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BGC Group Updates its Outlook for the Fourth Quarter of 2023 and Provides Update to FMX Announcement Timing

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NEW YORK, Dec. 29, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — BGC Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: BGC), today announced that it has updated its outlook for the quarter ending December 31, 2023 and provided an update to the expected timing of upcoming FMX announcements.

Updated Outlook 
BGC expects to be around the high-end of its previously stated outlook ranges for revenue and pre-tax Adjusted Earnings for the fourth quarter of 2023. The Company’s outlook was contained in BGC’s financial results press release issued on October 30, 2023, which can be found at http://ir.bgcg.com.

Howard W. Lutnick, Chairman and CEO of BGC Group, a leading global brokerage and financial technology company, said, “Our business performed strongly throughout the fourth quarter. We expect to report double-digit revenue and pre-tax Adjusted Earnings growth for both the fourth quarter and full year 2023.”

Howard W. Lutnick also commented “We’ve made significant progress with FMX on multiple fronts during the quarter. We expect to have CFTC regulatory approval and announce our strategic partners in early 2024.”

Non-GAAP Financial Measures 
The non-GAAP definitions below include references to certain equity-based compensation instruments, such as restricted stock awards and/or restricted stock units (“RSUs”), that the Company has issued and outstanding following its corporate conversion on July 1, 2023. Although BGC is retaining certain defined terms and references, including references to partnerships or partnership units, for purposes of comparability before and after the corporate conversion, such references may not be applicable following the period ended June 30, 2023.

The Company has clarified its practice in an updated definition of its “Calculation of Non-Compensation Adjustments for Adjusted Earnings”. BGC has not modified any prior period non-GAAP measures related to this clarification.

This document contains non-GAAP financial measures that differ from the most directly comparable measures calculated and presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States (“GAAP”). Non-GAAP financial measures used by the Company include “Adjusted Earnings before noncontrolling interests and taxes”, which is used interchangeably with “pre-tax Adjusted Earnings”; “Post-tax Adjusted Earnings to fully diluted shareholders”, which is used interchangeably with “post-tax Adjusted Earnings”; “Adjusted EBITDA”; “Liquidity”; and “Constant Currency”. The definitions of these terms are below.

Adjusted Earnings Defined 
BGC uses non-GAAP financial measures, including “Adjusted Earnings before noncontrolling interests and taxes” and “Post-tax Adjusted Earnings to fully diluted shareholders”, which are supplemental measures of operating results used by management to evaluate the financial performance of the Company and its consolidated subsidiaries. BGC believes that Adjusted Earnings best reflect the operating earnings generated by the Company on a consolidated basis and are the earnings which management considers when managing its business.

As compared with “Income (loss) from operations before income taxes” and “Net income (loss) for fully diluted shares”, both prepared in accordance with GAAP, Adjusted Earnings calculations primarily exclude certain non-cash items and other expenses that generally do not involve the receipt or outlay of cash by the Company and/or which do not dilute existing stockholders. In addition, Adjusted Earnings calculations exclude certain gains and charges that management believes do not best reflect the underlying operating performance of BGC. Adjusted Earnings is calculated by taking the most comparable GAAP measures and adjusting for certain items with respect to compensation expenses, non-compensation expenses, and other income, as discussed below.

Calculations of Compensation Adjustments for Adjusted Earnings and Adjusted EBITDA

Treatment of Equity-Based Compensation Line Item for Adjusted Earnings and Adjusted EBITDA
The Company’s Adjusted Earnings and Adjusted EBITDA measures exclude all GAAP charges included in the line item “Equity-based compensation, dividend equivalents and allocations of net income to limited partnership units and FPUs” (or “equity-based compensation” for purposes of defining the Company’s non-GAAP results) as recorded on the Company’s GAAP Consolidated Statements of Operations and GAAP Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows. These GAAP equity-based compensation charges reflect the following items:

