• Malaysia To Be The Second Country In Southeast Asia To Introduce The Digital Tax
    The upcoming Budget 2019 slated to be announced on 2 November is exceptionally important to provide direction for the country. More importantly, in the direction and support on the growth of the digital sector in Malaysia. This was confirmed by […] The post Malaysia To Be The Second Country In Southeast Asia To Introduce The Digital Tax appeared first on ValueWalk.
  • Here's how fintech is taking over the world — and what's coming next
    Digital disruption is affecting every aspect of the fintech industry. Over the past five years, fintech has established itself as a fundamental part of the global financial services ecosystem. Fintech startups have raised, and continue to raise, billions of dollars annually, pushing incumbent financial institutions to get in on the action. Legacy players have begun using fintech to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving financial services landscape. So what's next? Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, explores recent innovations in the fintech space as well as what might be coming in the future in our brand new exclusive slide deck, The Future of Fintech: How Fintech Is Taking Over The World and What Comes Next. To get your copy of this free slide deck, click here.Join the conversation about this story »
  • Protected: Quick Tips For Starting A Hedge Fund
    There is no excerpt because this is a protected post. The post Protected: Quick Tips For Starting A Hedge Fund appeared first on ValueWalk.
  • Investors including Andreessen Horowitz just made a $300 million bet that a startup can take on healthcare giants at caring for elderly Americans
    Devoted Health, a startup that wants to reinvent how we care for aging Americans, just raised $300 million ahead of its launch of health plans for 2019 in parts of Florida.  Devoted's founders have tons of healthcare experience, but the company will have to compete for customers with some of the biggest health insurers in the US. The funding will be used to fuel the plans through 2019, as well as help Devoted build up its technology. "Now we can sprint," DJ Patil, Devoted's head of technology told Business Insider.   A startup that wants to reinvent the way we take care of seniors in America just raised hundreds of millions as it gears up to launch its new plans in 2019.  Devoted Health on Tuesday said that it had raised $300 million in a series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz, bringing its total funding to $369 million in funding. The company is based in Waltham, Massachusetts, but it'll initially offer Medicare Advantage plans in parts of Florida, starting next year.Devoted is the latest firm to enter Medicare Advantage, the private side of the government-funded Medicare program for seniors. It'll have to compete for customers immediately with big, entrenched rivals like Humana, UnitedHealth Group and soon-to-be-merged CVS Health and Aetna. UnitedHealth on Tuesday said that it covers 4.9 million Medicare Advantage members, 12 percent more than a year earlier. About 19 million people were covered by Medicare Advantage last year. Oscar Health, known for its individual plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges, said in August that it plans to move into the Medicare Advantage market after raising $375 million from Alphabet. Clover Health, which was founded in 2014, has been offering insurance plans in four states, with plans to expand into three more in 2019Devoted was founded in 2017 by brothers Ed and Todd Park. Prior to Devoted, Todd co-founded health IT company Athenahealth and served as chief technology officer of the US during the Obama administration. Ed, who serves as Devoted’s CEO, was formerly chief technology officer and later chief operating officer at Athenahealth.The company's plans might look a bit different from traditional insurance in that Devoted plans to do more than pay for visits to doctors and hospitals. It's also hiring nurses and other employees aimed at keeping seniors healthier and out of the hospital. Because health insurers are in charge of paying for healthcare, the companies tend to know what's going on with a particular patient: have they been in for a check-up, or have they had a recent trip to the emergency room? Knowing that, the insurer — in this case Devoted — can clue in the other parts of the system so that the primary care doctor knows when his or her patient has been in the hospital and can follow up with them, for example.  To do that however, the Devoted team had to build out its own technology to process claims as well as build out its networks of doctors that it can work with. The latest funding round is being used to build out the technology to help them do that.  "Now we can sprint," DJ Patil, Devoted's head of technology told Business Insider.  A growing Medicare Advantage market Medicare Advantage, the private version of the government health insurance program for the elderly and some disabled people, has been steadily growing. As of 2017, 33% of people on Medicare were in one of these plans. Individuals can typically choose to enroll in either Traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans.Medicare Advantage works like private insurance does for those under 65. It's designed to allow people to shop around and choose among different plans, which may restrict which doctors and hospitals individuals can use. The US government in turn pays the insurers a certain amount for each person who is covered, creating an incentive for the insurer to try to keep that person healthy and out of the hospital. If the insurer does a good job of caring for its customer at a low cost, it can keep the extra funds as profits. "Medicare Advantage is today the simplest way to align financial incentives across the various parties in the system," Venrock partner Bryan Roberts, who's an investor and board member at Devoted told Business Insider. "Therefore, you can drive better efficiency in the healthcare system."  Vijay Pande, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said a key reason his firm led Devoted's fundraising was because of the implications plans like Devoted's could have beyond Florida, and even beyond just Americans 65 and older.  "The future could look like Medicare Advantage for all," Pande said.  See also:  A VC spoke to 30 founders and investors about the $350 billion elder-care market and found 3 reasons why starting a company in the market is a challenge Oscar Health just raised $375 million from Alphabet US investors are pouring millions into a healthcare company that doesn't take insurance and lists its prices like a 'McDonald's menu' One Medical, a fast-growing startup that just raised $350 million to reinvent how you visit your doctor, is betting it can 'blow this thing out nationally' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: NASA footage shows the 'nightmare' Hurricane Florence
  • The Saudi government reportedly targeted and punished several dissidents after McKinsey identified them in a report
    The Saudi government targeted and punished several dissidents after the American consultancy firm McKinsey & Company identified them in a report as critics, The New York Times reported. McKinsey reportedly created a nine-page report gauging public response to Saudi austerity measures announced in 2015, and found that three dissidents had a major influence over negative coverage on Twitter. One of the dissidents was arrested, another was hacked and had two brothers arrested, and a third, anonymous user's account was shut down, The Times reported. Several dissidents were targeted by the Saudi government after a report from the American consultancy firm McKinsey & Company identified them as having a heavy influence over social-media criticisms of Saudi austerity measures, according to The New York Times. McKinsey reportedly created a nine-page report measuring the public's response to austerity measures announced in 2015, and found that there was twice as much coverage of the measures on Twitter than on other news platforms, and that the coverage was overwhelmingly negative. The McKinsey report, obtained by The Times, found that three people were particularly influential on Twitter, including Khalid al-Alkami, a writer; Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi critic who lives in Canada; and an anonymous user identified as Ahmad. Following McKinsey's report, Alkami was reportedly arrested; two of Abdulaziz's brothers were arrested, and the government hacked Abdulaziz's phone; and the Ahmad account was shuttered. A McKinsey spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider that the report was not created for the Saudi government, used publicly available information, and was intended primarily for an "internal" audience. "We were never commissioned by any authority in Saudi Arabia to prepare a report of any kind or in any form to identify critics. In our work with governments, McKinsey has not and never would engage in any work that seeks to target individuals based on their views," the spokesman said. He continued: "We are horrified by the possibility, however remote, that it could have been misused in any way. At this point, we have seen no evidence to suggest that it was misused, but we are urgently investigating how and with whom the document was shared." The news comes amid international uproar over the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom the Saudi government acknowledged Friday was killed in a consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi had frequently criticized the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his columns. Khashoggi's death, which the Saudis have said occurred after a physical altercation, has highlighted the Saudi government's attempts to quash dissent and silence critics, and shone a spotlight on the companies and governments who have aided the regime.SEE ALSO: Here's everything we know about the troubling disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside the Trump 'MAGA' hat factory
  • A former Googler and Facebook exec says a simple shift in mindset can help you land the raise you want
    Libby Leffler, a former Facebook executive and Google employee, is now the vice president of membership at SoFi. Leffler recommends that, before you ask your boss for a raise, you put yourself in their shoes. What are they going to be thinking and feeling when you start negotiating? She also reminds people that they can negotiate for things other than a salary bump, like benefits. "Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes is really important." This is true of life in general, but it's especially true when you're asking your boss for a raise. According to Libby Leffler, who is the vice president of membership at personal finance company SoFi as well as a former Googler and Facebook executive, the first thing to do when you're planning to petition your manager for a salary bump is to "consider where you're coming from and where they're coming from." For example: Are they trying to manage an already-tight budget for the division? Are they under strict orders only to grant raises for knock-it-out-of-the-park performance? Once you understand their goals and constraints, you can adjust your pitch accordingly. Leffler's advice recalls insights from Daniel Shapiro, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program, and author of "Negotiating the Nonnegotiable." Shapiro previously told Business Insider that it can be helpful to play the role of your boss while a friend or colleague plays you. The idea is to think and feel how your boss might be thinking and feeling — and to then tailor your strategy so it really resonates with them. Remember, too, Leffler said: You can negotiate for outcomes other than financial ones. "Compensation is whatever these things mean to you," Leffler said. It can be flexible hours, extra vacation time, equity, or bonus pay. Figure out what exactly you want (and what your boss might be most likely to concede). Leffler's most important piece of wisdom? "Practice, practice, practice your pitch before walking in." She'd never advocate going in cold. Leffler said, "You want to take all these steps in advance to really set yourself up for success."SEE ALSO: A former exec at Google and Facebook doesn't just expect job candidates to negotiate their offer — she hopes they will Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for a week like a Navy SEAL
  • The CEO of Silicon Valley DNA testing startup 23andMe shares the health product she hopes to sell next
    Anne Wojcicki, the CEO and founder of Silicon Valley's most popular genetics testing startup, 23andMe, said this week that she hopes the company expands its current health offering lineup. 23andMe, which made headlines recently on the heels of a new $300-million partnership with drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, currently offers health screenings for some of the genes involved in breast cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. On Tuesday, Wojcicki said she hopes to add a new health offering that looks at how you process  medications including those for depression. Albertsons pharmacies and gene testing startup Color Genomics currently offer that kind of test for $250-$750, but many scientists say it's not worth the money. Anne Wojcicki, the CEO and founder of popular Silicon Valley gene testing company 23andMe, doesn't feel like the company is currently offering what she called a "complete product." That's because the current gene testing kit — which includes health screenings for some of the genes involved in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and breast cancer — does not include a test that looks at how you process medications including those for depression. Those DNA tests, which assess genes involved in the break down of antidepressants in the body, are currently being offered by psychiatrists and Albertsons pharmacists in three major cities at a hefty price tag of $750. Just last month, another Silicon Valley genetics testing startup called Color Genomics began offering the test as part of its $250 kits.  And on Tuesday at a conference organized by Rock Health, one of Silicon Valley's premier health-tech funding groups, Wojcicki said she hoped her company could include that kind of test in its product lineup soon. But many scientists feel the tests don't offer a clear benefit to people and in some cases are not worth the money. Among other issues, the tests may give conflicting results to the same patient for the same medication and don't tell providers which specific medication is best, according to experts. 'When we can bring pharmacogenomics back, then we have a complete product back' In the early days of 23andMe, the company included a test for depression medications in its lineup of health offerings, Wojcicki said. But in 2013, the Food and Drug Administration forced the company to stop selling those products and get federal approval on the grounds that the tests could be misinterpreted as health advice. The company was allowed to continue selling the genealogy component of its kit, which looks at ancestry. Last year, the FDA gave the company the green light to again sell some of its health screenings. On the heels of that decision, 23andMe rolled out a limited selection of some of its original products. The most recent addition, unveiled in March, is a test for some of the genes involved in the risk of developing breast cancer, also known as BRCA genes. Now, the company is only missing one of those original health products, Wojcicki said: a test for depression medications, also called pharmacogenomics. "The only one we don’t have back yet is pharmacogenomics. We used to have that and we’d like to have that one come back," Wojcicki said on Tuesday at a panel discussion at the Rock Health Summit in San Francisco. “When we can bring pharmacogenomics back, then we have a complete product back," she said. It remains to be seen how the company would roll out such a test. Because 23andMe sells its tests directly to people (they can be purchased online and at a selection of drug stores), it would need to get FDA approval before selling an additional health product. The test could be incorporated into the existing health lineup, which currently includes tests for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and breast cancer for $199, or it could be sold as a stand-alone test. Color Genomics chose to incorporate its new pharmacogenomics product into its existing $250 test. Unlike 23andMe, which sells its services directly to consumers, Color requires people to order their tests through a medical provider. In addition, the company mandates talking with a professional genetics counselor and a clinical pharmacist to avoid potentially dangerous misinterpretations of the results. Genomind and Assurex, the two companies who offer a standalone pharmacogenomics product, sell the test through psychiatrists and some pharmacists for $750. Wojcicki did not provide further details on how much the test — should the company ultimately choose to offer it — would cost or when it would be available. A company representative also declined to offer Business Insider more information about the test. But Wojcicki said she saw the pharmacogenomics service as part of the company's overall mission to help empower customers with more data about themselves and prevent negative health outcomes when possible. "I think one thing genetics can do is help prevent a lot of early deaths," Wojcicki said.SEE ALSO: DNA tests that cost as much as $750 claim to tell you which antidepressant is best for you, but scientists say they're not worth the money DON'T MISS: DNA-testing company 23andMe has signed a $300 million deal with a drug giant. Here's how to delete your data if that freaks you out. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How whales became the largest animals ever
  • Trump to pull US out of nuclear treaty with Russia
    US president accuses Moscow of breaching Cold War missile pact
  • How fintechs are upending the mortgage space and creating opportunities for retail banks
    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Mortgages are valuable for retail banks, but they're also complex products. In the UK alone, mortgages account for almost 60% of retail banks' profits. But mortgage lending can be a complicated process — it involves estate agents, appraisers, and conveyance agents. This complexity has resulted in major consumer pain points, like a lack of understanding of mortgages, inconvenient access channels, and difficulty switching providers. In an increasingly digital landscape, tech-savvy consumers are starting to demand simpler ways to take out mortgages, and legacy providers are suffering. In the US, the top three incumbent lenders together captured about 45% of the overall mortgage market in 2011; they hold just 24% in 2017. But a new class of mortgage-focused startups have developed a range of business models to help incumbents update this valuable product for the digital age. Their strategies vary between geographies: In countries like the US and UK, where homeownership is culturally important, they help incumbents keep consumers interested in taking out home loans. Meanwhile, in countries like Germany and Switzerland, where people prefer renting, they help incumbents attract new mortgage customers. Some incumbents are already partnering with these players, while others have opted to launch in-house initiatives. Each strategy has its pros and cons, but incumbents must adopt an approach to avoid losing relevancy and market share. There are still some fundamental problems in the insurance market that present obstacles to innovation — for both startups and incumbents. But there are ways to overcome them while making mortgages more attractive for consumers and improving returns for lenders. In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence looks at the fundamental problems dogging the current mortgage process and examines why these flaws are becoming impossible for incumbent mortgage providers to ignore. It also outlines the types of fintechs stepping in to drive innovation in the mortgage space, some current efforts by incumbent banks, and hurdles still standing in the way of large-scale change in the mortgage industry, as well as what can be done about them. Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:  Mortgages are among retail banks' most profitable products, but these lenders have been slow to adapt mortgages to a digital economy. This has created pain points in the customer journey, like inconvenient access channels, and difficulty switching providers. Ignoring these pain points is no longer an option for incumbents. The rise of alternative, digital-only mortgage firms is putting them under increasing pressure to make mortgages more attractive. Fintech startups have detected an opportunity in incumbents’ slowness to innovate, and have developed several strategies to help them, like broadening their distribution channels, improving customer relationships, providing attractive front-ends, and making their back-ends more efficient. Some incumbents have instead chosen to innovate their mortgage processes in-house. There are pros and cons to both strategies, which incumbents should weigh in order to add the most value for customers and their own businesses.  In full, the report: Examines the flaws in the mortgage status quo that are upsetting consumers and dampening returns for lenders. Discusses why incumbent lenders can't afford to delay innovating any longer around this product. Outlines different ways mortgage fintechs are breathing new life into this product, including by helping incumbents. Looks at some mortgage efforts already underway by incumbent lenders, and some considerations that should guide their projects. Gives an overview of hurdles still standing in the way of large-scale change in the mortgage space, and how they can be overcome. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More Purchase & download the full report from our research store  Join the conversation about this story »
  • This doctor left Oscar to start a co-working space for therapists — we got a sneak peek at the stylish offices
    Non-invasive, simple, and personal. That's how Alma wants to remake the experience of going to see a therapist.  Stepping out of the elevator on the 21st floor at 515 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, you might just think you're headed into a meeting at any other office space housing startups of various sizes. Inside, however, the floor is home to Alma, a co-working space geared specifically toward therapists looking for a place to meet with their patients. Alma, which has raised $4.5 million in seed funding, opened its first location on October 10.  Therapists who become Alma members can use the space to hold individual therapy meetings and group sessions.  Before starting Alma, CEO Harry Ritter was vice president of care delivery at health insurer Oscar Health. There, he helped create 'the doctor's office of the future.' Oscar had worked to bring mental health professionals into the space, but Ritter, a physician by training, noticed that they faced key challenges: the therapists often practiced on their own and space to meet with patients was hard to find and secure for therapists with patchwork schedules. So he created Alma to fix that. So far, Alma's signed on about 30 therapists, and it has the capacity to support around 115 providers. Take a look inside the practice, where succulents and calming spaces abound. SEE ALSO: Take a look inside Johnson & Johnson's new startup incubator in NYC's SoHo neighborhood, that feels more like a rustic-chic coffee shop with jewel-toned couches Alma is a membership-based community for mental health providers, which include therapists as well as nutritionists and acupuncturists. Through a monthly membership fee, Alma provides the physical space they might need, but therapists can set their own rates for patients. Getting off the elevator, there are plants and wood paneling to greet you before entering the practice. Patients are given a card from Alma, and they can show that to the doorman to avoid the sometimes intimidating process of having to check in with an ID card. Once they get up to the 21st floor, they can ring the doorbell to be let in. Walking in, the first thing you come across is a waiting area for clients. There are mugs for tea, couches, and bookshelves in this space. The couches were designed to face in the same direction to bypass any uncomfortable feelings patients might have encountering other people while waiting for their appointment to begin. See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • Your opinion matters. Become a BI Insider today!
