Bitcoin farms: the cryptocurrency mines

The sharp rise in the price and profitability of cryptocurrencies, led by Bitcoin, has caused a real gold rush. But in this case, the gold is digital currency.

 

Unlike the traditional monetary system, where Governments print money based on their needs, if we focus on Bitcoin, monetary creation is limited. Bitcoins are put into circulation every ten minutes and, approximately every four years, the software halves the blocks of currency issued, in a process known as halving. It is expected that by 2140 the total of 21 million Bitcoin will have been put into circulation.

How do Bitcoin mines work?

Bitcoins are not issued or are available to anyone who wants or gets to pick them up first. No, they are put into circulation in encrypted blocks that need to be decrypted. And this is where the concept of cryptocurrency mining comes in: with each issue, every ten minutes, miners connected to the network receive a new algorithm to solve a mathematical problem that, once solved, gives them the reward of new Bitcoins or commissions for the transaction; the miners validate the block and add it to the blockchain string.

Increasing competition to do this work has led to the creation of Bitcoin Farms around the world, where cryptocurrencies are said to be cultivated. These farms respond to the need to build real supercomputers by networking computers, so that they are able to decipher increasingly complicated algorithms as quickly as possible, to do so before the countless competitors.

These structures generate such a high consumption of electricity that they are most often installed in countries where this energy is more economical and the climate is colder, which allows avoiding overheating of computers and equipment. However, they have also led to the intensive demand for essential computer components to create these networks, such as graphics cards, to the point that some online retail chains have removed them from their open catalogue to avoid running out of them.

A problem of electricity consumption in Catalonia

In our country, the implementation of Bitcoin Farms is not illegal, but it mainly clashes with the high cost of energy that consumers in general suffer and that, in the case of these facilities, makes the electricity bill soar. This has led to the fact that, in some cases, their owners chose to tap into the power line or fraudulently connect to it. The ensuing allegations have led the Mossos to open investigations, in most cases with the mistaken suspicion that they were marijuana plantations.

It is in this way that cases such as the well-known one in Cambrils in 2018 have come to light, a great mine in a hotel under renovation of this coastal town; or this same week, the discovery in a flat in Sant Adrià de Besòs, to which we referred before. So far, they are rather isolated and semi-clandestine cases, but all indications are that they may be growing, as the profitability of cryptocurrencies and the fever of their miners to obtain them are growing.

For this reason, from time to time news such as these appear. Bitcoin Farms and the desire for presumed profits have also arrived in Catalonia.

Semi-clandestine flats, basements, or warehouses full of networked computers cultivating cryptocurrencies or mining Bitcoins, expressions used to define the extraction and obtention of digital coins. It may seem difficult to understand, but all of this makes sense within its issuing system.

 

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There is an increasing consensus in our society that accepts that economic growth must respect sustainability standards, and that debates how to link ecology and economy.

 

Economic growth, as a pillar of the capitalist system, has often been associated with the urban condition, the growth of cities, and the unrestricted expansion of their metropolitan areas. Both the services and the infrastructure needed are expanding, changing the territory and, in return, leaving aside the natural environment and the consequences of its alteration.

It is now clear that this has caused an ecological emergency, and many consciences have changed. They have now the opinion that the economy cannot forget nature, which is an increasingly accepted idea. It is probably outside the more purely urban fabric that more steps are taken in this direction, driven by the sensitivity of landscape conservation and natural heritage.

Following this goal of protection and appreciation of this heritage, the local world created the Landscape charters. Since 2006, Decree 343 of the Generalitat develops Law 8/2005 for the protection, management, and planning of the landscape, although some counties such as Alt Penedès have already had their own since 2002.

How does economy fits in sustainability?

The promotion of those sectors that are better adapted to nature and territory, such as wine, are one of the most common bets. It is a type of industry that combines agriculture and tourism, bringing benefits to the region in a minimum of two ways and enhancing the landscape. Some studies show that sales increase when the buyer links them to an environment.

Maintaining this sustainability, however, is sometimes not that simple. The first issue is related to tourism, about which we have talked, and the protection of the landscape as an exclusive setting against overcrowding. This can affect, in fact, the comfort and daily life of the inhabitants themselves. Secondly, we could go back to everything that the industry requires, which will eventually give jobs and leave profits in the form of taxes, such as the creation of industrial estates.

A matter of mobility and energy

The infrastructures for mobility and transport and the generation of energy needed to move everything are perhaps the two factors where the economy finds it more difficult to become sustainable. The local world has responded with great caution and concern to the increasingly imminent plans for the creation of wind or photovoltaic parks that, while seeming to lead to the generation of cleaner energy, are thought to clash in full with landscape care.