  • Charges related to amortization of RSUs, restricted stock awards, other equity-based awards, and limited partnership units;
  • Charges with respect to grants of exchangeability, which reflect the right of holders of limited partnership units with no capital accounts, such as LPUs and PSUs, to exchange these units into shares of common stock, or into partnership units with capital accounts, such as HDUs, as well as cash paid with respect to taxes withheld or expected to be owed by the unit holder upon such exchange. The withholding taxes related to the exchange of certain non-exchangeable units without a capital account into either common shares or units with a capital account may be funded by the redemption of preferred units such as PPSUs;
  • Charges with respect to preferred units and RSU tax accounts. Any preferred units and RSU tax accounts would not be included in the Company’s fully diluted share count because they cannot be made exchangeable into shares of common stock and are entitled only to a fixed distribution or dividend. Preferred units are granted in connection with the grant of certain limited partnership units that may be granted exchangeability or redeemed in connection with the grant of shares of common stock, and RSU tax accounts are granted in connection with the grant of RSUs. The preferred units and RSU tax accounts are granted at ratios designed to cover any withholding taxes expected to be paid. This is an alternative to the common practice among public companies of issuing the gross amount of shares to employees, subject to cashless withholding of shares, to pay applicable withholding taxes;
  • GAAP equity-based compensation charges with respect to the grant of an offsetting amount of common stock or partnership units with capital accounts in connection with the redemption of non-exchangeable units, including PSUs and LPUs;
  • Charges related to grants of equity awards, including common stock, RSUs, restricted stock awards or partnership units with capital accounts;
  • Allocations of net income to limited partnership units and FPUs. Such allocations represent the pro-rata portion of post-tax GAAP earnings available to such unit holders; and
  • Charges related to dividend equivalents earned on RSUs and any preferred returns on RSU tax accounts.

The amounts of certain quarterly equity-based compensation charges are based upon the Company’s estimate of such expected charges during the annual period, as described further below under “Methodology for Calculating Adjusted Earnings Taxes.”

Virtually all of BGC’s key executives and producers have equity stakes in the Company and its subsidiaries and generally receive deferred equity as part of their compensation. A significant percentage of BGC’s fully diluted shares are owned by its executives, partners and employees. The Company issues RSUs, restricted stock, limited partnership units (prior to July 1, 2023) as well as other forms of equity-based compensation, including grants of exchangeability into shares of common stock (prior to July 1, 2023), to provide liquidity to its employees, to align the interests of its employees and management with those of common stockholders, to help motivate and retain key employees, and to encourage a collaborative culture that drives cross-selling and revenue growth.

All share equivalents that are part of the Company’s equity-based compensation program, including REUs, PSUs, LPUs, HDUs, and other units that may be made exchangeable into common stock, as well as RSUs (which are recorded using the treasury stock method), are included in the fully diluted share count when issued or at the beginning of the subsequent quarter after the date of grant.

Compensation charges are also adjusted for certain other cash and non-cash items.

Certain Other Compensation-Related Adjustments for Adjusted Earnings
BGC also excludes various other GAAP items that management views as not reflective of the Company’s underlying performance in a given period from its calculation of Adjusted Earnings. These may include compensation-related items with respect to cost-saving initiatives, such as severance charges incurred in connection with headcount reductions as part of broad restructuring and/or cost savings plans. 

Calculation of Non-Compensation Adjustments for Adjusted Earnings 
Adjusted Earnings calculations may also exclude items such as:

  • Non-cash GAAP charges related to the amortization of intangibles with respect to acquisitions;
  • Acquisition related costs;
  • Non-cash GAAP asset impairment charges;
  • Resolutions of litigation, disputes, investigations, or enforcement matters that are generally non-recurring, exceptional, or unusual, or similar items that management believes do not best reflect BGC’s underlying operating performance, including related unaffiliated third-party professional fees and expenses; and
  • Various other GAAP items that management views as not reflective of the Company’s underlying performance in a given period, including non-compensation-related charges incurred as part of broad restructuring and/or cost savings plans. Such GAAP items may include charges for professional fees and expenses, exiting leases and/or other long-term contracts as part of cost-saving initiatives, as well as non-cash impairment charges related to assets, goodwill and/or intangible assets created from acquisitions.

Calculation of Adjustments for Other (income) losses for Adjusted Earnings 
Adjusted Earnings calculations also exclude gains from litigation resolution and certain other non-cash, non-dilutive, and/or non-economic items, which may, in some periods, include:

  • Gains or losses on divestitures;
  • Fair value adjustment of investments;
  • Certain other GAAP items, including gains or losses related to BGC’s investments accounted for under the equity method; and
  • Any unusual, non-ordinary, or non-recurring gains or losses.

Methodology for Calculating Adjusted Earnings Taxes
Although Adjusted Earnings are calculated on a pre-tax basis, BGC also reports post-tax Adjusted Earnings to fully diluted shareholders. The Company defines post-tax Adjusted Earnings to fully diluted shareholders as pre-tax Adjusted Earnings reduced by the non-GAAP tax provision described below and net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interest for Adjusted Earnings.