    As a dedicated Business Insider reader, your opinion is important to us. That's why we'd like to invite you to join our BI Insiders program. The BI Insiders are an exclusive online community of Business Insider readers who like to: Share their opinions about Business Insider and a variety of topics from technology to trending stories to finance, politics, sports, and other subjects. Receive sneak peeks of what we learn and happenings at Business Insider. Earn points toward free stuff. So join us today by clicking on the link below and apply to become a BI Insider. You'll be asked to complete a short survey, after which you will receive a notification within 24 hours to let you know if you've qualified. Apply to be a BI Insider now >> And today we're giving you one more reason to join: Apply to be a BI Insider, and we'll give you immediate access to an exclusive slide deck from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research subscription service. Currently sold for $495, "The Future of Fintech Slide Deck" can be yours today FREE. In this deck, we explore what's next for fintech, how it will reach new heights, and the developments that will help it get there. Apply to be a BI Insider now and get your FREE slide deck today >>Join the conversation about this story »
  • Saudis criticised over account of Khashoggi’s death
    West questions contradictions in Riyadh’s version of events
  • The card rewards strategies issuers can use to win top-of-wallet status while maximizing returns
    US consumer debt is climbing to pre-recession levels. Competition driven by consumer card appetite in the US is hurting issuer returns. Business Insider Intelligence obtained proprietary survey data to understand which credit card features consumers value most, and what issuers should focus on to earn top-of-wallet status. Two-thirds of respondents cited rewards-related offerings as the leading driver of primary card status. US consumers are hungry for credit card rewards. Seventy-five percent now have a rewards program attached to their most preferred card, up from 58% two years ago. And with consumer debt practically hitting pre-recession levels, it doesn't look like anyone’s planning to slow their spending. Credit card issuers can’t become complacent, however. In fact, now is the time for them to be rethinking their rewards programs; The rush to satisfy consumer card appetite and capture an engaged customer base has saturated the market with lucrative signup bonuses and rewards — and now banks are hurting for returns. But backpedaling on rewards to make up this deficit is not an option. A new report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, found that rewards are the most important feature a card issuer can offer — more valuable than any other factors combined. What do consumers value most in a rewards card? The full report, which cites proprietary consumer survey data, found that 35% of respondents rated the types of rewards offered by their card as the primary determinant in “top-of-wallet” status. Airline travel, discounted hotels, gift card access, and cash back are among the most popular types of rewards — and understanding what each bank’s customers find most enticing will be critical for card issuers exploring new ways to attract them. The second most popular rewards feature, cited by 25% of consumers, is a high rewards rate, which could manifest as the amount of rewards earned per dollar spent or the value users can redeem per points earned. Rewards are even more important for millennials While those two rewards-related features are the top determinants for card holders across demographics, millennials also selected account opening bonuses as their third most important determinant — driving home the importance of rewards for younger consumers. And since the majority of millennials do not currently have credit cards, this consideration will be critical for issuers looking to convert them. Want to learn more? The Consumer Cards Report from Business Insider Intelligence leverages exclusive consumer survey data to outline how banks can bring their returns back up, while making credit cards as valuable as possible for consumers. In full, the report highlights the most popular card features among consumers, the factors hindering bank returns, three key areas to build next-generation rewards, and what card issuers should focus on to become - and remain - their customers’ favorite credit card. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More Purchase & download the full report from our research store Join the conversation about this story »
  • How insurtech startups are leveraging technology to cash in on the life insurance market
    This is a preview of the Future of Life Insurance (2018) research report from Business Insider's premium research service. To get more information on the trends in life insurance and insurtechs, click here. Current subscribers can read the report here. Life insurance is a fundamentally hard product to sell, as it requires people to think about their deaths and promises no immediate rewards. The way life insurance is sold makes it doubly unattractive, as consumers have to go through an paper-based, lengthy application process and a bothersome medical exam, with little guidance from their providers, and often at high cost. The problem is worsened by incumbent insurers' failure to innovate, even as personalized products and streamlined services proliferate in other areas of finance. Now, though, a small yet growing niche of insurtech startups is now finding different ways to digitize life insurance to make it more appealing. Life insurance-focused startups are tackling a number of problems with the status quo, including a lack of consumer understanding of the product, inconvenient application processes, weak customer loyalty, and inefficient data management and processing. Some are focused on improving products for consumers, while others are helping insurers to modernize. These startups are giving incumbents a way to revamp this product, either by partnering these companies or using their technology. But these life insurtechs are shaking up a strictly regulated and sensitive product, and their solutions carry regulatory and ethical risks. That means such companies, and any insurers using their solutions, must take measures to make sure these new services add value to the industry. Nevertheless, life insurtechs are likely to spearhead change in this space, with incumbents following suit. Such startups will set new industry standards and consumer expectations around this complex product. That, in turn, will serve as a catalyst for innovation among legacy insurers. In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence looks at the major players in the global life insurance industry, the problems (for consumers and providers) in the life insurance status quo, how insurtechs are revamping the life insurance space and giving the product a new lease of life, best practices for both startup and incumbent life insurance innovators, and what the future of the life insurance space will look like as fintech makes its presence felt in it. Here are some of the key takeaways from the report: The need for innovation in life insurance has never been clearer — life insurance sales on the whole are slowing, and policy ownership is hitting record lows. A lack of consumer understanding, inconvenient application procedures, low customer loyalty, and old IT systems are denting providers' returns. Life insurtechs are looking to revamp the space in two key ways: Consumer-focused players focus on eliminating the pain points that put consumers off buying life insurance coverage, while insurer-focused startups offer ways to improve processes and operations for the providers that still dominate much of the market. There are some risks attached to bringing technologies not typically used in insurance into this tightly-regulated space, but life insurers can adopt best practices to mitigate them and reap rewards, like: getting full customer approval to use their data, hiring tech-savvy compliance teams, and prioritize customer education about the product. Startups, meanwhile, should pick incumbent partners carefully. Incumbents’ activity in life insurance innovation to date has been limited to implementing some shiny new technologies, largely on the front-end. If life insurance incumbents want to stay relevant, they'll have to invest in the core systems needed to give them the freedom to innovate and introduce changes on their own terms. In full, the report: Looks at the world's biggest and most innovative life insurance markets, and trends they're setting for the space. Explains the major inefficiencies embedded in the life insurance status quo, and the problems they're causing providers and consumers. Outlines the two main strategies life insurtechs are adopting to drive change in this market, for the benefit of buyers and sellers of life insurance. Discusses the best practices life insurance incumbents and startups should adopt to steer clear of the risks still attached to applying emerging technologies to such a tightly regulated product. Gives an overview of what the rise of life insurtechs has in store for the life insurance space going forward. Companies included in this report: Ladder, Haven Life, Getsurance, Tomorrow, Fabric, Atidot, AllLife, Royal London, Polly,, Legal & General, Vitality, Discovery, John Hancock, Dai-ichi Life. Get The Future of Life Insurance Report Join the conversation about this story »
  • How developments in the credit scoring space are opening up new opportunities for incumbent lenders
    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Traditional consumer lenders, like banks and credit unions, have historically served segments of the population they can conduct robust risk assessments on.  But the data they collect from these groups is limited and typically impossible to analyze in real time, preventing them from confirming the accuracy of their assessments. This restricts the demographic segments they can safely serve, and creates an inconvenient experience for potential borrowers. This has hobbled legacy lenders at a time when alternative lending firms — which pride themselves on precision risk assessment and financial inclusion — are taking off. These rivals are starting to break into a huge untapped borrower market — some 64 million US consumers don’t have a conventional FICO score, and 10 million of those are prime or near-prime consumers.  Incumbents can get in on the game by tapping into new developments in the credit scoring space, like psychometric scoring, which use data besides borrowing history to measure creditworthiness, and by integrating new technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), to improve the accuracy of conventional risk assessment methods. There are still risks attached to these cutting-edge methods and technologies, but if incumbent lenders are aware of them, and take steps to mitigate them, the payoff from implementing these new tools can be huge. In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence looks at the drivers encouraging incumbent lenders to consider adopting new credit scoring methods or innovative technologies that make the lending process more seamless. It also outlines what incumbents stand to gain from adopting alt scoring, the types of models on the market to choose from, the risks still appended to onboarding them, and recommendations on how to mitigate them to add real value to legacy lenders’ businesses. Here are some of the key takeaways from the report: Alternative lenders are disrupting the credit scoring space in two key ways: by using alternate credit scoring methods and integrating new technologies. There's a range of methods and technologies incumbent lenders can choose to implement. But the solutions that are best suited for a particular lender will vary based on its specific business needs, the demographics it aims to attract, and its jurisdiction's regulatory landscape. If executed correctly, the payoff can be huge for incumbent lenders. In addition to boosting financial inclusion and enabling lenders to tap into new demographic segments and markets, new methods and technologies can improve returns on existing demographics. However, disruptions carry both short- and long-term risks that both fintechs and incumbent lenders must navigate. These include inbuilt biases, fraud, conflict with third-party data policies, and poor financial literacy among underserved demographics. In full, the report: Outlines the drivers behind incumbent lenders' growing awareness and adoption of credit scoring disruptions. Looks at the current range of methods and technologies changing the face of credit scoring. Explains what incumbent lenders stand to gain by adopting these disruptions. Discusses the risks still attached to these disruptions, and how incumbents can manage them to reap the rewards. Gives an overview of what the credit scoring landscape of the future will look like, and how incumbents can prepare themselves to stay relevant. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More Purchase & download the full report from our research store   Join the conversation about this story »
  • How technology giants are using their reach and digital prowess to take on traditional banks (GOOG, GOOGL, AAPL, FB, MSFT, AMZN)
    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. As headlines like "Amazon Is Secretly Becoming a Bank" and "Google Wants to Be a Bank Now" increasingly crop up in the news, tech giants are coming into the spotlight as the next potential payments disruptors. And with these firms' broad reach and hefty resources, the possibility that they'll descend on financial services is a hard narrative to shy away from. To mitigate potential losses under this scenario, traditional players will have to grasp not only the level of the threat, but also which segments of the financial industry are most at risk of disruption. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, collectively known as GAFAM, are already active investors in the payments industry, and they're slowly encroaching on legacy providers' core offerings. Each of these five companies has introduced features and offerings that have the potential to disrupt specific parts of the banking system. And we expect a plethora of additional offerings to hit the market as these companies look to build out their ecosystems. However, it remains unlikely that any of these firms will become full-blown banks or entirely upend incumbents, due to regulatory barriers and the entrenched positions of big banks. Moreover, consumers still trust traditional firms first and foremost with their financial data. That means these companies are far more likely to rattle the cages of incumbents than they are to cause their total demise. That said, these companies have a proven capacity to revolutionize industries, making their entry into payments critical to watch for legacy players, especially as their moves demonstrate an intent to be a disruptive force in the industry. In this report, Business Insider Intelligence analyzes the current impact GAFAM is having on the financial services industry, and the strengths and weaknesses of each firm's position in payments. We also discuss the barriers these companies face as they push deeper into financial services, as well as which aspects of a bank’s core business provide the biggest opportunities for the new players. Lastly, we assess these companies' future potential in payments and the broader financial services industry, and examine ways incumbents can manage the threat. Here are some of the key takeaways:  GAFAM has been actively encroaching on the payments space. This includes offering mobile wallets for in-store and online payments, peer-to-peer money transfer services, and even loans for small- and medium-sized businesses.  These firms' broad reach and hefty resources have put them in a strong position to take on legacy players. GAFAM has products that have been adopted by millions of users, and in some cases, billions. They also have access to a tremendous amount of capital — Apple, Microsoft, and Google had over $400 billion combined in cash at the end of 2016. However, these firms have to overcome major barriers to compete against legacy players, which includes regulation and trust. For example, 60% of respondents to a Business Insider Intelligence survey stated that they trust their bank most to provide them financial services.  As a result of these barriers, it's more likely that GAFAM will make a dent in very specific segments of the financial services industry rather than completely disrupt it.  In full, the report: Explains what GAFAM's done to place themselves in a position to be the next potential payments disruptors. Breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each company as it relates to their ability to build out an extensive financial ecosystem.  Looks at the potential barriers that could limit GAFAM's ability to capture a significant share of the payments industry from traditional players.  Identifies what strategies legacy players will have to deploy to mitigate the threat by these tech giants. Get The Tech Companies in Payments Report   Join the conversation about this story »
  • The hits just keep coming for Facebook — here's why things could continue to get worse (FB)