One of the territory’s arguments is that if urban areas are the big consumers of energy, they should also be impacted by generating them—and proposals have been made, such as covering the roofs of industrial areas with solar panels. However, the paralysis of decisions due to the debate—in Catalonia only a wind turbine has been installed in twelve years—does not stop what others can do, and there are those who consider that opportunities are being missed. Recently, for example, a wind farm project was presented in Aragon to feed our country with renewable energy.

But big cities have more open debates between growing or guaranteeing ecological minimums and, as we have mentioned, transport is a key one. Recently, the proposal to expand El Prat Airport has returned to the forefront, a project that from a business sector is seen as a country project, essential to position Barcelona and Catalonia as an attractive and accessible hub for business, whereas many citizens and groups see it as completely unsustainable, as they call for a much deeper discussion about how and how much we want to grow. Surely the latter is the key to the debate we need to face soon.

 

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The Catalan language is full of sayings through which popular wisdom used to advise on economics, that is, the community used to help its members. Let’s analyse some of them and their origin.

 

Paroemiology is the science that studies the origin and meaning of proverbs, and is as old as language itself. We find samples in the translations of the proverbs of the Bible, and in Jewish and Arabic books of sentences translated into Catalan. We can find them in the work of the philosopher Ramon Llull or the writer Francesc Eiximenis, in the book Tirant lo Blanc, and so on. Since the end of the 16th century, the saying takes precedence over proverbs. Here are just a few examples of how paroemiology has been present since time immemorial: from Guillem de Cervera’s Proverbis (1180), Llibre de Doctrina del Rei Jaume d’Aragó (1290), and so on, to books such as Baldiri Reixach’s or Carles Amat’s, used for teaching. One of our country’s paroemiologists is Victor Pàmies i Riudor; through his work we can know the origin, history, etymology…

As an example, let’s analyse a few sayings related to money and investment. Popular wisdom always gives us good advice.

  • L’aigua va allà on n’hi ha més.
    It refers to money: the more you invest, the more profit you get. (In fact, water tends to accumulate forming rivers, in the sea …) It means: money goes where money is.
  • Sabater amic o parent, calça car i dolent.
    It warns that whoever gives money to win a friendship or find love, comes out unscathed because everyone takes advantage of kindness.
  • Per casar filles donzelles no venguis moltons ni ovelles.
    It means that the family patrimony should never be undone. (Long ago, to marry a daughter, you had to endow her with some goods: money, jewellery, furniture, tableware and bedding, animals, land …)
  • Béns de campana, Déu els dona i el diable els escampa.
    It tells us that those gains that come easily and effortlessly are the easiest to lose.
  • Diners de tot fan veritat i del jutge advocat.
    It tells us that, with money, we can change reality according to our interests.
  • Si a qui deus no pots pagar, humilment li has de parlar.
    This saying tells us to be humble with our creditors when we cannot pay them what we owe them, in order to avoid retaliation.
  • Germans, els pans; parents, els qüens; i coneguts, els papers de menuts (qüens = diners). Even food is shared between siblings; you can trust a relative or ask them for money; but none of this is possible with an acquaintance.
  •  Educació i diner fan al fill cavaller.
    Education makes a person perfect and money proclaims it.
  • Al marit, barca; la muller, arca (arca = cofre = caixa dels diners).
    Husbands used to do physical work whereas wives used to manage family money. It means that everyone has to do the tasks for which they are best prepared.
  • Sastres, música i sabaters, moltes postures i pocs diners
    They move their hands and body a lot in exchange for little benefit.
  •  Si la butxaca no sona, els músics no poden tocar.
    With a precarious economy, great things cannot be done.
  • Pagant, sant Pere canta / En pagar, sant Pere canta / Pagant, mossèn Pere canta.
    Money gets the most unthinkable things.
  • Si vols enganyar al marxant, posa-li la “ganància” per davant.
    Cash in front of your eyes usually makes you decide right away to whom you sell.
  • Qui pren, son cor ven.
    Whoever accepts someone’s money, gifts, or favours, is left in material or moral debt.
  • A on vas, diners? Allí a on n’hi ha més.
    It means owning money is the principle to having more.

 

Sayings in Catalonia

Sayings can be categorised according to their topic. According to Joan Fontana, José Enrique Gargallo, Víctor Pàmies, and Xus Ugarte in their work Els refranys més usuals de la Llengua Catalana, there are 15 major topics:

  1. Meteorological sayings.
  2. Calendar sayings.
  3. Sayings about jobs and profits (money, works, jobs …). 
  4. Sayings about religion and beliefs. 
  5. Sayings about home and family.
  6. Sayings about men and women. The human body and the ages of life. 
  7. Sayings about flora, fauna, and nature.
  8. Sayings about people’s qualities and feelings. 
  9. Sayings about health and illness. 
  10. Sayings about food and drink. 
  11. Geographical sayings. 
  12. Sayings about parties and leisure.
  13. Sayings about tips.
  14. Sayings about morality.
  15. Miscellaneous sayings.