The Company calculates its tax provision for post-tax Adjusted Earnings using an annual estimate similar to how it accounts for its income tax provision under GAAP. To calculate the quarterly tax provision under GAAP, BGC estimates its full fiscal year GAAP income (loss) from operations before income taxes and noncontrolling interests in subsidiaries and the expected inclusions and deductions for income tax purposes, including expected equity-based compensation during the annual period. The resulting annualized tax rate is applied to BGC’s quarterly GAAP income (loss) from operations before income taxes and noncontrolling interests in subsidiaries. At the end of the annual period, the Company updates its estimate to reflect the actual tax amounts owed for the period.

To determine the non-GAAP tax provision, BGC first adjusts pre-tax Adjusted Earnings by recognizing any, and only, amounts for which a tax deduction applies under applicable law. The amounts include charges with respect to equity-based compensation; certain charges related to employee loan forgiveness; certain net operating loss carryforwards when taken for statutory purposes; and certain charges related to tax goodwill amortization. These adjustments may also reflect timing and measurement differences, including treatment of employee loans; changes in the value of units between the dates of grants of exchangeability and the date of actual unit exchange; changes in the value of RSUs and/or restricted stock awards between the date of grant and the date the award vests; variations in the value of certain deferred tax assets; and liabilities and the different timing of permitted deductions for tax under GAAP and statutory tax requirements.

After application of these adjustments, the result is the Company’s taxable income for its pre-tax Adjusted Earnings, to which BGC then applies the statutory tax rates to determine its non-GAAP tax provision. BGC views the effective tax rate on pre-tax Adjusted Earnings as equal to the amount of its non-GAAP tax provision divided by the amount of pre-tax Adjusted Earnings.

Generally, the most significant factor affecting this non-GAAP tax provision is the amount of charges relating to equity-based compensation. Because the charges relating to equity-based compensation are deductible in accordance with applicable tax laws, increases in such charges have the effect of lowering the Company’s non-GAAP effective tax rate and thereby increasing its post-tax Adjusted Earnings.

BGC incurs income tax expenses based on the location, legal structure and jurisdictional taxing authorities of each of its subsidiaries. Certain of the Company’s entities are taxed as U.S. partnerships and are subject to the Unincorporated Business Tax (“UBT”) in New York City. Any U.S. federal and state income tax liability or benefit related to the partnership income or loss, with the exception of UBT, rests with the unit holders rather than with the partnership entity. The Company’s consolidated financial statements include U.S. federal, state, and local income taxes on the Company’s allocable share of the U.S. results of operations. Outside of the U.S., BGC operates principally through subsidiary corporations subject to local income taxes. For these reasons, taxes for Adjusted Earnings are expected to be presented to show the tax provision the consolidated Company would expect to pay if 100% of earnings were taxed at global corporate rates.

Calculations of Pre- and Post-Tax Adjusted Earnings per Share
BGC’s pre- and post-tax Adjusted Earnings per share calculations assume either that:

  • The fully diluted share count includes the shares related to any dilutive instruments, but excludes the associated expense, net of tax, when the impact would be dilutive; or
  • The fully diluted share count excludes the shares related to these instruments, but includes the associated expense, net of tax, when the impact would be anti-dilutive.

The share count for Adjusted Earnings excludes certain shares and share equivalents expected to be issued in future periods but not yet eligible to receive dividends and/or distributions. Each quarter, the dividend payable to BGC’s stockholders, if any, is expected to be determined by the Company’s Board of Directors with reference to a number of factors. The declaration, payment, timing, and amount of any future dividends payable by the Company will be at the discretion of its Board of Directors using the fully diluted share count. For more information on any share count adjustments, see the table titled “Fully Diluted Weighted-Average Share Count under GAAP and for Adjusted Earnings” in the Company’s most recent financial results press release.

Management Rationale for Using Adjusted Earnings 
BGC’s calculation of Adjusted Earnings excludes the items discussed above because they are either non-cash in nature, because the anticipated benefits from the expenditures are not expected to be fully realized until future periods, or because the Company views results excluding these items as a better reflection of the underlying performance of BGC’s ongoing operations. Management uses Adjusted Earnings in part to help it evaluate, among other things, the overall performance of the Company’s business and to make decisions with respect to the Company’s operations.

