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Swiss Banks Proven to be Innovative and Adaptable Amid COVID-19

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Though often perceived by the general public as sluggish, slow and not very innovative, Swiss banks have shown that that are capable of reacting swiftly and flexibly in times of crisis, according to a new paper by industry trade group the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA).

In a new paper titled How does the COVID-19 pandemic accelerate digitalisation?, the SBA analyzes how Swiss banks have reacted to the crisis, highlighting how quick they were to switch internal structures and processes to guarantee the continuation of their services to customers at the usual level of quality at all times.

According to the paper, despite the pandemic and the resulting lockdown, Swiss banks have remained reliable in fulfilling their economic role and, through the SME loan program, have quickly and pragmatically provided the economy with liquidity.

By adopting digital processes and leveraging technologies and tools such software robots (RPAs), banks were able to process loan applications and grant credit in a swift and timely manner. Institutions such as Credit Suisse, for example, were able to offer their customers a digital workflow with increased control possibilities for the COVID-19 loans within four to five days, the paper notes.

Not only have these new methods and processes allowed Swiss banks to become more efficient and reduce the error rate, customers also appear to be enjoying the experience they’re having with the new digital financial services that were made inevitable in the wake of the crisis.

According to the paper, acceptance of such services significantly increased amid COVID-19, with digital account openings at UBS surging by 82% compared to the same period last year, and the number of e-banking logins jumping by an average of one quarter compared with the same period in the previous year.

Banking post-COVID-19: the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important digitalization is for the Swiss economy, and will have a long-term impact on the banking industry, acting as a catalyst for digitalization, the paper says.

With awareness sharpened and acceptance increasing, digital channels and processes will become the new normal. In this new context, it is essential that banks and the authorities capitalize on the milestones achieved and take advantage of customers’ rising demand for digital products to further digitalize the financial sector, it says.

Though the long-term consequences of COVID-19 cannot yet be assessed conclusively, the SBA highlights six major trends rapidly emerging in the sector, which the organization believes will only accelerate in the near future.

In particular, the SBA forecasts that banks will further increase their speed and scope with regards to developing digital processes without media discontinuity (i.e. having to switch between different media within the same process of information processing or acquisition).

The SBA also predicts that customer demand for financial products and services delivered through digital channels will only increase in the near future, thanks to their positive experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The use of cash as a means of payment will continue to decline, and with e-commerce booming and demand for omnichannel experiences on the rise, new and innovative cashless payment methods will emerge and continue to gain traction.

The paper notes that since the start of the lockdown, contactless payments, especially online payments, have increased significantly with UBS recording a 32% jump in contactless payments for the stationary retail segment in March 2020.

Payment services provider Twint reported a large increase in users during the crisis, recording a 50% growth in the number of transactions and over 11,000 new merchants signing up since the beginning of the year.

Another trend the SBA believes will accelerate is “smart working.” Experience during the lockdown has shown that both operational efficiency and resilience can be improved by enabling people to work remotely, the paper says.

With the digitalization of the economy expected to accelerate, investments in high quality and secure digital infrastructures is therefore forecasted to increase.

Finally, public services will follow suit and greater digitalization of the government services (e-government) will take place. The Swiss Federal Council’s eGovernment Strategy Switzerland 2020-2023 kicked off in January this year, and will seek, among other goals, to make digital channels the first choice when contacting the public administration.

Featured image credit: Unsplash and Freepik

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Source: https://fintechnews.ch/covid19/swiss-banks-proven-to-be-innovative-and-adaptable-amid-covid-19/37140/

CovId19

Major League Baseball Cancels 2020 All-Star Game Because Of Coronavirus

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Major League Baseball is cancelling this year’s All-Star Game due to concerns over the coronavirus. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were to host this year’s game, will instead play host to the Midsummer Classic in 2022. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is cancelling the 2020 All-Star game over concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and restricting on mass gatherings, the league says.

This year’s Mid Summer Classic, planned for July 14, is the first All-Star Game cancelled since World War II. A week of fan activities around the the American and National League exhibition match-up — including the Home Run Derby — will also be put on hold this year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were set to host for the first time since 1980.

“Once it became clear we were unable to hold this year’s All-Star festivities, we wanted to award the Dodgers with the next available All-Star Game, which is 2022,” said baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr said in a statement.