Sayings have two meanings: the literal meaning and a figurative meaning, which is exemplified by the literal meaning. To use proverbs in our usual speech, you must know that they are bits of prefabricated speech. Aside from being known by most members of the speaker community, they can be used to refer to ideas that contain some kind of shortcut in order to avoid explaining them.

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In the real estate market, and specifically in the rental market, we can find very different situations that can lead to abuses and breaches of current regulations at all times. But does the tenant suffer all the abuse? Or can the owner also feel helpless?

 

Last September, the new Rental Price Containment Act came into force (11/2020 Law of September 18), with the aim of curbing the huge rise in prices that was being experienced, especially in Barcelona and the metropolitan area. This lowers and freezes the price of new rentals in areas with high demand for housing. An average reduction of 4.12% has been achieved.

With these measures, it seems that politicians are responding to the demands of platforms and unions, in favour of affordable or, at least, regulated housing. A Quick Guide has even been published to announce the scope of the new regulations.

What are the abuses?

Clearly, it was unsustainable to keep the upward pattern in rental prices, as has been happening in recent years. Tenants have basic rights that are sometimes violated, and they should report them if they find themselves in any of the following situations of abuse:

  • Upon signing the rental agreement, the owner must deliver the certificate of occupancy and the energy certificate. Obtaining these documents comes at a cost, so some owners may try to rent the home without having them, even though they are mandatory. For the rental of commercial premises, only the energy certificate is required. 
  • Make a peaceful use of the home, without the owner being able to disturb it. Many times the so-called real estate bullying (harassment) occurs, that is, making the tenant’s life miserable and forcing them to leave, thus being able to speculate with that home. These actions are usually carried out by large holders, such as mutual funds.
  • The owner must take care of the necessary repairs and maintenance. The tenant can make these repairs if they are urgent, with prior notice, and they can be deducted from the price, but sometimes these repairs are not considered necessary, and there is no refund of the cost.
  • They can terminate the contract and have the deposit back, but there are owners who do not want to return it, and this money could not have been deposited in Incasòl as required. This may mean that the rental has not been registered and, as a result, you may have more difficulty having the deposit back.

However, the right to the return of the deposit is lost if the home is left damaged, which can lead to a repair cost.

Protection of owners

However, you may find that the owner is not to blame for a conflicting relationship with the tenant. For example, it may happen that the home has not been legally rented, but someone has decided to move in without permission; that there are defaults on the agreed rent; or even that there is a misbehaviour of the tenant.

The new law does not resolve any of these situations in which an owner may be. However, as citizens, they also have the right to be given tools to resolve them. The only forecast that is made is for small tenants who may be in a vulnerable situation, who are allowed a 5% increase in rent, above the established maximums.

Owners can easily find themselves helpless as they are considered to be the strongest side in the deal. But the truth is that they can see how a tenant stops paying or damages their home, and that the solution to the problem always has to end up in court, which means a high cost of time and money. 

The point is that this problem affects investment funds and small holders alike. With the new regulations, it seems that this situation is beginning to reverse, as they take into account the diversity of owners that exist, and make the distribution of responsibilities in this madness that is the real estate market a little more equitable.

 

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A study shows that the benefits of biodiversity are equivalent to twice the global GDP.

 

No country has achieved the diversity targets set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, with a deadline in 2020. We now face a funding gap of more than $700 billion by 2030, warns the UN Secretary General. 

That is why 2021 has to be the year for reconciliation between humanity and nature. So far we have been destroying our planet, we have been abusing it as if we had a spare one, our current resource consumption requires almost two planets, but we only have one. If we compare the history of the earth to a calendar year, we have used one third of those natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds.  

Actions such as air, land and water pollution have provoked a counter-attack by nature that is evident in record temperatures, the collapse of diversity, the spread of deserts and in the numerous and increasingly dangerous extreme events such as fires, floods and hurricanes.

  • A planet for biodiversity 

Biodiversity or biological diversity is, according to the International Convention on Biological Diversity, the term that refers to the wide variety of living things on Earth and what happens to the natural patterns that shape them. They are the result of billions of years of evolution according to natural processes and also the increasing influence of human activities. Biodiversity also includes the variety of ecosystems and genetic differences within each species that allows the combination of multiple life forms. The mutual interactions with the rest of the environment make the sustainment of life on earth possible.

Biodiversity is an essential basis for our economic well-being. While industrial production is currently one of the main causes of pressure on biodiversity, such as land use, overexploitation or pollution, businesses in all sectors can also be key drivers of biodiversity conservation. All stakeholders now need to work together to integrate the value of biodiversity into our decision-making and develop solutions that harmonise nature and economic growth.