The term “Adjusted Earnings” should not be considered in isolation or as an alternative to GAAP net income (loss). The Company views Adjusted Earnings as a metric that is not indicative of liquidity, or the cash available to fund its operations, but rather as a performance measure. Pre- and post-tax Adjusted Earnings, as well as related measures, are not intended to replace the Company’s presentation of its GAAP financial results. However, management believes that these measures help provide investors with a clearer understanding of BGC’s financial performance and offer useful information to both management and investors regarding certain financial and business trends related to the Company’s financial condition and results of operations. Management believes that the GAAP and Adjusted Earnings measures of financial performance should be considered together.

For more information regarding Adjusted Earnings, see the sections of this document and/or in the Company’s most recent financial results press release titled “Reconciliation of GAAP Income (Loss) from Operations before Income Taxes to Adjusted Earnings and GAAP Fully Diluted EPS to Post-Tax Adjusted EPS”, including the related footnotes, for details about how BGC’s non-GAAP results are reconciled to those under GAAP.

Adjusted EBITDA Defined
BGC also provides an additional non-GAAP financial performance measure, “Adjusted EBITDA”, which it defines as GAAP “Net income (loss) available to common stockholders”, adjusted to add back the following items:

  • Provision (benefit) for income taxes;
  • Net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interest in subsidiaries;
  • Interest expense;
  • Fixed asset depreciation and intangible asset amortization;
  • Equity-based compensation, dividend equivalents and allocations of net income to limited partnership units and FPUs;
  • Impairment of long-lived assets;
  • (Gains) losses on equity method investments; and
  • Certain other non-cash GAAP items, such as non-cash charges of amortized rents.

The Company’s management believes that its Adjusted EBITDA measure is useful in evaluating BGC’s operating performance, because the calculation of this measure generally eliminates the effects of financing and income taxes and the accounting effects of capital spending and acquisitions, which would include impairment charges of goodwill and intangibles created from acquisitions. Such items may vary for different companies for reasons unrelated to overall operating performance. As a result, the Company’s management uses this measure to evaluate operating performance and for other discretionary purposes. BGC believes that Adjusted EBITDA is useful to investors to assist them in getting a more complete picture of the Company’s financial results and operations.

Since BGC’s Adjusted EBITDA is not a recognized measurement under GAAP, investors should use this measure in addition to GAAP measures of net income when analyzing BGC’s operating performance. Because not all companies use identical EBITDA calculations, the Company’s presentation of Adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies. Furthermore, Adjusted EBITDA is not intended to be a measure of free cash flow or GAAP cash flow from operations because the Company’s Adjusted EBITDA does not consider certain cash requirements, such as tax and debt service payments.

For more information regarding Adjusted EBITDA, see the section of this document and/or in the Company’s most recent financial results press release titled “Reconciliation of GAAP Net Income (Loss) Available to Common Stockholders to Adjusted EBITDA”, including the footnotes to the same, for details about how BGC’s non-GAAP results are reconciled to those under GAAP.

Timing of Outlook for Certain GAAP and Non-GAAP Items
BGC anticipates providing forward-looking guidance for GAAP revenues and for certain non-GAAP measures from time to time. However, the Company does not anticipate providing an outlook for other GAAP results. This is because certain GAAP items, which are excluded from Adjusted Earnings and/or Adjusted EBITDA, are difficult to forecast with precision before the end of each period. The Company therefore believes that it is not possible for it to have the required information necessary to forecast GAAP results or to quantitatively reconcile GAAP forecasts to non-GAAP forecasts with sufficient precision without unreasonable efforts. For the same reasons, the Company is unable to address the probable significance of the unavailable information. The relevant items that are difficult to predict on a quarterly and/or annual basis with precision and may materially impact the Company’s GAAP results include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Certain equity-based compensation charges that may be determined at the discretion of management throughout and up to the period-end;
  • Unusual, non-ordinary, or non-recurring items;
  • The impact of gains or losses on certain marketable securities, as well as any gains or losses related to associated mark-to- market movements and/or hedging. These items are calculated using period-end closing prices;
  • Non-cash asset impairment charges, which are calculated and analyzed based on the period-end values of the underlying assets. These amounts may not be known until after period-end; and
  • Acquisitions, dispositions, and/or resolutions of litigation, disputes, investigations, or enforcement matters, or similar items, which are fluid and unpredictable in nature.

