Corporate Culture, Diesel Bans, Kushner Clearance: CEO Daily for February 28, 2018
Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, out this month, has long been popular among job-seekers. But it is starting to gain ground among investors as well. Research by FTSE Russell found that an equally-weighted index of the publicly traded companies on the list outperformed the market by an average of 5% annually over the last two decades.
You can argue which is cause and which is effect—do companies perform well because they treat workers well, or are they able to treat workers well because they perform well? But either way, there is clearly a strong correlation between an engaged, happy workforce and high returns to shareholders.
Worth noting that a large percentage of the 100 are not publicly traded. Indeed, three of the top five are private—Wegmans, BCG, and Edward Jones. That may suggest some tension between keeping investors happy and keeping employees happy.
Separately, JP Morgan acknowledged for the first time in its annual report that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are “risk factors” that could disrupt its business model. That comes despite previous comments from CEO Jamie Dimon that Bitcoin is a “fraud.”
More news below.
German cities can legally impose diesel driving bans in order to improve their air quality, a Leipzig court has ruled. The long-awaited decision, in a case initiated by environmental groups, is a huge blow to the German car industry and to those who own diesel-powered vehicles—the value of which is now likely to plummet even further than was already the case after the emissions scandal. AFP
The Washington Post has a huge scoop about officials in China, Israel, Mexico and the UAE privately discussing ways they can manipulate son-in-law-in-chief Jared Kushner “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” This is apparently why he can’t get permanent security clearance—and now, along with others on interim clearance, he reportedly can no longer access top-secret information. Washington Post
Air Force One
White House officials say President Donald Trump has reached an “informal” $3.9 billion deal with Boeing for the new Air Force One program. According to the officials, the two-plane deal will cost $1.4 billion less than originally estimated, although the source of that estimate remains unclear. Why are such planes so expensive? The modifications that are needed to turn them into flying fortresses. TIME
China’s Alibaba has set up its first artificial intelligence research unit outside the country. The new facility is a joint research institute in Singapore with partner Nanyang Technological University and will be housed on the university’s campus. Alibaba also hopes to set up research labs in China, the U.S, Russia and Israel. CNBC
Around the Water Cooler
Goldman Sachs Transformation
The Wall Street Journal has a feature on how Goldman Sachs is moving ever deeper into consumer finance, offering savings-and-loan facilities under the Marcus brand. The piece describes how Goldman is buying loads of financial technology startups and plans to offer services such as car loans, insurance and mortgages. The Goldman name, however, is often being kept on the down-low—unsurprisingly, given the firm’s high-profile role in the financial crisis. WSJ
Dimon Hates Shareholder Meetings
JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon thinks annual shareholder meetings are a “complete waste of time,” he said at the firm’s annual investor day. Big bank executives are increasingly getting attacked at such meetings by interest groups that buy or borrow shares to gain access, a case in point being Dimon’s harassment at such a meeting nine months ago. However, the meetings generally give retail investors their only chance to talk to top execs. Financial Times
Starbucks Eyes Blockchain
Starbucks Executive Chair Howard Shultz yesterday sparked speculation that the company might in the future accept some kind of homegrown cryptocurrency. “I think blockchain technology is probably the rails in which an integrated app at Starbucks will be sitting on top of,” he told Fox Business. Of course, blockchain technology does not necessary imply the use of a cryptocurrency—it could just be used as an alternative mechanism to traditional databases in the app’s back-end. But the idea of a StarbucksCoin is fun nonetheless. Fox Business
Japan’s Olympic Mascots
Japan has unveiled its official mascots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. They don’t have names yet, but they’re… difficult to describe, frankly. Both are sort of fox-like cartoon characters with check patterns on them. The Olympic mascot is blue and the Paralympic mascot “cherry blossom” pink. The pair was selected by Japanese schoolkids, and you can expect to see them plastered all over merchandise in a couple years’ time. Guardian