afghanistan strategy shows how carefully America First Policies is tracking positive, negative and neutral responses to the president across media platforms. Here, they note that conservative outlets aren’t being as friendly as usual to the president.

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BNP Paribas Q2 2021 earnings

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People walk past BNP Paribas, a french international banking group.

ANGELA WEISS | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — BNP Paribas reported Friday a 26% annual jump in net profit for the second quarter of this year, beating market expectations.

The French bank said that net income reached 2.9 billion euros ($3.44 billion) over the three-month period ending June. In comparison, analysts had pointed to a 2.24 billion euro net income, according to Refinitiv.

BNP Paribas said that the latest results benefited from a rebound in business activity, as economies relaxed some Covid-19 lockdown measures.

“There is a pickup in the economy, if you look at the volume of card transactions, of corporate transactions, of digital transactions, they are really up. And so that basically means that volumes are up, credits are up, commissions are up, and all that basically fuels that [performance],” Lars Machenil, chief financial officer of BNP Paribas, told CNBC.

The domestic markets division saw revenues rising by almost 10% from a year ago. On the other hand, the investment banking unit reported almost a 10% fall in revenues.

The French lender justified the drop in investment banking revenues on the fact that its performance a year ago had been exceptionally high.

Speaking to CNBC’s Charlotte Reed, Machenil avoided singling out the unit’s performance in the quarter and said that “At BNP, we look at CIB (Corporate and Institutional Banking) as a whole with all of the services because sometimes there is more demand for one than for the other one.”

“Our overall corporate and institutional banking is steadily increasing,” he said.

Other highlights of the quarter:

  • Revenues reached 11.8 billion euros, flat from a year ago.
  • CET 1 ratio, a measure of bank solvency, stood at 12.9% vs. 12.8 in the previous quarter.
  • Operating expenses were down 2.3% from a year ago.

Additional dividend

BNP Paribas announced its plan to pay out an additional cash dividend of 1.55 euros per share. In May, the bank paid out a dividend of 1.11 euros per share.

Machenil described the latest quarter as “historic” while suggesting that the outlook for the bank this year might be higher than initially expected.

Shares of BNP Paribas are up 21% year-to-date.

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‘Culture-as-a-service’ could be the next big thing in the workplace

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When Microsoft unveiled its new Viva platform earlier this year, it was sizing up a $300 billion market for employee communications and engagement.

It marked a move beyond simple communications and productivity tools with a focus around employee engagement and company culture as remote or hybrid working becomes increasingly normalized.

Tools like Zoom, Teams and Slack have all proven indispensable in keeping companies’ operations flowing. But one of the biggest challenges for managers and team leaders since the beginning of the pandemic has been cultivating a company culture, especially when everyone is scattered.

For Casey Flint, an associate at Australian venture capital firm Square Peg, a burgeoning area dubbed “culture-as-a-service” is one to watch as start-ups build bespoke tech solutions to help address these gaps in employee engagement.

“Culture-as-a-service is software that is orientated around the employee experience and that’s how I distinguish it from HR tech,” she told CNBC.

This will be key in managing hybrid workforces and attracting and retaining talent, she said.

“It encapsulates a bunch of different things that have been typically done by HR and people leaders at companies. That’s things like feedback on performance, onboarding and value sharing, learning and development, team activities.”

One such tool is Workvivo. The start-up, which is backed by Zoom Chief Executive Eric Yuan, develops a workplace social network that connects management and staff on an equal playing field for feedback and discussion.

According to a survey conducted by the company, 57% of employees “feel less connected to their organization’s goals” since the coronavirus pandemic took hold while more than half feel their work achievements are noticed less by higher-ups since moving to remote work.

“In the digital world, recognition does a number of things,” Chief Executive John Goulding said. “There’s a feel-good factor but it’s also bringing alive what’s happening in the organization, the culture and ultimately shared values and beliefs.”

“That’s a huge part of people feeling part of something bigger. It hugely influences the emotional commitment to the organization and that’s what organizations are reaching out to us for help with.”

Inclusive meetings

The dynamic of meetings in the future will be very different with a mix of people physically present and those remote.

EY’s Global Vice Chair of Consulting Errol Gardner recalled a recent meeting with colleagues in New York where several were physically present in the room and others joined by video link.

“The people in the room spoke to each other in the room so the dialogue became very fragmented compared to those that were online.”

This is one of the bottlenecks to be addressed to ensure that no one is overshadowed in this new normal.

“Part of it is having to upgrade technology within their office environment so it makes it easier to have that seamless experience of traversing from a physical world into collaborative working online with other people who are outside of the physical space,” Gardner said.

Square Peg’s Flint said face-to-face interactions can never be fully replicated digitally and leaders still need to be actively involved in their company’s culture.

“You still can’t let it go on autopilot. I think a lot of this will make it easier to scale these programs but you can’t take your foot off the gas and can’t stop being intentional about how you build culture.”

While Microsoft has thrown its hat in the ring, start-ups will play a major role in this industry by tackling niche challenges, Flint said.

“Start-ups can move a lot faster. That will work in their advantage. One big difference that I see in culture-as-a-service start-ups is that they’re really selling bottom up,” she said.

Leap of faith

Workvivo’s Goulding said that there is still a feeling of the unknown around some HR tech and communications tools.

He said companies are “taking a leap of faith into the world of open transparent communications” and that requires trust in the employee, a key part of building culture.

“As an employee, I can post on Workvivo and I don’t need to go through an approval process to do that. Some aren’t ready for that,” he said.

EY’s Gardner said companies need to avoid situations where people physically present “have primacy over others” and ensure a more egalitarian environment for workers regardless of their location.

“It’s as much about the behaviors [of people] as what the technology will enable in terms of getting to the right outcome,” he said. 

