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Further support for the Hamburg location

Since the beginning of the year Jens Sickendieck has been supporting the comes team at the Hamburg location as a Senior Manager. He will focus on the automotive sector and there on the automotive trade and will accompany our clients in the areas of restructuring, strategy / management and succession planning.

Jens Sickendieck has many years of experience in the automotive sector. After several years in reorganisation and restructuring consulting, he also held operational management positions in group companies.

Svenja Hürzeler joined the comes team as a consultant at the Hamburg office in mid-January.

In addition to her master's degree with a focus on restructuring and reorganisation and a final master's thesis in the preparation of an independent business review for a Munich-based company, Svenja Hürzeler worked as a manager at the Hürzeler/Zuhr Academy.

Outlook for the year 2020

After a turbulent 2019, we are looking towards to the new decade with great anticipation. We expect changes in society, economy and politics.

The coming 20s will be dominated by neo-ecology. Will it be possible to reduce the ecological footprint, halt climate change and live sustainably? Technological progress is firmly interwoven with this megatrend: e-mobility, artificial intelligence (AI) and new medical findings enable us to live longer, healthier and more comfortable lives.

Winners and losers 2020

Climate change, environmental protection and sustainability dominate business and politics. Environmental awareness has gained in importance in all social classes and will continue to grow. It is reshaping our understanding of society. New synergies between environment and health are emerging, leading us to see environmental protection as a new task for our community. These social changes are also transforming the logic of brands, marketing and markets. Climate protection and sustainability serve not only to preserve our planet, but also as a marketing strategy or as a whole market for services and products.

Sustainability is in demand. More and more companies are using the potential of this transformation and are repositioning themselves. They are dispensing with plastic packaging and using paper packaging instead. In this way, manufacturers are sending a clear signal in the fight against plastic and at the same time improving their own image. On the other hand, this has resulted in massive sales losses in the plastics industry. Furthermore, the increasing environmental awareness in the population has an impact on personal mobility in addition to consumption, forcing companies and entire industries to reposition themselves.

But it is not only on the customer side that a sustainable orientation proves to be profitable. A culture of innovation promotes the opportunities for competitiveness and future viability. If sustainability and corporate responsibility become part of the corporate culture, this creates employee satisfaction and a competitive advantage in the battle for skilled workers on the labor market. Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role, especially in technological industries that rely on young talent.

In the 1920s, the topics of digitization and industry 4.0, AI, as well as block chain and big data analytics, will also have a formative influence on the companies that have to deal with them. Automation and process optimisation continue to be the focus of attention for the majority of companies. In addition to networking, AI is becoming increasingly important in transformation. Companies can increase efficiency through robots, chatbots and voice systems.

Digitization, industry 4.0, AI, block chain and big data analytics remain key topics

The block chain will continue to increase in importance. A block chain is a decentralised database, i.e. distributed on different computers, which documents digital transactions and allows entries (chronologically and chained in blocks) to be viewed like a book. Block chains cannot be manipulated and are therefore considered a secure transaction system for the exchange of information. Traceability, consistency and speed are the advantages of block chain. But especially transparency and security are the drivers to deal with block chain in times of increasing cybercrime.

2019 was a successful year for the real estate and construction industries. The central bank's cheap money ensures that the boom will continue in 2020. However, the real estate market also poses a threat. Bundesbank Vice-President Claudia Buch warns that real estate in German cities is already overvalued by 15-30%. Since more than 50% of all loans to private households are housing loans, the real estate market could trigger a banking crisis. Because prices are expected to continue to rise, banks are relaxing credit standards. Although a credit-driven speculative dynamic is not yet foreseeable, a continuation of the zero and negative interest rate policy increases the probability of a bubble. A collapse of real estate prices and a concomitant devaluation of loan collateral on the books of banks would be the consequence. The bank liquidation fund would quickly be overstretched and the banking sector of the entire euro zone could start to totter.

The real estate boom and rising spending on infrastructure give the construction industry reason to be optimistic about the future. The presidents of the Federation of the German Construction Industry (HDB), Peter Hübner, and the Central Association of the German Construction Industry (ZDB), Reinhard Quast, are extremely positive about 2020: "All in all, we expect turnover in the construction industry to grow by 5.5% to EUR 145 billion in 2020."

While the logistics industry continues to see growing potential in the construction and consumer goods sectors, stagnation or declining demand from the automotive and chemical industries is making itself clearly felt according to the German Logistics Association (BVL). In addition, the logistics sector is also feeling the first signs of a decline in trade with China. Logistics continues to rely on foreign trade. Here, BVL expects cross-border volumes to continue to rise. BVL remains fundamentally unimpressed by trade conflicts and Brexit negotiations for 2020. Instead, it is relying on growing relations with Eastern Europe.