  • Biodiversity in business

Many companies are not willing to let company growth come at the expense of people and the planet. For this reason, they are changing the way business is done. 

Internal plans have been carried out to help create a world in which we can all live well within the natural limits of the planet. By using resources to address issues such as health and hygiene, gender equality, climate change and plastic packaging waste, long and short-term benefits to society are being generated. 

In 2010 many companies started to be sustainably conscious, the impact that all these changes have made is quite significant: costs and risks have been reduced, and of course, the most important value, to build trust in the consumer. 

Danone, for example, is acting against climate change, biodiversity loss and water scarcity. It is reducing its carbon footprint with the aim of achieving zero emissions by 2050. Beyond its production sites, it is working towards these goals in areas where it shares responsibility, especially in agriculture, promoting regenerative agriculture to protect soil, water and biodiversity, promoting animal welfare and empowering a new generation of farmers.

It also has its own policies and tools aimed at promoting biodiversity:

  • An example of this is its forestry policy, where it makes a statement of intent to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain and contribute to reforestation.
  • Or the fund dedicated to promoting its local ecosystems, the Danone Ecosystem Fund, which supports the company’s projects with a social purpose. This is the case of Renueva, a Danone Aguas waste management and revaluation system which, together with other partners, works to recycle out-of-home consumer packaging, and has a plant in Barcelona Montcada i Reixac.

 

  • 17 goals to transform the world

The United Nations has created 17 goals to transform our world. The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint for a sustainable future for all. They are interrelated and incorporate the global challenges we face every day, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice. 

In order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each of these goals by 2030:

  1. End poverty, 
  2. Zero hunger, 
  3. Health and well-being 
  4. Quality education, 
  5. Gender equality, 
  6. Clean water and sanitation, 
  7. Affordable and clean energy, 
  8. Decent work and economic growth 
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure 
  10. Reducing inequalities 
  11. Sustainable cities and communities 
  12. Responsible production and consumption 
  13. Climate action 
  14. Undersea life 
  15. Life of terrestrial ecosystems 
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions 
  17. Partnerships to achieve their goals.

And this is our daily goal and that of business too. There will probably be many companies that will put this into practice anonymously. Other companies will post on their website the development plans and all the changes they have made; some examples are: Cepsa, Decathlon, Ferrovial, San Miguel Mahou, Iberdrola, Unilever, Danone, among others. 

  • Biodiversity is part of progress

We have to demystify the idea that biodiversity is synonymous with increasing costs, but quite the opposite. They go hand in hand together with the economy. Thanks to these gestures and changes, not only will we be able to reduce costs, but we will also have a healthier, more sustainable and better life for future generations. 

A documentary not to be missed is “David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet”, in which the renowned naturalist reflects on both the defining moments of his life and the devastating changes he has witnessed. The documentary is available on the Netflix platform and addresses some of the challenges of life on our planet. He explains how much ground the natural world has lost globally in less than a century, he witnesses the change in nature in his more than 50 years of work, and notes that the world is a unique and spectacular wonder. Moreover, Attenborough sends a message of hope to future generations, revealing the solutions to save our planet from disaster.

We can start with the famous 7 R’s: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Redesign, Repair, Renew and Recover. Among all of us, we can achieve it. Do you want to be part of this change? 

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If there is one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has done, it is to make us rethink the society we live in, our healthcare system and, above all, our economy. A phenomenon that has left many of our businesses in a precarious situation in which mere survival is considered a success.

The European Council has designed a recovery plan for Europe. According to ACCIÓ (L’agència de la competitivitat per l’empresa de la Generalitat de Catalunya), this aid, approved on 21 July 2020, will give a boost to EU economies after the debacle caused by the pandemic. From this money comes the economic package known as Next Generation EU, with a total of 750,000 million euros. These funds are being distributed to EU member states to help their economic recovery, and will be used to finance all kinds of projects.

From these funds, 140 billion euros will be allocated to Spain, some in direct aid and the rest indirectly, in credits.

 

How this aid will be distributed to businesses:

 

According to Royal Decree-Law 5/2021, of 12 March, on extraordinary measures to support business solvency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first aid package will be distributed as follows:

  • Line of direct aid to the self-employed and businesses.

Managed by the Autonomous Communities and with a budget of 7,000 million euros, they will be used to cover the cost of payments to suppliers and other creditors, and also for expenditure on energy services and supplies.

  • Restructuring of financial debt

It gives the government more flexibility in giving loans with public guarantees, thus allowing the incorporation of ICO lines.

Three billion euros in direct and extraordinary aid to reduce the burden of loans with public guarantees.

  • A recapitalisation fund for companies

Designed for medium-sized companies that were viable before the pandemic, but that have solvency difficulties and cannot access the fund managed by the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI).

  • Extended period before the automatic triggering of insolvency proceedings

It aims to provide a greater margin to re-establish their financial equilibrium before entering insolvency proceedings.