    Facebook has had to contend with an endless string of scandals and fiascos this year. Those problems are an indication that it has a deeper issue to deal with, said Pivotal Research Group financial analyst Brian Wieser in a new note. The company has underinvested in putting in place the kinds of systems that would prevent such mishaps, Weiser said. That's a good reason to sell the stock, he said. Facebook's bad year seems to keep getting worse. Brian Wieser doesn't expect it to improve anytime soon, and thinks that's a good reason to sell the company's stock. "We continue to see these issues as representative of systemic problems impacting the company," Wieser, a financial analyst who covers Facebook for Pivotal Research Group, said in a research note on Wednesday. He continued: "We're not doubting they [can] be fixed, but the fact that problems keep emerging reinforces our view that the company is not as in control of its business as it needs to be."  Facebook has been pummeled by a seemingly endless string of fiascos, scandals, and public-relations nightmares this year. Just on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook has been spotty about taking down pages from fake veterans groups, while USA Today reported that Facebook was removing ads that mentioned African-Americans and other minority groups, citing them as "political," when the ads weren't actually promoting political causes or candidates. Meanwhile, in the last week, Facebook acknowledged that a security breach was worse than it had disclosed before, at least in terms of the data that was compromised, noted Wieser. It was also hit with a claim that it knowingly defrauded advertisers about the amount of time users were spending watching videos on its site. Investors should expect more to come, Wieser suggested in his note. Facebook simply hasn't put in place systems that might anticipate problems and correct them before they came to light or caused damage to the company or its users, he said. "The underlying problem that we see is that the company has been so focused on growth at any cost that it has failed to sufficiently invest in [such] processes," he said. Facebook's clean-up effort will come at a price Facebook has started to try to clean up and better police its site. It's tweaked the way its News Feed works to emphasize posts from other users, rather than those from organizations. It's started to label political ads and force the backers of such ads to be identified. And it's in the process of doubling its team of content moderators to 20,000 people. Those steps are likely going to come with significant costs for the company, Wieser said. Those costs will likely weigh down its future earnings, but still may not be the end of its misery. "As problems are fixed, costs will rise, possibly faster than the company has anticipated (if only because the company is slow to acknowledge problems requiring fixing)," he said. "And then other problems with more material commercial consequences might still come to light." But Facebook faces an even bigger threat than having to spend more money to clean up its messes, Wieser said. The growth in the digital advertising market is likely to slow, putting a crimp on it longer term prospects. In his note, Wieser's reiterated his $131 price target for Facebook's stock. The company's shares closed regular trading Wednesday at $159.42, down 64 cents or 0.4%. The stock is down 10% in the year to date. Now read: The Facebook hack that exposed 30 million accounts shows we're going to be dealing with the consequences of its 'Move Fast' motto for years to come Hackers stole millions of Facebook users’ personal data — here’s why you should be worried Facebook’s privacy 'bait and switch' confirms your worst fears about its unstoppable advertising impulses The departure of Instagram's cofounders is a bad thing for Facebook — but it could be even worse for the rest of us SEE ALSO: Facebook is taking on Tinder with the official launch of its dating service — but it's only in Colombia for now Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Apple's entire iPhone XS event in 8 minutes
  • You don't need to be rich to get a prenup — here's how much you should expect to pay
    How much does a prenup cost? Typically, prenups cost around $2,500, but can cost more if you spend a while haggling out various issues. The cost of a prenup depends on where you live, what you're protecting, who your attorney is, and how long the negotiations take. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to be rich to get a prenup. Regardless of how much they have in assets, more millennials are signing on the dotted line before saying "I do" thanks to the several benefits of prenups.  But do you need to be rich to be able to afford a prenup? Maybe, maybe not. The cost of a prenup is typically $2,500, according to US News & World Report. Estate-planning attorney Ann-Margaret Carrozza told LearnVest couples can expect to pay $1,200 to $2,400 — but that's "if your finances are straightforward." The cost of a prenup depends on where you live. In places with a higher cost of living, like major urban cities, you can expect to shell out a bit more for a prenup. For example, the cost to negotiate and draft a prenup in Manhattan can range from $7,500 to $10,000 per party, Kelly Frawley and Emily Pollock, partners in the Matrimonial and Family Law Department at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, told Business Insider. But besides location, there are a number of other factors that can affect the cost of a prenup. Max Berger, wealth strategist regional manager at PNC Wealth Management, told Business Insider he's seen the cost of negotiating and drafting prenuptial agreements range from three-figure fees to high five-figure fees. "It all depends on what you are protecting, if the negotiations are contentious, the quality of counsel you select, and the client's own socio-economic level," Berger, who is based in McLean, Virginia, said. He added: "Costs vary widely geographically, but also based on the practice and reputation of the attorney drafting. That said, it is likely that you and your spouse-to-be should each prepare to spend a similar amount on a prenuptial as you would for your foundational estate planning documents (trusts, wills, powers of attorney, etc…)." Prenups increase in cost the more you haggle with your partner Keep in mind that you're likely to be on clock with the attorney — a prenup is rarely negotiated on a flat fee, Berger said. "There are far too many variables, and the risk of negotiations dragging out is a reason an attorney will want to charge you on an hourly basis." The more you haggle, the more hours you'll end up paying for. If you haven't discussed your expectations of what you want in the prenup beforehand, or you convey a different message to your counsel than what was previously discussed, this will make the prenup process take longer than expected, explain Frawley and Pollock. Negotiations can also be prolonged, they said, if the opposing counsel doesn't focus their practice in the matrimonial and family area because they aren't as familiar with some standard provisions and courtesies. According to Berger, negotiating around sensitive areas like inheritance for children from a prior marriage, alimony obligations, and reasons for fault-based claims such as infidelity can cause an otherwise friendly negotiation to go sideways. There are also less emotional and more technical issues that can prolong haggling, Berger said, like tax issues — how you'll file income taxes as a married couple or how you'll split gifts, for example. "These are examples of important issues if you are affected by them, but there is little passion about them," he said. "Unless they are left unaddressed and you or your heirs are left to fight over the mess you left." Complex issues also eat up time Other costly issues could be complex issues in your own affairs, or your family's, according to Berger. For example: You own a business and want to protect interest in said business. "Your business partners probably don't want your ex-spouse as a business partner," Berger said. "Then you and your attorney will be spending some face time thinking through what could go wrong and how to keep that from happening." "Also, where there are existing complex arrangements like trusts, LLCs, and partnerships that protect wealth and save taxes — that may need to be revealed to your future spouse, and it may be something they want to talk through with you, with counsel present, naturally," he added. Is the cost worth it? That's up to you. "You have to decide how important it is to protect what you want to protect, and what that is worth to you," Berger said. "Depending on your circumstances, though, the prenup may be the most important estate planning document you sign in your life." In Berger's opinion, a prenup is priceless. "If you want to pay less, you may sacrifice quality — although paying more doesn't necessarily guarantee quality," he said.SEE ALSO: 3 reasons why you should consider getting a prenup DON'T MISS: Prenups aren't just for the rich or famous — more millennials are signing them before getting married, and you probably should too Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside the Trump 'MAGA' hat factory
  • BlackRock is banking on a business that could reach $12 trillion in the next five years, according to its CEO (BLK)
    Exchange-traded funds’ assets could jump from $4.7 trillion this year to $12 trillion in 2023, according to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. BlackRock's booming iShares exchange-traded fund business helped boost the firm's earnings during the third quarter.  BlackRock is betting on the explosive growth of exchange-traded funds, an asset class that has already propelled the firm to become the world's largest asset manager.  The ETF market, which includes $4.7 trillion worldwide in assets, could jump to $12 trillion in the next five years, CEO Larry Fink said on the firm's earnings call on Tuesday. Fink echoed these remarks from a report published by the firm earlier this year.  BlackRock's booming iShares exchange-traded fund business helped boost the firm's earnings during the quarter, as institutional investors, meanwhile, pulled money out of the markets. iShares, a business that comprises about 30% of the firm's assets under management, had net inflows of $33.7 billion during the quarter. iShares assets totaled $1.9 trillion, up from $1.6 trillion in the year-ago period.  Low-cost, passively managed funds have gained popularity in recent years, as they make it easier for investors to move in and out of the market.  In the last quarter, iShares benefitted from Fidelity’s decision to triple the number of commission-free iShares available. That change resulted in the most iShares inflows in August in the five years of Fidelity and BlackRock’s partnership, chief financial officer Gary Shedlin said on Tuesday’s earnings call. "I believe this is a really important trend for all the ETF industry, and I also believe it's a very important trend for the advancement of pools of money for retirement," Shedlin said.  In a May paper, the firm said it expects ETF growth to be concentrated in the US and Europe, driven by investors’ cost sensitivity, search for non-correlated returns, changes in fee structure and lack of bond market liquidity. Overall, BlackRock managed $6.4 trillion in assets at the end of the third quarter, up 8% from the year-ago period. See also: There’s a mismatch at big US investment firms on the importance of AI, and it could highlight a level of ‘complacency’ Ex-Morgan Stanley rainmaker Greg Fleming's new firm is putting in place 'the building blocks' to reach $100 billion in assets — and it's just made its biggest move yet Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years
  • A wave of senior departures, lost market share, and a 20% drop in fees: A dismal year in investment banking at Bank of America (BAC)
    Bank of America Merrill Lynch's investment banking woes continue to mount. While overall profits in the third-quarter soared 32% to $7.2 billion, investment banking fees in the firm's Global Banking division fell 20% to $643 million. It was the continuation of a dismal year for the unit, which has lost market share to its top rivals and dropped in the league tables. The bank has also experienced a wave of senior departures, with more managing director exits in investment banking since 2017 than any of its US competitors, according to a report. "This is about renewing our focus and reenergizing our teams," CFO Paul Donofrio said on Monday. Investment banking was one of the few sore spots in an otherwise strong third-quarter earnings report for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. While overall profits in the third-quarter soared 32% to $7.2 billion, investment banking fees in the firm's Global Banking division dropped 20% to $643 million.  It was the continuation of a dismal year for the unit, which for the first nine months of 2017 saw fees dip 20% from $2.7 billion to $2.1 billion. JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup reported earnings Friday and saw smaller investment banking declines of 1% and 8% for the quarter, respectively.  In earnings calls on Monday with the media and analysts, Bank of America top executives said the division isn't living up to its potential. "I know we can do better. I came from investment banking. I know they've built a great business, they have great bankers. We have one of the best platforms on the planet," CFO Paul Donofrio said. "This is about renewing our focus and reenergizing our teams." While investment banking comprises a much smaller slice of Bank of America's business than its powerhouse consumer retail division — which reported $3.1 billion in profits in the quarter — the firm is a perennial a top-three player on global dealmaking league tables. It has slipped to fourth thus far in 2018, losing market share while rivals have made significant gains, according to data from Dealogic. The firm's share in global investment banking fees dropped to 5.7% — down from 6% in 2016 and 2017 — while JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all posted gains.  The decline has happened amid a bumper year for mergers-and-acquisitions, with a record $3.1 trillion in announced deals in the first three quarters. There's no single explanation for the investment banking drop-off, though many cite a too-conservative approach, which grew even more risk averse following the $292 million loss on a margin loan involving South African retailer Steinhoff International in the fourth quarter of 2017.  The firm's leaders noted the episodic nature of dealmaking, and the misfortune of having huge deals fall through, as Bank of America did with the potential $34 billion Comcast-21st Century Fox deal, which crumbled in July after Disney swooped in with a higher bid.  Some have questioned leadership at the top. Outgoing corporate and investment banking chief Christian Meissner, and his lieutenant and head of investment banking Diego De Giorgi, have taken heat for allegedly creating factions and alienating some bankers.  It's unclear whether that's to blame for senior bankers jumping ship, but Bank of America has experienced more churn than its US competitors in investment banking. The bank lost 28 managing directors in investment banking to other banks in 2017 and the first half of 2018, according to data from a top Wall Street headhunting firm. Among those losses are Aaron Packles, co-head of US financial institutions banking, who left for Jefferies, and Bill Frauenhofer, head of global semiconductors banking, who left for Morgan Stanley. By contrast, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs lost 13 MDs during that span and Morgan Stanley lost 22, according to the report.  That tally doesn't include departures to the buy-side, corporations, or out of the industry, such as capital markets chief A.J. Murphy, who left in May to private-equity firm Silver Lake, or Anwar Zakkour, the global head of technology banking, who departed in January.  A Bank of America spokesman noted that the investment bank has hired 49 MDs since 2017.  Executives said Monday they were confident in their deal pipeline and that the business would rebound, a turnaround effort that will be spearheaded by Matthew Koder, the president of the firm's Asia-Pacific operations and Meissner's replacement. "We know we can get our fair share out of that business," CEO Brian Moynihan said on the earnings call with analysts. "We can do better and we'll just keep pushing away at it."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years
  • Wall Street research firm Autonomous is embroiled in a lawsuit over claims of gender-pay discrimination and retaliation — and it's getting uglier
    The boutique equity-research firm Autonomous Research is embroiled in a lawsuit by a high-ranking female partner over claims of gender-pay discrimination and retaliation. Erin Baskett, a managing partner as well as CFO and chief compliance officer of the firm's US office, alleges she was paid significantly less than male peers. Baskett, who continues to work at the firm, also claims that when she raised these complaints, as well as concerns regarding what she alleges were regulatory and compliance lapses, senior executives retaliated against her. Autonomous denies any wrongdoing in the matter. After contentious legal arguments, in which a court dismissed some of Baskett’s claims, the case is now moving forward to the next phase of litigation. Both parties have sent firm-wide emails since the latest court decision conveying their side of the story. Another Wall Street firm has found itself in a heated court battle over allegations of sexism. Autonomous Research, a global research firm based out of London that specializes in financial stocks, is embroiled in a legal fight with a high-ranking female partner over claims of gender-pay discrimination and retaliation — and the battle is getting uglier. At the heart of the conflict is the allegation by Erin Baskett, a managing partner who is also the firm's chief compliance officer and chief financial officer in the US office, that she was routinely paid significantly less than male peers. Baskett, who filed suit against the company and several senior executives in federal court nearly a year ago, alleges that after she raised concerns over the pay discrepancy, as well as what she alleges were compliance lapses with regulators, her claims were not taken seriously and senior executives began a "hostile and open campaign of retaliation against Ms. Baskett to force her out of the firm," according to her complaint. Autonomous CEO Erick Davis told Business Insider, "In addition to believing strongly we've done nothing wrong, we believe we'll be vindicated through the courts, if necessary." He added that the firm had an open relationship with FINRA and that the regulator had levied no fines or sanctions against the firm. Founded in 2009, Autonomous is considered a top independent research shop, ranked 10th in quality in the US by Institutional Investor and sixth in Europe. The firm, which has a staff of under 90 globally, is reportedly in talks to sell to the investment manager AllianceBernstein for $110 million, according to Financial News. This isn't the only high-profile court fight this year over allegations of sexism by a Wall Street firm. Earlier this year, the hedge fund giant Point72 Asset Management was sued by Lauren Bonner, the head of talent analytics at the fund, over her claims of gender-pay discrimination and a hostile work environment — a lawsuit that was put on hold in July after a judge sent it to private arbitration. Baskett and Bonner are represented by the law firm Wigdor. Baskett, who first filed her suit in November, has continued to stay on at her job amid an acrimonious legal fight, which a judge ruled two weeks ago would proceed to the next phase of litigation. Baskett's allegations are detailed, complicated, and lengthy (the complaint runs 46 pages), but here are some of the key allegations from her complaint: • Baskett joined the London-based Autonomous as a managing partner in 2012 to open up and build out the firm's first US office in New York City. • She set up compliance in the New York office and had enough success that she was asked in 2014 to additionally oversee compliance for the London office. Later in 2014, she was tasked with running compliance in the firm's new Hong Kong office. She ran compliance globally in 2015. • In addition to taking on more