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Used at top MBA programs including
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1. How companies are monitoring their remote workforces
  • Last week, news broke that IT services firm Wipro – which employs 250K+ people worldwide – had fired 300+ people in recent months for moonlighting for competitors. In the world of software engineering, the practice of working multiple “full-time” jobs is an open secret. While few are working more than two jobs, one engineer reported working 9 jobs for a total of $1.5M in aggregated salary. Others have switched jobs without telling their first employer, continuing to collect a paycheck until they are fired.
  • One survey found that 37% of remote workers have a 2nd “full-time” job – and 47% of this group are working 40 hours or less across both jobs. And it’s not just making ends meet – 45% of remote workers with two jobs are making $100K+ at each job. For every employee that is working two or more full-time jobs, there are probably even more that would like to. The r/overemployed Reddit, for instance, has 96K members and growing. There’s even a growing industry with resources to support “overemployed” workers – including tools like “mouse jigglers” (digital and mechanical), multi-device computer peripherals, and legal services.
  • Working more than one full-time job can be legal (assuming no employment contract or noncompete agreement barring the practice), albeit in a murky ethical area. At a time when layoffs are in the headlines every day, some workers view a second job as an insurance policy. On the other hand, employers are concerned not just about productivity but about data leakage, cybersecurity gaps, and exposure of trade secrets.
  • The growth of remote work has created a lot of hand-wringing and “productivity paranoia” among executives. Remote work options have become table stakes for attracting talent in certain fields like engineering. But one Microsoft survey published last week found that 85% of business leaders believe “the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.” It reinforces an earlier Microsoft study from Sep 2021 of 61K+ employees that found that collaboration declined as a result of remote work, which was expected to impact productivity and innovation in the long run.
  • Some companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Comcast, Apple, and the New York Times are responding by trying to get workers back into the office. Tougher policies have brought office use (based on security swipes) up to 47.5% of pre-pandemic levels as of earlier this month – a post-2020 relative high.
  • How employee-monitoring data is used can also introduce other kinds of legal risk. Some employers are paying staff based on monitoring data (which may not capture offline or thinking work), resulting in labor lawsuits. Automated biometric tools can be biased, resulting in discrimination against certain demographics.
  • On the other side, remote workers – 87% of whom report being productive at home – are concerned about their boss’s perception of them. In a survey released this week, 68% of US workers were worried that their managers view in-office workers as high-performing and remote workers as lazy. Many are engaging in productivity theater” that causes them to spend an extra 5+ hours per week just to highlight their online presence and showcase activity – ironically making them less productive and more burnt out.
  • There is a general agreement that both employers and remote workers stand to benefit if there are solutions that can walk the fine line between optimizing for productivity while affording workers flexibility and quality of life. Ultimately it comes down to trust – that both sides are acting in accordance with the employer-employee compact, even when no one is watching. Given that trust – and distrust – tend to be self-fulfilling, the real answer may be in building trust through offline interactions first. It turns out that people generally only want to come into the office to see each other anyway.
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2. More alternative investments are opening up to individuals
  • The launch follows a flurry of recent news about investment giants launching funds accessible to individual investors. This past month saw Titan partnering with Apollo Global Management to launch a real-estate fund (1.5% annual fee) and Carlyle Group to launch a private-credit fund (1% annual fee, plus 15% incentive fee once 6% hurdle is reached) – both open to individual investors. (Titan also charges on top a 1% annual fee for $10K+ deposits or $5/month for <$10K deposits.) Titan – which offers its own products as well as products from “top-tier” managers on its mobile-first platform – plans to introduce more asset classes/funds in partnership with other investment managers “in the coming months.”