Likewise, the period in which tax debts can be paid without interest for late payment is extended to four months.

A set of economic aid measures which, despite being subject to certain requirements, are a breath of fresh air that is more than necessary in the difficult times we find ourselves in.

On the other hand, and as we have seen in previous crises, this aid is rarely free, and sooner or later it has to be paid back whether we like it or not, generally through financial austerity measures.

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The European Council has designed a recovery plan for Europe. According to ACCIÓ (L’agència de la competitivitat per l’empresa de la Generalitat de Catalunya), this aid, approved on 21 July 2020, will give a boost to EU economies after the debacle caused by the pandemic. From this money comes the economic package known as Next Generation EU, with a total of 750,000 million euros. These funds are being distributed to EU member states to help their economic recovery, and will be used to finance all kinds of projects.

From these funds, 140 billion euros will be allocated to Spain, some in direct aid and the rest indirectly, in credits.

 

How this aid will be distributed to businesses:

According to Royal Decree-Law 5/2021, of 12 March, on extraordinary measures to support business solvency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first aid package will be distributed as follows:

  • Line of direct aid to the self-employed and businesses.

Managed by the Autonomous Communities and with a budget of 7,000 million euros, they will be used to cover the cost of payments to suppliers and other creditors, and also for expenditure on energy services and supplies.

  • Restructuring of financial debt

It gives the government more flexibility in giving loans with public guarantees, thus allowing the incorporation of ICO lines.

Three billion euros in direct and extraordinary aid to reduce the burden of loans with public guarantees.

  • A recapitalisation fund for companies

Designed for medium-sized companies that were viable before the pandemic, but that have solvency difficulties and cannot access the fund managed by the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI).

  • Extended period before the automatic triggering of insolvency proceedings

It aims to provide a greater margin to re-establish their financial equilibrium before entering insolvency proceedings.

Likewise, the period in which tax debts can be paid without interest for late payment is extended to four months.

A set of economic aid measures which, despite being subject to certain requirements, are a breath of fresh air that is more than necessary in the difficult times we find ourselves in.

On the other hand, and as we have seen in previous crises, this aid is rarely free, and sooner or later it has to be paid back whether we like it or not, generally through financial austerity measures.

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The events sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with many events that had been in the pipeline for months being cancelled, and the same has happened with weddings.

 

Many couples have had to put the long-awaited “I do!” This has led to the cancellation of suppliers and ancillaries (farmhouses, caterers, photographers, videomakers), dresses, and a long etcetera. 

Couples who have not been able to wait until 2022, which is when a new normality is expected to begin, have had to reinvent themselves and have zoom weddings or micro-weddings with 15 people. 

 

We interviewed Cristina González, Head of communication in Spain at Bodas.net, a leading website in the bridal sector, with its international office in Sant Cugat del Vallès.

How have you lived the pandemic debacle at bodas.net? 

In 2020 there were approximately 80% fewer celebrations than in 2019, according to a survey conducted by Bodas.net to more than 1,390 companies in the sector at the end of 2020 and 2,500 couples. However, of all weddings, only between 5% and 9% of weddings were cancelled, all others were postponed to a new date. Furthermore, 8 out of 10 couples who decided to postpone set a date for 2021.

What was the feedback you received from your suppliers regarding wedding cancellations? 

More than cancelled weddings, we are talking about postponed weddings, as only between 5% and 9% were cancelled, all the rest were rescheduled. 

Like all sectors, the bridal sector has experienced some difficult times throughout 2020 and early 2021. During all this time, there have been no specific and stable periods or clear protocols to allow weddings to take place. For this reason, Bodas.net joined with associations from all over Spain, businesses and affected couples to make a joint and public petition to the Spanish Government last March. 

In Spain, approximately 165,000 couples get married every year and a direct business of 3,500 million euros is generated. 

The wedding business includes multiple activities and does not belong to a single sector; it is included in other sectors such as leisure or catering. Even so, just registered on the Bodas.net website there are already more than 48,000 companies that work for weddings, so there are many companies, professionals and families directly affected, in addition to the nearly 200,000 couples who expect to get married in the coming months. 

This is why we believe that it was of the utmost importance and urgency for the government to establish specific periods and measures so that the sector could continue to work, as has happened in other sectors. 

Are your suppliers adapting to the current situation, and do you know if they have changed their rates? 

The rates, as in any sector, are one of the things that can change year after year, regardless of the current situation. 

Many couples are setting their new wedding date for 2022, partly so that the situation is more controlled, do you think they will be able to be cheaper than before? 

A large proportion of the couples who are setting their wedding date for 2022 are couples who got engaged in 2020 or early 2021. In the last survey we conducted at the end of April, only 14% of couples said they had a wedding date for 2022. 