responsibilities, her work was commended and lauded in performance reviews. • Baskett said she was underpaid compared with male colleagues — even those with less experience and less responsibility. • She said she was paid 28% less than the suggested base salary for all partners, that a male managing partner with the same job was paid four times as much in total compensation in 2013, and that another "similarly-situated" partner earned 10 times as much as her that year. • Male partners who started at the firm after her were paid two and a half to three times as much as Baskett in annual base salary, she said. • Despite raising the issue with management as early as 2013, Baskett said her compensation had continued to lag that of male peers. • Baskett began reporting what she alleges were regulatory lapses in recent years, which she says were often ignored or met with hostility by senior management. • In late 2015 and early 2016, Baskett was demoted and replaced as global CCO by a female colleague with less experience and who lacked the necessary regulatory license. • She says she wasn't provided a satisfactory rationale for the demotion and was ultimately told by the London office's CFO, Jonathan Firkins, that it was done to "teach you a lesson." • Baskett claims the gender discrimination wasn't limited to her case and that gender-pay disparities are systemic at Autonomous. That's the thrust of Baskett's side of the story. She claims she's continued to face what she perceives as hostile and demeaning treatment by senior management since filing the suit — a claim Autonomous denies. Thus far in court, Autonomous' legal strategy has been to argue that the case should be dismissed out of hand because Baskett, as a partner and member of management, is an owner rather than an employee of the firm and thus isn't entitled to discrimination protection. Baskett has responded to that legal argument with her own, saying that she signed an "at will" employment contract, that she holds less than 1% in equity that is unvested and revocable, and that she earns no percentage of the company's annual profits. A US district judge a little over two weeks ago denied most of Autonomous' motions to dismiss the claims at this time, sending the case toward the evidence-sharing discovery phase. The judge threw out one of Baskett's claims, a whistle-blower retaliation argument made under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, noting that her regulatory complaints related to the firm's "internal structure rather than fraud committed by a public company or on its shareholders." After a year of litigation, the saga doesn't appear close to a conclusion, and it's poised to get even uglier. Because all the parties still work at the firm together, tensions haven't abated. And apart from the battle in the courts, a separate internal public-relations battle is ongoing as well. "It’s gotten a lot more hostile," Baskett told Business Insider. Davis says that's not the case. "We categorically deny any harassing or intimidating behavior or activity," Davis told Business Insider. "We don't stand for that as a partnership. We fully deny that that has happened or is happening." Both Davis and Baskett have sent firm-wide emails about the case since the judge's recent decision, communicating their side of the story and interpretation of the latest developments to employees. The parties are scheduled to meet in court this week to discuss next steps.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years
  • Goldman Sachs's bond trading unit is still trying to find its way — and it represents a key challenge for new CEO David Solomon (GS)
    Goldman's fixed-income, currencies and commodities unit, once a high-flyer that's been humbled in recent years, is still searching for its footing after missing analyst estimates in the third quarter. Turning around the business has been a key priority for new CEO David Solomon.  Goldman Sachs' fixed income sales business has gone through four different global coheads heads in the last three years. After the global head announced his retirement last week, the unit will no longer have an executive in that role.  If Goldman Sachs' third-quarter results are any indication, the bank's investors may be hoping that the firm can bring its investment banking playbook to its struggling fixed income division. The bank reported $1.3 billion in revenue fom the unit, missing analyst estimates and leaving some to wonder how the division, once a Wall Street darling, would again find its footing. Meanwhile, the investment banking division that Solomon ran before becoming president in December 2016 exceeded estimates and helped the firm beat profit forecasts.  Chris Kotowski, an analyst at Oppenheimer, said fixed income trading was his "main complaint" about Goldman's earnings. "Peers reported mixed results too, but this is a bit below average," he said in an analyst note.  The challenge for Solomon will be to bring his winning formula over to the securities division. Goldman insiders say Solomon is likely to take a more client-friendly approach within the trading unit, which has often preferred complex, more episodic transactions for hedge funds that command higher fees rather than more vanilla products that are lower margin and preferred by corporations.  In recent years, Goldman has tried to transform its business by trying to court large companies and asset management firms as clients. It's a strategy Solomon executed well in the investment banking division, where he gained a reputation for bringing "the whole firm" to bear on a relationship. In other words, making sure clients had access to whatever Goldman product or service they might need. The struggles in the FICC business have shown in the sales leadership, which has cycled through four global coheads in the last three years. It announced new leadership again last week as it tries to sustain a recovery in revenue from bond trading, with John Willian, who had served as the banks' top fixed income salesperson, retiring from Goldman after being appointed to the job running global sales in 2016. He was appointed alongside Jim Esposito, who has since ascended to cohead of the securities division, following the departures of previous global coheads Dalinc Ariburnu and Tom Cornacchia, who left in quick succession.  The bank has made some headway since then. After a tumultuous 2017 in which the firm saw its fixed income revenue drop precipitously compared to peers and faced questions from analysts about its strategic direction, it posted a 45% surge in the business during the second quarter. But that optimism was muted, with the third quarter declining 10% over last year.  In the first half of the year, Goldman saw its global fixed income ranking climb to No. 3 behind JPMorgan and Citi, according to industry tracker Coalition. It had previously been ranked in the No. 4 to No. 6 bucket. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years
  • Benjamin Graham: Combing The Market For Attractive Preferred Stocks
    If you’re looking for value stocks, and exclusive access to value-focused hedge fund managers, check out ValueWalk’s exclusive value newsletter, Hidden Value Stocks. This is part of a series of a selection of articles written by Benjamin Graham between 1919 […] The post Benjamin Graham: Combing The Market For Attractive Preferred Stocks appeared first on ValueWalk.
  • The head of tech at one of the world’s largest consulting firms says the way businesses are piling into AI is different than anything they’ve ever seen
    Artificial intelligence is the most important technology trend today, said Paul Daugherty, the chief technology and innovation officer at giant consulting firm Accenture. Companies are adopting it more rapidly and broadly than any previous technology trend, he said. It's being used to drive efficiency and to better tailor products for customers. But many companies are unprepared for it or have unrealistic expectations, he said. Artificial intelligence, according to Paul Daugherty, is overhyped, many of the expectations for it are unrealistic, and most companies and their workers are unprepared for it. At the same time, he says, it's the biggest and most important trend in technology today, will likely remain so for the next 10 to 20 years, and will profoundly change businesses around the world. "We call it the alpha trend," Daugherty told Business Insider in an interview this week. He continued: "I don't want to be accused of hyping it more, but it is a big deal in terms of its impact." Daugherty is in a position to know. He's the chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture, the giant consulting firm that counts more than three fourths of the Fortune Global 500 as its customers. As such, Daugherty leads the firm's effort to help clients identify, embrace, and integrate critical new technologies. Every year, he and his team put together a list of the top technology trends in business. At the top of the list right now — and likely for many years to come — is AI, he said. AI is being adopted by companies in every kind of business — that's different than other tech AI is remarkable for lots of reasons, but among them is how it's being adopted and by whom, Daugherty said. With previous trends, such as e-commerce or mobile apps or the cloud, the technology tended to be adopted quickly by only a handful of companies or a smattering of industries or in only a few countries around the world, he said. The companies on the cutting edge of the mobile phone trend tended to be banking and financial services firms, for example, while retailers tended to be the first ones to adopt e-commerce. What's changed with AI is just how rapidly and broadly companies and industries globally are adopting it and related technologies, such as machine learning and automation, Daugherty said. Accenture has never seen interest among its clients or business grow this quickly with any other technology trend, he said. And instead of the interest being focused on a particular industry, it ranges from everything from the retail segment to utilities, he said. "What we're seeing with AI is very different. It's very broad, immediate adoption," he said. He continued: "It's the fastest growing technology trend we've ever seen." But there are still some unrealistic expectations Utility companies are using machine learning and AI to try to become more efficient and get the most out of their production and distribution facilities, he said. Banks are using such technologies to try to better and more easily flag suspect transactions. Online clothing seller Stitch Fix is using AI to try to better understand its customers fashion preferences and to better predict what clothes they'll want next, he noted. Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines has put in place a system to track the activities customers take part in and the stops they visit to better tailor its offerings. "It's remarkably broad in terms of the adoption and going global very quickly," Daugherty said. He continued: "You see companies looking at how to better optimize their assets and create new revenue streams." To be sure, there are likely to be hitches and hiccups in the race to embrace AI. Many companies have unrealistic expectations of what the technology will be able to do for them, he said. And many of them are unprepared for the technology. In a recent study where Accenture surveyed executives at some 1,500 organization, some 65% of those polled said their workforces weren't yet ready to work with AI and related technologies. But only 3% said their companies were investing in training their employees to use them. "It's an area that most companies are behind on," Daugherty said, continuing, it's "a striking disconnect." Now read: These charts show how pumped up HR departments are about AI — even if many of them are still relying on paper documents The best way to avoid killer robots and other dystopian uses for AI is to focus on all the good it can do for us, says tech guru Phil Libin Amazon's Alexa is getting smarter about sports — it can tell you the odds of the next NFL game and give you an update on your favorite teams This former judge is heading the World Economic Forum's approach to AI — here's why she thinks regulation is unlikely, and what should be done about AI instead SEE ALSO: The founder of a beloved productivity app thinks Hollywood has a better blueprint for innovation than Silicon Valley —and he's taking his cues from Netflix to fix it Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Watch Apple unveil a new, bigger watch
  • Sears has filed for bankruptcy and announced it would close more than 140 stores, but it isn't the only department store that has struggled recently — here's why (SHLD)
    Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, announcing it would be closing 142 Sears and Kmart stores and beginning liquidation sales at those locations immediately.  Sears isn't the only department store that has struggled recently. Macy's and JCPenney have also had to close stores in recent years. There are a number of reasons why department stores are struggling, including that consumer habits are shifting towards online shopping as mall foot traffic declines.  Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, announcing it would be closing 142 Sears and Kmart stores and beginning liquidation sales at those locations immediately.  The bankruptcy filing comes after years of crippling sales declines.  "Over the last several years, we have worked hard to transform our business and unlock the value of our assets," Sears' then-CEO, Eddie Lampert, said in a statement. "While we have made progress, the plan has yet to deliver the results we have desired, and addressing the Company's immediate liquidity needs has impacted our efforts to become a profitable and more competitive retailer." Lampert stepped down as CEO on Monday but will stay on as chairman of the company's board.  Sears isn't the only department store that has struggled recently. In early 2018, both Macy's and JC Penney announced that they would be closing a number of struggling stores, and Lord & Taylor announced that it would be closing up to 10 stores, including its iconic flagship on New York's Fifth Avenue.  There are a number of reasons why department stores are struggling, including that consumer habits are shifting towards online shopping as mall foot traffic declines. Here's a closer look at why department stores have been floundering:SEE ALSO: We visited a Sears store on the day the company filed for bankruptcy, and it felt like a ghost town. Here's what it was like shopping there. DON'T MISS: We visited a Kmart store the day after Sears filed for bankruptcy, and it was a mess. Here's what it was like shopping there. The rise of e-commerce has played a major role in the decline of department stores. Department stores are being forced to face up against giants like Amazon and Walmart, and many are coming up short in their e-commerce offerings. Source: Business Insider Macy's, JC Penney, Sears, and Lord & Taylor are all closing stores. See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • A $150 billion investment chief breaks down a ticking time bomb in markets that traders are foolishly ignoring
    In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Brad McMillan — the chief investment officer of the $150 billion Commonwealth Financial Network — revealed an overlooked dynamic he says will worsen any economic downturn. He's specifically worried about the number of US companies whose credit ratings are sitting dangerously close to junk levels, and he warns that an economic slowdown could bring conditions to a head. With the market fresh off one of the more difficult and volatile weeks in recent memory, one might assume that all negative scenarios have been covered. After all, when the market is hit in such hard and swift fashion, people are usually quick to point fingers. The process can unearth all sorts of dormant headwinds. Which is why it's so surprising that no one seems to be talking about the precarious and potentially damaging situation that exists in the US credit market. But it's not lost on Brad McMillan, the chief investment officer of the $150 billion Commonwealth Financial Network. He's specifically worried about the effect that higher interest rates — one of the primary culprits of this past week's wreckage — will have on corporate debt. McMillan notes that as lending conditions remained loose for years after the financial crisis, a lot of risky junk-rated debt became largely interchangeable from its investment-grade counterpart. "But half of that is just one step above junk," McMillan explained in an interview with Business Insider. "So we’re only one economic slowdown away from a significant portion of the investment-grade market dropping to high-yield." The chart below shows this dynamic in play. The spread between US investment-grade and high-yield bonds is the tightest it's been since early 2011. That means traders are paying the smallest premium in nearly eight years for safer credit. So what does it all mean? Allow McMillan to explain (emphasis ours): "First of all, you're going to have all of those companies having to refinance at higher rates. But that's not the biggest problem, because right now, the premium between high-yield and investment-grade rates is at one of its lowest levels ever." "So you're going to get a double bump as people start to get worried. So all of a sudden you're going to have a large number of companies in quite a bit of trouble with debt. And that's where you start to see pullbacks — companies cutting their spending and laying people off." While McMillan doesn't see this unstable debt situation as an imminent threat to the economy or the market, he does acknowledge that it will make matters even more complicated once the ongoing cycle starts to wind down. According to a running four-part recession checklist he monitors constantly, McMillan anticipates an economic reckoning will strike in late 2019. That means investors still have time to come to their senses and start treating riskier debt in proper fashion. Whether they do that is another story — and their ultimate decision could go a long way toward determining how severe the next recession ends up being.SEE ALSO: A hidden threat that's been haunting the market for years is flaring up — and it could mean the meltdown in stocks is just getting started Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why horseshoe crab blood is so expensive
  • Here's why the recent chaos in markets is the new normal
