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Why the Cybertruck is a breakthrough for Tesla and designer Franz von Holzhausen (TSLA)

42 min 54 sec ago  |  Clusterstock

Before the reveal of Tesla's outrageous Cybertruck, the company's head designer was known for elegance and restraint.

Franz von Holzhausen's calling card was that at Tesla he hadn't created wild, futuristic vehicles that evoked spaceships or impossible constructions of curves and contorted lines. The Model S in particular was a subdued masterpiece that's held up fantastically well since its introduction in 2012. It was a perfectly normal-looking all-electric sedan that nonetheless made you want to keep looking at it. It should have been boring, but it wasn't. It was captivating.

Few car designers have achieved this: Alec Issigonis with the original Mini, Malcolm Sayer with the Jaguar E-Type, Henrik Fisker with the Aston Martin DB9.

When Tesla rolled out its new Roadster a few years ago, you could see von Holzhausen extending himself but not going crazy.

Likewise with the Model Y crossover, which very clearly represented von Holzhausen sticking to the core visual vocabulary he had made into his own language.

But the Cybertruck — wow! No one expected anything even remotely like it from the dignified von Holzhausen. Though the design is controversial, I think it's a wonderful move for Tesla and for von Holzhausen. The brand was running the risk of falling into a rut. In the car business, there's a simple dictum that says it all: "Show them the car."

What that means is that the physical fact and impression of the vehicle is the fundamental. If people don't respond to your design, positively or negatively, then you've failed.

So the Cybertruck is a breakthrough for von Holzhausen. Here's why:

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The Model S is the opposite of futuristic. Beyond that, von Holzhausen took advantage of the inherent engineering of electric cars — no gas engine, no drivetrain, no gas tank — to create a sleek sedan that has a very roomy cabin and SUV-like storage.

The Model 3 offers more of the same.

The Model Y crossover represents an evolution ...

... of von Holzhausen's vocabulary from the Model X.

Even the new Roadster makes use of von Holzhausen's familiar styling cues.

These designs have been influential in ways that more out-there styles aren't. Von Holzhausen's genius is for beauty that's tied to reality.

No one would accuse the Cybertruck of being tied to the reality of pickups.

The RAM 1500, Business Insider's 2019 Car of the Year, is tied to reality.

But this is where von Holzhausen has moved the story forward. Nobody thinks about reinventing the pickup because even tentative efforts in that direction, such as ...

... the first-generation Honda Ridgeline have been rejected by the incredibly conservative truck market.

Everything about the Cybertruck flies in the face of received pickup-truck wisdom. And that's an innovative move, because for von Holzhausen to design a Tesla-fied pickup, using his familiar language, would have been a dud.

Von Holzhausen instead decided to do what he hadn't previously done, and what Tesla had avoided, which was to blow minds rather than hew to middlebrow sensibilities.

And why not? We ask for artists to grow, so when they do, we shouldn't be freaked out by how far they go. They are, after all, THE ARTIST. Trying to control them is foolhardy.

In this sense, the Cybertruck is bold and brave. It is the design everybody is talking about, inside and outside the car business. So for von Holzhausen, it's a personal and professional triumph.

BLOCKCHAIN IN BANKING: An inside look at four banks' early blockchain successes and failures

2 hours 1 min ago  |  Clusterstock

Since its emergence at the start of the decade, blockchain has been heralded as one of the most transformative technologies for financial services. Blockchain hype has led financial institutions (FIs) to pour money into the space and into distributed ledger technology more broadly: about $1.7 billion annually as of 2018, per research from Greenwich Associates cited by Bloomberg.

Despite the hype, sentiment around the technology has grown increasingly skeptical as FIs struggle to realize the value of their investments. Incumbents have shuttered some early experiments, and FI execs are beginning to discuss blockchain's prospects in bearish terms.

Key difficulties include scaling the technology for commercial application, ongoing regulatory uncertainty, and the difficulty of bringing together competing participants.

