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On November 20, 2016, RC commented on Banking on Digitization :

Enjoyed the article, Sebastien. Commercial banking does appear ripe for disruption, as previous infrastructure was built for a pre-internet, pre-mobile banking reality, in which checks and cash played significantly more important roles. If we look at Chase Bank, which previously built out a massive brick-and-mortar presence around the U.S. to position itself as the most convenient banking option for customers, it has recently reversed this trend and is closing hundreds of branches (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jpmorgan-chase-to-close-hundreds-of-bank-branches/). I wonder what the role of brick-and-mortar will be in the future. Will it naturally settle on NBC’s focus of higher-touch service, rather than transactional exchanges with a teller. Or will even these customer-facing roles be eliminated in favor of centralized call support centers?

I struggle to understand why, as demographics change, banking cannot be an entirely distance-based enterprise.

Great, thought-provoking read!

EK — very interesting. I suspect these types of advances in technology will add significantly to the safety environment of OFS workers and to the quality of services offered by firms that choose to invest, as Schlumberger appears to be doing.

As we think about improving the cost structure and insulating OFS firms from future dips in crude prices, where do you see the greatest gain? Is it from limiting errors and costly failures in the field? Streamlining training? Reducing the level of skill required in early hires?

I’m generally curious about the organizational impact of this type of technology change. You mentioned “Enabling advanced, immersive, and remote collaboration, including virtual over-the-shoulder coaching.” Will Schlumberger have a central “call center” with managers or specialists who provide this “over-the-shoulder” analysis and feedback to field workers? It feels to me like this is the only viable solution, unless it can be outsourced to a 3rd-party provider. Maybe there’s an opportunity there.

Great post!

Ben, great post. Very interesting to see how athletes at the top of the performance tier are using cutting-edge technology to gain “marginal” improvements and a leg up on the competition.

I’m curious about the democratization of this type of technology. We’ve obviously seen heart rate monitors and GPS units adopted by average runners and athletes for daily use. Are we going to see everyday cyclists on the roads with patches that monitor hydration? Or, due to prohibitive price and/or time intensity of analysis, will the more cutting-edge advances in technology remain more of a novelty for the ultra-fit and for those with significant financial backing?

I also worry about stratification in international athletics. Will increasing dependence on advanced technology and privileged access to the right people in Silicon Valley ultimately mean that the most athletic people will always lose to the most digitally assisted?

Jodie, great post. Interesting view on how an industry mainstay has used acquisition to respond to digital pressures and perceived opportunities.

I thought there was an interesting connection between two statements you made: “One of Disney’s main goals in acquiring Maker Studios was to use YouTube stars in the Maker network to promote its films, TV shows, and theme parks.” and “However, MCNs are still by and large unprofitable.” To me, it feels like a Disney acquisition makes sense here, as the MCN doesn’t have to be independently profitable (although that would certainly be a plus and an admirable goal), but that it can boost the profitability of the rest of the business and thereby justify ongoing losses. The challenge here would be how to attribute uplift in performance back to Maker Studios. I wonder if this is something Disney is working through now, as they consider the value of Maker Studios going forward.

Interesting and thought-provoking overview. I wonder a few things —

1) In this case, as so many attorneys end up be legislators, I wonder how much trust you have that the regulatory process will result in restrictions that protect the integrity of the system vs. simply protecting the industry’s position as a whole from disruption?

2) What does the advent of this technology and application in the legal space mean for the purchaser of legal services? Given that we are substituting high up-front, low run rate costs from technology in the place of expensive human hours, will we simply see stagnant prices and improving margins? Or, by leveling the playing field for some analytical tasks, is there going to be price pressure exerted on the industry and prices fall as a result? Or is there some other outcome?

Francisco, really a fascinating case study of how a government is using regulatory power to curb its national carbon footprint. However, I’m somewhat concerned about the sustainability of this regulation on the Chilean public. Requiring a private company to invest 10% of national GDP in development of renewable resources (if unsubsidized) feels to me like it could have one of two results: 1) the company becomes unprofitable if electricity prices are regulated by the government and this cost is not able to be passed on to the consumer, or 2) the public has to bear the burden of such a drastic increase in the cost of energy, and this leads to significant economic costs (particularly because energy costs have a disproportionate impact on lower-income groups, for whom a larger percentage of take-home income is devoted to basic staples, such as electricity), and this leads to a weakening of public will to support climate change measures and ultimately may lead to democratic repeal of legislation. I wonder if you have concerns over either of these, or if you see the societal cost born by this type of legislation as taking another form?

On November 7, 2016, RC commented on Monsanto: Problem Solver or Problem Creator? :

Zach, love your choice of topic in Monsanto – for many of the reasons you outline early in the article, namely its size, potential for global environmental impact, and the controversial nature of its history. I appreciated the focus of your article on both the climate impact of agriculture (through methods like nitrogen release) and on the changing global climate as a threat to available farmable land and crop resistance to changing climate trends. I wonder which of these you see as more important, and the relative importance of Monsanto in each area?

Craig, interesting and well-researched perspective on Marriot’s present and future. I wonder, though, about your observation in the last paragraph – “As the behemoth takes its seat on the throne as the largest hotel company in the world, there is no reason why it must have any sustainability program at all.” On one hand, I think you’re correct in the existential sense. But I’m a bit skeptical that this is entirely altruistic. You mentioned that this highly visible program is important to attract talent (Forbes rating), signal to the market long-term viability (stock ticker rating), and reduce operating costs (water and energy consumption). I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing if Marriot’s environmental initiative is market-driven rather than internal – it could be a signal that companies are being rewarded for being socially responsible, which feels like a more powerful, more reliable and longer-term solution than a single board of directors deciding to prioritize this objective. Given your research in the area, I wonder what your perspective on this might be.

Interesting piece. As a recreational skiier and lover of the outdoors, this thoughtful breakdown of the precarious position of Vail, and many of its peer resorts, resonates with me. The component I’m most skeptical of is their ability to realize substantial non-ski revenue. I don’t understand why Vail would be a materially more attractive hiking / outdoors destination compared to the many free- or low-cost park lands and competing mountains in Nevada / Colorado, etc. As a result, I wouldn’t rush to making investments in attempt to attract summer/spring/fall outdoors visitors. Instead, I suspect Vail will either need to expand geographically (as you outlined) or get creative with cost cutting measures if it is going to stay viable in its historic footprint.

On November 6, 2016, RC commented on BHP Billiton: Unearthing a response to climate change :

I thought the analysis of costs and threats to BHP resulting from climate change was very interesting, particularly the connection between increasing severity of weather events and the overall cost to BHP through the mechanism of decreased economic output as a driver of commodity demand. Although certainly limited (I’m not convinced the overall cost to business is sufficient / quantifiable to drive material and potentially costly changes in decision making), but it is an interesting framework through which policymakers may consider developing appropriate regulatory structures.