In terms of budget, in a survey conducted by Bodas.net in February on Spanish couples who got married in 2020 or with an initial date in 2020 and postponed to 2021, more than half (55%) said that the current economic situation generated by the Covid-19 had not changed their initial budget. We remind you that the average cost of a wedding in Spain is €20,500, according to the Libro Imprescindible de las Bodas, written by Bodas.net in collaboration with Carles Torrecilla (professor at ESADE) and Google.

 

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Will smaller, intimate weddings continue to boom? 

The number of guests has had to be adjusted to the capacity limitations of each place and time. Even so, as far as the banquet is concerned, and taking into account that they are usually large and with outdoor facilities, as well as having qualified staff to ensure everyone’s health and safety, the adjustment of guests has not been so extensive. Of 1700 couples planning to marry between May 2021 and April 2022, 74% expect to have more than 76 guests at their wedding, with 50% believing they will have more than 100. The average number of guests at a wedding in Spain is 130, according to El Libro Imprescindible de las Bodas. 

Despite capacity restrictions, couples still prefer weddings with many guests. Only 15% will be micro-weddings.

There is talk that there is a shift towards choosing other days of the week to make costs more economical, are you noticing this new trend?

The favourite day to get married is still Saturday, although the trend is for more and more weddings to take place during the week (Monday to Thursday), according to a study by The Knot Worldwidet. This is something that was already beginning to be seen in recent years, but which the current situation has precipitated by the readjustment of postponed marriages. This is undoubtedly a trend that will allow for more choice in the calendar. 

This readjustment of dates has also meant that couples who have become engaged in recent months will have to set a wedding date for 2022, as the agenda will be very tight. As a consequence, if in previous years Spanish couples needed an average of 12 months to organise their wedding, now this preparation time is extended to 18-24 months. This extension in the organisational timing will allow couples to take much more care and spend more time on the details they want for their day.

Tell us a little more. As wedding experts, what do you see weddings looking like in 2022? 

Fortunately, with the end of the state of alarm, the advance of vaccination and the predisposition of professionals and couples to adapt the links to the circumstances, the prospects are good for the coming months. According to the latest survey carried out by Bodas.net at the end of April among couples who have a wedding date for 2021, 8 out of 10 say that they will get married on the date set. Moreover, of these, 70% say they are sure or very sure that the wedding can take place on that day. 

Everything suggests that weddings, although adapted to the circumstances, are back to stay. 

Nothing is going to stop the desire to get married, despite the fact that there are going to be changes, both in terms of capacity, guests and the way of relating, everything points to 2022 being a very tight year in terms of dates and we are finally going to be able to make up for lost time. Here’s to the bride and groom! 

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A neobank is a financial technology-based bank that operates only digitally or through a mobile app, and can offer most of the products and services of a conventional bank, minus the physical subdivisions. These are relatively young companies, with the neobank designation dating back to 2017.

 

Banking structures, as well as the needs of the population, have changed exponentially over the last few years. While it used to be commonplace to go to the bank in person to make transactions, we can now carry out the same operations from the sofa at home. In response to the new technological context, traditional banks, those that have been around forever, set to work to make a digital banking model available to the public that would allow a considerable number of banking operations to be carried out from any location.

Thanks to this adaptation, digital banks emerged, ready to address society’s new concerns. However, despite streamlining certain banking procedures, digital banks act as subsidiaries of larger banks that already have a specific track record. It is precisely in this context that neobanks were born; a banking structure that starts from scratch and that, moreover, has as a fundamental pillar the use of Fintech technology to serve its customers.

Over the last few years in Europe we have already started to work with neobanks, taking advantage of the technology in the market. But what exactly do neobanks offer, and what are the differences between traditional banking and a neobank?

Streamlined products and services

 

We all know what operations a traditional bank can carry out and what procedures can be carried out. The great challenge for them, in fact, was to try to transfer to the virtual world all the procedures that are usually carried out in branches, and they partially succeeded. There are still operations that require a visit to the bank because they cannot be carried out from a tablet or mobile phone. Opening a new account is one of them.

Neobanks, on the other hand, have a much more simplified structure compared to traditional banking. This means that they do not offer all the products or possibilities of the more veteran entities, but they have managed to bring together a good number of services with simpler procedures. In other words, they offer a smaller but at the same time more decisive range of products. Opening a current account, transferring money, managing cards or applying for credit are just some of the procedures that customers can access at any time. For this reason, neobanks are gaining more and more followers among small and medium-sized businesses and young people; they prefer effectiveness and speed in their operations over quantity.

Zero or almost zero fees

 

Surely more than once you have heard someone complaining about the commissions that banks ask for in order to manage procedures. These expenses are present on the part of traditional banks because they need to put a cost on the management of their agents, maintaining their branches and the bank itself. It is precisely here where we find one of the most relevant differential features. Unlike these, neobanks can afford a considerable reduction in commissions, since the use of technology means the elimination of the costs that large banking institutions have to face.

