Company News

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01
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Part
01

Latest News: Macy's https://www.macys.com/

Macy’s is among the largest premier retailers with over 690 departmental stores operating in 44 different states under the nameplates Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. It has been going through some tough times recently.

HIGH INTEREST RATES

Among a plethora of reasons including the rise in loan interest rates, many retailers are applying for bankruptcy protection including large departmental stores. The high interest rates create a prohibitive situation for access to much-needed capital. Although Macy’s seems to be struggling, there has not been any news or suggestion that they might default on their debts, but if the conditions continue, Macy’s might be toppling towards filing for bankruptcy protection.

DISPOSING OF ASSETS

Macy’s recent strategy is increasing online sales and diminishing physical presence. Though this strategy might reduce operational expenses of the company and bring in the much-needed funds through leasing and selling of property it might create a diminishing brand in their customers and thus reduce sales. In order for Macy’s to keep afloat, it is trying to raise capital from selling the former I.Magnin building which has 240,000 squares feet of retail space located in San Francisco. It is also planning to “convert the remaining street-level space into shops leased out to third-party sellers”.

REDUCED DISCOUNT OFFERS

During this past Christmas, Macy’s sent circulars to their shoppers. One of the brochures sent included 125 items under a marketing campaign called Gifts We Love. While the brochure had elegant fonts and quality photography, there was no mention of any discounts. The lack of discounts offered to customers suggests that the company is struggling to keep afloat and might even lose the customers who shop for deals only.

STORE WITHIN A STORE

Macy's off-price concept shop, Backstage, will open in Massachusetts locations at the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlboro on March 24 and Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro in June, which are both " store-within-a-store models located within the malls’ existing Macy’s stores." Backstage sells goods at 20%-80% discount compared to traditional department stores. It aims to target loyal customers and attract new customers as well.

LOYALTY PROGRAM

Macy’s recently exited the multi-retailer Plenti loyalty program, which is an online marketplace that features deals from its retail partners. The reason for exiting this program after participating in it since 2015 has not yet been revealed, although, it might be to focus on their own loyalty program. The program gives their best shoppers perks such as free shipping, additional savings and earned points on every purchase. To qualify for the loyalty program, a shopper has to spend at least $1,200 annually.

DECLINE IN REVENUE

Macy’s has been posting a decline in sales over the last three years. It is having difficulties in retaining its current customers or attracting new ones. The management of Macy’s is not very positive about changing this trend in the near future.

CONCLUSION

Macy’s has been experiencing tough times resulting in the decline of revenue in the recent past. To be able to continue in business, it has been selling and leasing its properties to bring in much-needed capital.
Part
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Part
02

Latest News: ADP https://www.adp.com/

The latest news from ADP includes acquisitions and tax decisions, as well as a recent proxy war. Most of the news seems to point towards a focus in cybersecurity, profit, and keeping up with rapidly changing markets. More details can be found below.

WorkMarket

ADP has “deployed a team of cybersecurity, risk management and financial-crime specialists to WorkMarket.” This team was sent in order to look for security problems and breaches, which can affect an acquisition deal. The team went through the software maker’s technology, practices and internal policies, and “interviewed staff about monitoring for intrusions, training employees and performing other security tasks.” This kind of process is becoming very common during mergers and acquisitions since any issues can threaten intellectual property, transactions and other deals. ADP’s deployment of such a team seems to indicate that cybersecurity is an area that they are concerned with.

Tax reform

ADP raised its full-year profit and revenue forecasts in response to the recent U.S. tax reform. “The company said it expects revenue growth of 7 percent to 8 percent in fiscal 2018, compared with its earlier forecast of 6 percent to 8 percent.” ADP is one of many companies that will benefit from the changes in the tax code. They are even expected to have a lower tax bill next year. ADP presents an optimistic view of 2018, including an expected “adjusted profit growth of 12 percent to 13 percent for 2018, up from its prior forecast 5 percent to 7 percent growth.” Given that many companies are expecting a boost from the tax changes, this news is unsurprising. It does seem to indicate that ADP is concerned with increasing their profit, but it is unclear where they might desire help in this area.

