How Prepared Is Your Board for Cyberspace?

While cyber security is an important issue for boards, it has not always been top of mind. Because a major corporation like Equifax had a breach in its IT system, many companies are rethinking how to secure cyber security.

Boards around the world are examining the Equifax case to determine how to best secure their organizations valuable information stored in their IT systems. So who is responsible? Since the CEO has stepped down, it is apparent he was being held accountable. However, where was the board of directors?

In today’s world of cyberspace, corporate boards have to think about more than governance, CEO compensation and strategy.

As it stands, it is in the board’s best interest to ensure the company is not exposed to debilitating risks. Companies have workplace safety standards and sexual harassment policies to mitigate lawsuits. They even have disaster recovery plans in the event of natural disasters or occurrences like the World Trade Center plane crash. These plans and policies are in place to keep business running smoothly and perpetually. It protects customers and employees.

However, with sophisticated computer hackers around the world, it is no news that computer systems and valuable information can be breached and stolen. There are hackers who breach computer systems as a business. They ask for ransom in the amount of tens of millions of dollars. If it is not paid, they threaten to release the companies secure information, which sometimes could contain private email communication from top executives.

While many enterprises as large as Equifax may have disaster recovery plans for their physical operation, they may not have the same plan for cyber breach. The disaster recovery policies would include immediate action steps based on size of the breach, who made the breach, what information was taken, were company smart phones breached, what to communicate to employees, the public and shareholders as well as other important factors.

In some cases, it may make sense to inform the FBI. In other cases, it may be better to pay the ransom. The challenge with calling the FBI is that the hackers could be in countries like Russia. In Russia, the FBI may not pursue them. Why? Because the Russian government is always looking for good hackers. If the FBI exposes the hackers in Russia, the government may hire them, which can present long-term problems for the US. When it comes to paying ransom, it’s tricky. If you pay, they may hack you again as though you are an ATM machine. If you don’t pay, they may expose confidential information. These are also the kinds of challenges that directly involve the board.

What’s most important is that the board is talking about cyber security before there is a problem. There should be constant audits of the cyber security system to mitigate any risks. In addition, as a board, they should hold the CEO accountable for that security. Furthermore, there should be clear policies to guide the board and the executive team on how to handle the various moving parts in a delicate situation. Boards with disaster recovery plans and high accountability with the CEO are more likely to be forward thinking about cyber vulnerabilities and proactive about updating the security system.

Steinbeck Hitchcock and Yes, Lifeboat

What on earth do Steinbeck and Hitchcock have in common? Well, nothing except that they made a film together called Lifeboat. They did not even share any common interests in terms of their work. John Steinbeck created novels such as Grapes of Wrath which is still considered as a literary masterpiece even by modern critics. The novel was highly controversial at the time it was first published in 1939 due to the anti-capitalist sentiments. But it also won the Pulitzer Prize. This and his work later were instrumental in getting John Steinbeck his maiden Nobel Prize for literature. Steinbeck also wrote some comedies such as Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat but thrillers, not any that I know of.

Alfred Hitchcock lived thrillers and absolutely thrillers. However, he did take some diversions into other genres such as comedies in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and also some nonfiction films just before the Second World War. After the war, he mostly stuck to what he knew best and that was making thriller movies. I don’t know what Steinbeck was thinking about while writing Lifeboat. Was he intentionally making a thriller or just an interracial film with a hypothetical situation about people from various communities of German and allied forces getting together and having to do battle together? I think it’s later and that’s where Steinbeck came into the picture.

Originally the screenplay of Lifeboat was credited to John Steinbeck. But after the film was released Steinbeck requested his name to be removed from the credits because he felt the film had unkind words against organized labor. However, the British and American press at the time thought the film glorified German characters and denigrating the US and British characters. Modern critics see things differently though. Hitchcock defended his characterization because he respected his movie villains. Characterization of a villain has been the hallmark of Hitchcock films over the years. The moral of the story in his opinion was to get the allies together to fight against Nazis.

Lifeboat was nominated for 3 Oscars but received none and it was not commercially very successful either due to the negative publicity and controversies surrounding the film. It was Hitchcock who came up with the idea for the film and considered several top writers at the time for the project including Ernest Hemingway and A J Cronin. Hitchcock didn’t use music in the film as he thought it was imprudent to do so. Where would music come from in the sea? He retorted when asked about it. He was countered with where would the cameras come from in the middle of the sea?

I am a diehard Hitch fan and have seen all his best work and more. I never felt him being racist or unkind to any community unless it is for the characterization. The very fact that he chose Steinbeck for this project confirms this fact for me. But it is a strange combination all the same. After so many years of Hitchcock, it is difficult to associate him with a writer who is not at all a thriller writer. It is a lonesome but great alliance all the same.

Estate Tax Planning & Family Limited Partnerships

The general partner(s) manage the assets contributed to the family limited partnership. Limited partners generally have no rights with respect to the assets held by the FLP. The lack of Marketability and the fractional ownership of the limited partnership interests held by the limited partners are two of the well-established reduction principles that diminish the value of the taxable estate. The discounts allowed by the restricted rights provides for the reduction in the value of the assets held by each limited partner, but also increases the amount of annual tax-free gifting that can be attained. The current high marginal estate tax rates allow for wise and prudent planning which is necessary to preserve the family’s wealth.