  • It’s part of a broader trend of investment giants opening up alternative investments to individual investors who are comfortable with higher fees and non-daily liquidity structures. According to Steffen Pauls, CEO of PE platform Moonfare, “All the big players are working on strategies to hit the retail market. In five or 10 years, private equity will be for most people as common and as accessible as public markets.” KKR, for instance, expects 30-50% of its annual funds raised to come from high-net-worth individuals. Apollo is aiming for $15B annually raised from individual investors by 2026. Blackstone is on its 4th fund targeted at individual investors – its first 3 funds currently attract $4B-$5B of inflows per month. Ares Management is on its 2nd fund, and Carlyle Group is raising 10-15% of its capital from individuals.
  • The individual-investor segment represents $80T+ in investible assets that can keep the private-equity class growing – and only 1-2% of that is invested in alternative investments today. One of the draws of the segment is that investment firms can offer evergreen funds where the capital is never fully returned to investors. These “semi-liquid” funds allow investors to withdraw more readily than a typical private equity fund but cap how much an investor can withdraw within a given period. In the meantime, the investment manager can enjoy ongoing and growing management fees.
  • Over the past couple years, individual investors have taken losses in almost every way losses can be taken – on investment-grade bonds, SPACs (special-purpose acquisition companies), cryptocurrencies, options, ETFs, and meme stocks, to name a few. While individual investing isn’t going away, the downturn over the past year may result in a renewed respect for branded expertise alongside the flight from risk. Unfortunately for democratization, however, many (though not all) of the large alternative-investment giants largely have their eye on high-net-worth individuals – not mom-and-pop investors.
Related Content:
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  • Dec 18 2020 (3 Shifts): Are Robinhood and the Fed propping up bubbles?
3. Tracing illicit crypto transactions
  • Cryptocurrency-based crime reached a record high in 2021. That year, $14B+ in cryptocurrency were sent to crypto addresses associated with illegal activities – including stolen funds, scams, ransomware, malware, terrorism financing, and darknet purchases. As of early 2022, illicit addresses held an estimated $10B+ in cryptocurrency, most in wallets associated with theft.
  • With the growth in crypto-associated crime, there has come increased enforcement by regulators. In 2021, the IRS’ Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) seized $3.5B from crypto addresses associated with nontax-related illegal activity. 2021 also saw the US Department of Justice (DOJ) seize $56M in the BitConnect Ponzi scheme investigation, and recover $2.3M of the $4.4M paid to the DarkSide ransomware group that attacked the Colonial Pipeline. In Feb 2022, the DOJ seized $3.6B in cryptocurrency linked to the $4.5B hack of virtual-currency exchange Bitfinex in 2016. And earlier this month, Chainalysis reported that the US government had recovered $30M+ from the North Korean Lazarus Group’s $625M Axie Infinity hack.
  • A typical crypto-laundering scheme might route the stolen or illicit cryptocurrency to intermediary wallets; then “mix” the cryptocurrency in batches using a crypto-mixing service; swap the currency for bitcoin; mix the bitcoin in batches using a crypto-mixing service, and finally deposit the laundered bitcoin in a crypto-to-fiat service to be cashed out. While the transactions themselves are often transparent and traceable on public blockchains, it can be challenging to map them to real-world entities. The laundering of funds from a single hack might use 12K+ crypto addresses.
  • Vendors with technology solutions have emerged to help governments and corporations trace illegal crypto transactions. Chainalysis is one of the best-known. It has mapped 1B+ crypto addresses taken from public blockchains and its network of 700+ customers (including public-sector entities, crypto exchanges, and banks) to 16K real-world entities. Using machine learning and other analytical processes, Chainalysis maps and clusters wallets to enable real-time monitoring of crypto transaction flows using its “Know Your Transaction” (KYT) tool.
  • We can expect a continued ramp-up in enforcement. Earlier this year in the US, the FBI launched a new unit focused on crypto-supported crimes. More recently, the Justice Department formed a network of 150+ federal prosecutors as part of its growing focus on crypto-supported crime. Despite all the headlines, illicit transactions’ percent share of all crypto transactions has actually been declining – which is good news for almost everyone with a stake in crypto.
Related Content:
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