Yet amid the noise, it's becoming more clear where exactly blockchain has value, and some players are beginning to make genuine inroads in their adoption and deployment of the technology. Those who are finding success are both pushing back against souring industry sentiment and setting themselves up as industry leaders.

In The Blockchain in Banking Report, Business Insider Intelligence explores early blockchain successes and failures at four major banks, identifies the lessons these early wins — and losses — have for the rest of the financial services industry, and outlines actionable steps that industry players can take to ensure the success of their own blockchain projects.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Bank of America (BofA), Citi Bank, CME Group, Fidelity Investments, HSBC, IBM, JPMorgan, Marco Polo, Mastercard, Nasdaq, PayPal, Ripple, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Santander, SWIFT, and Visa.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Blockchain has been one of the most hyped technologies within financial services, heralded for its potential to eliminate pain points across the industry. 
  • Despite this enthusiasm, questions have come up about the technology's efficacy as FIs struggle to actualize blockchain solutions. Among the key challenges holding back blockchain adoption are scalability and performance, trust, and regulatory uncertainty.
  • Yet, for all its difficulties, blockchain's promise to transform financial services processes has meant leading banks are attempting to figure out where the technology does and does not work firsthand, to varying degrees of success.
  • To implement an effective blockchain solution, decision-makers should first determine how much they're willing to commit to the technology and identify a genuine business problem that blockchain can resolve. Only then should they develop a strategy for delivering a blockchain project.

In full, the report:

  • Details the key roadblocks holding backing blockchain adoption within financial services.
  • Identifies the most promising use cases are which industry players are coalescing.
  • Explores four banks' early blockchain project successes — JPMorgan and HSBC — and failures — Citi Bank and BofA — and the lessons they provide.
  • Provides actionable recommendations on how banks can successfully pursue a blockchain project.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store.  >> Purchase & Download Now
  2. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you've given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of blockchain in banking.

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THE PAYMENTS FORECAST BOOK 2019: 22 forecasts of the global payments industry's most impactful trends — and what's driving them

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:01pm  |  Clusterstock

As cash usage declines slowly worldwide, the digital payments ecosystem is swelling around the globe: Noncash transactions are poised to exceed 1 trillion for the first time in 2023, driven by increased card penetration, wider access to mobile phones, and more access to payments infrastructure.

In emerging markets, these changes will be driven by Asia, which remains at the helm of digital transformation in payments as customers in major markets like China, India, and Southeast Asia flock to wallets like Alipay and Paytm and super-apps like WeChat and Grab in lieu of cash and cards for their payments, both online and in-store.

Change looks different in mature markets like the US, where the overall expansion of the digital payments market will remain more tempered, but mobile's impact will surge as customers move from PCs to mobile and other emerging connected devices for their online shopping, and replace small-dollar cash P2P transactions with mobile apps like Venmo and Zelle. For providers looking to make inroads in the space, understanding the dynamics of these changes will be key to growth.

In the 2019 edition of the Payments Forecast Book, Business Insider Intelligence will forecast growth in the major sectors of the payments ecosystem worldwide, with a particular look at the US market.

The forecast book, presented as a slide deck, highlights change by region in areas like noncash transactions, e-commerce, card adoption, and terminal penetration, and examines key areas of change, including contactless transactions, fraud, and mobile payments. Within each category, it provides insight into what the market will look like in 2024 and identifies key factors that will accelerate and inhibit growth.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Affirm, Alibaba, Amazon, Clover, Discover, Google, Grab, iZettle, NACHA, Klarna, Mastercard, PayPal, Square, Starbucks, The Clearing House, Venmo, Visa, Verifone, Zelle,

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Globally, noncash transactions will exceed 1 trillion in 2024, driven by growth in APAC, which will comprise 40% of transactions by 2024.
  • Card adoption will grow rapidly in markets like Latin America and the Middle East to 2024, but stagnate in sub-Saharan Africa, where customers largely transact through nonbank methods.
  • US retail spending will grow modestly, but e-commerce will nearly double its share of total retail sales by 2024 as customers do more everyday shopping online.
  • Card payments will tick up as US customers continue to abandon cash, but mobile will remain the brightest growth driver, coming to comprise 44% of the $1.9 trillion in e-commerce and 68% of the $760 billion in P2P payments in 2024.

