Jan 15, 2021

BlackRock invests in data science & machine learning

Clarity AI
Blackrock
Sustainability
Sustainable Investing
Georgia Wilson
3 min
Sustainabile investment
BlackRock makes minority investment in Clarity AI to further its use of data science and machine learning to help clients develop sustainability insight...

In an announcement made by BlackRock, the company has reported for an undisclosed amount its minority investment into Clarity AI. The investment comes as part of BlackRock’s efforts to further its use of data science and machine learning to help clients develop sustainability insights.

Who is Clarity AI?

Clarity AI - founded in 2017 - is a sustainability analytics and data science platform that, “aims at contributing to a more socially efficient capital allocation by providing decision makers with the most reliable and comprehensive tools to understand and optimise social and environmental impact, leveraging scientific research and the latest technologies.”

Creating actionable sustainability and impact insights using Big Data and machine learning (ML), Clarity AI’s capabilities will be integrated into BlackRock’s end-to-end operating system for investment professionals as part of the investment.

Clarity AI's, proprietary technology and data science capabilities analyse more than 30,000 companies, in almost 200 countries.

“Investors are galvanized around sustainability as a critical consideration in managing immediate and future risks, and better data is foundational to this. As BlackRock makes sustainability its standard for investing, we are committed to raising the standards for ESG data and technology. We’re investing in new analytics and software in Aladdin and are also integrating capabilities from strategic partners like Clarity AI so clients can understand their investments’ social and environmental impact and risks. Clarity AI’s capabilities use machine learning to help Aladdin clients analyze a broader universe of companies, address their disclosure obligations and build more sustainable portfolios,” commented Mary-Catherine Lader, Head of Aladdin Sustainability at BlackRock.

“BlackRock’s investment in Clarity AI and the integration of our capabilities and comprehensive ESG, sustainability and impact data into BlackRock’s Aladdin platform will be transformative, bringing Clarity AI data and analytics to more of the world’s largest and most significant investors. This strategic partnership with BlackRock reflects the growing demand for our innovative approach in helping investors assess the impact of companies on our society and planet,” added Rebeca Minguela, Founder and CEO of Clarity AI.

Blackrock states that it has experienced rapid acceleration in demand for sustainable investing, with global investors in mutual funds and ETFs investing US$326bn in sustainable assets between November 2019 and November 2020, a 97% increase over the same time period a year prior. 

In a recent study conducted by BlackRock titled, ‘Sustainability Goes Mainstream’ the company discovered that their allocations to ESG strategies are expected to double by 2025, with 53% of respondents citing concerns around ‘poor quality or availability of ESG data and analytics’ as their biggest barriers to adopting sustainable investing.

WIth this in mind BlackRock’s latest investment in Clarity AI is the latest step for its Aladdin platform as it strives to further its sustainability capabilities. Last year the company added 1,200 sustainability metrics and established data partnerships to help investors understand ESG and physical climate risks and opportunities.

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Jun 8, 2021

Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda

Tax
Compliance
financeleaders
Deloitte
Kate Birch
4 min
As businesses accelerate their transformation journeys, tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value. Deloitte reveals six tax trends

New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.

According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.

And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.

Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.

Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax

Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.

According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”

Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models

Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.

Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected

in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.

"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."

Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities

Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.

At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”

Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting

Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.

Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact 

Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements

Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.

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