Welcome to March! Also shout out to the women who are founding TOGETHXR. I’ll admit, I wanted to write about them. But I’m really not a sports person. And then I couldn’t decide which section the story should belong to. So here’s the honorable mention instead.

The Business Buzz

Keep the cookies in the jar. This week Google clarified its plan to stop supporting cookies in Chrome by early 2022. (Quick tech note: cookies are little bits of data that websites send to your browser and that stick around when you leave the site. They’re what make it possible for you to see the same ad over and over again on different sites). The move was originally announced in January 2020 (and then rapidly eclipsed by much bigger news). Since then, Google has been working on methods that will still enable targeted ads but with better privacy layers for internet surfers. And one of the big clarifications provided this week was the reassurance that the tech giant will not build a cookie replacement for itself. Instead, Google created its “Privacy Sandbox” and started testing. And it seems to have found a viable solution. Rather than marking your individual site visits and clicks, Google will group users together based on browsing habits. And those groups will see ads targeted to them as a demographic. This method will only require Google to store basic group information, instead of an individual’s data — thereby increasing privacy. 

Google’s grouping method — which it calls “Federated Learning of Cohorts” — isn’t the only solution to the privacy vs targeted advertising problem that’s been proposed. There’s Unified ID 2.0, which uses hashed and encrypted email addresses from consenting users to track behaviors. But Google stated that it doesn’t view this as a “sustainable” solution in the long term. Although the departure from cookies may make targeted advertising more difficult, most firms have expressed approval for what Google’s doing. With conversations about data privacy becoming more and more prevalent (and with the likelihood of regulation increasing), savvy firms are preparing to shift how they get the right ads to the right audience. Google’s announcement is just another step on that road.

 Citigroup hopes to call it a comeback. A woman now runs a major US bank for the first time. And she’s got quite the job ahead of her. Jane Fraser took over as CEO of Citigroup on Monday. She’s worked at the bank in various roles since 2004, so she brings a deep knowledge of how the firm works. And she’s going to need it considering that Citigroup still hasn’t recuperated from the 2008 financial crisis and that it’s facing regulatory scrutiny over its risk systems. In fact, the current overhaul of the risk system is exactly what got Fraser the job. Previous CEO Michael Corbat felt that such a large project would be better handled by a successor who could see it through from start to finish. Fraser has stated that she views the regulatory issues as a chance to transform and improve the bank’s operations. 

The Private Market

The highest valued private fintech company in Europe. Klarna secured a $1 billion funding round this week. That makes its post-money valuation an eye popping $31 billion. The company is best known for its buy now, pay later service — and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Retailers partner with Klarna to offer their customers more flexibility in how they pay for an item. The buy now, pay later model breaks payments into smaller installments that stretch out over weeks or months. The service is meant to appeal to consumers who don’t want to use credit cards but who also don’t want to miss out on purchases. And it’s gaining traction. Major retailers like Macy’s and Gap are starting to offer buy now, pay later options. Of course, Klarna wants to do more than just help people buy things. It’s also working to become a fully fledged bank that can challenge more institutional firms. Currently, it offers licensed banking services in Sweden and Germany.

Green new debt. A new kind of bond is gaining popularity globally — nature bonds. There are a few different forms that have emerged in recent years. Sustainability bonds work off the idea of a company agreeing to a set of performance goals — like reducing fossil fuels investments, using a certain percentage of renewable energy, increasing recycling — and then paying bondholders extra if they fail to meet those goals. Green bonds are more restrictive in that the money gained from their sale has to go directly to environmentally beneficial projects (sustainability bonds can go towards other ESG goals, like diversity). Now, countries are considering how they can participate in this growing trend. One idea is an “Eden bond” — countries would use the funds gained by their sale to buy up land and allow it to stay wild or become wild again. Once the bond matured, the land would remain in the ownership of the public sector. And sovereign nature bonds are similar to sustainability bonds in that countries would set environmental goals and then pay less interest if they meet those goals or more if they fail. With biodiversity as a focus of the upcoming U.N. session in May, some are expecting nature bonds to be part of the proposed solutions.

The Fun Stuff

What’s your favorite color? If you’re like me and you’re seriously missing the art museum and gallery experience, then spend some time with Google’s color explorer feature. I don’t want to spoil the fun by explaining it — so just give a whirl.