Friday Five – Deutsche Bank layoffs, millennials are ruining housing, and folding smart watches

It’s beginning to look a lot like…Lehman

To anyone recalling those dark days in distant September 2008 when Lehman Brothers crashed, seeing fresh snapshots of Deutsche Bank employees somberly exiting their offices with those depressing cardboard boxes is a jolt of trepidation. Mortgage-backed securities, subprime loan losses, sharp drop in international trade, rising unemployment, slumping commodity prices, “We Are the 99%” and the sanctimonious face of Paul Krugman. We’ve been through all this before, so is it really time for Act Two?

This week, when Deutsche started gutting itself with a massive job cull, it certainly felt like a déjà vu. A troubled institution with waning performance, a legal battle over President Trump’s financial records, and some scuffles with the SEC – Deutsche’s “restructuring” is a painful but poignant turnpike after which banking just may become boring again. Investment banks were the frothy Kardashians of finance just before the Great Recession. Those days are gone, with global cross-border capital flows down 60% since 2008. Regulators are making banks hold more capital relative to their assets, governments are stepping up through quantitative easing, bailouts, and other hat tricks. And, last but not least, tech companies from Square to Facebook are making their own forays into payments and finance. While things are looking tough for Deutsche, this may yet be a chance for investment banking to subdue itself from a Kardashian and into an Angela Lansbury. After the roller coaster decade, it might be fun to be boring, if only for a little while.

When a Norwegian prison is better living than Millennial housing

Demand for apartment rentals in the US have jumped 11%, driven by the unaffordability of home ownership for everyone’s favorite demographic, aka millennials. Can’t afford a home? Stop buying avocado toast and drinking coffee(equivalent to flushing $1 million down the drain apparently) or doing anything that provides even an ounce of joy in your life, say irate baby boomers. Millennials are clearly just lazy and spendthrift as it can’t possibly be the result of rising costs from childcare, student debt and housing combined with stagnant wages in OECD countries. Such a trivial problem deserves nothing less than a band-aid to cover the gaping boo-boo.

Fear not, poverty-strapped, debt-ridden kids! A Silicon Valley startup called PodShare is offering bunk beds for rent at the low price of $1,200 per month in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Described as “pods” in a “co-living space,” the price includes cereal, toilet paper and a TV which sounds no better than a Scandinavian prison (although rapper ASAP Rocky may beg to differ). PodShare’s subscription-based glorified dorm rooms present the same amount of privacy (read: none) as communal apartments in the Soviet Union where families shared a room.

The sharing economy in housing is a perfect fit for those yearning a return to the days of living amongst people without a basic understanding of hygiene or the sad individuals who never got to experience the pleasure (FOMO). For those who don’t think privacy is overrated, mom’s basement seems like paradise now.

$2,000 for folding phone that breaks after one use… sold

IBM is the latest tech company to launch foldable technology – this time in the form of a folding smartwatch. Telling time is so in the past when your smartwatch can fold out into panels to create a tablet on your wrist eight times the size of the original watch face.  IBM isn’t the first company to come up with Twister-like tech – Samsung launched a universally panned Galaxy foldable phone in April. The Galaxy Fold was nearly $2,000 and broke in test demos given to tech journalists (not the best bunch to give an inferior product to). Top flaws included a thin film on the device that appeared to be like the sticker on an iPhone or TV that you peel off after purchase. However, the film was not meant to be removed as it was integral to the engineering of the device – post-peel the Galaxy Fold started to fail almost immediately. Samsung failed to mention the importance of keeping the film on to the testers.

Does anyone want, or more importantly, need a folding smartphone or watch? Chances are no, but taking a time machine back to 2007 Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft, said that there was no chance of the iPhone ever gaining significant market share. New tech devices can appear to be too expensive and too unnecessary when device makers are pushing them, but on the pull side consumers can adopt new products as must-haves even if they existed without them in years prior. It’s the classic tale of the push, the pull … and now the fold.

Influencer influenza

Influencers continue their bid to be the most annoying cohort on the planet with the latest story of a cosmetic surgeon engaging in bad behavior for the ‘gram. Aptly and aggravatingly named Dr.6ix is in trouble with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for permitting a film crew into a surgery without the patient’s consent, and then posting photos of the patient again without consent all for some sweet sweet likes. The Dr. 6ix case is a microcosm of the exploding world of ‘medical influencers’ – some range from harmless guilty pleasures like Dr. Pimple Popper (her work focuses on popping pimples, with patient’s consent, on YouTube for millions to enjoy) to harmful guilty pleasures like Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP (her work focuses on convincing women they need $120 stickers to heal their body).

With health influencers and doctors alike peddling products on social media the public is left with some confusing and conflicting health advice. If one is experiencing insomnia – do they turn to GOOP’s magic stickers, or visit a doctor?

You get a home run, you get a home run, EVERYBODY GETS A HOME RUN!

Few things in baseball are as satisfactory as a home run but now, it may be too much of a good thing. Major League Baseball has been accused of employing “juiced” baseballs that are altered to make it easier for batters to strike home runs. As of the All-Star break, players have hit 3,691 home runs and are on track to reach 6,668 this season which would top the previous record of 6,105 home runs set two seasons ago. While the vein-popping steroid heydays of the ‘90scontributed to the offensive output of players in the past, culpability for this season’s homers appear to rest solely with the league itself.

In 2018, MLB purchased ball manufacturer Rawlings who also conveniently supplied the baseballs used in the league. Star pitcher Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros has described the balls as “a [insert expletive] joke”; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred admitted that modern baseballs have “less drag,”which means less resistance in the air. A similar controversy surrounded the soccer ball used for the 2010 World Cup as its unpredictability and swerve made control difficult. However, only 2.27 goals were scored per match in the 2010 World Cup, the lowest since 1990, whereas juiced balls have meant home runs galore. The question remains whether dishing out home runs like Oprah does with cars has benefited the sport or nullified the excitement of a formerly treasured and infrequent accomplishment.

Read last week’s edition of Friday Five: Mobile phones replacing passports, TikTok aiming to dominate social media, Taco Bell hotels

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