New York Arts and Culture

The spring is here and it’s a great time for the blossoming of New York arts and culture scene.  Herewith a few examples of what is going on.

First, we have – from April 5th to 8th – the yearly show held by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers.  Taking place at Piers 92/94, this is one of the world’s “biggest fine-art photography shows.”  It features images from the 1800s until today and there is a specially-curated exhibition by Elton John called “A Time for Reflection,” which takes a nostalgic trip to the time of the Black Panther movement and Joe Baio collection.

And then at The Met Fifth Avenue at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, Huma Bhabha (a Pakistani artist) is depicting her work.  This is quite unique in that she creates images of haunting humankind by using old, discarded materials she finds in her everyday life.  This begins April 17th.

NY Utility Companies

An investigation is being undertaken into how New York’s major utility companies have responded to the loss of power to close to 600,000 homes/businesses in the northeast earlier this month. Also being considered is the groundwork that was embarked upon prior to the events.

Seven utility companies are being inspected. They have all been notified by the Public Service Commission of this. there were two utilities that received the bulk of the criticism due to the amount of time it took to restore power following the snow storms of March 2nd and March 7th with some people being without power for up to 10 days.

Cuomo said he was “not satisfied,” calling the situation “wholly unacceptable. These storms have now become the rule rather the exception. They have to have the capacity to quickly restore power.”

NY: New Business

Rather than moving away from New York to beat high overheads and rentals, it looks like some companies are moving in.  A whole slew of IT jobs with Estée Lauder Companies Inc. are being moved from Melville to new offices in Long Island City, Queens. The company’s “new technology hub” is set to open in July 2018 at 1 Queens Plaza North and will open in July.

In more good news for those in Queens, some believe that the Tax Cuts and Job Act will be beneficial for them…and not just the large corporations.  One native, Tom Clarke, a franchisee of Arby’s and Burger Kings, called the new law a “phenomenal thing,” resulting in his workers getting an additional $40-50 increase in their biweekly paychecks.  That’s really money in the pocket which, until the law would go directly to “government coffers.”

Where is Great to Work? NYC

A recent study has shown that New York offers employees many advantages as compared to other states nationwide.  According to a list put out recently by Fortune Magazine, out of 100 best companies, 9 of them are in New York.  Categories in the study included:  perks, compensation, paid vacation, and more.  Companies included had at least a thousand workers.  Wegmans was considered the best place to work in New York (and was ranked Number 2 in the nationwide list).

New York is also good for workers who want to be parents and get good parental rights. One example is 34-year old father of two Rob Bralow who took paid paternity leave. The co-owner of BLVD Wine Bar is reported to feel “incredibly privileged to be able to take the time away to be with my newest family members.”

And why did he get this privilege?  At the beginning of 2018, New York was one of just a handful of states that put into law paid family leave for anyone who works for a private employer, giving “paid time off to bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child; to care for a close relative with a serious health condition; or to assist when a military family member is deployed abroad.”

NYC is not just about the nightlife…the job culture there is pretty inviting too.

Inviting Business Women to New York!

New York is encouraging women and minority groups to New York. Those who own companies in the area are being invited to join the hub of New York and open their businesses there. Investing $40 million into this promotion, the city of New York is very serious about this.

This money will be used to help these companies – often left out in the cold – to access affordable loans. As well there is a new M/WBE program ad campaign featuring local success stories to encourage these companies to relocate.

Hopefully this initiative will reverse the trend coined by Market Watch analyst that found “female managers are not only under-represented in technology companies, they’re also paid significantly less than men.”

Hedge Fund Strategies in Flux: The 21st Century Revolution of Wall Street

Hedge fund executives were a different breed in the 1980s and 1990s to what they are today.  Back then, hedge fund executives were working within a “culture of tough guy traders.”

Paloma Partners founder Donald Sussman recalls how in 1998, 37-year-old Columbia University computer science professor David Shaw – who had been working at Morgan Stanley with a “new secretive trading group that was using computer modeling” – asked for his opinion  on an  offer he had received from Goldman Sachs.

“Sussman’s career has been built on recognizing and financing hedge-fund talent, but he had never encountered anyone like David Shaw. The cerebral computer scientist would go on to become a pioneer in a revolution in finance that would computerize the industry, turn long-standing practices on their head, and replace a culture of tough-guy traders with brainy eccentrics — not just math and science geeks, but musicians and writers — wearing jeans and T-shirts.”

