The economy has been slowing down, and isn’t growing as quickly as expected, said Alex Carrick, chief economist at CMD, formerly Reed Construction Data, during Thursday’s construction outlook webinar hosted by CMD. That statement was underscored when the stock market closed down, cutting the year’s gains to a measly 0.10%.

And the wobbly economy was a concern to the other top economists in the industry, Ken Simonson of the Associated General Contractors of America and Kermit Baker of the American Institute of Architects.

The construction-building picture now, going forward

Total nonresidential construction last year was more than $606 billion, up 7.1% from a year earlier, according to the Census Bureau. Leading the charge were lodging, office, and manufacturing construction projects. Total residential construction last year was $354 billion, up about 3.5% from a year earlier, led in large part by growth in multifamily construction.

And this year is off to a reasonable start as well, the economists report, citing continuing strength in multifamily housing starts, as well as power and manufacturing projects. (read more…)

A few highlights and memorable quotes from Day Three of the 2015 Milken Institute Global Conference:

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker says offering corporations a one-time tax repatriation holiday is not some kind of silver bullet that would solve the challenge of trying to get U.S. multinationals to bring their profits home. Pritzker said the repatriation holiday is only part of a more complex plan. It will be interesting to see if Pritzker feels the same way once she leaves her current job.

The person quizzing Pritzker about the repatriation holiday was CME Group Executive Chairman and President Terry Duffy; a man who knows more than a few things about financial markets. Yet, Duffy says even he has a hard time understanding why major geopolitical events like ISIS or trouble in the Ukraine no longer moves markets.

Cal-Berkeley professor Susan Graham says there is one big reason it is so hard to even define exactly what information a ‘right to privacy’ entails: “Privacy is contextual.” Graham explained that the information individuals choose to share about themselves varies depending on if they are talking to their neighbors, work colleagues, doctors, etc. (read more…)

With cybersecurity front-and-center in the board rooms and executive suites of virtually every major corporation, it stands to reason that some of the thought leaders at the 2015 Milken Institute Global Conference would have a few things to say on the topic.

Companies are starting to understand the business community has reached a “new normal” when it comes to cybersecurity, according to Brunswick Group CEO Susan Gilchrist. CEOs are becoming more engaged and are understanding they need to invest.

Ray Rothrock, chairman and CEO of cyber defense firm RedSeal, said a great deal of spending has transitioned from prevention to incident response and recovery. However, Rothrock cautioned that the solution is more complex than just boosting cybersecurity budgets. Rothrock said JPMorgan Chase is a prime example: The firm spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year on cybersecurity and it still got hit.

There are many relatively inexpensive best practices that firms can deploy to improve their cybersecurity. (read more…)

Operational risk management was on the minds of many attendees at the 42nd Annual SIFMA Operations Conference and Exhibition, held earlier this month in San Diego. Financial services firms have vastly improved their internal operational risk protocols, but one area set to attract increased scrutiny in the coming year is vendor risk management.

“You can outsource work, but you can’t outsource responsibility,” explained Thomas Ferlazzo, vice president of financial markets infrastructure at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Everyone is familiar with the story of Edward Snowden, which serves as the most famous reminder about the risk third-party vendors and their employees can represent.

Sam Chari, executive vice president and enterprise risk manager for PIMCO, reminded the audience that employees are the first line of defense. Chari urged firms to focus on training employees about what levels of risk management are expected. He explained there is a difference between teaching employees how to spot threats posed by vendors and educating them about when to escalate such threats up the risk management chain-of-command. (read more…)

The arrest last week of Navinder Sarao for his alleged involvement in the Flash Crash rekindled questions about regulators’ ability to keep up with the technological tools deployed by modern market participants. Many people wondered… How come it took 5 years for authorities to catch Sarao?

But the story about the relationship between technology and financial regulation is not entirely one-sided. During the “Digitizing Wall Street: How Technology Is Changing the Future of Finance” at the 2015 Milken Institute Global Conference this week in Beverly Hills, panelists examined the ways technology and regulation can sometimes feed off of each other.

“Regulators’ challenge is that technological innovation happens extremely quickly. So the pace of change and development in the markets is faster than regulators can keep up with,” explained NASDAQ President Adena Friedman.

However, Darryl White, the CEO of BMO Capital Markets, countered that sometimes it is the kinds of regulatory reform that banks despise the most that end up creating data that makes the banks better. (read more…)