US Markets in green on Friday; Dow 30 up over 345 points, Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 up nearly 1%

US Markets were trading in the green on Friday with Dow 30 trading at 30,678.80, up by 1.14%. While S&P 500 was trading at 3,701.66, up by 0.98% and Nasdaq Composite 10,690.60 was also up by 0.71 per cent

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US Markets in green on Friday; Dow 30 up over 345 points, Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 up nearly 1%
Earlier today, Indian stock markets ended the week on a winning note. It was the sixth straight gains for equity markets. Source: Reuters
US Markets were trading in the green on Friday with Dow 30 trading at 30,678.80, up by 345.25 points or1.14 per cent. While S&P 500 was trading at 3,701.66, up by 35.88 points or 0.98 per cent and Nasdaq Composite 10,690.60 was also up 75.75 points or 0.71 per cent. A Reuters report said that today’s strength was on the back of a report which said the Federal Reserve will likely debate on signaling plans for a smaller interest rate hike in December, reversing declines set off by social media firms after Snap Inc’s ad warning.

Source: Comex

Nasdaq Top Gainers and Losers

Source: Nasdaq

Earlier today, Indian stock markets ended the week on a winning note. It was the sixth straight gains for equity markets. The BSE Sensex ended at 59,307.15, up by 104.25 points or 0.18 per cent from the Thursday closing level. Meanwhile, the Nifty50 index closed at 17,590.00, higher by 26.05 points or 0.15 per cent. In the 30-share Sensex, 13 stocks gained while the remaining 17 ended on the losing side. In the 50-stock Nifty50, 21 stocks advanced while 29 declined.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

How Jazz Influenced Pop Music of Today

The history of Jazz is deep, varied and its influence has seeped into many genres from hip hop to pop and even rock music. This genre of music can be sometimes misunderstood as ‘too complex and enjoyed by music snobs’ or ‘background music at a bar’, however, it has likely had an effect on some of your favorite artists! Let’s take a closer look at its early origins, characteristics and find out how jazz influenced modern pop music.

Jazz origins

New Orleans is hailed as the birthplace of jazz music, originating in the second half of the 19th century. It was a melting pot of different cultures, all mixed together, sharing and playing their music. Born not long after the abolishment of slavery, jazz signified emancipation, freedom of expression, and experimentation. It is a unique blend of rhythms originating in West African music and the variety of instruments and harmonic chords used in European music. While we can trace its roots back to the late 1900s, jazz really got its ‘big break’ around 1920, in the era of ‘roaring twenties, which made it an overnight success. Musicians like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie all came into prominence. Since then, this diverse, complex, and exciting genre has morphed into other forms and influenced many genres of music we know and love today. At the same time, it hasn’t died out and still maintains a vibrant music scene of awe-inspiring jazz musicians. Let’s take a look at some of the key features of jazz and how they have influenced popular styles like pop, rock, and hip hop.

Chord progressions

Jazz typically uses a lot of extended chords, moving away from the standard three-note triad. We notice the use of 7ths, diminished intervals, 9ths, 11ths, and sustained chords, among others, creating colorful harmonies. These chords add more complexity to jazz music and are powerful ways to create tension and add a broader range of emotion into your performance.

Harmony

The harmony created by these extended chords is vastly used in R&B, neo-soul, blues, and folk. Jacob Collier is an excellent example of someone who uses jazz harmony extensively in their music. It also appears in the songs of popular artists like Lianne La Havas, Celeste, Hiatus Kaiyote, and countless others. Exploring intervals beyond the 3rd, 5th, and octave allow us to add a different flavor to our compositions, and jazz has heavily influenced the currently popular r&b and neo-soul artists as well as classic pop songs.

Song structure

Jazz steers away from the traditional pop song structure of verse-chorus or ABAB. Instead, it often uses AABA song structure or even ABABC, and it generally offers much more room for looser structures for artists to explore. We can see this influence used heavily in The Beatles’ music, for example, in the song ‘Honey Pie’. When it comes to more current artists, SZA is very prominently influenced by jazz song structure. Her songs feature multiple sections that all sound slightly different. This way, she keeps it interesting for the listener, encouraging them to keep coming back, as the songs are less predictable and keep our attention for longer. Improvisation and call and response are heavily featured in jazz, emphasizing its freedom of expression and an exciting way to communicate through music. These meticulous improvisations, which seem so effortless also make the jazz song structure much less rigid, compared to pop or classical music.

Rhythm

Jazz music is characterised by its swing rhythm but it’s also an endless resource for ear-catching rhythm elements! Syncopation, off-beats and infectious grooves are found everywhere in jazz. This genre has also been influenced by samba, bossa nova, and afro- Cuban beats, which have found their way into current pop music. We hear jazz-influenced rhythms in the music of Amy Winehouse, Tom Misch and many others, whose memorable grooves make us want to listen again and again.

Jazz influence in Pop

You may assume that pop music and jazz have nothing in common, due to pop’s rather simplified and straightforward elements. But the truth is, it’s heavily influenced by jazz, especially now that we see more neo-soul and hip-hop artists come into the spotlight and dominating popular music. Jazz musicians often feature on pop artist’s line-up, due to their varied and impressive skills in sight-reading, improvisation, and quickly picking up complex material. We see these examples countless times in live touring, for example, the impressive multi-instrumental bands that support artists like Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, and more. Music production is another example of how jazz-influenced pop music like Quincy Jones’ work with Michael Jackson. Quincy had worked as an arranger with Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie. His heavy jazz influence can be heard throughout Michael’s discography. If you listen closely, you’ll notice it in many of today’s popular artists, too. The funky disco-pop music of Charlie Puth and Dua Lipa, for example, has clear jazz influences in their syncopated basslines and energetic grooves.

Jazz influence in Rock

Rock seems an unlikely genre to be influenced by jazz but bear with us. This style of music has originated from rock’n’roll, which derived from blues music. Jazz has derived from blues too and yet it has also crossed over into rock. You’ll hear its influence in bands like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and artists like Jimi Hendrix. ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd is an exceptional example of jazz influence in rock due to its unusual structure, chord changes, and harmony. Radiohead, for example, is usually put into the rock category, but records like The King of Limbs and the presence of drummer Clive Deamer, of Get the Blessing, would suggest otherwise. We hear their jazz influences particularly on songs like ‘Little by Little’. And so, rock is another genre that hasn’t escaped the influence of jazz music.

Jazz influence in Hip Hop

In today’s popular music, hip hop reigns supreme. And of course, it’s strongly rooted in jazz, which brings us full circle, showing the full extent of how jazz influenced modern pop music. Hip hop originates in sampling culture and there are countless samples taken from jazz and reimagined in hip hop. According to Who Sampled, Herbie Hancock has been sampled 984 times, Miles Davis 293 times, George Benson 290 times. The complex rhythms in hip hop very clearly derive from jazz with their energetic, syncopated beats and off beats we have come to love and get accustomed to in popular music. Hip hop and jazz are also tied together by their use of improvisation. Jazz musicians will often improvise over sections of the song, ‘communicating’ with each other through call and response and bouncing ideas between themselves. Hip hop expresses itself in a similar way through freestyling and improvisation that lets us take an unedited peek into the artist’s raw vision, background, and musical ideas. While jazz has influenced countless artists and so many of our most popular genres, it has probably had its strongest influence on hip hop.