Liquidity Defined
BGC may also use a non-GAAP measure called “liquidity”. The Company considers liquidity to be comprised of the sum of cash and cash equivalents, reverse repurchase agreements (if any), financial instruments owned, at fair value, less securities lent out in securities loaned transactions and repurchase agreements (if any). The Company considers liquidity to be an important metric for determining the amount of cash that is available or that could be readily available to the Company on short notice.

For more information regarding Liquidity, see the section of this document and/or in the Company’s most recent financial results press release titled “Liquidity Analysis”, including any footnotes to the same, for details about how BGC’s non-GAAP results are reconciled to those under GAAP.

Constant Currency Defined
BGC generates a significant amount of its revenues in non-U.S. dollar denominated currencies, particularly in the euro and pound sterling. In order to present a better comparison of the Company’s revenues during the period, which exhibited highly volatile foreign exchange movements, BGC provides revenues year-over-year comparisons on a “Constant Currency” basis. BGC uses a Constant Currency financial metric to provide a better comparison of the Company’s underlying operating performance by eliminating the impacts of foreign currency fluctuations between comparative periods. Since BGC’s consolidated financial statements are presented in U.S. dollars, fluctuations in non-U.S. dollar denominated currencies have an impact on the Company’s GAAP results. The Company’s Constant Currency metric, which is a non-GAAP financial measure, assumes the foreign exchange rates used to determine the Company’s comparative prior period revenues, apply to the current period revenues. Constant Currency revenue percentage change is calculated by determining the change in current quarter non-GAAP Constant Currency revenues over prior period revenues. Non-GAAP Constant Currency revenues are total revenues excluding the effect of foreign exchange rate movements and are calculated by remeasuring and/or translating current quarter revenues using prior period exchange rates. BGC presents certain non-GAAP Constant Currency percentage changes in Constant Currency revenues as a supplementary measure because it facilitates the comparison of the Company’s core operating results. This information should be considered in addition to, and not as a substitute for, results reported in accordance with GAAP.

About BGC Group, Inc.
BGC Group, Inc. (“BGC”) is a leading global brokerage and financial technology company. BGC, through its affiliates, specializes in the brokerage of a broad range of products, including Fixed Income (Rates and Credit), Foreign Exchange, Equities, Energy and Commodities, Shipping, and Futures. BGC, through its affiliates, also provides a broad range of services, including: trade execution, brokerage, clearing, trade compression, post-trade, information, and other back-office services to a broad range of financial and non-financial institutions. Through its brands, including Fenics®, FMX™, FMX Futures Exchange™, Fenics Markets Xchange™, Fenics Digital™, Fenics UST™, Fenics FX™, Fenics Repo™, Fenics Direct™, Fenics MID™, Fenics Market Data™, Fenics GO™, Fenics PortfolioMatch™, BGC®, BGC Trader™, kACE2™, and Lucera®, BGC offers financial technology solutions, market data, and analytics across a broad range of financial instruments and markets. BGC, BGC Group, BGC Partners, BGC Trader, GFI, GFI Ginga, CreditMatch, Fenics, Fenics.com, FMX, Sunrise Brokers, Poten & Partners, RP Martin, kACE2, Capitalab, Swaptioniser, CBID, Caventor, LumeMarkets and Lucera are trademarks/service marks and/or registered trademarks/service marks of BGC and/or its affiliates.

BGC’s customers include many of the world’s largest banks, broker-dealers, investment banks, trading firms, hedge funds, governments, corporations, and investment firms. BGC’s Class A common stock trades on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “BGC”. BGC is led by Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Howard W. Lutnick. For more information, please visit http://www.bgcg.com. You can also follow BGC at https://twitter.com/bgcgroupinc, https://www.linkedin.com/company/bgc_group and/or http://ir.bgcg.com.

Discussion of Forward-Looking Statements about BGC 
Statements in this document regarding BGC that are not historical facts are “forward-looking statements” that involve risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements. These include statements about the Company’s business, results, financial position, liquidity and outlook, which may constitute forward-looking statements and are subject to the risk that the actual impact may differ, possibly materially, from what is currently expected. Except as required by law, BGC undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For a discussion of additional risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements, see BGC’s Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filings, including, but not limited to, the risk factors and Special Note on Forward-Looking Information set forth in these filings and any updates to such risk factors and Special Note on Forward-Looking Information contained in subsequent reports on Form 10-K, Form 10-Q or Form 8-K.