The German automotive industry, which appears to have already lost touch with the rest of the world, is facing major challenges. The establishment of the additional Tesla Giga-Factory will continue to strengthen Germany as an automotive location for the time being. The technological change in the automotive sector has initially hit the supplier industry harder and will lead to further consolidation in the years to come.

The topic of mobility will continue to be a determining factor in 2020. The automotive industry is in crisis and under pressure to transform, not least because of the new demands for mobility made by consumers. Autonomous driving in particular, in addition to the question of drive systems, will occupy car manufacturers in the coming years. The necessary software is already available, but the biggest hurdle here is politics.

Transportation should be environmentally friendly, i.e. as CO2-neutral as possible. Sustainability, individuality and an optimised cost position are becoming increasingly important for most customer groups. The Federal Government is constantly working out measures to reposition Germany in the field of mobility. Rail passenger transport is to be strengthened by reducing taxes on rail travel from 19% to 7%, with a corresponding reduction in ticket prices and an expansion of rail routes. In addition, the attractiveness of public transport is to be increased, for example through free use.

Rail passenger transport to be strengthened

In addition to traditional means of transport, new offers such as bicycle rental services or shuttle services must also be included in the future plans for our mobility. Under the criteria that these means of transport are permanently available and have a clear advantage over using one's own car or a taxi from a cost and environmental point of view, alternative mobility solutions are becoming increasingly popular. "Ride-pooling" providers such as CleverShuttle or Moia not only offer a more cost-effective service, but also, in conjunction with public transport, innovative solutions for transport networking in urban areas. Car-sharing offers such as SHARE Now are losing their appeal and will already be reduced this year by the operators Daimler and BMW. The car manufacturers seem to be returning to their core business and are fine-tuning promising solutions in the field of e-mobility. Some changes are also imminent in air traffic in 2020. While sales of domestic flights are declining sharply, Airbus is working on the development of the "CityAirbus", which is scheduled to start flight operations this year. The electric-powered air taxi, which resembles a helicopter, is initially to be used for local transport, but could already become the environmentally friendly alternative for domestic air travel in the coming years.

Mechanical engineering industry in crisis

The faltering global economy, trade conflicts and structural change in the automotive industry are casting their shadows on mechanical engineering and causing uneven developments in the sector, which is dominated by SMEs. For 2020, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) expects a further decline in machine production of 2%. However, this will not affect all sectors, as demand among mechanical and plant engineering companies, which primarily supply process industries and construction companies, remains very high. According to VDMA boss Carl Martin Welcker, the situation is tense for the traditional industrial equipment suppliers, who are particularly strongly represented.

But the crisis has also reached the chemical industry. Besides a fluctuating economic environment, the growing challenges in sustainability and climate protection are certainly the main reasons.

The plastics industry is one of the "victims" of climate protection and the automotive crisis. It is therefore exposed to two problems at once. On the one hand, there are the car manufacturers, who are among the most important customers of plastic products. On the other hand there is the en vogue topic of environmental protection, which will also lead to a process of change in the plastics industry. New draft laws on disposable plastic articles make it even more difficult for plastic manufacturers. The trend towards more sustainability and resource protection will lead to a decline in the industry in 2020. In addition, the idea of taxing plastic packaging, which is still in the political arena, and the stricter legal requirements to promote recycling are also causing uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the energy sector suffers from a lack of solutions and an inadequate infrastructure for a successful energy turnaround. From 2021 onwards, the CO2 price (25 €/t CO2) will not only increase prices at filling stations, but electricity and gas prices are also expected to rise. Concerns about competitiveness go hand in hand with the introduction of these additional costs, especially for SMEs. However, Germany has long since not been prepared for the energy turnaround in terms of infrastructure. A forecast by the Energy Economics Institute of the University of Cologne (EWI) says that Germany's electricity consumption will rise by 25% within the next decade. According to the current status and probably also in the next 10 years, the increased demand for electricity will not be fully covered by renewable energies, which currently account for just 43% of the current energy supply in Germany. We will therefore remain dependent on gas supplies from Russia. Germany is still in a quandary when it comes to the energy turnaround.

The energy turnaround has stalled

Political discussions will continue to be a major source of uncertainty in 2020. A slowly growing global economy, continuing protectionism, the Brexit negotiations in Great Britain and new elections in the USA: In addition to these uncertainties, the increasing tensions in the Middle East will also have a considerable influence on the capital markets and the development of the oil price, which will continue to be subject to fluctuations in 2020. As an export nation, Germany is particularly vulnerable because no other country has more trading partners and is thus dependent on global world trade. If customs duties on European cars are actually imposed, not only the automotive industry but the entire German economy will fly off the rails.

