Category Archives: Money & Finance

Bumble places mental health over profits

The dating app Bumble has made global headlines this month by giving all its employees a week off from work. The online dating platform says it sees its global team as suffering from pandemic related burnout, and hopes that a week off to rest and focus on themselves will help everyone to recuperate. The move is unusual for the highly competitive tech industry that usually prioritizes profits over mental health, but is a growing trend amongst companies who are looking to improve working conditions for their staff members. 

The week off is aiming to help fight work related stress amongst staff and alleviate symptoms of burnout following a hard year of working through a global pandemic. The week is fully paid and staff are asking to go fully offline also to make the most of the week. 

Bumble is a woman-led company as well as a dating app. Within the app, women are the ones to make the first move in a complete reversal of traditional gender stereotypes. The app was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd and Andrey Andreev in response to the misogynistic and patriarchal tendencies with behaviour they saw on other dating apps such as Tinder. Whitney Wolfe Herd controversially left her position at Tinder shortly before starting rival dating app Bumble that positions women instead as leaders of interaction. 

As women become more commonplace in positions of leadership within companies, and even nations, mental health awareness within the global public seems to equally be rising. It seems women as leaders are also more sensitive to the personal needs and complex issues surrounding keeping a workforce or nation happy and healthy. 

More than 750 Bumble employees around the world will benefit from Wolfe’s decision to release her employees from their work for a week. Elsewhere tech startups Hootsuite and LinkedIn have both similarly given employees a paid week off work to help combat built up stress.

What is Dogecoin?

This past year saw further leaps and bounds in the prices of well known cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. For those of us less familiar with the digital currency landscape, Dogecoin is one coin we might be yet to hear of. The chances of that are getting less and less likely however, as Dogecoin has made some surprising gains in 2021 that have made headline news around the digital currency world. 

So let’s take a look at this latest crypto phenomenon!

What is Dogecoin?

Simply, Dogecoin is another form of cryptocurrency similar to more well known coins such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Unlike Bitcoin or Ethereum however, there is no limit on the number of Dogecoins that can ever be made. As a result the price of Dogecoin has traditionally stayed relatively low. As of June 2021, Dogecoin has seen highs of $0.35 United States Dollars and lows of $0.09 United States Dollars per coin. As of the 16th June 2021 and the time of writing this article, its price is currently $0.31 United States Dollars a coin. 

Where does the name come from?

The name is one of the more unusual parts of Dogecoin, and does its part to explain the coin makers’ philosophy. The coin was made initially as a joke by Billy Marcus and Jackson Palmer. The two software engineers started the coin as a joke back in 2013 and the name services from the once-popular meme with the dog breed of the same name. The joke was meant to be on the various cryptocurrencies and their uses, however the increasing popularity of the coin in 2021 means it is now the fifth largest cryptocurrency on the digital market. Dogecoin unexpectedly has seen a 5,000% increase in its market value in 2021. 

Dogecoin uses similar blockchain technology to Bitcoin or Ethereum and uses a ledger to record and secure all transactions made. The ledger is then retained by all holders of the coin in a decentralised digital currency market.

Global inflation rates on the rise

Global inflation rates have soared as a consequence of the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic. Both the UK and US have reported high inflation increases this year in comparison to last. The Labor Department in the US reported recently that April 202 had seen the fastest increase in 12 years. This was due to the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis that has pushed food, energy and fuel prices higher than usual. 

Inflation has been previously down as lockdown restrictions in many places as a result of the pandemic had kept many people at home and reduced demand for the energy and fuel that usually keeps our highstreets running. In comparison to usual spending habits, this lack of demand saw prices for commodities like petrol decrease. 

As life begins to return to normal around the world, with many places able to lift lockdown restrictions thanks to lower numbers of case rates for coronavirus. This means people are back to work or out travelling to see family and the demand for energy and fuel has subsequently increased. Petrol prices are now reaching an all time high as reopening around the world puts pressure on global supply chains. Compared to last year, gasoline saw a jump of 49.6 % in price, and of 37.5 % for fuel oil. 

Pressure has been on energy prices also as consumers have seen a 25% rise in overall energy prices in the US. This could be due to the higher demand on energy from people staying at home and individuals consuming more energy than in a shared workplace or school as a result. 

Numbers on inflation are expected to be volatile and not representative over the next few months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Where there was an almost full shutdown of the US economy last year, which caused a low rate of inflation, the added pressure this year comes as everything starts to reopen and demand returns to normal.

WHO asks for more COVAX funding

COVAX, is the abbreviated term for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is the organised effort by the global health authoritative body on the fight against the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic across the world. Not only does COVAX work with companies to secure vaccine doses for developing and low income countries, but also with developed, high income countries to find the funding needed to purchase and distribute said doses.

For many nations and their peoples around the world, the COVAX vaccine programme might be their only chance of accessing a vaccine. Lower income countries are unable to secure high amounts of the vaccine by themselves, and for many nations the vaccine rollout has been slow and limited so far to frontline and healthcare workers. The WHO has repeatedly stressed the need for a coordinated and united world approach to solving the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has fallen on deaf ears in many places. 