As a result, traditional banks have also tried to reduce their costs in order to be able to offer more competitive prices, but they have not managed to match the zero transaction costs or decrease their high savings rates. This is why the neobank model is currently gaining popularity.

Autonomous customers

 

This is undoubtedly one of the most differentiating factors between traditional banking and neobanks. While the former are characterised by little autonomy and, consequently, work every day to improve their digital services and thus gain more independence, neobanks offer absolute freedom from the outset through highly advanced technological tools that help customers control their money.

But the downside of this is that neobanks often do not have an interpersonal communication service between the customer and the bank itself. Interactions are limited and very much focused on customer services, behind which there may be machines. In this sense, traditional banks do have the capacity to build stronger relationships between customers and agents. As for their digital subsidiaries, despite not having a physical person, they have customer service time slots to be able to solve any doubt or problem in a personalised way.

11Onze Banc has been training its first 50 agents since 15 March 2021 to provide a personalised service to future customers, offering all the advantages of a neobank with a person-to-person service.

Lately we keep hearing the words “Km 0 products”, “digitalization” and “sustainability”. But what do these words have to do with the economy in Catalonia? What relationship does a sustainable economy have with Catalan companies and their way to help consumers to better choose the products they choose to consume?

 

The Department of the Environment of the Generalitat de Catalunya defines “km 0” or “proximity” products as those that have been produced less than 100 km away, that are seasonal, are organic (no chemicals or toxic products are used in their production) and at the same time protect the environment. As we have already experienced, COVID-19 has helped to accelerate and promote different initiatives to help small local food producers with the website Prodeca, a website promoting Catalan food. The web is organized according to the different categories of products and, at the same time, to territorial groups or regions, and features a special section of ecological products.

 

But also helps sustainability the fact that a company starts a digitalisation process, and therefore, looking at the data during 2020, this shows that 35% of Catalan companies were digitally transformed during the pandemic during that year. The main sectors that did so were services, commerce, and industry. But moreover, this has had positive consequences, because digitisation has also made them improve in efficiency and productivity.

 

But logically, the sustainable economy goes beyond consuming local products and digitalising companies. Sustainable economy affects three different areas which are the social, economic, and environmental part, well intertwined. On the environmental side, it helps to raise awareness with social campaigns that challenge us all. This leads us to encourage the purchase of environmentally friendly brands, to bet on recycling, fair trade, and second hand. But economy is related to awareness, because it also has consequences in promoting savings in homes and reducing energy consumption. In fact, in many cases, it is the small individual measures that, without much effort or cost, help us to contribute to those values of responsible consumption that end up helping to develop a more sustainable economy for everyone.

The trends are moving in this direction and can be seen in specific sectors where land and natural resources are being used more and more efficiently. For example, the wine sector, which is clearly committed to sustainability in our country, to generate business models that incorporate the circular economy and to reduce as much as possible the waste of resources. And in these models, the facilities themselves incorporate technology to optimise the use of all resources in generating products. The construction sectors are also evolving towards energy-responsible models, and this links up with people who are also increasingly looking for such options. In the end, customers move companies to evolve as individual awareness grows.

 

All the actions that we take as persons, as customers, have a great impact. In fact, if we look at trends, the economy of sharing is on the rise. Sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, and recycling existing products to create new ones, thus extending the life cycle of products, and wasting as little as possible. Using more than possessing would be the motto of all these movements and trends.

 

And it is necessary to be very conscious that sustainable economy is not achieved just by filling ourselves with products full of green labels as a sign of commitment to planet Earth. The main basis of any human action is to learn from its actions and consequences. We need to learn to know how to use the water we need, not to consume more than we can, to be reasonable, and to choose very well the product we want to buy, to be interested in knowing where that jumper we have at home comes from, the origin of that bottle of wine, or the consumption of that model of car we want to buy. Without going any further, many families are returning to a more natural lifestyle and a sustainable economy adapted to the current needs of society, both choosing rural life and improving life in the cities. 

 

We, as a new bank, also want to contribute. We want to promote a sustainable economy based on the real and specific needs of each person living in the community who has their personal circumstances. Therefore, we also want to create social sustainability. Many companies start from a sustainable economy without thinking about their customers, but it is important to incorporate the people’s side, the social side, to complete the concept of sustainable economy, which is social, economic, and environmental. 

 

Our clients are the center of the whole proposal, and therefore, what we offer must help them in their finances, to better choose their options: in short, to improve financially and economically. Thus, we intend to help our clients to choose more sustainable options and to teach them how the economy of abundance allows everyone to participate, from responsibility. And we will do it with transparency and simplicity. In the end, sustainability must make sense from economic efficiency, from individual and collective responsibility, and from the awareness that natural resources must be protected and valued.