    Markets around the world have been whipsawed in recent weeks as risk assets have sold off sharply and then recovered on multiple occasions. This behavior suggests volatility is creeping back into markets, which could throw some investment strategies out of wack. Bernstein says "several regime shifts" are responsible for the recent uptick in volatility, and the firm explains how they'll continue to cause big, sudden moves. No matter how you slice it, recent market turbulence has been a serious shock to the system. Major indexes fell for six straight days, surged for one session, dived sharply again, and then seemed to stabilize on Friday. But that description hardly does the roller-coaster ride justice. Each trading session contained a breathtaking series of twists and turns. Deep losses were pared, then extended again. On the strong days, there were multihour patches when those gains looked quite precarious and were even temporarily erased. All of this leads to one grand conclusion: Volatility appears to be back. And it could redefine the trading environment as we know it. To best understand what's occurred in markets, it helps to zoom out a few years and assess the wider volatility landscape. While sluggish index moves in either direction became the norm over the past couple of years, that wasn't always the case. This chart of the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, shows this dynamic in action. The numbers show it all. Since the start of 2016, the VIX has traded at an average level of 13.98, well below the gauge's bull-market average of 17.90. Volatility was especially subdued during 2017, when the VIX averaged 11.10. And all of this is markedly lower than the VIX's all-time historical mean of 19.33. To hear Wall Street experts tell it, suppressed volatility may soon be giving way to larger moves, with the action of the past couple of weeks serving as a jarring dry run. "Several regime shifts are happening at once," Inigo Fraser-Jenkins, the head of global quantitative and European equity strategy at Bernstein, wrote in a client note. "We should expect volatility to default to a higher level. So, we can expect more episodes like last week." But what kind of regime shifts? Fraser-Jenkins breaks it down: The exiting of QE to less accommodative monetary policy The transition from high growth to slowdown, at least partially driven by higher bond yields Profit margins are rolling over in the US after a period of remarkable strength A decoupling of the most synchronized period of global growth in 50 years Mounting risks of trade wars and other political conflicts It's important to note that this isn't necessarily an outright negative for markets. It just means they'll be moving more. Gains will be even more glorious, and the pullbacks will be more frequent and severe. As such, Fraser-Jenkins thinks the market weakness seen in recent weeks will be a fleeting affliction. "We should expect the default level of vol to be higher," he said. "However, in the absence of evidence of euphoria we do not think that the market slide continues in the near term."SEE ALSO: A hidden threat that's been haunting the market for years is flaring up — and it could mean the meltdown in stocks is just getting started Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why horseshoe crab blood is so expensive
  • A hidden threat that's been haunting the market for years is flaring up — and it could mean the meltdown in stocks is just getting started
    Stocks were battered last week amid fears around a global trade war and higher bond yields — but the worst may yet be to come. Jim Paulsen, the chief investment officer of Leuthold Group, highlights an under-the-radar dynamic that has haunted the stock market for years and looks primed to spur further losses. To hear Jim Paulsen tell it, the market meltdown that rocked stocks last week was a long time coming. And to make matters even more frustrating, he says the warning signs were there. Paulsen, the chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group, is specifically referring to the "overheat pressure" that he sees building in the economy. That pressure then, in turn, afflicts the stock market. And it hinges largely on both price inflation and wage growth — two measures that have been ticking higher after an extended period of dormancy. While that combination has been toxic to stocks in the past, investors don't seem to have learned their lesson. For that reason, "overheat pressure" has lurked as a hidden threat to the market — one that now appears primed to start wreaking havoc once again. "A common view that inflation and yields remain quite low and do not represent much of a threat for the stock market is simply incorrect," Paulsen wrote in a client note. "Because both wage and price inflation recently reached new recovery highs, overheat pressure seems poised to become even more pronounced." Paulsen highlights what he calls an "overheat round" that started punishing stocks back in 2015 and continued through the end of 2016. He notes that during that period, wage and core consumer price inflation accelerated. And wouldn't you know it, stocks were whipsawed for much of the two-year span, which saw them absorb multiple sharp drawdowns. This can be seen in the first highlighted section below. The chart also suggests we could be in the middle of a second overheating round right now. As if that isn't worrisome enough, Paulsen warns that market conditions are coalescing in a way that could worsen the effects of overheating economic conditions. He's particularly focused on the correlation between stock prices and bond yields. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the prices of either asset should trade inversely to the other. If someone exits a stock position, there's a high likelihood that the person is rotating into bonds, and vice versa. But this historical relationship has broken down. Prices of both stocks and bonds were in free fall for much of the past week. And to make matters even worse, it was spiking yields — which reflect declining bond prices — that have helped stoke so much anxiety in the equity market. As indicated by the chart below, stocks and bonds have been negatively correlated on just a few occasions in the past 20 years. And each prior instance has been accompanied by widespread stock selling. Paulsen says this relationship represents a "toggle switch which has historically magnified the negative impact of overheat pressure." In case you were considering ignoring these warnings signs, the mini market meltdown from last week should've grabbed your attention. It not-so-coincidentally ran parallel to the newly negative correlation between stocks and bonds outlined above. That's at least partially because investors were unable to rotate out of stocks and into the safer confines of bonds — a long-running hedging technique when normal conditions are in place. Instead, there was no place to hide, and traders got battered. Going forward, investors would be best advised to keep a close eye on the two economic indicators that inform Paulsen's thesis of an overheating economy: price and wage inflation. As long as they're rapidly growing in tandem, markets will be in a highly vulnerable position. "Concerns about inflation are perhaps rising more quickly than recognized," Paulsen said. "Wall Street's overheat mindset appears to be on the cusp of greater anxiety."SEE ALSO: The market is doing something rarely seen over the past 20 years — and it could mean the meltdown is just getting started Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 3 compelling reasons why we haven't found aliens yet
  • Tesla has officially filed to trademark Elon Musk's 'Teslaquila' (TSLA)
    Tesla has filed an official trademark application for Elon Musk's "Teslaquila."  Musk tweeted a photo of the liquor, complete with Tesla branding and logo.  The billionaire seems to be back to his usual antics after a $20 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  If you wanted to rip off Elon Musk's idea for Tesla-branded tequila, you may be out of luck. Tesla filed a federal trademark application dated on Monday for the name "Teslaquila" consisting of either "distilled agave liquor" or "Distilled blue agave liquor. Shortly after, Musk tweeted a "visual approximation" of the alcohol, branded with the Tesla's logo and in its signature typeface. Musk's mockup appears to be similar to one he posted on Instagram in April, which many took to be an April fools joke. Now, nearly half a year later, it looks like tequila could be the latest in Tesla's arsenal of merchandise it sells to fans. For his Boring Company tunneling venture, Musk raised $1 million and drew media attention last year for selling 50,000 branded hats, and earlier this year, he raised $10 million by selling 20,000 branded flamethrowers. Last week, Musk said the Boring Company would sell interlocking, Lego-style bricks made from rock and soil displaced by the company's tunnel-digging machines. Despite a $20 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that includes a provision for more company oversight of his social media use, the billionaire has been making waves on Twitter once again. Last week, he jokingly called the stock market regulator the "Shortseller Enrichment Commission." You can read every puzzling thing that has happened since Elon Musk tweeted that he had 'funding secured' to take Tesla private here. SEE ALSO: Every puzzling thing that has happened since Elon Musk tweeted that he had 'funding secured' to take Tesla private Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why horseshoe crab blood is so expensive
  • Carl Icahn comes out swinging against Dell's $21.7 billion VMware deal that could see it return to the stock market (DVMT)
    Carl Icahn says Dell's offer to buy VMware tracking stock is massively undervalued. In a letter published Monday, the billionaire activist investor urged announced in increased stake and in the tracking stock and urged other shareholders to say no to the proposed Dell takeover  The deal could see Dell return to public markets after going private in 2013.  Follow VMware's stock price in real-time here.  Two months after disclosing a $535 million investment in both Dell and it's recently acquired tracking stock, VMware, Carl Icahn announced Monday he has upped his stake in the tracking stock to more than 8% — or over $2 billion.  The billionaire activist investor, now VMware's second-largest shareholder, published a scathing letter bashing the proposed $21.7 billion buyout by Dell that could make the computer giant publicly traded once again. "While we have unearthed many undervalued opportunities in the past, very few companies compare to the current opportunity and the massive undervaluation of DVMT — which exists in plain sight for all to see," Icahn said in the letter published online Monday. The true value of VMware should be $144, according to Icahn, who maintains the deal in its current form values the company at closer to $94. By his calculations, VMware could generate $12 per share in free cash flow over "a few years," resulting in a value of more than $250 a share. VMware holders shouldn't agree to the deal "unless it contains a very, very substantial increase," Icahn said.  As a tracking stock, VMware's financial information is reported separately from Dell’s private books, but offer holders no equity stake in the subsidiary business unit. Dell plans to buy VMware’s outstanding shares for about $109 per share in cash for DVMT, while valuing Dell's new shares at around $80, according to Bloomberg. VMware holders will receive 1.3665 shares of the new stock for every one they own.  Icahn isn't the only one concerned about the deal.  In February, Morgan Stanley analysts Keith Weiss and Sanjit Singh called  it the "worst case scenario" for VMware shareholders. They see VMware being worth $143, roughly in-line with Icahn's measurements.  "Clearly Michael Dell and Silver Lake take us for fools if they think that we would exchange this future value potential for only $94 per share," Icahn said. "I intend to do everything in my power to STOP this proposed DVMT merger." Now read: Howard Marks made billions piling into the market at the depths of the financial crisis — here's why he's continuing to buy now, and what it would take for him to stop Amazon's new $15 minimum wage highlights the biggest issue facing companies right now — and how they respond will dictate the future of the market SEE ALSO: Dell announces it will buy out VMWare tracking stock Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 3 surprising ways humans are still evolving
  • Rents are falling the fastest in these 11 cities
    Renting is getting less expensive for people living in the largest US metropolitan areas. In September, rents declined on an annual basis in more than half of the nation's 35 largest markets, the first time in six years, according to data from Zillow. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington saw the biggest drops at 2.7% and 2.2% respectively.  "For renters, slower rent growth is welcome news and will put more spending money in their already stretched pockets," Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said. He added: "Rents remain high by historic standards, but September's modest annual decline in rents should ease some of the pressure pushing higher-income renters to buy." Zillow's conclusion is based on its Zillow Rent Index, which tracks monthly median rent in particular geographical regions based on a consistent stock of inventory. The list below, based on the Zillow Rent Index, highlights the 11 cities in America where rents fell the fastest in September, ranking from the least to the most.San Antonio, Texas September rent change YoY: -1.1% September Zillow Rent Index: $1,330 Source: Zillow Indianapolis, Indiana September rent change YoY: -1.2% September Zillow Rent Index: $1,195 Source: Zillow St. Louis, Missouri September rent change YoY: -1.2% September Zillow Rent Index: $1,139 Source: Zillow See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • 'DEAR MR. PRESIDENT': One marijuana company has a bold strategy to save American cannabis producers from getting left in Canada's wake
    The largest publicly traded marijuana companies — even when listed on American exchanges like NYSE — are completely forbidden from operating in the US.  This means the entire American marijuana sector is missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars of investments that are instead going to Canadian firms.  Terra Tech CEO Derek Peterson has a plan to change this, and it starts with a full-page ad titled "Dear Mr. President"published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday along with ad slots on "Fox and Friends." Marijuana stocks are booming this year. A handful of Canadian cannabis companies have successfully raised billions on American stock exchanges like the  New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, but thanks to federal laws that forbid them from operating in the US, every cent of that capital is heading north of the border. Legally-operating US marijuana companies — in places like Colorado where the drug is legal, at least on a state level — have largely missed out on the success stories of their Canadian peers due to federal drug laws that stand between their equity and a listing on a major exchange. Derek Peterson, CEO of California-based Terra Tech, says American companies are being left in the dust. "The problem that we're under as US operators is these Canadian companies are using the healthy capital market up there to fund and raise a ton of capital, putting us at serious risk," the former investment banker, who has helmed Terra Tech for nearly seven years, said in an interview. "We'll end up being take out candidates for probably great premiums for our shareholders, but the concern is about longevity." It's a problem that's sending major investments— like Constellation Brands' $4 billion stake in Canopy Growth Corporation — outside of the US. Elsewhere, companies like Green Growth Brands, are pursuing unusual methods like reverse takeovers in order to list on Canadian exchanges and cash in on the trend.  "It'd be foolish to sit on the sidelines and use our own cash to grow our business," Green Growth Brands CEO Peter Horvath, a veteran of American Eagle, DSW, and Victoria's Secret, told Business Insider. "You've got to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is." Terra Tech and Peterson refuse to stay idle and let American companies get left behind.  In an effort to speed up the modernization laws in the US, Terra Tech has taken out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal aimed directly at President Donald Trump. Peterson also plans to buy advertising slots during Fox and Friends, the morning talk show that's known to be a favorite of the president. "America is rapidly losing its competitive advantage to Canada," the ad, published the day before recreational cannabis is legal nationwide in Canada, reads. "The cannabis industry is legal in 31 states, yet most domestic companies do not have access to traditional banking ot institutional financing."  "If we don't change our laws here and the banks don't have a chance to come in and fund companies and have access to out capital markets, we're going to end up having our industry owned by Canadian conglomerates," Peterson said. "We would prefer to create our own destiny and have access to the Morgan Stanley's, Bank of Americas, and Goldman Sachs's of the world to be able to raise real capital and compete in the global marketplace." Until then, most major Wall Street banks will likely stay on the margins. No major sell-side research department except for Cowen has launched coverage of marijuana stocks, despite the largest ones being worth more than many of the other equities they cover. Canopy Growth, for example, is easily the most valuable publicly traded cannabis company with a market cap of $14 billion, more than double that of the sports-apparel maker Under Armour — and is only covered by two US research shops: Cowen and William O'Neil.  "We're working to at least get a public conversation going around this because I don't think a lot of our political leaders understand what's happening here from a capital markets perspective," Peterson said. SEE ALSO: An executive who led turnarounds at Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle reveals what the cannabis industry can learn from big retail brands Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 3 compelling reasons why we haven't found aliens yet
  • BlackRock's $6 trillion chief investment strategist lays out how to guard your portfolio against more losses as the risks of more market turmoil increases