Proxy War

The vast majority of the news is in regards to the proxy war between ADP and Pershing Square Capital’s Bill Ackman. Ackman attempted to put three dissident directors on the company’s board last November. His reasons for the attempt were “that the payroll and human resource management company should cut staff, integrate operations and focus more on innovation and technology.” Ackman offered suggestions for improvement, including acquiring “private equity-backed human resources provider Ceridian for about $4 billion,” which he felt would interest customers. ADP rejected all of his suggestions. Ackman also accused ADP of giving proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services non-publicly disclosed information, which ADP has denied.
Overall, Ackman’s concerns were focused primarily on ADP’s lack of innovation and technology investments. He commented in one case that they had “missed the market" by focusing more on meeting revenue guidance than developing new technology. Pershing Square Capital even went so far as to post a list of fifteen areas where ADP could improve. Some of these areas included ADP’s technology lag, despite spending $860 million on technology. The list also suggests a need for fresh board members and a need for more transparency with shareholders.
Ackman ultimately was not successful in his attempt to make changes, but said he may be back. He disputed the less than 25% support during the vote, stating it was closer to 45% if “withheld” votes had been included. Ackman seems to see this as a sign that he may have more support in the future.
In a January interview with Jim Cramer of Mad Money, ADP’s CEO Carlos Rodriguez stated there were no hard feelings over the proxy fight. However, he did not directly respond to Ackman’s accusations of inefficiency and instead pointed out ADP’s strong earnings. The CEO also seemed interested in the changing nature of the American economy, especially concerning independent contractors.
While it is unclear from the sources if ADP is indeed concerned with innovation and improving technology, Ackman’s assertions that improvement is needed might indicate an area where ADP may be struggling. Rodriguez’s interest in attracting and helping gig workers and independent contractors clearly indicates that ADP is currently concerned with this area, and may be looking for assistance.

conclusion

To wrap it up, while there is not a great deal of news around ADP in the last 6 months, there does seem to be an interest in cybersecurity. Since most of the news centered around the proxy war, the areas brought up during the fight could also be points of interest for ADP. ADP might be struggling with keeping up with rapidly changing technology and shows a clear interest in some of the emerging areas of the U.S. economy such as independent contractors.
Part
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Part
03

Latest News: Sun Products Corporation (CPG) now owned by Henkel (German CPG conglomerate): https://www.henkel-northamerica.com/brands-and-businesses/laundry-and-home-care/the-sun-products-corporation

A review of information from the past six months about the Sun Products Corporation revealed an assortment of themes, topics, and issues that may help identify the consulting/intelligence solutions the company may find valuable. Henkel, the parent company of the Sun Products Corporation, communicates about this recently acquired subsidiary through statements regarding its “North American Laundry & Home Care” division; hinting that “Sun Products” may soon be phased out and fully incorporated into Henkel. Please note that while there are branding elements and news articles that continue to speak about Sun Products Corporation many of these reports are summations of the 2016 acquisition. This report reviews subjects that might be helpful in formulating a sales pitch based on ways the company may need help, support, and research solutions. The company’s history and profile are included to provide a brief framework for the themes, topics, and issues identified in the research.

HISTORY & PROFILE

The Sun Products Corporation was acquired by Henkel in September 2016 for approximately $3.6 billion. Briefly, Sun Products was “created by Vestar Capital in 2008 through the acquisition by Hush Detergents of Unilever’s North American Fabric Care Brands.” When Vestar sold Sun Products to Henkel, it was listed as #5 of PitchBook’s top private equity exits of 2016. Prior to the acquisition, Jeffrey P. Ansell, the CEO from 2011-2016, focused the company’s efforts on reshaping its infrastructure to control for costs. This was accomplished through top talent acquisitions, streamlining the company’s portfolio, and overhauling its corporate strategies.

Although Henkel is a German company, it’s most important region is reported to be North America, and the United States generates the most sales of all countries the company serves. Popular brands sold by Sun Products include Surf, Dial, Snuggle, all [sic], Purex, and Sunlight.