All in all, the German economy will continue to grow in the coming year thanks to isolated robust sectors and private consumption as the mainstay of the economy, which accounts for around 52% of economic output. However, solutions are needed as quickly as possible to master the growing challenges and to be able to react quickly to innovations, change processes and industry shifts. Due to the demographic development, a relapse into mass unemployment as in previous crises is not to be expected, as companies will do their utmost to retain their workforce so that a veritable crisis in the labour market is not in sight.

Discount battle on Black Friday and Cyber Monday - consequences of the price war for the retail trade

Black Friday
Discount battles in the retail trade

Whether online or in the stationary trade: the American trend of discount shopping for the traditional Thanksgiving celebration has long since conquered Europe and thus also Germany. We are talking about Black Friday and the following Cyber Monday, the shopping days with the highest turnover in German retail. The Handelsverband Deutschland (HDE) forecasts a new record turnover of € 3.1 billion.  This is equivalent to a sales growth of 22%.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, Christmas – the buyer quickly loses the overview in the discount rain. It's a psychological game with the customer. Discounts have a verifiable effect on the brain and thus on the customer's decision to buy. But discounts do not only have positive effects. The radical discounting of goods at certain predictable points in time has an effect on the customer's buying behaviour: the bargain hunter and the cheapskate wait exactly for this recurring discount, in order to access it quickly and withdraw again for the rest of the year.

The regular customer, on the other hand, doubts the credibility or the quality of the dealers due to the strongly fluctuating prices or even feels cheated.

Traders who encounter campaigns like Black Friday without a good pricing strategy can only lose.

On today's Black Friday, buyers will again be lured with great discounts: Buyers supposedly save up to 90% on Black Friday. Dealer giants such as Amazon or Zalando have been advertising with particularly low prices since the beginning of the week. The customer rubs his hands and is in the starting blocks – ready to make as many good deals as possible. But the decisive factor is not the high turnover, but the profit. Dealers face a problem: if they don't offer discounts or don't keep up with competitors' discounts, they lose their customers and the corresponding turnover to the competition. Those who do not calculate their discounts well in the fight for the best deals, however, lose not only in the Christmas business, but also their profit margin due to too low prices. The success of a discount campaign for the retailer therefore depends on a good pricing strategy. From an economic point of view, therefore, providing an entire assortment with a blanket discount is the most unwise strategic move – unless the strategy envisages raising prices beforehand and offering "sham discounts" that deceive the customers. Here the dealer must ask himself which philosophy he represents and what value the customer's trust has for him. The danger of lasting damage to the company is probably as great as the chance of success. The question arises as to the development of these discount days. Where is the discount battle to go? How will stationary retailers in particular deal with the cost pressure?

Singles Day in China sets the example: instead of advertising with ever larger discounts, THE Shopping Day of the Year is staged as an event that conveys a message: Dear Singles, give yourselves a present. Customers automatically associate a special experience with this day. Especially via television they are emotionally picked up and animated to buy, similar to teleshopping. Although promotional prices are also used here, they apparently play a secondary role.

The German retail trade should also explore similar strategies and create an emotional link to the experience that goes beyond discounts. These stimuli make the shopping experience individual and the visit to the store attractive, can significantly influence the customer experience and contribute to the positive shopping experience and thus to customer loyalty.

The increasing importance of strategic versus operational leadership

Organizations and individuals - we are all confronted with the effects of the digital revolution. We enjoy positive effects and opportunities, but how do we deal with the challenges and what are the drivers for successful change in companies?

A look at nature shows that a successful strategy in dealing with radical change involves a healthy mixture of resistance and adaptation. Adapting the corporate strategy both internally and externally thus becomes an elementary task for managers. They become pioneers and designers for leadership, process and relationship quality. Resilience plays an important role here. But how do you adapt a corporate strategy that includes structures which promote resilience?

Talcott Parsons' AGIL scheme can support you in this:

A - "Adaptation": reacting quickly and efficiently to changes

G - "GoalAttainment": in spite of flexible ways not losing sight of the goals and measuring their achievement

I - "Integration": integrating new developments into business models and processes

L - "Latent Pattern Maintenance": Living Trial & Error

Our author, Dr. Bernhard Becker, together with Silvia Braumandl, Christian Jacobs and Verena Riedinger, has published an article on this subject in the Zeitschrift für Corporate Governance (04.19). It can be downloaded here.

Leadership

Staff excursion 2019

Jour fixe
Drivers' safety training
A visit to the Meyer Werft

A review of our employee trip to Papenburg on the last weekend of October: It got really hot at comes. And that doesn't refer to the weather, but our tyre temperatures. Because on the test tracks of Automotive Testing Papenburg (ATP) we really put the pedal to the metal. On Saturday, Meyer Werft left a lasting impression.

This year's trip started with a Jour fixe. In addition to new tools, the focus was on current legal issues relating to restructuring. We ended the JF with a case study. Afterwards we started off our actual excursion in a cosy bar in Papenburg.