Cancelling the All-Star game is the latest hit the league has taken since the pandemic began. In March, the league put a stop to spring training, just two weeks shy of what would have been opening day. Disagreements between the player’s union and MLB over money and safety concerns further delayed the league’s shortened 60-game season.

Late last month, both sides agreed to have opening day on July 23 or 24, with players resuming training at the beginning of the month.

MLB recently introduced new rules to stem the spread of the virus among players, including a ban on spitting by players during the game.

First played in 1933, the All-Star Game has a been an annual event, save for 1945 when wartime travel restrictions interfered.

The 2021 edition is set to be played in Atlanta at the Braves’ Truist Park.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/03/887123624/major-league-baseball-cancels-2020-all-star-game-because-of-coronavirus?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=coronavirusliveupdates

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When Your Dad Owns A Pizzeria, The Pandemic Means Learning To Make The Perfect Pie

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Paul and Francesca Montanaro at Katonah Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx borough of New York City. Paul and Francesca Montanaro hide caption

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Paul and Francesca Montanaro

In the middle of March, when the coronavirus forced schools to shutter around the country, Francesca Montanaro, 11, abruptly transferred from fifth grade to “pizza school.”

She started calling into her Zoom English class from a small table squeezed in the back of her father’s pizzeria, Katonah Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx borough of New York City. Surrounded by sacks of flour, she wrote an essay on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a room filled with the aromas of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

And she has also been helping out at the pizzeria: answering phones, assembling cardboard pizza boxes and learning to use the cash register. She’s there at least a few days a week, sometimes for 12-hour stretches.

Both of Francesca’s parents are essential workers. Her father, Paul, has been providing food to walk-in customers, as well as large orders to nurses, police officers and emergency medical services workers. Francesca’s mother, Jessica, is an intensive care unit nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside hospital, which has been inundated with COVID-19 patients. Under normal circumstances, Francesca’s grandparents would provide child care when both her parents are working, but the family doesn’t want to risk them getting exposed to the virus.

Hunker Down Diaries is a new series from Radio Diaries that shares short diaries and conversations between people thrown together by the pandemic. Stories about ordinary life in extraordinary times. To hear more stories from the Hunker Down Diaries series, subscribe to the Radio Diaries podcast.

At the pizzeria, Francesca enjoys joking around with her dad’s co-workers and the customers, but she does admit that being there all day can be a drag.

“Sometimes I feel bored, mostly because there’s nothing really to do there for an 11-year-old like me,” she said. “It’s not like it’s a jungle gym or anything like that. It’s a pizza shop.”

Recently, Francesca sat down with her dad to talk about life during the pandemic. She wanted to know if her being at the pizza shop bothered him.

“Well, to be honest with you, it does stress me out, only because I know for a kid, your patience is what it is, and sometimes I see that you’re bored,” Paul told her. It troubles him to see her cooped up in the shop all day. But, he said, “I want you to also know that you’re very calming and soothing to me. Having you there in my time of stress has calmed me down, because you’re built that way.”

Francesca said she gets frustrated that her dad is often so preoccupied at work, and she sometimes feels lonely.

“The hardest part for me is you’re usually busy. And I feel like some days I could just sit in the back without you even noticing me,” she told him.

Paul said he understood. Being together at the pizza shop hasn’t been exactly quality time for father and daughter. But the pandemic has given them no other option. “It is what it is,” he told her.

One of Francesca’s jobs at the pizzeria is assembling pizza boxes. Paul and Francesca Montanaro hide caption

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Paul and Francesca Montanaro

“I do want you to know that sometimes I feel very guilty that you’re there with me so many hours, because sometimes mommy doesn’t pick you up until 7 o’clock at night or 8 o’clock at night,” he said.

Even though the situation isn’t ideal, Paul said, for his part, he loves seeing Francesca at the pizzeria. “I’ve seen you learning the register, and you know how to handle money now,” he said. And he recalled with pride the day Francesca made her first pizza.

“You made the perfect pie,” he said. “It was perfectly round. I couldn’t believe the amazing crust you made. Even my pizza guy was like, ‘Oh, my God, she is a natural!’ “

Francesca had one final question: “Do you think you’d want me to take over the pizza shop and run the business?”

“I wouldn’t want you to do what I do,” Paul said. It’s not an easy business, he said. He encouraged Francesca to model herself after her mother’s path into nursing. “Whereas I can feed people, mommy can save lives,” he said. “And not to say that I’m not intelligent, but I see how you are and I see what you can be, and I know that that would be a lot more than what I’ve been in my life and am. And I think you’re going to use that brain and do much better things than what I do.”