The company offers three business units: Adhesive Technologies, Laundry & Home Care, and Beauty Care. Post-acquisition activities at Henkel include opening a new location in Stamford, Connecticut. This new location also represents the combining of Henkel’s Laundry & Home Care business and its Beauty Care business (in terms of location only). The new Stamford location is a 155,000-square-foot facility which was designed by Ware Malcolm, “an award-winning international design firm,” and completed in January 2018. A picture is included here, should you find yourself curious about its look and feel, or if Henkel leadership is still abuzz with excitement over its completion. There is also a noted expansion to a 27,000-square-foot facility in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Henkel leadership has strategically selected these locations in order that the scientific parts of their research can better marry the marketing side of their business. These locations are highlighted because company leadership (Martina Spinatsch, VP of R&D for the Beauty Care division) feels that “our new location in Stamford allows for optimal access to key suppliers and customers, while giving our research and development team a state-of-the-art workspace to achieve their full potential in creating and testing top quality product formulations and packages.” The new location also allows for their labs and marketing teams to better collaborate across all the company’s Beauty Care brands. The Trumbull location “includes formulation laboratories, a consumer product and fragrance evaluation center, packaging design, and two pilot plants that support production scale-up capabilities for the company’s Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care divisions.” Also, please note that Dr. Charles Crawford leads R&D for Henkel’s North American Laundry & Home Care division.

THEMES

A review of the themes present within Sun Products and/or the Henkel Laundry & Home Care business unit was conducted by reviewing company-produced materials like the latest annual report and relevant postings about and by the company. The top brands identified in 2017 for the Laundry & Home Care unit were Persil, all [sic], and Purex. Organic sales were up 2.0% from 2016 and sales overall were up by 14.8%.

Sustainable Financial Performance
Additionally, because even the most independent of subsidiaries must often align with the values of its parent company, the Henkel motivations, as listed in their annual report, might be relevant. For instance, there is a definite pride in the sales of the Laundry & Home Care division (even though Adhesive Technologies outpaced its organic sales growth and achieved a 5% rate; Beauty Care achieved 0.5%). While there is a note within Henkel’s motivations to base their entrepreneurial focus on a “family business tradition,” it is quite clear that the primary and unabashed focus is on creating and maintaining a “sustainable financial performance.” Additional priorities that contributed to these themes are growth, agility, and accelerating digitization.

Globalization of the Company
In a December 2017 interview, Dirk Holbach, Senior VP & CSCO Laundry & Home Care, noted that one of Henkel’s strategic priorities is to “outperform the competition as a globalized company with simplified operations and a highly inspired team.” The Laundry & Home Care division, prior to the acquisition of Sun Products and under Holbach’s leadership, was focused on increasing the speed and standardization of their processes and driving cost-efficiency and end-to-end optimization. While Holbach is located in the Henkel Amsterdam office, these kinds of priorities can often permeate from the top down.

Digitization
People and digitization are also common themes found in the company materials and the Holbach interview. This leader also noted that “when people are not ready to follow digitization, it will lead to disruption and a lot of sunk investment.”

TOPICS

Published topics covered by Sun Products/Henkel North America are often based on the chemicals and compounds used in their products. For instance, the Fatty Methyl Ester Sulfonate market notes that the Sun Products Corporation was a key player in this market that is set to increase due to “the rising adoption of bio-based products and favorable government policies.” Other chemical-related topics covered by the company include biosurfactants, beverage emulsions, other specific surfactants (e.g., anionic, cationic, and nonionic), and potentiometric titration for pharmaceutical, detergent, and cosmetic arenas. No other “topics” were identified for this company for the past six months.

ISSUES

Beauty Care Division
One of the issues present for Henkel North America is that it has a goal for each of its three divisions to achieve a 2-4% organic growth rate. The Beauty Care unit is the only division not pulling its proper weight. Henkel’s outlook for 2018 includes a commitment for all their business units to contribute to meeting this goal by 2020; considering the close physical proximity of Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care in the United States, it might be planned for these divisions to work very closely together (so that the success of Laundry/Home might influence the success of its Beauty Care brands).

Other Paid Consulting Services
The Sun Products Corporation is listed as one of the clients of Sterne Kessler. This is primarily a legal firm that manages international patents and trademarks. However, they are mentioned here because, in addition to legal advice and services, they also offer opinions and advice which may translate to secondary research relevant to international markets. The issue here is that there is a law firm that may be offering some secondary research.