    Amid the slump in global stocks, BlackRock is advising investors to focus on making their portfolios resilient to further losses. "We see good reasons why risks will stay elevated or increase further in the short term, pressuring returns," Richard Turnill, BlackRock's global chief investment strategist, said in a note to clients on Monday. He outlined BlackRock's views on major asset classes over the next three months, and where the $6.3 trillion fund giant is advising clients to put their money now. Playing defense should be investors' priority right now, according to the $6 trillion fund giant BlackRock. The sell-off in global stocks this month has no doubt rattled market participants, but it's equally given them the chance to find cheaper investing opportunities. But BlackRock is urging caution for any investor who's eager to go on a buying spree. "We reiterate our call to focus on portfolio resilience," Richard Turnill, BlackRock's global chief investment strategist, said in a note to clients on Monday. The sell-off precedes one of the most fruitful periods for short-term investors: earnings season. If companies announce quarterly profits that top Wall Street's expectations, their shares can see larger-than-usual gains. And analysts expect good news from corporate America over the next few weeks, with S&P 500 companies forecast to report 20%-plus earnings growth for a third-straight quarter according to FactSet. But with the reward of earnings season also comes risk. "Companies that disappoint on third-quarter earnings and fourth-quarter guidance risk being acutely punished," Turnill said. The trade dispute between the US and China is one of the issues that investors are keenly awaiting guidance on, particularly from global companies that benefit from freer trade and cheaper production outside the US. A trade war is the No. 1 threat to the US-led global economic expansion, according to Turnill. "We like quality exposures within equities and prefer the US within developed markets due to earnings resilience and stronger balance sheets," Turnill said. "In fixed income, we favor short-end bonds but are starting to see opportunities further out on the yield curve in the U.S. and Europe. Over the long term, the rise in yields should eventually point to higher returns across asset classes. Yet we see good reasons why risks will stay elevated or increase further in the short term, pressuring returns." Here's a further breakdown of BlackRock's views on major asset classes over the short-term, specifically the next three months: US stocks: overweight. Strong earnings momentum, corporate tax cuts, and fiscal stimulus underpin its positive view, and technology remains its most favored sector. European stocks: underweight. Relatively muted earnings growth, weak economic momentum, and political risks are challenges. Emerging-market stocks: overweight. Attractive valuations, economic reforms, and strong earnings growth support the case for EM stocks. Emerging-market debt: neutral. BlackRock prefers hard-currency over local-currency debt and developed market corporate bonds. Slowing supply and broadly strong EM fundamentals add to the relative appeal of hard-currency EM debt. Trade conflicts and a tightening of global financial conditions call for a selective approach. US credit: neutral. Sustained growth supports credit, but high valuations limit upside. BlackRock favors investment grade (IG) credit as a counterweight for equity risk. Higher-quality floating rate debt and shorter maturities look well positioned for rising rates. Commodities and currencies: no consolidated view. Global supply constraints are likely to underpin oil prices. Trade tensions add downside risk to industrial metal prices. BlackRock is neutral on the dollar. Rising global uncertainty and a widening US yield differential with other economies provide support, but an elevated valuation may constrain further gains. SEE ALSO: Why the world's largest wealth manager isn't ditching stocks after this week's chaos and what it's telling clients to buy now Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why horseshoe crab blood is so expensive
  • The world's most accurate economic forecaster pinpoints the biggest risks investors will face in 2019 — and explains how they can prepare
    Christophe Barraud, the Paris-based chief economist of Market Securities, has been ranked by Bloomberg as the most accurate forecaster of the US economy every year since 2012. In a recent interview with Business Insider, he shared his forecasts for 2019 and highlighted areas in which investors should expect flare-ups. He also had some specific tips on which asset classes and regions to avoid. Christophe Barraud does not know when the next US recession is coming. In fact, economists are generally terrible at making this very forecast. All Barraud can say with some confidence is that it's unlikely to happen before 2021. The Paris-based chief economist at Market Securities speaks with a lot more certainty, however, when prognosticating on what could happen to the economy in 2019. If his track record is anything to go by, Wall Street should be all ears when Barraud speaks. For six straight years, through the most recent scorecard, compiled in 2017, Bloomberg ranked him as the most accurate forecaster of the US economy. He has also clinched the top spot for European Union forecasts since 2015 and was the most accurate on China in 2017. He attributes his track record to hard work (he arrives at the office at about 6 a.m.), his thorough research of housing forecasts during the depths of the crisis, and a dose of luck. "You can be the top forecaster, but making forecasts beyond one year is very, very difficult," he told Business Insider in an exclusive interview. "Beyond two or three years, to be honest, it's almost impossible." For next year — less than three months away and well within Barraud's comfort zone — he's forecasting a "very challenging" time with much uncertainty. No issue has more at stake than the trade war between the US and China. This year, the US has slapped tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, about half the value of US imports from the country. China has retaliated by announcing tariffs on $110 billion worth of American exports. "Expectations for global trade growth are a bit optimistic for this year and next," Barraud said. "We think that since the beginning of the year, most economists aren't taking into account the impact of tariffs and the fact that there could be a negative surprise on global trade growth." Entities like the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have downgraded their outlooks for next year partly because of the trade war, but Barraud thinks the consensus is still too bullish. American carmakers are already revealing the damage caused by tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the US. Ford announced last week that it was laying off employees to cut costs. And exports of BMWs from the Port of Charleston in South Carolina are reportedly slowing as Chinese sales decline. "We think that Trump could launch a new wave of tariffs on the auto sector," Barraud said. "It will have a negative impact more on the global economy, but to a certain extent to the US economy." Barraud also has his eyes on the Federal Reserve and its resolve to continue raising interest rates, even as markets quiver at the prospect of higher borrowing costs and President Donald Trump publicly discourages the central bank. "We also believe that the Fed could slow growth and will keep tightening its policy," Barraud said. "We expect three rate hikes from now to June 2019, and another one could take place after June 2019." That's not all that could make for a challenging year. Another risk, Barraud said, is a sharp increase in oil prices caused by low global spare capacity, sanctions on Iranian exports, and political uncertainty in Saudi Arabia. In sum, he expects US gross-domestic-product growth to slow from about 3% this year to 2.5% next year. It's not exactly a doomsday scenario but one that could trigger episodes of volatility in financial markets if investors fear that this cycle has truly peaked. Should the Fed keeps raising rates, next year could be tough on Treasurys, which cheapen when interest rates rise. "We think that bonds could be under pressure and that rates could rise," Barraud said. Where stocks are concerned, Barraud is recommending the US over Europe. That's because major economies such as Italy, Germany, France, and the UK face political uncertainty that pales in comparison to that in the US, midterm elections notwithstanding.SEE ALSO: GOLDMAN SACHS: Investors are making extraordinary bets that these 15 stocks will explode higher before the end of the year Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why horseshoe crab blood is so expensive
  • GOLDMAN SACHS: Investors are making extraordinary bets that these 15 stocks will explode higher before the end of the year
    With volatility back in the stock market, investors will be well-served to identify stocks that have the potential to outperform, while hedging their downside risk. Analysts at Goldman Sachs looked into options contracts to glean which stocks traders are making the most bullish bets on.    If the past few days have demonstrated anything, it's that volatility is back in the stock market and could remain through the end of 2018. This makes it important for investors to gain exposure to stocks that could experience an end-of-year surge, coupled with strong hedges.  The options market is ideal for doing that, and analysts at Goldman Sachs have examined contracts expiring in January 2019 to glean what traders are making big bets on for the rest of this year. They compiled a list of stocks that are among the cheapest to hedge on the market, as measured by three-month skew — or the difference between the premium options traders are paying to protect against price declines over the next three months relative to bets on increases. "Very low levels of skew in options suggest investors are buying upside calls [options contracts betting on rallies] into year-end, or are less worried about downside risks," a team of analysts led by Katherine Fogertey said in a recent note to clients.  "As an example, options for Humana (Buy-rated) now reflect 3m normalized (put-call) skew is at its lowest level in a year. While shares are up 36% year to date, option investors appear to be positioning for the potential that recent outperformance can continue." The list below shows stocks that options investors are betting will see huge gains by the end of the year. It's ranked in descending order of their three-month-skew percentile. As Fogertey noted, low skew means traders are less worried about risks, which implies greater upside.SEE ALSO: Global investors haven't been this bearish on the economy since the financial crisis — and Bank of America says there's only one way to play it Navistar International Ticker: NAV Year-to-date total return: -13% 3-month skew: 0.07 Percentile: 6 Source: Goldman Sachs 14. Ford Ticker:F Year-to-date total return: -24% 3-month skew: 0.06 Percentile: 6 Source: Goldman Sachs 13. Ralph Lauren Ticker: RL Year-to-date total return: 25% 3-month skew: 0.09 Percentile: 6 Source: Goldman Sachs See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • This Irish CEO explains how a barista in a hipster coffee shop inspired Intercom, a $1.3 billion startup
    Eoghan McCabe is the CEO and cofounder of Intercom, one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley. Intercom offers services that help companies communicate with their customers. McCabe and his partners formed Intercom after being inspired by the personalized service they got at a Dublin coffee shop. Intercom is now offering chatbots that can handle customer service. Eoghan McCabe, CEO and co-founder of Intercom, first came up with the idea for his business in a coffee shop. In Dublin, where McCabe is from, he and his coworkers would frequent a hipster coffee shop called 3fe and chat with the owner, Colin Harmon. There weren’t many other coffee shops with that vibe in the city, and McCabe appreciated how Harmon connected with his customers. The personalized service Harmon offered ended up inspiring McCabe and his partners. "We got to meet and appreciate the guy, feel the passion for his craft," McCabe said. "We built a relationship with him and paid more for his overpriced coffee." He continued: "When we looked at every internet business, they didn’t get to connect with us the way Colin connected with us." McCabe started thinking about how internet businesses aren't great at interacting with customers. Typically they send customers emails from "donotreply" addresses and then route them through not always helpful "help" desks when they need more support. "All these products were really impersonal," McCabe said. "With Colin, if you went into his store and asked, 'We have a question about Colombian roast,' he’d say, 'What is it?'" McCabe and co-founders Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett, soon got to work on a messaging service for companies that became the foundation of Intercom. Intercom has become a billion-dollar company and is growing fast Fast forward seven years to today, and the company has become a $1.3 billion business headquartered in San Francisco with offices in four other cities. It's one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley. In March, it raised $125 million in new funds. And just this month, it launched its new product, the Answer Bot. When Intercom first began, it focused on creating an instant messaging system to connect companies' customers with their sales, marketing, and support employees. Its next step is to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to create bots that can offer customer support. "The first chapter was about getting people back into the mix," McCabe said. "This next chapter is to facilitate automation, bots, to achieve the same vision and mission." That may seem contradictory. After all, Intercom's original goal was to make businesses more personal, and bots are literally not persons at all. But McCabe says the apparent contradiction goes away if you think about the meaning of "personal." It's "all about treating the customer as an individual," he said. "It’s about respecting their time and their dignity. It's all about getting them to their ideal outcome. "We started to realize these bots and automation technology could do all that — sometimes better than humans." Intercom's bots are designed to help out human workers Intercom's bots aren't pretending to be humans; they're open about being bots. They're also not intended to completely replace human workers. Instead, they're meant to assist them and allow companies to help more customers than they could before. If a company only has human workers to handle customer service questions, customers can end up having to wait long periods for someone to handle their queries. Intercom's clients can use Answer Bot to handle some of those questions instead. The service uses machine learning, relying on previous conversations between employees and customers to figure out how to answer new queries. Intercom clients can even build their own chatbots using Custom Bot, a product the company released in August. While their bots are handling routine questions, companies can route more complicated ones to their human workers. "Answer Bot has a deep bank of the questions people ask about that business," McCabe said. "The next time people ask that question, it doesn't get sent to your support team to answer that question for the 2000th damn time. Answer Bot can answer that and say, 'let us know if you need anything else.'" McCabe predicts that bots will soon become commonplace. Intercom has over 30,000 paying customers, including Sotheby's, Atlassian, Shopify, and Expensify, and its service facilitates 500 million conversations a month. To improve its bot technology, the company is doubling down on research and development and expanding its product development team. McCabe and his team learned from past mistakes But leading a company hasn't always been easy, McCabe said. Intercom isn’t his first startup — he had previously founded two other ones with the company's other cofounders. Those experiences helped, since he and his partners made a lot of mistakes along the way in their prior ventures. "A lot of the dumbest mistakes we got out of the way," he said. McCabe and his cofounders learned that to be successful, they needed to figure out how to have their companies do what they're best at while continuing to innovate. Having learned that lesson, he’s ready to face the next chapter in automation. And he thinks his company is primed for a major transition in the industry. "In the next couple of years, every single business that has invested in trying to accelerate their growth will have simple bots working alongside humans," he said. That will allow them "to have higher quality and faster response to allow humans to do what humans do best."SEE ALSO: $20 billion Atlassian explains why it's blowing up its oldest product to evolve with today’s software teams Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What activated charcoal actually does to your body
  • This is how banks can use digital tools to stay ahead of a trillion-dollar opportunity in the bill pay market
    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Between housing costs, utilities, taxes, insurance, loans, and more, US adults paid an estimated $3.9 trillion in bills last year. That market is growing slowly, but it’s changing fast — more than ever before, customers are moving away from paying bills via check or cash and toward paying online, either through their banks, the billers themselves, or using a third-party app. Thanks to rising customer familiarity with digital payments, an increase in purchasing power among younger consumers more interested in digital bill pay, and a rise in digital payment options, nearly three-quarters of bills will be paid digitally by 2022, representing a big opportunity for players across the space. In theory, banks should be in a great position to capitalize on this shift. Nearly all banks offer bill payment functionality, and it’s a popular feature. Issuers also boast an existing engaged digital user base, and make these payments secure. But that isn’t what’s happening — even as digital bill pay becomes more commonplace, banks are losing ground to billers and third-party players. And that’s not poised to change unless banks do, since issuer bill pay is least popular among the youngest customers, who will be the most important in the coming year. For banks, then, that makes innovation important. Taking steps to grow bill pay’s share can be a tough sell for digital strategists and executives leading money movement at banks, and done wrong, it can be costly, since it often requires robust technological investments. But, if banks do it right, bill pay marks a strong opportunity to add and engage customers, and in turn, grow overall lifetime value while shrinking attrition. Business Insider Intelligence has put together a detailed report that explains the US bill pay market, identifies the major inflection points for change and what’s driving it, and provides concrete strategies and recommendations for banks looking to improve their digital bill pay offerings. Here are some key takeaways from the report: The bill pay market in the US, worth $3.9 trillion, is growing slowly. But digital bill payment volume is rising at a rapid clip — half of all bills are now digital, and that share will likely expand to over 75% by 2022.  Customers find it easiest to pay their bills at their billers directly, either through one-off or recurring payments. Bank-based offerings are commonplace, but barebones, which means they fail to appeal to key demographics. Issuers should work to reclaim bill payment share, since bill pay is an effective engagement tool that can increase customer stickiness, grow lifetime status, and boost primary bank status.   Banks need to make their offerings as secure and convenient as biller direct, market bill pay across channels, and build bill pay into digital money management functionality. In full, the report: Sizes the US bill pay market, and estimates where it’s poised to go next. Evaluates the impact that digital will have on bill pay in the US and who is poised to capitalize on that shift. Identifies three key areas in which issuers can improve their bill pay offerings to gain share and explains why issuers are losing ground in these categories. Issues recommendations and defines concrete steps that banks can take as a means of gaining share back and reaping the benefits of digital bill pay engagement. Get The Bill Pay Report Join the conversation about this story »