Centralized Management of Family Assets
When using a corporation as the general partner, the general partner controls all of the assets in the partnership. This corporation can also employ family members and others. It will call meeting, conduct training sessions and facilitate wealth management. With a corporate general partner, continuity must be ensured even in the event of the husband and wife.

Minimize Probate
By using an FLP, the time and expense of probating an estate can be greatly reduced. When a Living Trust is also used, then there is no probate. Living Wills are not public record and therefore no one but those involved in the family know of its contents.

Cure Title Defects
The procedure for transferring assets to an FLP can help with the discovery of title defects. This can be a significant issue for real estate assets if not discovered and corrected.

The Worst Cashflow Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

The worst cash flow mistakes a small business owner can make can be counted on one hand. They have one thing in common, and that’s about failing to follow the money. They’re about keeping your eye on the prize, and we go through them here, ending with advice about how to track your own company money using expense management software for small businesses…

Failing to think before you splurge. Great! You’ve started a business. You’re on the road to fame and fortune, and now’s the time to invest in an expensive suit and a new car, isn’t it? No, in short, it isn’t. This is exactly the time NOT to commit money – yours of the company’s – to anything you don’t need. So there’s the first lesson. Understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. To succeed in business you need a phone, but the Armani suit can wait…

Expecting the best. This is about your financial planning. Understand that you’re not going to be a millionaire in the first year. On the contrary, you’ll be doing well if you can afford to pay yourself anything like a salary in Year One. If you overestimate the number of units you can sell, or the clients you can get to come on board, then revenue will be lower than you predict, and you may find yourself overstretched with any finance package you’ve put in place.

Offering credit. Poor paying suppliers can cripple small businesses. If you’re made to wait for payment, that’s like offering them an interest-free loan, and you shouldn’t do it. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for payment up front, so long as you’re ready to honour your commitment. After all, you wouldn’t expect the local supermarket to give you a month or more’s credit on your grocery shop (though if you’re a supplier to them, the boot would be on the other foot). In general, large organisations are slower payers, and also have complex internal procedures in place about how and when payments can be made. Better to work with smaller companies, where you have direct access to the person with the power to pay.

Being cash poor. If you’ve made careful and conservative cash flow forecasts in the early days of your business, everything’s fine, so long as cash moves as you’d predicted. But what happens if it doesn’t? If you have no cash cushion you could be in trouble. Try to have a couple of months-worth of cash in the bank so you could carry on if you had no income at all. It’ll help you sleep easier, too.

Not making an unpaid finance assistant work for them. Bet that caught your attention didn’t it? This is not about the kind of modern slavery that has people working for nothing, but it’s about technology. It’s about arming yourself with good quality business expense management software for small businesses and being disciplined in its use. In the early days of your business you need to be especially careful with money, because having little of it generally sharpens the focus in the need to be a good money manager. In later years, when you’ve earned a wedge, there’s no reason to take your foot off the control pedal. Keep a tight rein on finance, and you’ll be rewarded with better dividends in the future. Selection of the right small business expense management software will enable you to keep track of expenses very easily, but more importantly, it will allow you to interrogate the data, and show you how effectively you’re managing spending and cashflow – and show where improvements can be made. And picking the right package means it’ll offer excellent value for money, because the savings you make by using it are probably going to be more than the cost of investing in it in the first place.

Artificial Intelligence Is a Must, Not a Need

WHAT DOES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MEAN?

Artificial Intelligence refers to the vicinity of science and engineering focusing on developing the machines as intelligent as the humans. They are created to be fitted into place on behaviors that human regard as intelligent i.e. simulation of human behaviors which they consider as intelligent via the use of machines.

It is all concerned with developing the intelligent computer programs. The main objective behind the adoption of AI is to enable a machine to discover, analyze and crack the problems in parallel.

It is not essential that the computer programs developed are as intelligent as humans in all aspects. But in some aspects, the machine fitted with artificial intelligence can be even more intelligent than humans.

The future of artificial intelligence will change everything in our lives.

WHY DO WE NEED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?

The integration of artificial intelligence into the computer programs, assists to create more efficient and effective systems. The opportunity in the form of AI is challenging and efficient at the same time.

The glaring pitfall to be kept in mind while talking about the efficiencies and the opportunities offered by this hi-tech world is that the amount of data being generated on a daily basis is rapidly increasing and it is becoming impossible to mine and analyze the data fully. The amount of data generation has made it impossible for the humans to deal with i.e. it has exceeded the capabilities of humans that they can extract the valuable information out of it.

The skilled professionals in the field of data science with the expertise and their skill sets try to create correlations between various inputs in order to draw out a specific output. But with the sheer volume of data, it has become relatively impossible to correlate every possible input.

This is where Artificial Intelligence can help. Incorporating AI into the systems lets you purify the raw facts into useful and palatable information.

The driver seat in the field of artificial intelligence is handled by the fresh and innovative codes generally referred to as algorithms.

Let us consider an example to understand how the AI works:

Facebook is a very popular social media platform. Facebook deciphers the user’s likes, the activities etc. and then determine what all content is to be placed on his/her news feed. The longer the time you remain active on Facebook, the more and more data is being generated and stored in the warehouse.

The systems incorporated with AI uses the deep learning to get the incessant feedbacks on its algorithms as the users interact. This way the algorithms generally referred to as coding assist the Facebook to analyze the interactions of the users to determine the content to be mentioned on the news feed.

Not only Facebook, even Twitter uses the concept of AI to position the tweets based on the users’ relevance and interests and also suggest them the tweets as per their interests.