Consumers
Sun Products brand, Snuggle, was recently provided an award-winning package design. The relevancy connected to the award's announcement is that it notes one of Sun Products’ more popular consumers: mothers who are 35-54 years-old. Knowing about this exact marketing group, while it may not be directly related to “intelligence solutions,” it may be a very good thing to know before any discussion with this brand.

Personnel
Personnel represents one of the main themes mentioned earlier by Holbach; he also mentioned a focus on supply chain. The new facilities in Connecticut (which include the Laundry & Home Care unit), as recently as three days ago, posted a help wanted ad on ZipRecruiter for a Supply Planner. Some functions of this position align well with secondary research, virtual assistance, and intelligence solutions. Below are some of the descriptive elements of the position that may be helpful in formulating a pitch:
1. “Partners with Senior Leadership to drive change and continuous improvement into the Supply Chain planning process.”
2. “Experience participating and leading large cross-functional meetings and working cross-functionally to drive supply awareness and impact.”
3. “Proven ability to model, recommend, and analyze various supply plan scenarios.”

Additionally, Glassdoor publicized a couple of interview questions from Sun Products’ leadership that may be telling in terms of what issues the company wants its employees to solve (i.e., these are the issues consulting may be able to help them with, as well):
1. Brand Manager question — “How would you improve one of our products?”
2. Assistant Brand Manager question — “What innovation did you see in the category that you thought was interesting.”

Competitors
Sun Products/Henkel North America Laundry & Home Care, although representing the #2 slot in the “North American laundry care market” has many competitors. This could be a potential area rife with issues that intelligence solutions could support. Some of their competitors in the chemicals industry:
1. AkzoNobel
2. Alfa Aesar
3. BASF Cognis
4. Chemtura Corp
5. China Factories Group Company
6. Croda International
7. Ecover
8. Emery Oleochemicals
9. Evonik Industries AG
10. Fenchem
11. Henan Surface Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
12. Jeneil Biotech
13. Jiangsu Hiaqing Biotechnology
14. Jinchang Chemical
15. Kao
16. KLK Oleo
17. KPL International
18. Lion Corporation Chemicals Division
19. MG Intobio
20. Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation
21. Pemex Chemicals
22. Proctor & Gamble Chemicals
23. Saraya
24. Soliance
25. Stepan Company
26. The Chemithon Corporation
27. Urumqi Unite Bio-Technology
28. Wilmar International, Ltd.
29. Zanyu Technology Group Co., Ltd.

Direct competitors in the soap and detergents industry:
1. "Acuity Specialty Products
2. Akzo Nobel Chemicals
3. Akzo Nobel Spg, Oralabs
4. All One God Faith
5. Betco Corporation
6. Bradford Soap International
7. Church & Dwight Co.
8. Colgate-Palmolive Company
9. Den-Mat Corporation
10. Ecolab Inc.
11. en-Mat Holdings
12. Jacobs Industries Incorporated
13. James Austin Company
14. Kik Custom Products
15. Kutol Products Company
16. Piedmont Chemical Industries
17. Rose Raining
18. Sheffield Pharmaceuticals
19. St. Bernard Soap Company
20. State Industrial Products Corporation
21. The Dial Corporation
22. The Original Bradford Soap Works
23. The Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Company
24. Vvf Illinois Services
25. Warner Chilcott Company
26. Zep Inc."

CONCLUSION

To wrap up, issues that the Sun Products Corporation/Henkel North America may need help with include its closely related beauty care brand, a large competitor base, and key personnel shortages. The themes and topics covered by the company and its materials include consumer-related marketing, globalization, digitization, supply chain, and sustaining their outstanding financial performance. Additional coverage of the company’s history and profile was provided to help frame the themes, topics, and issues covered in this report.