  • How much it costs to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in the 25 biggest US cities right now, ranked
    Renting is the most popular it’s been in the last 50 years in the United States. Apartment List reports the median cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment every month in the largest cities in the United States. In October, a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is almost double what it costs for a two-bedroom in Los Angeles. Renting is the most popular it’s been in the last 50 years in the United States. About 37% of American households are renters, according to Pew Research statistics. Apartment List reports the median cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment every month in the largest cities in the United States. Six cities in Texas made the list.  According to the October report, the national rent index fell by 0.1% month-over-month and rent growth is cooling off after the summer months. However, Orlando, Florida, is seeing the fastest rent growth with a 4.6% increase in the last year.  Below, see how much it costs to rent a two-bedroom in the 25 biggest US cities in October 2018, ranked from least to most expensive.SEE ALSO: The salary you need to comfortably afford a 2-bedroom apartment in the 25 biggest US cities DON'T MISS: Forget New York — millennials are better off in these 30 US cities, where they're paid well and can afford to buy a home 25. Memphis, Tennessee Median rent: $825 Month-over-month change: -0.10% 24. El Paso, Texas Median rent: $826 Month-over-month change: -0.10% 23. Louisville, Kentucky Median rent: $845 Month-over-month change: 0.20% See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • Bitcoin 101: Your essential guide to cryptocurrency
    Bitcoin is everywhere. The cryptocurrency is seemingly in the news every day as investors and businesses try to understand the future of this digital finance. But what is Bitcoin all about? Why is it suddenly on every financial news program? And what does it mean to you? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Bitcoin 101, a brand new FREE report from Business Insider Intelligence. To get your copy of the FREE slide deck, simply click here.Join the conversation about this story »
  • The Future Of Payments 2018
    This is a preview of a detailed slide deck from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. Click here to learn more. Current subscribers can view the deck  here. Rising smartphone penetration, regulations pushing users away from cash, and globalization demanding faster and new ways to transact are leading to a swell in noncash payments, which Business Insider Intelligence expects to grow to 841 billion transactions by 2023. This shift has created a greenfield opportunity in the space. Legacy providers are working to leverage their scale as they update their infrastructure and adapt their business models. But at the same time, upstarts are using their strengths in user experience to try to disintermediate or beat out those at the forefront of the space — a dichotomy that’s creating crowding and competition. Digitization and crowding in the payments space will force companies that want to emerge atop the ecosystem to undergo four critical digital transformations: diversification, consolidation and collaboration, data protection, and automation. Those that do this effectively, and use these shifts as a means of achieving scale without eroding the user experience, will be in the best position to use ongoing digitization in their payments space to their advantage. In The Future Of Payments 2018, Business Insider Intelligence takes a look at some of the biggest problems digitization and crowding are causing for payments firms, outlines the key transformations players can make going forward to resolve them, and explores areas where firms have already begun to use these transformations to their advantage. Get The Future of Payments Join the conversation about this story »
  • A Palestinian-American billionaire built a $1.4 billion luxury city from scratch in the desert to be a 'Marshall Plan' for Palestine's economy
    Rawabi is the first planned city in the West Bank built by and for Palestinians.  The $1.4 billion project is the brainchild of Bashar al-Masri, a Palestinian-American billionaire. Masri hopes the city can form the economic backbone of the nascent Palestinian state. I found the city to be beautifully constructed with the facilities one might expect of a luxury real estate development. And though around 4,000 people are already living in the city, it feels very much like a place waiting to come alive.  As I sat in a French cafè al fresco, chatting with Palestinian-American billionaire developer Bashar al-Masri, it occurred to me that I could be anywhere. But I wasn't anywhere. I was in the West Bank, the occupied territory home to 2.6 million Palestinians,  400,000 Jewish settlers, and scores of Israeli soldiers. More specifically, I was in Rawabi, a $1.4 billion planned city constructed to serve as a model city for the new Palestinian state. At least, that's according to Masri, who came up with the plan over a decade ago. "I'm a believer that we have a state in the making," Masri told Business Insider. "The question in my mind is not when we will have the state, but rather what shape the statehood will be in." Masri believes Rawabi, whose master plan calls for housing for 40,000 and everything from a nightclub to a hospital, could form the economic backbone of Palestine. "A Marshall Plan to pick up the economy," said Masri, noting the West Bank's 18% unemployment rate and moribund economy. At first, sitting in the mixed-use public square that forms the heart of Rawabi, I couldn't shake the feeling that I might as well be in Maryland, where such shiny new developments abound. But as we sat, Masri pointed out the details: the pedestrian town center and the tiled walkways are based on the old cities of Nablus and Hebron, the city has five gates like the old city of Jerusalem, and the corniches and arches are drawn from Arabic architecture. Above us towered American-style office buildings. Rawabi has received criticism from Palestinian activists who say it sugarcoats the occupation and Israelis who worry about having a large Palestinian city near Jewish settlements, but ultimately the success of Masri's vision will rest with the Palestinian people. Are they interested in what he's selling? Masri and his associates gave me a tour of the nascent city. Here's what it was like:SEE ALSO: I visited the most contested city in the Middle East, where Israelis and Palestinians are separated by a gauntlet of military checkpoints — and the harsh, complicated truth of the conflict was immediately clear DON'T MISS: Trump is meeting with Netanyahu after a tense summer in Israel when his party championed a law many call 'outright racism.' I was there when it passed — here's what it was like. Rawabi is the first planned city in the West Bank built by and for Palestinians. With a price tag of $1.4 billion, it is the largest private sector project in Palestinian history. The project is the brainchild of Bashar al-Masri, a Palestinian-American billionaire who made his fortune on building projects in Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt. While Masri told Business Insider his goal is to make money, he hopes that Rawabi serves as a model for future Palestinian cities and economic projects. Source: Washington Post The master plan calls for building 8,000 apartments across 22 neighborhoods with a population of about 40,000. So far four neighborhoods have been built and approximately 4,000 people live in the city. Source: The Globe and Mail See the rest of the story at Business Insider
  • How GM went from bankrupt and on the brink of death to being one of the world's best-run car companies (GM)
    A decade after the financial crisis, General Motors is led by the best management team it's ever had and one of the best C-suites in all of business. CEO Mary Barra, president Dan Ammann, and executive vice-president Mark Reuss have overseen the birth of a New GM that's moving aggressively to define the future of transportation. The turnaround has been impressive, as GM has racked up billions of profits and is preparing to launch 20 new electrified vehicles by 2023. Before its 2009 bankruptcy, GM was known for internal conflict, but the company is now a model of cooperation. General Motors' president, Dan Ammann, is a bundle of reconciled contradictions. When he laughs, it's like Santa Claus has come to town. When he thinks, the pauses are intense. When he makes a joke or offers a wry observation, his wit is extra dry. Sitting in a small conference room at GM's downtown Detroit headquarters, the New Zealand native and former Morgan Stanley banker is dressed in a familiar combination of jeans, sport coat, dress shirt, and Pumas, an anti-auto-executive look and evidence of Ammann's role as GM's point man in Silicon Valley. The bearded 46-year-old, who previously served as GM's chief financial offer, is mid-pause in reconsidering a comment he made about his fellow top executives at the world's second-largest automaker. "You have three very different personalities," he says of CEO Mary Barra, executive vice-president and global product group president Mark Reuss, and himself. As with so many things about the guy, you understand that he's telling you something rather important without giving away too much. I wouldn't want to play poker with Ammann. I'd leave the table broke, but enlightened. The best in the business Until the recent retirement of Chuck Stevens, 58, as GM's CFO after a four-decade tenure at the company, Ammann was one-quarter of the best management team in the auto industry. And, in the view of many, the best management team the 110-year-old behemoth, with 180,000 employees spread across the globe, has ever had. GM has been led since 2014 by Barra, the first woman to run a major automaker. Ammann shares the C-suite with Reuss, a GM veteran whose father worked at the company and who oversees the development of dozens of new vehicles, and Dhivya Suryadevara, the new 39-year-old CFO who has garnered an impressive reputation. Barra describes Suryadevara, who will join her in the only female CEO-CFO duo in the industry, as "wicked smart." Ammann also supervises Kyle Vogt, 33, the CEO of GM's Cruise self-driving-car unit. GM bought Cruise in 2016 for an all-in price of $1 billion; investments this year from Japan's SoftBank Vision Fund and Honda have made it worth almost $15 billion. Asked to characterize Vogt, who has in two years become an advocate for GM's ability to take startup technology and manufacture it at a massive scale, Ammann says he's laser-focused on solving "one of the biggest engineering challenges of our generation." Barra, 56, and Reuss, 55, are both GM lifers from GM families (she joined in 1980, and he came on as a student intern in 1983). Ammann is the new guy. But in many respects he seems like the oldest member of the team. His studied circumspection stands in contrast to Reuss' gruff cheerfulness, his passion for the culture of the automobile, and Barra's empathic precision, counterbalanced with a usefully intimidating forcefulness. Different personalities indeed. Amman is the intellectual, Reuss the enthusiast, and Barra the embodiment of the new GM, the giant corporation's post-bailout, post-bankruptcy incarnation. Organizing GM for collaboration instead of conflict The generalization is slightly unfair, but the point is that the trio actually isn't divisive. If this were the old GM — the company that thought what was good for America was good for General Motors — that might be the case. That's because the old GM was organized for conflict, with division heads fighting it out for resources and the mothership often lost in a labyrinth of ruinous financial complexity. Instead, the current team is a model of earnest conflict transmuted into productive collaboration. If you'd quit paying attention to GM a few decades ago, you wouldn't recognize the carmaker these days. If crosstown rival Ford is family, with all the issues that implies, then GM is a country. Until Barra's arrival, that assessment was true: Chapter 11 has chastened GM, but in 2010 the company still swaggered into the largest initial public offering in US history. The temptation was for GM to stage an imperious return to the corporate stage. Barra, who had run both entire factories and human resources before being tapped by the board to become CEO in 2014, wasn't going to stick to that script. Before the financial crisis, GM believed itself to be indispensable. Barra, better than anyone, knew that was false. GM wasn't an empire. It was a fragile, if enormous, group of people who had to work together to survive and prosper. That survival was immediately threatened. As soon as Barra became CEO, GM was embroiled in a massive recall caused by a single, innocuous yet ubiquitous part: an ignition switch whose malfunction led to 124 deaths, 275 injuries, and cost the company in excess of $2 billion. She persevered, however, and luckily she had four years of working with Ammann and Reuss to draw upon. "The ignition-switch recall permanently changed me," she says. "It was a tragic situation, and if I could roll back the clock, I would. But it made me impatient. When's the best time to solve a problem? The minute you know you have it." Ammann actually recalls interviewing with Barra in 2010, to assume the treasurer's job at GM. "She was very straightforward, down to business, yet very open," he says. "I felt good about it." Getting the new GM up and running While the banking crisis that had triggered the Great Recession had largely been resolved in 2010, the US auto industry was reeling. Annual vehicle sales in 2009 had fallen to a staggering 10 million, a harrowing plunge for a market that had peaked above 17 million in prior years. Chrysler also had to be bailed out, and after its own bankruptcy was rapidly merged with Fiat in a desperate rescue undertaken by the Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who died unexpectedly this year. Ford had avoided restructuring when then-CEO Alan Mulally had presciently mortgaged the company to raise $24 billion, but its stock value fell below $2 a share. GM CEO Rick Wagoner had effectively been fired by President Barack Obama when the government took a substantial equity stake in GM and organized bankruptcy financing. A succession of CEOs followed: Fritz Henderson, Ed Whitacre, and Dan Akerson. (The carmaker had just 10 CEOs before the financial crisis). Externally, it was unclear the car business would recover. But Barra, Ammann, and Reuss weren't panicking. "Those years set a strong foundation, when we worked together as peers," Ammann recalls. "We were getting the place up and running." They were also revamping the automaker's byzantine financial system, which Obama administration "car czar" Steven Rattner, head of the Auto Task Force, had labeled as epically disorganized. "We learned where we were making money and where we weren't," Ammann says, adding that GM also greatly streamlined its internal finances. That process empowered Barra and Ammann to make long-overdue decisions, such as selling GM's perennially underperforming Opel-Vauxhall division in Europe to Peugeot in 2017. For Barra, return on investment became a mantra. There were no sacred cows, even brands that had been part of GM for decades. Building a culture of trust Ammann also spent a lot of time with Reuss as part of a traveling "road show" for investors before the IPO. Reuss for a time had been in charge of GM's Australian and New Zealand operations, so he and Ammann could bond over their common experiences in the Southern Hemisphere. They also shared an arid sense of humor and a love of fast machines. The latter is an affection they both recently indulged when they drove the new 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 at Germany's famed Nürburgring track. (Reuss is well known for his skill behind the wheel, and if you ask around, people will tell you that Ammann is no slouch). They might like to go fast, but they're dead set against getting cocky, even as GM has posted over $70 billion in profits since the IPO. "Not in this business," Ammann says when asked if taking a breather after some good work is an option. "We're wholly dissatisfied." Dissatisfaction doesn't lead to unresolved disagreement, however. "We all agree that this device has a telephone," he says, waving his iPhone. "Mary and I never let an issue sit. We'll quickly get to a place where we can talk about it. I have no doubt that we make better decisions because of that. It creates a richer debate and a richer analysis." The core concept for all three executives is trust, built on a mutual respect for what Barra calls "leveraging diversity of thought." That's critical because GM is huge; it combines manufacturing, financing, and technology on a mass scale, so it's always grappling with what Reuss calls' "big, complex problems." That requires frequent communication. "If we're all in the office, we talk multiple times a day," Barra tells me while sitting in the same ultramodern talent-acquisition suite where I had interviewed Ammann. "If we're traveling, we speak several times a week, and sometimes on the weekends. We look at things from multiple dimensions and make better decisions." Their diversity shows up in obvious ways. Ammann obviously prefers a more casual wardrobe, while Barra favors subdued, tasteful ensembles. Reuss is usually wearing a sharp suit, elegant shoes, and a wristwatch from his collection. Barra has enormous respect for Reuss' vast automotive knowledge and admires Ammann's ferocious ability to learn and learn fast. She considers Reuss the