Francesca is hoping to become a nurse or a psychologist. In the meantime, she’s spending her summer scooping Italian ice at the pizzeria.

This story was produced by Sarah Kate Kramer of Radio Diaries, with help from Joe Richman and Nellie Gilles. The editors were Deborah George and Ben Shapiro. Thanks to Jessica Deahl and Andrea Hsu of NPR.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/03/886033575/when-your-dad-owns-a-pizzeria-the-pandemic-means-learning-to-make-the-perfect-pi?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=coronavirusliveupdates

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Celebrity MasterChef review – anyone for a giant lasagne?

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Celebrity MasterChef review – anyone for a giant lasagne?



3 /
5 stars

3 out of 5 stars.

The sight of pop stars cooking for London Underground staff and panicking about pasta is a window into pre-pandemic life … shattered only by the screeches of Gregg Wallace






Overdoing it … John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

So, here we are, heading into the semi-finals already. Twenty more-or-less recognisable names and faces have become four, and by the end of the end of the night the remaining quartet of contestants on this new series of Celebrity MasterChef (BBC One) will – courtesy of a nail-biting double bill – have been reduced to a mere brace of rivals.

Still standing at the beginning of the stretch are comedian Judi Love, footballer-turned-pundit John Barnes, Apprentice star and quintessential salesman Thomas Skinner, and Rak-Su recording artist and sweet summer child Myles Stephenson, who is younger than most of the tins in my store cupboard.

This time they had to knock up identical dishes while communicating only verbally, through a wall – Myles’s conscientiousness combining with teammate Thomas’s confidence, Judi’s instinct dovetailing with John’s big-picture practicality – before cooking a two-course lunch for 100-plus London Underground workers, including a meat-free option. Judi and John plump for a vegetarian lasagne. Gregg Wallace, who seems only to have got louder as his co-presenter John Torode has got older and has developed communication skills more closely resembling those of a normal human adult, is concerned. “INDUSTRIAL-sized BÉCHAMEL!” he cries. “Takes. A fair. Bit of COOKING LET ME TELL YOU!!!!” Come, friendly bombs…

Everything turns out fine. An elusive tinned custard stash is found, curries are flavourful, ginger syrup sponges declared both gingery and syrupy, and no one forgets to season everything they say with a generous handful of otiose adverbs. Things are crisped off, fried off and plated up until it’s time for Gregggg to shout his charmless verdicts at John T again. “THERE’S CUMIN IN THERE!” he bellows like a man who’s never come across food or spice before, let alone in harmonious conjunction. “THAT’S A PROPER PUNCH!” If only, Gregggg. If only.

In the second instalment, our contestants must feed last year’s champion Greg Rutherford and two runners-up: Dom from Gogglebox, fruitier than the rum-soaked raisins Judi plans to add to her apple tart, and Vicky Pattison, funnier than everyone put together. “Stop bitching,” she tells Rutherford as he notes that Thomas’s toffee sauce has set solid on their plates, “and have a slice of your sauce.”

Masterchef – Celebrity or otherwise – is such a strange beast. Parts of it are so slow. Introductions, descriptions of what’s going to happen (“Each team … is going to be cooking … a dish” intones the voiceover in an attempt to build tension where none can ever exist), and recaps of what has already happened are interspersed with spots of action in which the chefs actually get around to cooking something. Here contestants must also deflect the random bursts of belligerence from Gregggg and depressive contempt from Torode. (“The problem with classics,” he says sadly when Thomas puts forward a final menu of fish and chips, “is that there’s nowhere to hide.”).

Still, it was lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves before lockdown. And lovely too to escape into a world where noodle thickness is everything and the greatest challenge before you is to ensure those pig cheek pieces are going to cut sufficiently through the richness of your carbonara-with-double-cream (oh Myles, you beautiful, blessed infant fool! The middle-aged gut is a travesty inconceivable to you!).

I shall not reveal the winners here – only that justice was but partially done, a bit like John’s scallops. But I’ll be back for the final, with my heart in my mouth and ear defenders on my head, ready to pick out the morsels of pleasure from the broth of tension, motiveless aggression and boredom in which they are served. UnACCOUNTably MOREish.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2020/jul/03/celebrity-masterchef-review

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