Friday was really exciting. All day long we were able to put our vehicles, but above all ourselves, to the test on ATP's tracks. How long is the braking distance during an emergency stop with aquaplaning or even on ice? What is it like to drift around bends on wet roads? How does my vehicle behave when the wheels drive on different road conditions? How does my reaction time and motor function change when I am distracted? And how do I get out of my car when it has overturned? We were able to find out the answers to all these questions ourselves, and in the process we produced a lot of adrenaline.

After "fast" on Friday it became big and impressive on Saturday: our destination was the Meyer shipyard in Papenburg. During the factory tour we could first dive into the history of the shipyard and then marvel at the cruise giants under construction. It was impressive to see how the huge cruise ships are built, which have as many leisure possibilities and space to offer as a small town.

This trip will remain in our memory. But we are already looking forward to what awaits us next year!

Financial partners must rethink in times of climate change

The topic determines the width of the current media landscape. Many economic participants are concerned with the consequences for their companies. Investment decisions are not always made solely with a view to increasing profits or optimising returns.

First enterprises are ready to do without a part of profits in order to make production procedures or products greener.

In Germany, where for decades the implementation of investment measures has been characterised by a high level of involvement of external funds, not only the companies but also the currently crisis-ridden banks and savings banks play a decisive role in the implementation of investments.  

The relevant systems of credit institutions, however, essentially focus on the return and equity ratios of past years when assessing a company.

The conscious decision to forego returns in order to produce in an environmentally conscious and resource-conserving manner can lead to discussions with lenders in individual cases, as long as return ratios and thus ultimately equity development are affected.

Well off are the companies that, following these trends, can also afford to limit their returns. Broadly speaking, however, it will also depend on the understanding of financial partners and the responsible use of rating systems to achieve sustainable improvements in the emission of climate-damaging emissions by companies.

Umdenken in Zeiten des Klimawandels

As in many cases in the past, the state supports the various possible investment measures with loans and security through deficiency guarantees. Before applying for a loan, it is all the more important for the individual companies to reach an agreement with their banks on the results of their rating procedures.

If the investment decision is driven by the fact that official conditions must be fulfilled, it is usually too late for parts of the market participants to obtain money from the credit institutions.

In all cases, comes uses the extensive knowledge from around 1,000 mandates to create understanding and transparency between companies and banks for the respective objectives.

comes keeps growing

Pia Frohberg

Pia Frohberg

Since September, Ms. Frohberg has been working in the marketing, university marketing and events department at the Oldenburg location. This includes in particular the online presence of comes in the social media as well as the cross-location coordination and organisation of events organised by comes. She is also involved in our joint venture partner Hase & Igel.

Previously, Ms. Frohberg worked as a Junior Marketing and Sales Manager in the sports industry.

Sebastian Geppert

Sebastian Geppert

In October this year, Mr. Geppert joined our Hamburg location as a consultant for the areas of restructuring and insolvency management.

During his previous activities as treasury manager at various medium-sized companies, his areas of responsibility included liquidity planning, risk management and reporting.

 

Rasmus Kriest

Rasmus Kriest

Since October 2019, Mr. Kriest has been supporting the Berlin office in digitization issues in the area of "Shaping Success".

Prior to this, he worked parallel to an interdisciplinary course of studies, primarily in the practical implementation of solutions in the areas of digital collaboration and new work.

 

Why you should take advantage of a Financial Performance Management Software for your company

As an entrepreneur, you need reliable figures on which to base your business planning and strategic decisions. The complex Excel spreadsheets you keep for this are often error-prone and confusing. In addition, it takes a lot of time and money to keep all tables up to date.

Through an integrated and independently applicable Financial Performance Management Software solution, which enables your company to recognize its own growth potential at a glance and to manage the financial controlling, the processes in your company are accelerated, while at the same time fewer errors can occur. Possible sources of error in the database are identified early on, so that only validated figures are reported. This creates the basis for holistic, future-oriented corporate management and growth.

In LucaNet's Financial Performance Management software, you collect all your data in one database. The software bundles the processes from consolidation, planning, reporting and analysis in a fully automated application and makes validated data available for your management consolidation, legal consolidation, budget planning with integrated financial planning or for management reporting and reporting. You do not need any IT knowledge to use LucaNet's Financial Performance Management software. The software is fast, easy to adapt and secure to use.

Financial Performance Management
LucaNet

Our certified consultants René Labahn and Dr. Jan Handzlik, with over 10 years of experience in the application, will accompany you during the implementation of the software in your company. In addition to comprehensive consulting, we support you in the preparation of resilient planning and consolidated financial statements, train your employees and support you with our know-how for optimizations.

We will also be happy to provide you with monthly controlling tasks or help you implement LucaNet's financial performance management software or optimize existing applications.