Media Contact: 
Jason Angrisani
+1 212-915-1224

Investor Contact:
Jason Chryssicas
+1 212-610-2426

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Cision View original content:https://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/bgc-group-updates-its-outlook-for-the-fourth-quarter-of-2023-and-provides-update-to-fmx-announcement-timing-302023634.html

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Validation Cloud Secures $5.8 Million in Inaugural Funding to Propel Web3 Infrastructure

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ZUG, Switzerland, Feb. 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — In a significant stride towards revolutionizing Web3 infrastructure, Validation Cloud has proudly announced the successful closure of its first external investment round, amassing $5.8 million. Spearheaded by San Francisco-based Cadenza Ventures, this funding round exceeded expectations with contributions from an impressive roster of international investors, including Blockchain Founders Fund, Bloccelerate, Blockwall, Side Door Ventures, Metamatic, GS Futures, and AP Capital.

Alex Nwaka, Co-Founder of Validation Cloud, expressed enthusiasm about the funding, “This investment marks a pivotal moment for Validation Cloud as we aim to address the urgent demand for scalable and compliant Web3 infrastructure. We’re honored to collaborate with our investors who are instrumental in propelling the global adoption of our platform among cutting-edge networks, developers, and asset managers.”

Validation Cloud is at the forefront of Web3 technology, having developed an innovative system architecture that paves the way for significant advancements in the sector. Known as the “Cloudflare of Web3,” the company offers a robust, scalable, and intelligent platform providing Staking, Node API, and Data services, drawing inspiration from Cloudflare’s transformative impact on Web2 infrastructure.

Founded by veterans in the Proof-of-Stake domain, Validation Cloud boasts a team of highly experienced professionals from renowned organizations such as Uber, Workday, Deloitte, Citadel, Morgan Stanley, Binance, Crypto.com, Figure, R3, and more, emphasizing a talent-first approach with a worldwide workforce.

Kumar Dandapani, Managing Partner at Cadenza Ventures, highlighted the strategic vision behind their investment, “At Cadenza, we do not invest in just any company; we invest in the future of transformative technologies. Validation Cloud’s pioneering role in Proof-of-Stake and their relentless pursuit of next-generation Web3 infrastructure have set them apart as leaders in the Web3 space.”

Aly Madhavji, Managing Partner at Blockchain Founders Fund, shared his thoughts on the investment, “We believe in the transformative power of Web3 and its ability to redefine how businesses operate. Investing in Validation Cloud aligns perfectly with our vision of supporting innovative platforms that are ready to lead the next wave of digital transformation.”

Validation Cloud has earned a reputation for its close partnerships with networks from their nascent stages, supporting a wide array of ecosystems from established ones like Chainlink, Hedera, and Stellar to emerging networks such as Aptos, Eigenlayer, and Berachain. Their platform lays the groundwork for the enterprise adoption of networks, positioning Validation Cloud as a key player in the Web3 infrastructure landscape.

For further details on Validation Cloud and its offerings, please visit www.validationcloud.io.

Please contact: Kelly Clark, Director of Communications | [email protected] 

Funding Announcement for Validation Cloud by Alex Nwaka

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Klarna says its AI assistant does the work of 700 people after it laid off 700 people

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The Swedish fintech, which was criticized for its handling of a dramatic staff reduction in 2022, is touting new efficiencies powered by OpenAI.

Klarna is bullish on bots.

One month after taking its OpenAI-powered virtual assistant global, the Swedish buy-now, pay-later company has released new data touting its ability to handle customer communications, make shoppers happier, and even drive better financial results.

The app-based AI chatbot already handles two-thirds of all customer service chats, the company said Tuesday—some 2.3 million conversations so far—with the virtual assistant earning customer satisfaction ratings at the same level as human agents. Klarna, which is expected to go public this year and will need all the hype it can get at a time when investors have been generally frosty toward IPOs, estimates that the chatbot could help improve its profits by $40 million in 2024.

Announcing a partnership with OpenAI early last year, Klarna said it was one of the first companies to integrate the firm’s groundbreaking ChatGPT technology into a plug-in for shopping. The natural-language interface initially helped customers choose items and make other shopping-related decisions based on personalized queries, a feature Klarna described as “smooth shopping.”

The company has continued to build out its AI offerings since then. Its app-based assistants are now available to customers worldwide and handle a variety of tasks including refunds, cancellations, and even disputes.

Klarna boasted in its announcement on Tuesday that the AI assistant “is doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents.”