Part
04
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Part
04

Latest News: Amalgamated Life Insurance (Insurance) http://www.amalgamatedlife.com/

Amalgamated Life Insurance is a privately held life insurance company that is extremely focused on expanding their product offerings while building strong partnerships and increase their technical capabilities. The organization’s interest in expanding its product line, expanding its market, building partnerships, and building its technical capabilities. Based on these focuses, Amalgamated Life Insurance displays a need for market intelligence on industry trends regarding technology in the insurance industry, consumer demographics, competitive analyses, and reports on potential partners. Though reports on made the organization's strategies and growth plans clear, virtually no information was available on the company's struggles or mishap. Below is a deeper discussion of the latest news regarding Amalgamated Life Insurance’s interest and focus.

Findings

To find the most relevant and recent news reports on Amalgamated Life Insurance, a search for press releases, news articles, and industry reports were searched for in Reuters, PR Newswire, the company website, Bloomsberg, and similar media reporting websites. Information was found on Amalgamated Life Insurance's strategies and growth plans, however, none of these reports indicated an obvious struggle or need. Based on the research of Amalgamated Life Insurance Company, it is apparent the organization is going through some restructuring and seeking to further the organization’s reach in the insurance industry.

On February 5, 2018, Amalgamated Life Insurance released a press release announcing a change in leadership. According to the press release, Paul Mallen stepped into the role of President and CEO, replacing the retired David J. Walsh. Mallen explicitly stated that the first items on his agenda as President and CEO is to develop new strategic partnerships, expand the company’s product offerings, and expand its market. The report below will show Amalgamated Life Insurance’s interest in expanding a costs-saving product line, recent partnerships that help Amalgamated Life Insurance pursue those interests, and efforts to hire top talent to increase their technical capabilities. Unfortunately, more reports could not be found on any struggles or pitfalls that the company may be facing.

Areas of Interest for Amalgamated Life Insurance

I. Expanding Product Offerings and Market
Product diversification remains a keen interest for Amalgamated Life. During a press release in June 2017, Walsh announced receiving an A” rating from A.M. Best and indicated the company's strong desire for product diversification. As indicated by Mallen, the company is seeking to expand their market by continuing to cater to its clients and their plan members. In an article released by the company in February 2018, Amalgamated Life discusses its interest in catering to the working class. John Thornton, the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, reported an increased interest in creating product offerings for those have an increased likelihood of injury or illness due to age. Thornton states that this need will lead to an increased product line which already includes disability, life, and medical stop loss. Additionally, the Sales and Marketing leader indicated that their main clients are starting to express the need for a more versatile benefits package, further pushing the need for product diversification.
II. Interest in Technology and Innovation
In the February 3rd, 2018 press release that announced Mallen’s promotion, Walsh stated that Mallen’s technical expertise and vision make him a great successor of the two roles. This indicates that Amalgamated is interested in becoming more technically advanced. Despite the lack of detail from Mallen on Amalgamated Life’s specific interest, it is clear that Mallen’s technical expertise plays a key role in his capabilities to further the company’s growth. Furthermore, a search of their recent hiring practices indicated a need for top talent in web and application developers as well as system administration. Within the most recent job posting, Amalgamated Life indicated a need for a Senior Oracle Developer that has experience expanding software and is experienced with several programming languages.
III. Partnerships
Staying true to Mallen’s intention to develop strategic partnerships, Amalgamated Life Insurance has announced a partnership with Payer Matrix. The motive behind Amalgamated Life Insurance’s partnership with Payer Matrix is to address the rising costs of specialty pharmaceutical drugs by helping its clients find ways to reduce the cost of plans. Payer Matrix gives Amalgamated Life Insurance the ability to provide its clients access to a program that provides its clients’ plan members with access to specialty medications through different payer options that reduce costs. In addition to Amalgamated Life Insurance partnership with Payer Matrix, Amalgamated Life Insurance has also partnered with Health Insurance Innovations to provide quotes to compare and purchase through a streamlined application process.

Conclusion

Based on the recent articles and press releases found, Amalgamated has an extreme interest in product development, technical advancement, and building strategic partnerships. The most recent news development from Amalgamated Life Insurance reported a huge shift in leadership with Paul Mallen stepping up to the role of President and CEO. Mallen reaffirmed that the aforementioned goals would continue to be a focus for himself and the organization. These interests show a need for market intelligence on industry trends regarding technology in the insurance industry, consumer demographics, competitive analyses, and reports on potential partners.

Sources
Sources

From Part 03