Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scotland 'on cusp of making history'; The digital wallet revolution; Power of the thank-you note

1 Scotland ‘on cusp of making history’ (BBC) Scotland is on the "cusp of making history" by voting for independence, the country's first minister has said. Alex Salmond described the referendum as a "process of national empowerment". He also called for an inquiry into what he said was the leaking of sensitive market data by the Treasury involving RBS plans to move its headquarters to London if voters choose independence.
Five banks have said they might move operations out of Scotland, while John Lewis and Asda warned prices may rise. RBS confirmed it would relocate its registered headquarters in the event of a "Yes" vote, insisting that the move would not impact jobs or operations. Mr Salmond accused the UK government of deliberately leaking the news about RBS to news outlets before the bank made the announcement officially.
He said it was an attempt of scaremongering aimed at damaging the independence campaign and called for an investigation into civil servants leaking market sensitive information. However, former prime minister Gordon Brown was among pro-unionists who questioned Mr Salmond's insistence that the warnings were just scaremongering. "You can dismiss some of the warnings some of the time, but you can't dismiss all of the warnings all of the time," Mr Brown said.
2 The digital wallet revolution (Edward Castronova & Joshua A T Fairfield in The New York Times) Apple’s digital wallet, if widely adopted, could usher in a new era of ease and convenience. But the really exciting part is the fast-emerging future that it points toward, in which virtual assets of all sorts — traditional currencies, but also Bitcoin, airline miles, cellphone minutes — are interchangeable, opening up enormous purchasing power for consumers and creating tough challenges for governments around the world.
If you earned points from Amazon, only you could use them, and you could exchange them for dollars only within the Amazon marketplace. And, up to now, the only currencies you could use everywhere in an economy were state-issued currencies, like the dollar. That distinction is eroding: After all, the value of a currency lies in what you can buy with it, not in the fact that a government says it’s worth something.
Frictionless exchange is a killer app. The revolution is what comes next: an exchange that connects and trades these different stores of value to find the most cost-efficient one to use, both within your wallet and between wallet users, worldwide. The idea is that you can buy anything, with anything. The wallet will find the best deal and execute it. In so doing, it will ignore the historical and cultural differences between dollars, points, coins and virtual property. It’s all bits anyway.
This sort of digital wallet raises difficult problems for regulators, who rely on institutional intermediaries like banks as the point for monitoring transactions. But a digital wallet can be a phone app; just like the cash in your pocket, it doesn’t require accounts with any intermediary. A wallet app can be written by anyone, downloaded by anyone and secured and maintained by everyone. In this huge river of money, there is no narrow channel from which the state can divert flow into its own fields.
Consider the tax implications. If you get caught cheating on your taxes and flee the country, the government could compel your bank to freeze your assets and cough up the money. But what if there’s no bank? One concern that doesn’t apply is transparency. Digital wallets don’t hide trades or encourage criminal transactions. The critical point is that, with a digital wallet, a government or bank can see the trades, but it will be harder to compel or block them.
As exchange becomes less costly to perform, it becomes more costly to regulate. That means different things depending on your politics. You might celebrate the freedom the technology could bring to the 2.5 billion people in the world without adequate access to financial services, or you might worry about abuse by criminals. One thing that will not work is pretending that these technologies — and their revolutionary implications — don’t exist.
3 Power of the thank-you note (Kim Thompson in San Francisco Chronicle) Do you think there’s still value in sending thank-you notes? Interviewers frequently struggle with choosing the best job candidate because there typically is more than one candidate who matches the job description. Sometimes the smallest aspect of an interview is what gets you the job offer. For example, someone once told me that several weeks after he was hired, his new boss told him the reason he was hired was, “of the 14 candidates I interviewed, you were the only one who sent a thank-you note the next day.”
It may seem like a small thing, but a well-written thank-you note can make a big impression. And, it’s one more reminder of who you are, your skills and the benefits you can bring to the employer.
Here are some tips to use when writing a thank-you note: Express appreciation for the interview, and convey what you had in common. Now is the time to distinguish your background from other candidates. Approach your letter as you would when building rapport during a conversation. Reinforce key skills you have that match the employer’s needs, sending a clear message that you have the desired qualifications.
Confirm or correct any concerns that might have surfaced in the interview, if needed. Close by expressing your interest in working for the company.

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