Countries such as the United Kingdom, United States of America and Israel, have all been accused of stockpiling the vaccine. Reports in the United Kingdom suggest the government has used the British manufacturing of the Pfizer vaccine to ensure there is even a spare dose available for British nationals. This caused tension with countries in the European Union, which the United Kingdom has only recently left, who accused the small island of a selfish and ultimately stupid approach. 

WHO has now come out to ask for over two billion United States Dollars in extra funding for the COVAX programme. COVAX vaccines were first delivered to Ghana on the African continent on the 24th February, 2021. Since then the programme has reached over 100 economies with the life-saving vaccine. Through the COVAX programme, an estimated 38 million doses so far have reached individuals, protecting them from the deadly virus. However, there will be much more support required from higher income countries if the programme is to continue successfully.

New Fifty Pound note unveiled by the Bank of England

The Royal Bank of England has unveiled its latest new note now completing its switch from paper to plastic polymer notes. In late March 2021, the bank announced the new Fifty Pound note would shortly be released featuring the image of famous mathematician Alan Turing. 

Turing was instrumental to the Allies victory in World War Two in his work as a codebreaker. His work went on to be fundamental in the development of computer science theory and he is widely acknowledged for his role in developing now familiar concepts like algorithms. 

What should have been a story of Turing’s fantastically successful technological advancements however is marred by tragedy. Turing died by overdose in 1954 at the far too soon age of 41 years old. His death was categorised as suicide though there are those that dispute this claim. Things turned sour for Turing after he was outed as a homosexual and prosecuted as one. 

In 1952 Turing was accused of indecency with a 19 year old man and subjected to forced sterilisation as punishment. The shame and trauma from the ordeal sent him into a downward spiral. After his death he was pardoned by the Queen, and his story made into Hollywood fodder in the 2014 release The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Turing now features on the new Fifty Pound note song with the ominous quote: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.” 

Whilst only a small number of people currently report needing to use the Fifty Pound note, it is thought circulation of the tender will increase as inflation continues to cause the deflation of the British pound. 

Further concerns surrounding the use of currency come as a result of the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic of COVID-19 and people’s reluctance to use cash.

What is an NFT?

The art world has been going wild recently over a recent surge in interest surrounding NFTs. But what is an NFT? The acronym stands for non-fungible token. Yes, non-fungible… the basic meaning of this is, unlike bitcoin that can be traded for other bitcoin and you’ll have the exact same thing, an NFT is more like a trade of playing cards. This means you could trade something of equal value but end up with a different token at the end. 

The application of this type of blockchain technology to digital art has been heralded and critiqued widely. While some people see NFTs as a way to deprivigalise more traditional forms of art and open up the art market to those outside of its traditional centres, others cite moral and environmental arguments for why such cryptocurrencies are a bad idea. 

One particular argument against the use of NFTs for digital art is that it affects the experience of the viewer. A benefit of digital art currently is that it retains the aura of the original work with each viewing, unaffected by what number of copies it is. Some are arguing that inscribing an NFT to a work would fix an original of the piece in such a way that the aura of the work  subsequently viewed elsewhere as a copy would be destroyed, and experience of the audeineed diminished. 

The hype for NFTs in the artwork has increased so much that even high-end auction houses such as Christie’s have been getting in on them. Though initially traded between friends for at most $100 USD, a secondary market for digital artwork NFTs made from files such as MP4s, GIFs and JPEGS, has quickly emerged. 

The digital artist Beeple is the pseudonym of NFT innovator Mike Winkelmann who, until October 2020, had never sold a work for more than a hundred dollars. Come March 11th 2021, a recent digital collage from Beeple titled ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ sold for a staggering $69 million USD at a Christie’s online auction. The price was far beyond the estimated $35 million and $15 million more than the painting Nymphéas by Monet which was sold via the auction house in 2014.

Digital currency Ethereum reaches an all time high

Digital currencies have been making international news since blockchain pioneer currency Bitcoin reached an all time high at the beginning of 2021. Riding on the coat tails of Bitcoin’s success and the increased interest in digital currencies, online coin Ethereum has also reach a peak in its market value. 

As of Sunday February 28th 2021 on Ethereum coin was worth $1,380 United States Dollar after reaching highs of $1,960 United States Dollars on Friday 19th February 2021. In comparison, Bitcoin reached a peak of $57,849 United States Dollars on Sunday 21st February 2021, before a relative decline to $46,189 United States Dollars as of Friday 19th February 2021. 

The spike comes as more companies are becoming interested in the digital currencies as the number in circulation begins to reach towards its limitations. Bitcoin for example will only ever have a maximum of 21 million coins in circulation. There are currently 18.5 million coins that have been mined, meaning there are only 2.5 million coins left to be unearthed. With far more less to mine, there were 72 million Ether coins launched at generation point but only 18 million Ether have currently been mined. 

Interest in the online currencies was peaked when Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer and billionaire tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, tweeted on the subject. In a trend for stocks to rise on anything the cult celebrity figure comments on, Bitcoin and Ethereum proved no exception. He went on to comment that “That said, BTC & ETH do seem high lol”. 