That statement may raise eyebrows for anyone who remembers the middle of 2022, when the company laid off roughly the same number of employees, then about 10% of its staff. At the time, CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski cited economic uncertainty, inflation, and the likelihood of a recession as reasons for the cuts. He was criticized for his handling of the staff reduction after he shared a public spreadsheet on LinkedIn that contained the names of many of the laid-off workers.

Fast Company asked Klarna how the company arrived at its calculation for its AI assistant’s human-equivalent productivity. The company said the number of equivalent jobs the AI could perform wasn’t related to the layoffs. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company’s customer service is supported by four to five large third-parties that collectively have over 650,000 employees, and that it offers customers the option to speak with human agents if that’s what they prefer.

“This is in no way connected to the workforce reductions in May 2022, and making that conclusion would be incorrect,” the statement read. “We chose to share the figure of 700 to indicate the more long-term consequences of AI technology, where we believe it is important to be transparent in order to create an understanding in society. We think [it’s] important to proactively address these issues and encourage a thoughtful discussion around how society can meet and navigate this transformation.”

Companies have used chatbots for years to handle low-level customer queries and other interactions, although these tools are expected to become more versatile in the wake of advancements in artificial intellegence.

Source: Fast Company

The post Klarna says its AI assistant does the work of 700 people after it laid off 700 people appeared first on HIPTHER Alerts.

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KAPSARC Launches Saudi Arabia’s First School of Public Policy

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  • Inspired by His Royal Highness, the Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud’s passion for education, human capital development and innovation, the KAPSARC School of Public Policy (KSPP) was founded as the first institution in Saudi Arabia dedicated to graduate studies and executive education in public policy.
  • Through its academic offerings, KSPP empowers individuals to tackle pressing public policy challenges and embrace the promising opportunities shaping the future.
  • KSPP’s facilities will run on 100% renewable energy, setting a precedent as one of the first net-zero facilities in the Saudi educational sector.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) has been granted an establishment license for its School of Public Policy (KSPP) after the recent approval by the Council of Ministers, and which was announced during the Human Capability Initiative (HCI) on February 28, 2024, conducted under the patronage of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Human Capability Development Program Committee, one of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Realization Programs.

Aiming to set new standards in policy studies, the school offers a two-year master’s degree and executive education programs designed to enable and empower future policy leaders and professionals within Saudi Arabia and globally to address the most pressing domestic and international public policy challenges in the public, non-profit and private sectors.

This significant achievement was announced by His Royal Highness, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, the Minister of Energy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of KAPSARC: “The vision for KAPSARC School of Public Policy is to develop the knowledge and skills that the new generation needs to shape public policy both locally and globally. Our mission is to empower and equip future policy leaders and professionals within Saudi Arabia and internationally to make informed socio-economic decisions.”

In a statement on the sidelines of the school’s launch, Fahad Alajlan, President of KAPSARC, stressed the Center’s mission to impact public policy on national, regional, and global levels. “Our new School of Public Policy will equip future leaders with the right skills to create data-driven and evidence-based public policy in line with Vision 2030 goals.”

Dr. Ghadah Alarifi, Founding Dean of KSPP, stated that, “Public policy serves as the foundation of societal progress. At KSPP, we aim to be a catalyst for collaboration, building a robust ecosystem that bridges academia, industry, and government in the public policy arena.”

By leveraging KAPSARC’s network, KSPP provides a platform for global engagement and career growth opportunities, offering practical application and flexible courses tailored to empower policymakers in different tracks including energy policy.

The school is committed to achieving high sustainability standards in the Saudi educational sector, including the goal of running on 100% renewable energy. This dedication ensures that KSPP meets its annual energy needs through on-site renewable resources, eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

For more information about KSPP, visit https://www.kapsarc.org/about-the-school/.

Follow KSPP on social media:

  • X: @KAPSARC_SPP
  • LinkedIn: @ KAPSARC School of Public Policy

About KAPSARC:

KAPSARC is a leading think tank dedicated to advancing knowledge on energy, environment, and regional economic issues. Accredited observer of UNFCCC, KAPSARC actively contributes to global climate action. The mission of KAPSARC is to advance Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and inform global policies through evidence-based advice and applied research. For more information about the center please visit: https://www.kapsarc.org/

Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/2350458/KAPSARC_School_of_Public_Policy.jpg

Cision View original content:https://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/kapsarc-launches-saudi-arabias-first-school-of-public-policy-302074721.html

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