Shaw – and partner Peter Leventhol – “convinced [Sussman that] they could generate models that would identify portfolios that would be market-neutral and able to outperform others.”  In other words, a large amount of money would be made generating minimal risk.

Sussman recommended Shaw rejecting the Goldman Sachs’ offer and Paloma Partners made a $30 million investment with D.E. Shaw.  Today the company “has grown into an estimated $47 billion firm, earning its investors more than $25 billion — as of the end of 2016, tied for the third biggest haul ever.”

This is more than just a story about a successful company. It has resulted in a “quantitative revolution [which] has become the biggest trend in hedge funds today, capturing some $500 billion of the industry’s more than $3 trillion in assets and dominating the top tier. Seven out of the top ten largest funds are considered ‘quants,’ including D.E. Shaw itself.”

The massive transformation of strategy has resulted in a situation in which it has become “cheaper and easier for all investors to get into the game, leading to an explosion in trading volume.”

And that can be dated back to a preliminary chat Donald Sussman had with David Shaw in 1998.

 

Do We No Longer ‘Love New York’?

The NY Federal Government requested Cuomo’s administration to remove the ‘I Love NY’ road signs which threatened to cost taxpayers a $14 million penalty.  Now that it has been decided the campaign has finally “run its useful course,” a new tourism initiative will replace this one in time for summer.

According to a joint statement put out by Acting Transportation Commissioner Paul Karas and Thruway Authority Director Matthew Driscoll:

“Since the Governor initiated this branding effort, the number of tourists to New York State has increased by 18 percent and the direct economic impact of tourism on the State has skyrocketed by more than 20%.”

In addition, according to NYC & Co Spokesman Chris Heywood there was an increase in arrivals to NYC from the 2016 number of 60.5 million to 61.8 million in 2017.  This increase was put down to being driven “primarily by domestic U.S. tourism” (which could be put down to the I ❤️ NY signs?).

A bit further afield state officials are looking toward North County to get a tourism grant.  $13 million in capital funding has been earmarked by Cuomo to build new lodging properties in northern New York and last year a task force was set up to organize a model for successful lodging development in an effort to bolster tourism.  The money will be targeted specifically to the Thousand Islands and Adirondack regions.

 

Recent Investments

$28m has been invested into data-engineering technology firm Duco by Insight Venture Partners, NEX Opportunities and Eight Roads Ventures.  Cristóbal Conde entrepreneur also contributed to this fund, of which the lifetime entrepreneur said:

“I am delighted to be deepening my relationship with Duco at this important inflection point for the company. Re-conciliation in financial services, and particularly in banks and large asset managers, is an area that requires a shake-up and re-engineering in the coming years. Duco is focused on bringing technological advancements to market in an industry that is ripe for disruption. The company is taking significant market share and will emerge as a household name in the coming years.”

Shares of their New York Mortgage Trust (NASDAQ:NYMT) were just lowered by Zacks Investments Research. The shift was made from a buy rating to a hold rating.  The explanation for the move was given by Zacks as follows:

“New York Mortgage Trust is a real estate investment trust focused on owning and managing a leveraged portfolio of residential mortgage securities and a mortgage origination business. The mortgage portfolio is comprised largely of prime adjustable-rate and hybrid mortgage loans and securities, much of which, over time will be originated by NYMT’s wholly owned mortgage origination business, The New York Mortgage Company, a taxable real estate investment trust subsidiary.”

 

 

ECS Federal Acquisition

On Assignment – America’s 2nd largest IT staffing firm – is in the process of purchasing the service technology and engineering company ECS Federal for $775 million (in cash).  Once the sale goes ahead, the current CEO George Wilson will remain at the helm with his management team.  Indeed, Wilson said that the firm will remain with the “same strategy, same management team, more resources.”   One thing will change slightly though is the name; on April 2, 2018, when it is all final, the company will be called ASGN Inc.

Roy Kapani will be leaving the firm he established in 2001 but is very positive about the move calling it a “terrific outcome for our company, partners and talented employees.”

In its investor presentation, a deeper comprehension into the sale was put forward:

“One of the largest inhibitors of growth in the federal sector is timely finding and placing technical talent.  On Assignment’s recruiting capabilities will enhance ECS’ performance and value proposition versus government services peers.”

The opportunities that will be available after this acquisition will be access to greater “digital, creative and life sciences [as well as providing clients of On Assignment with] access to ECS’ cyber, cloud, artificial intelligence and agile development capabilities.”