The commitment to local purchasing is the first piece to contribute to sustainable development and this is the bet that the Catalans have made in the wake of the pandemic. A change of trend in consumption marked by a preference for local products, local businesses and social awareness

The coronavirus crisis has shaken the whole world and one of the sectors that has remained at the forefront has been the food industry which in a few months has seen how customers have changed trends in terms of products, frequency of purchase or even establishments. Although we are always hearing the phrase that nothing will ever be the same after the pandemic, what is really true is that the trend towards responsible consumption, which has already begun, will continue after the crisis, or is it just a response motivated by the exceptional nature of the moment?

Trend towards sustainable consumption

 

Studies such as that of the UPC-IRTA research group or the FHOM of the Rovira i Virgili University show that in record time there has been a change in consumer habits. According to the first study, motivated by the Department of Agriculture of the Generalitat, 19.6% of the Catalans have increased their interest in local products, therefore, the trade of proximity takes enough respect to the big surfaces. One of the motivations of users is the reduction of social interaction to avoid crowds, as occurs in hypermarkets. A decision that, beyond the health reason, also contains a personal commitment to support small businesses, a vision that more and more customers are internalizing. Social conscience and economic concern are prioritizing a consumption system that can benefit others beyond oneself, and if this trend continues beyond the pandemic, it will be one of the main positive readings that can be made.

In terms of diet, the Catalans have opted for a healthier lifestyle, increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables by 19% and prioritizing fresh food. A change that can be motivated by several causes, among which we find, the growing concern for the health of both themselves and the family, the fact of being more hours at home and, therefore, to be able to devote to the kitchen more easily; or by the frequency in which they go shopping. According to the study, 77% of the population chooses to go shopping once a week, and in most cases it is one person in the family who does the main shopping. These habits are undoubtedly very marked by teleworking and reductions in mobility and, therefore, may continue to evolve once everything is normalized again.

 

Fear is driving the growth of digital shopping

 

The pandemic has accelerated consumer trends that were already pointing towards a sustainable and more conscious preference. However, fear has been the main trigger for this situation. The fear of becoming infected has led citizens to make a more responsible purchase, to know specifically what they have to buy and where, without wasting time and avoiding crowds. Mobility restrictions have led people to stay more at home and, therefore, to increase the consumption of products and improve the quality of food. The fear of an economic crisis has conditioned daily expenses and has increased social awareness in favor of solidarity and the commitment to local commerce. Helping each other to try to mitigate this fear and learn to manage it, collectively, is important because of the uncertainty that this situation generates, because of the consequences that are still to come.

Fear, however, also has another reading, and that is that it incites to take the plunge, to reinvent oneself or die. And beyond the neighborhood support, many companies, regardless of their size, have opted for this path, reinventing themselves and approaching the customer in a different, alternative way. We are talking about online sales, home delivery, order preparation, and many other initiatives. And these have affected food companies in particular. They have carried them out, and it is precisely thanks to them that local commerce has reached many more people. It is no longer necessary to have the store under the house, technology opens a new world of possibilities available to the consumer; everything is just a click away. Buying quality, zero kilometer, ecological and proximity products is within the reach of any customer, and it is the customer who has the responsibility to internalize this model and maintain it. However, the last stage of transport is the one that will make the choices more sustainable and its logic must be vindicated in terms of common sense and favoring the local producer

From globalization to local purchasing

 

The period of globalization, which began decades ago, has led many companies in the country to relocate their production lines to countries where costs are cheaper. A decision which, in the food world, entails a significant loss of quality, but which customers have accepted as prices have become cheaper. For years, quantity, understood as everything we can buy for a specific amount, has been more important than quality. This fact not only affected the customers’ shopping basket, but also negatively affected local producers or local distribution companies, among others. There are many local producers or businesses that year after year, and crisis after crisis, have closed their doors in the face of fierce competition, both in terms of prices and resources, from large multinational companies.

A trend that seems to be changing, and that the pandemic, as has been said, has accelerated. Currently, Catalonia voice grows every year the number of producers who return to bet on organic products, sustainable production and projects where, beyond solvency, prevail ethics, responsibility. A question of collective responsibility that slowly seems to be returning to the origins where everything starts: from the field to the table.

It seems impossible to predict what future consumption habits will be. However, we are facing a society that is becoming more and more aware and where local commerce is part of our daily lives. There are many local and proximity businesses that can still be saved, and social responsibility and digitalization will have to be their allies to achieve this challenge. As the pandemic has shown, nothing is static, least of all consumer trends that are highly conditioned by the situation at any given moment. But the reading that can be derived from this change of direction is that Catalan society is committed to proximity and sustainability and that, therefore, it is committed to the future of our companies.