Building that inclusive culture will be a defining factor for companies in attracting and retaining talent, he said.

Offering workers the option to work remotely is one thing but if those employees feel like they’re on the outside looking in, it can cause gaps in the company culture.

“Being able to offer that flexibility to staff going forward will be a competitive differentiator for most organizations,” Gardner said.

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What the Dutch can teach the world about preparedness

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Volunteers and foresters of the Society for Preservation of Nature Monuments in the Netherlands take part in clean-up operation to collect waste and rubbish from the floodplain around the Meuse river in Meers, southern Netherlands, on July 27, 2021.

ROB ENGELAAR | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The Netherlands’ unique approach to water management can provide some key flood preparedness lessons for countries around the world, experts have told CNBC, particularly since the deepening climate emergency is likely to make extreme rain events more common.

It comes shortly after intense rainfall and flooding wreaked devastation across parts of western Europe earlier this month.

Germany and Belgium were the worst-hit countries by the extreme rainfall on July 14 and July 15, with authorities reporting more than 200 people to have died as floods engulfed entire villages. Parts of Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were also badly affected.

Yet, while the Meuse River — which flows through France, Belgium and the Netherlands — reached record high water levels, the scale of destruction in the Netherlands was not the same as seen elsewhere.

Flood experts told CNBC that while there are several reasons that make it difficult to directly compare the destruction seen in the Netherlands with other countries in western Europe, decades of investment into flood preparedness certainly helped to limit the damage.

BAD NEUENAHR, GERMANY – JULY 16: Resident Elke Wissmann stands in front of her property that was destroyed by the flood on July 16, 2021 in Bad Neuenahr – Ahrweiler, Germany.

Sascha Schuermann | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“It was a terrible disaster. People lost their lives and people lost friends and families, so there is nothing to brag about. The Netherlands did not see the massive rain Germany saw or Belgium saw,” Henk Ovink, a flood expert and the Netherlands’ special envoy for international water affairs, told CNBC via telephone.

One key reason the Netherlands was able to cope with a large amount of water moving through its river system during the recent flooding disaster was that “a lot of effort” and investment had gone into improving the country’s flood defense in recent years, Ovink said.

These measures included the widening and deepening of river channels as part of the government’s so-called “Room for the River” policy, a high level of protection for dams, dikes and levees and evacuation schemes to make sure that people can be moved to safe places.

“I don’t want to compare [to other countries], but if I look at the Netherlands, our efforts helped and worked. At the same time, as always with these challenges that our society faces, we have to use this disaster again as a stepping stone or a learning moment,” Ovink said.

“A disaster is like an X-ray. It shows the system’s vulnerability and shows all these interdependencies in the water and urban and infrastructure and societal systems. If you really take a closer look then you can learn how to prepare better for future challenges. I think that is now the burden but also the opportunity,” he added.

A long history of water management

Reflecting on the floods seen in Europe in recent weeks, Ovink proposed three ways for countries to improve flood preparedness: “First, take climate change into account in everything you do,” he said, referring to a key aim of the Paris Agreement to limit a rise in the Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“Second, with every investment you put in place, think about nature’s capacity to help build resiliency and adaptive capacity. And third, do this with all stakeholders, from the community level up.”

The Netherlands has a long history of water management, though researchers cite the devastating North Sea flood of 1953 as a pivotal moment for the country. The flood caused widespread damage and killed 1,835 people nationwide. It prompted the construction of the Delta Works, the world’s largest flood protection system, in the southwestern part of the country.

The Room for the River program focuses primarily on big rivers, and since we are the delta where all the water ultimately discharges into the sea, that is especially important for us.

William Veerbeek

Urban flood management expert at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

Decades later, floods in the Rhine and Meuse rivers in 1993 and 1995 saw more than 200,000 people evacuated from their homes as a precautionary measure. The near-catastrophic events triggered a change in attitude to water defense and soon paved the way for the “Room for the River” program.

William Veerbeek, an urban flood management expert at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, singled out the “Room for the River” policy as particularly important, saying the country’s approach to flood risk had “really paid off” in recent weeks.

“The Room for the River program focuses primarily on big rivers, and since we are the delta where all the water ultimately discharges into the sea, that is especially important for us,” he told CNBC via telephone.

“For other countries, too, creating more space for the water is essential because the bigger the river, ultimately the bigger the catastrophe if that river floods. On the smaller streams though, where we saw the devastation, there’s also really an issue of preparedness. And in the Netherlands, we can also invest more in that and get better at that.”

Spatial planning

Flood experts told CNBC that large-scale early warning systems, emergency evacuation strategies and plans to ensure that people know what to do when the time comes were all essential tools to policymakers seeking to improve flood preparedness.

“There is also a spatial planning component,” Veerbeek said, noting that some of the German villages that incurred the most devastation were historical areas that have been populated for thousands of years.

“But you could have a legitimate question now,” he said. “A lot of the structures have really been permanently damaged and need serious reconstruction or to be completely rebuilt. And you can ask yourself, should we build back at the same place and at the same locations?”

TOPSHOT – Aerial view shows an area completely destroyed by the floods in the Blessem district of Erftstadt, western Germany, on July 16, 2021.

SEBASTIEN BOZON | AFP | Getty Images

“I think what is especially interesting about the recent floods is that usually on the Meuse River, and most of the regions where it flooded, you would expect floods to occur in winter — when there is a lot of rainfall that goes on for several days, the whole basin is saturated and then it floods,” Philip Ward, professor of global water risk dynamics at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, told CNBC via telephone.

“Whereas in the summer, usually the river levels are actually quite low because there is a lot of evapotranspiration. But this time the floods came in summer when you would not normally expect this to be the case. With climate change, it is exactly these types of events that we expect to become more common.”

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