Originally created 05/01/00

Briefcase



Violence at work worries businesses

Violence in the workplace results in three deaths daily and costs employers $36 billion annually.

So it's no surprise that workplace violence is the No. 1 security threat to businesses. According to a survey by Pinkerton, a security services company, workplace violence not only topped the list for the second year in a row, it also scored 10 percent higher than last year in importance. Concerns over Internet security jumped to second place from seventh on the Top 10 list of workplace threats.

The survey, which was mailed to corporate security professionals at Fortune 1000 companies and completed by about a third, found that most respondents are worried about internal threats. Nonetheless, 20 percent of companies do not consistently perform criminal-records checks on job applicants.

AAA issues gas watcher's guide

Record-high fuel prices have AAA working to help motorists conserve every last drop.

For the fifth time in its 98-year history, the auto club has issued a gas watcher's guide to help drivers save fuel and money. The 12-page brochure encourages motorists to rethink their day-to-day driving habits. Slowing down, avoiding sudden stops, maintaining the car well and carpooling are among the tips.

AAA previously issued fuel conservation guidelines during World War II, the two oil embargoes of the 1970s and the Gulf War in 1990. The booklet, AAA Gas Watcher's Guide, is available at AAA clubs and on the Internet at www.aaa.com/news.

Companies on lookout for graduates

Employers are wooing workers sooner than they used to.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the tight labor market has companies on a time crunch competing to recruit technically-savvy college graduates.

Some of the industries that are looking: engineering services, communications firms, companies manufacturing electrical, electronic and computer equipment, computer systems design and programming firms, financial services firms, and retail and wholesale employers.

Survey reveals surprising truths

If it seems like everyone else is outside frolicking on sunny days, you're probably wrong.

An informal survey by AccuWeather, a commercial weather service, found 63 percent of the 850 people polled work late on days when the temperature is warmer than usual.

And the concept of socking money away for a rainy day -- also wrong. Thirty-three percent reported making a stock purchase on days when it rained, compared with 18 percent who bought stock on sunny days.

It seems sunshine makes people more productive. Paying bills, cooking, gardening and cleaning the car were among the top things to do on warm days, whereas rainy days were filled with more sluggish activities, such as watching TV, shopping, surfing the Web and napping.

Students lack financial knowledge

High school students have a lot to learn about money.

At a time when Americans are taking on more responsibility for managing their own investments and are being deluged by offers for credit cards, high school seniors today know less about personal finance than graduates did three years ago, a new study has found.

Too many students do not realize the importance of saving money, and they do not understand the advantages -- and dangers -- of credit. Part of the problem is that most states do not require high schools to teach personal finance as part of their standard curriculum. And with schools coming under even more pressure to focus on basic subjects such as reading and math to prepare students for required competency tests, there is even less time for other courses such as personal finance.

Bond funds offer safer alternative

Investors who long for an upward ride on technology stocks but can't stomach the accompanying volatility are starting to take greater notice of a relatively conservative alternative known as convertible bond funds.

Many of these mutual funds, of late, are loaded with technology, biotechnology and telecommunications securities, and it shows in their results.

The small, arcane niche had an average total return of 29.7 percent in 1999 -- its best year since 1991, according to mutual fund tracker Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.

Cases of check fraud increase

This is all it takes to steal large amounts of money from you: a color printer, a laptop and a scanner.

The ability to alter, forge and replicate authentic-looking checks is easier than ever because of technological advances. A survey by KPMG of 5,000 of the country's largest companies shows that in 1994 the average loss per company was $360,000. This number increased by 86 percent in 1998 to $670,000.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency estimates that check fraud losses in 1996 were $12.6 billion, 18 times that of credit card fraud. Companies pass along these costs -- about $500 a year for every consumer in the United States.

Technology services breed success

Digital Focus is teaching old-school Fortune 500 companies new technology tricks to help them compete in the information economy.

As the Internet has evolved, so too has Digital Focus. What began five years ago as a technology tutoring company is now a multimillion-dollar systems integration company with operations across the country. Since opening its doors, Digital Focus has gone from just three employees with an initial investment of $1,500 in revenuesto 65 employees with projected revenues of $20 million by the end of the year.

The demand for Digital's services industry-wide -- marketing, strategy, design, technical implementation and integration services -- now stands at about $19.6 billion, according to Christine Overby, associate analyst at Forrester Research.