Fuelling the speculation around digital currencies Musk also commented: “Money is just data that allows us to avoid the inconvenience of barter …” The remark came after a dramatic purchase by Tesla of $1.5 billion Bitcoins. The record purchase is one reason prices for the coin may have risen so high in early to mid February.

Gamestop caught in the middle of protest against hedgehfund shorts

In an unlikely turn of events this month, humble games retailer Gamestop has been caught in the middle of an spontaneous campaign protesting the practices of hedge fund managers in the stock market. 

So what happened?

Let’s begin at the beginning. The campaign to raise Gamestop’s shares began on Reddit. The reddit thread is called “WallStreetBets’ and a place for anyone interested in talking about the stock market or trying to pick up some tips. The users of this Reddit thread came together and decided to sell the Wall Street short-sellers on stock a message through a mass online protest where they would encourage the buying of Gamestop shares to artificially raise the price. In this fashion, hedge fund managers who were shorting the stock had the potential to lose incredibly large sums of money. 

Did it work?

The question of ‘Did it work?’ is a good one, and maybe we don’t quite know the answer yet. From an average of around $20 United States Dollars a share from Gamesop beginning in early October 2020, the stock price rose to a peak high of $357.51 United States Dollars on Wednesday 27th January 2021. Whilst prices reached a second peak of $325 United States Dollars on the 29th January 2021, they have since fallen and peaked again just over $100 United States Dollars since the end of February 2021. Whether the stock can be prevented from falling short ultimately remains to be seen. 

But what is shorting anyway?
Shorting in a term most of us know from Hollywood films such as ‘The Big Short’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, yet our understanding of what the term actually means might not go much further than that. What shorting means is the selling of stock not owned by the seller, which ideally then drops in value and the seller can buy back the lower priced stock, which if there is a significant difference, means lots of profit.

Bitcoin price peaks over $52,000 AUD

Bitcoin is an online currency that has been on the radar for many people for the past few years. Renewed interest in the digital currency has come about though this January 2021 as the online coin’s value has skyrocketed into the new year, and peaked at just over $52,000 Australian Dollars on the 8th January 2021. 

There are many speculations for the reasons behind the niche currency’s sudden peak, but rapid increases and decreases in the value of the online coin are not new. Other notable peaks occurred in 2013 and again in 2017, when Bitcoin’s price went from $5,000 USD to $10,000 USD in a matter of months. 

Jump to 2021 and Bitcoin’s surging popularity has seen a meteoric 40% rise in 2021, quadrupling its value for the same quarter last year. Prices rose steadily into early January before starting a predictable steady and continuing deterioration in price. 

Bitcoin dates back to 2008, when it was supposedly invented by Satoshi Nakamoto – a mysterious and as yet unconfirmed figure. The software was released at open-source in early 2009 in a transaction that took place a prearranged exchange between Nakamoto and an early Bitcoin user. 

Papa John’s pizza chain in the USA was the first business to receive a real world transaction of Bitcoin in 2010. A Bitcoin miner chose to spend 10,000 bitcoins on a pizza in Florida – a transaction that would now make the pizza worth roughly $460,000,000 AUD. 
At its origin the digital currency was worth less than $0.01 USD a coin at its conception at the beginning of 2010, only reaching $0.08 USD per coin in July. The value of the coin comes from its scarcity as only 21 million Bitcoins will ever be allowed to be mine. As of January 2021 there are just under 3 million coins left to mine meaning roughly 88% percent of all Bitcoins available are currently in circulation.

The value of money: Malawi sensitises citizens to currency care

The value of money has been a long time mystical notion since its first conception thousands of years ago. The practice of ascribing value to objects and imbuing them with value is an almost magical practice that continues to inspire markets today from the art market to new digital currencies like bitcoin. However, the value of money, or any form of currency, relies on a collectively agreed notion of its worth from a community, without which the object is devoid of its value and made again effectively worthless. 

In Malawi however, the government and national bank are struggling to encourage citizens to care and respect the national currency Kwacha. Dramatically, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has estimated an average currency loss of over 12 billion Kwacha annually from misuse by the population. 

The maltreatment of the paper banknotes comes from a tendency by people to fold and place banknotes, often in wet places, causing irreparable damage to the notes. Mistreatment of the notes is said to happen most at markets – especially wet ones selling items such as fish – and more likely to occur during large celebrations such as engagement, wedding and anniversary parties according to Merlyne Yolamu, the commissioner responsible for the Central West Region. 

Yolamu went on to describe the police’s role in continuing to sensitize the public to care for the national currency, and make people more aware of their responsibility in preserving the notes. In a statement she shared how: “We must spread the message on the care of currency in order to save billions of kwacha that are lost by the reserve bank annually through banknotes replacements.” 

With the first credit card in use in 1946, digital banking has been steadily on the rise. As digital currency and contactless payments continue to gain traction throughout the world, it remains to be seen how long Malawi will keep paper banknotes in use before transitioning to more technological formats.