best car guy in the business, recollecting that Dan Akerson called him the soul of the company. And she says that Ammann conducts himself as though he'd been at GM for decades, not just for eight years, thanks to his willingness to go everywhere and meet everybody. Playing to win Their views have rubbed off on her and now shape her leadership style. "One of the words Mark hates is 'compete,'" she says. A word he likes is "win," and Barra has translated that attitude into something of a mission statement. "I ask people to give me a reason why we shouldn't be accountable to be the best," she says. "There's no answer for that. So once you get that as a mindset, you can then figure out what it's going to take to solve the issues that preventing you from getting there. Don't tell me why you couldn't do it in 1984. Tell me what it takes to get it done now." GM has been doing plenty of winning since 2010, but, yet again, when I ask Reuss if it's pat-ourselves-on-the-back time, he looks at me as if I were insane. Being the largest automaker in North America and No. 2 in China — the world's biggest markets, comprising 14 million in new-vehicle sales for GM in 2017 — certainly counts for something in Reuss' book, and he's proud of how far the company has progressed. But he refuses to relax, and he hasn't given into the temptation to rest on his accomplishments since a tough day over 25 years ago, when his father, Lloyd Reuss, at one point a candidate to become GM's CEO, was fired. The son, then just starting out at the company, had to make a difficult decision: Stay or go? He stayed, but it wasn't a party. GM struggled through profitless years leading up the bankruptcy. When Reuss was in Australia, he and his team were essentially running GM's business there with whatever money came in the front door each day, as the financial crisis dried up corporate credit. Post-bankruptcy, as GM shed brands, there were serious questions about whether it would be able to match the Japanese and German automakers, not to mention the upstarts, with innovative new technologies. For a few years, GM's most profitable vehicles, large pickup trucks and SUVs, were out of favor, as rising gas prices sent customers looking for small cars, hybrids, and even Tesla's all-electric vehicles. The biggest change in GM's history If Ammann is focused on creating a fleet of cars that can drive themselves and begin ferrying humans around big cities by next year, Reuss' main job now is to make sure that GM doesn't get beaten in the race to build the cars of the future. The money is flowing from the fat margins thrown off by resurgent pickup and SUV sales, but neither Ammann, Barra, nor Reuss — especially Reuss — have any illusions about the fate of the internal-combustion engine. It might be with us for a bit longer, but GM's destiny is electric. This isn't exactly news to Reuss, who was around in the 1990s when GM created the EV1. But with China's market expected to surpass 30 million in annual vehicle sales, on the road to as many as 40 million, his challenge now is to execute on the carmaker's plan of rolling out 20 new electrified vehicles by 2023 — the biggest transformation in the company's history. With the Chevy Bolt, an EV with a 238-miles range that starts at $37,500 and has been on sale for over a year, GM has made an impressive start. But Reuss, in particular, understands that the electric car's hurdles in the marketplace remain as much psychological as technical. "We've got to take away all the excuses of why people don't think an electric car is a primary car," he says. That means more charging options and faster charging choices. (Shortly after I spoke with Reuss, Barra, and Ammann, GM announced that Pam Fletcher, who had overseen the Bolt launch, would become the company's innovation leader and tackle the charging-infrastructure piece.) And Reuss doesn't intend to run the new electric portfolio at a loss. "We expect the base case to be profitable," he says. "At all levels and for all brands." Good times, bad times Reuss, Ammann, and Barra know that since 2010 the auto industry has enjoyed nearly a decade of expansion, and that booming sales can't last forever. A downturn will arrive, and as skillful as the team has been so far, the real test is over the horizon. Reuss has seen his share of recessions and is unflinching about what's in store for him and colleagues. He knows they won't find out if they're truly up to the task of running GM until the business gets hard. For her part, Barra, whose father worked at a GM plant, guards against overconfidence and regularly meets with GM's board to review models of downturns both moderate and severe. The worst aspect of this difficult yet important task is uncertainty. "Every auto recession has been a surprise," she says. "You don't know what will drive it. But I'm confident in the work we've done. We'll figure it out." According to Reuss, the team isn't locked into a war-room mentality. "Mary is good at celebrating on the run. But she says, 'Here's where we did a good job, and here's what we need to work on. This is where we're not hitting it.'" A thornier issue is the question of why GM's stock price has languished for years. Shares are down 30% over the past 12 months, while the S&P is up 10%. Barra has presided over a stock-buyback program that's returned billions to shareholders as GM has raked in cash, and the dividend has remained uncompromised and relatively risk-free at 4%. Still, Barra has had to fight off two shareholder agitations since 2015, the most recent from Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn. The hedge fund wanted GM to create two classes of stock, one for fixed income, the other for growth. The company argued that the scheme would undermine its investment-grade credit rating, curtailing its financial options in a sales downturn. The proposal was voted down. Stock prices matter. Ford CEO Mark Fields was ousted in 2016, replaced by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett. But Ford's shares have continued to slide, and the carmaker's market capitalization has dipped below Tesla's. Wall Street considers the auto industry to be capital-intensive, growth-constrained, and forever vulnerable to market cycles. Since Tesla's 2010 IPO, it's built a few hundred thousand cars and never posted an annual profit. By contrast, GM has, in the same period, built tens of millions of vehicles and made over $70 billion. But Tesla shares are up over 1,000% and GM's are down 5%. Ammann can point to the almost $15 billion in previously unrealized value that Cruise has added to GM as an enterprise, while Reuss insists that the only way for GM to move the needle on the stock price is to prove to investors that it can do what it says it will do. "It's frustrating, but I don't think anything but results is going to change that," Reuss says. "I agree with Mark," Barra says. "We've just got to keep proving ourselves. If we continue to do that over the long term, we'll earn a different reputation with investors." A decade after the unthinkable happened Almost 10 years on from the worst episode in GM's history, I was reminded as I spoke to Barra, Ammann, and Reuss about a winter visit I'd made to the Detroit headquarters in the years leading up to the bankruptcy. It was freezing cold and there was ice in the Detroit River. At a restaurant, a group of businessmen I overheard were lamenting their trip to Motown. "It used to be fun to come here," one of them said. GM wasn't concerned with fun back then. For a century, it had been loved and feared, admired and resented, praised and attacked. The idea that it could all go away was unthinkable. But then the unthinkable happened. And when the new guard took over, it was clear from the outset that Barra and her team wouldn't revert to business as usual. But here's the thing: Old GM thought of itself as the toughest company on the planet. If somebody thought it was a fun-free zone, too bad. But the old GM didn't know tough. And Barra, Ammann, and Reuss have proved that making some of the hardest calls in modern business, while taking some of the biggest risks, means that fun and tough can coexist. GM has made it through two world wars, drastic shif
  • These are the trends creating new winners and losers in the card-processing ecosystem
    This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Digital disruption is rocking the payments industry. But merchants, consumers, and the companies that help move money between them are all feeling its effects differently. For banks, card networks, and processors, the digital revolution is bringing new opportunities — and new challenges. With new ways to pay emerging, incumbent firms can take advantage of solid brand recognition and large customer bases to woo new customers and keep those they already have. And for consumers, the digital revolution is providing more choice and making their lives easier. Digital wallets are simplifying purchases, allowing users to pay online with only a username and password and in-store with just a swipe of their thumb.  In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence explores the digital payments ecosystem today, its growth drivers, and where the industry is headed. It begins by tracing the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement across the key stakeholders. That process is central to understanding payments, and has changed slowly in the face of disruption. The report also forecasts growth and defines drivers for key digital payment types through 2021. Finally, it highlights five trends that are changing payments, looking at how disparate factors, such as surprise elections and fraud surges, are sparking change across the ecosystem. Here are some key takeaways from the report: Digital growth is accelerating the pace at which payments are becoming faster, cheaper, and more convenient. That benefits both nimble startups and legacy providers that invest in innovation. Mobile payments are continuing to take off. On mobile devices, e-commerce, P2P payments, remittances, and in-store payments are each expected to rise as customer engagement shifts from more established channels. Power is shifting to companies that control the customer experience. As the selling power of physical storefronts shifts to digital devices, the companies that control the apps and platforms that occupy users’ attentions are increasingly encroaching on payment providers’ territory.  Alternative technologies are moving from the idea stage to reality. Widespread investments in blockchain technology last year are beginning to result in services hitting the market, promising to further squeeze margins for payments providers.  In full, the report: Traces the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement across the key stakeholders.   Forecasts growth and defines drivers for key digital payment types through 2021. Highlights five trends that are changing payments, looking at how disparate factors, such as surprise elections and fraud surges, are sparking change across the ecosystem. Subscribe to an All-Access membership to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More Purchase & download the full report from our research store  Join the conversation about this story »
  • Walmart made a game that lets you see what it's like to work at one of their stores — here's how to play (WMT)
    If you have ever, for whatever reason, wondered what it'd be like to work at Walmart — well, now's your chance. The retail giant has released a game for your smartphone that lets you live a day in the life of a Walmart manager. Over the course of your workday, you monitor inventory, stock shelves, adjust prices, and perform tasks to the satisfaction of your boss and customers alike. The app, which Buzzfeed News first spotted, started out as a training tool for employees, Walmart spokesperson Michelle Malashock told Business Insider. The game, which is called Spark City, was piloted in a dozen Walmart stores over the summer before it was made public in Apple and Android app stores at the start of October. As of Oct. 16, the free app had around 60,000 downloads, Malashock says. If you've ever played a Diner Dash-type simulation game (Sally's Spa, Cake Mania, Jane's Hotel to name a few), Walmart's Spark City works pretty similarly. I played through a (virtual) week of the game, which took about an hour. I present to you, the exciting life of a Walmart retail worker in Spark City: SEE ALSO: This card-sized smartphone may be world's thinnest and lightest ever made Before you start work, you can customize your character. The customization options for your avatar may not be as sophisticated as those in Sims, but you can pick your character's gender, skin color, clothing and general hair and face features. Congrats, you work in Walmart's dry grocery department! Say hello to your boss Cynthia, who will be looking over your shoulder the entire game. Like any good boss, Cynthia will be there throughout your workday to provide feedback and criticism. She also introduces you to a bunch of complicated acronyms about customer satisfaction, sales and shelf stocks, which are used to measure your success and guide you through your tasks.  I forgot what Cynthia told me almost as soon as I started to play. You can pick up on the general idea of the terms as you play, although I can't guarantee you'll ever fully understand what's being measured and how you're evaluated. You're provided with this handy (and useless) floor plan that shows the layout of the store. You use the map, which sits in the corner of your screen, to switch between the places you need to perform tasks. You start each day in the back room, where you have to complete all your work before you can move into your assigned department. I played through five workdays in the game, and in that time, the only locations that I needed to toggle between were the back room and the grocery section — so the floor plan seems kind of unnecessary. Walmart's spokesperson says that developers are in the process of adding a new level to the game that would take place in the "lawn and garden" section of the store. If they really want to put the floor plan to good use though, Walmart's developers should consider adding a "Battle Royale" mode. See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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  • How three countries are creating the roadmap to a cashless society
    This is a preview of the Global Payments Landscape report from Business Insider Intelligence. Current subscribers can read the report  here. Noncash payments are on the rise worldwide. As new players emerge to capitalize on consumer appetite for digital payment methods, three mature markets — the UK, Australia, and Sweden — have become standouts for what a more cashless society could look like. The UK, Australia, and Sweden are transitioning to digital particularly well, and can serve as a roadmap for other mature markets seeking to overcome the legacy channel of cash. Noncash payments have been gaining popularity around the world for the last decade. And though cash isn’t anywhere near dead, its global growth is slowing as consumers turn to emerging cashless alternatives. But there are a few key markets - Australia, Sweden, and the UK - where annual noncash payments have already surpassed traditional cash transactions altogether — and they’re stong early indicators of what a truly cashless society could look like. Why are digital payments on the rise? The growing adoption of noncash payments is a direct result of the rise of e-commerce, but that’s not the only factor. Consumers today are adaptable to disruptive technologies and are generally open to trying new types of digital payment methods. This consumer appetite is compounded by their access to infrastructure, as well as the emergence of government-backed initiatives, such as real-time transfers and the backing of electronic currencies, that make digital payments more enticing to both consumers and merchants. How are Australia, Sweden, and the UK driving the world towards cashless payments? Australia, Sweden, and the UK are emblematic of opportunities for payments players to lead the world away from cash. The Global Payments Landscape from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, provides a snapshot of the payments industry in each of these three markets. The report shows that several leading payments players have already emerged or are dominant within each of these regions — and they’re finding success in different ways. For other mature markets seeking to overcome the legacy channel of cash, the digital transformations of Australia, Sweden, and the UK can serve as a roadmap. Here are the strategies these regions are implementing in the race to become the world’s first cashless society: Australia is launching government initiatives and instating new regulations. The Australian government has banned purchases over AU$10,000 ($7,500) from being made in cash, as well as launched the New Payments Platform (NPP) to allow real-time funds transfer as a means of replacing transactions typically made in cash, such as paying back a friend. In Sweden, consumers are rapidly abandoning cash in favor of cards. In fact, only 2% of the total value of transactions in Sweden consist of cash — a figure that’s expected to decline to less than half a percent by 2020. Contactless payments are leading the shift away from cash in the UK. Nearly the entire population has a debit card, and debit card transactions surpassed cash payments for the first time at the end of 2017. This milestone was largely fueled by the surge in contactless cards, which grew 97% annually last year to hit 5.6 billion transactions. Want to Learn More? The Global Payments Landscape from Business Insider Intelligence compiles various payments snapshots, together illustrating how digital payment methods are supplementing or replacing cash in each market. Each snapshot provides an overview of the payments industry in a particular country, and details the evolution of its development. They also highlight notable payments players in each region and discuss the opportunities and challenges that players are facing in their respective markets. Get The Global Payments Landscape  Join the conversation about this story »
  • Expect Noisy Action For The S&P 500 This Fall
    From Larry McMillan: After two horrendous days on October 10th and 11th, the market experienced a solid oversold bounce. Some buy signals were even generated from that bounce, but now it seems to be failing again without having fulfilled even… Read more ›
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    From Contrarian Outlook: Do you want to generate income that increases along with interest rates, with the potential upside from private equity investments? A Business Development Company (BDC), a type of closed-end investment company, could be the answer you’re looking for. BDCs… Read more ›
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