In full, the report:

  • Identifies big-picture trends moving the needle in the payments ecosystem both globally and in the US.
  • Forecasts growth in key sectors, including noncash transactions, card and terminal penetration, fraud, e-commerce, and mobile payments, through 2024.
  • Discusses what the global payments market will look like in 2024, and how that differs from the present.
  • Highlights key growth engines and inhibitors that will drive change between now and 2024.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >>Purchase & Download Now
  2. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you've given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the fast-moving world of digital payments.

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REGTECH REVISITED: How the regtech landscape is evolving to address FIs' ever growing compliance needs

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 8:02pm  |  Clusterstock

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.

Regtech solutions seemed to offer the solution to financial institutions' (FIs) compliance woes when they first came to prominence around 24 months ago, gaining support from regulators and investors alike. 

However, many of the companies offering these solutions haven't scaled as might have been expected from the initial hype, and have failed to follow the trajectory of firms in other segments of fintech.

This unexpected inertia in the regtech industry is likely to resolve over the next 12-18 months as other factors come into play that shift FIs' approach to regtech solutions, and as the companies offering them evolve. External factors driving this change include regulatory support of regtech solutions, and consultancies offering more help to FIs wanting to sift through solutions. Startups offering regtech solutions will also play a part by partnering with each other, forming industry organizations, and taking advantage of new opportunities.

This report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, provides a brief overview of the current global financial regulatory compliance landscape, and the regtech industry's position within it. It then details the major drivers that will shift the dial on FIs' adoption of regtech over the next 12-18 months, as well as those that will propel startups offering regtech solutions to new heights. Finally, it outlines what impact these drivers will have, and gives insight into what the global regtech industry will look like by 2020.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Regulatory compliance is still a significant issue faced by global FIs. In 2018 alone, EU regulations MiFID II and PSD2 have come into effect, bringing with them huge handbooks and gigantic reporting requirements. 
  • Regtech startups boast solutions that can ease FIs' compliance burden — but they are struggling to scale. 
  • Some changes expected to drive greater adoption of these solutions in the next 12 to 18 months are: the ongoing evolution of startups' business models, increasing numbers of partnerships, regulators' promotion of regtech, changing attitudes to the segment among FIs, and consultancies helping to facilitate adoption.
  • FIs will actively be using solutions from regtech startups by 2020, and startups will be collaborating in an organized fashion with each other and with FIs. Global regulators will have adopted regtech themselves, while continuing to act as advocates for the industry.

In full, the report:

  • Reviews the major changes expected to hit the regtech segment in the next 12 to 18 months.
  • Examines the drivers behind these changes, and how the proliferation of regtech will improve compliance for FIs.
  • Provides our view on what the future of the regtech industry looks like through 2020. Get The Regtech Revisited Report


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Iterable, a marketing automation startup taking on Salesforce and Oracle, wanted to be 'prepared for anything.' It made this pitch deck and raised $60 million.

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 7:32pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Iterable announced Tuesday that it's raised $60 million in series D funding; the round is the second it's closed this year, and the company expects the financing to take it to profitability.
  • The company is challenging the likes of Salesforce and Oracle with a service that helps companies send marketing messages to their customers.
  • It plans to use the new funds to further build out its product.
  • Below is the pitch deck the company used to raise its latest funding round.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Iterable is taking on some of the biggest companies in the enterprise computing sector.

Even so, the San Francisco startup's got some big believers among the venture-capital community.

The firm, which offers a service that helps companies send marketing messages to customers, announced Tuesday that it's raised $60 million in series D funding in a round led by Viking Global Investors. The financing is the second for Iterable this year; in March, it closed a $50 million C round that was led by Blue Cloud Ventures. In total, the firm has raised more than $140 million.

By going for a second funding round this year, Iterable was essentially trying to save for a rainy day, company CEO Justin Zhu told Business Insider. It didn't need the financing, but Zhu figured it was a wise idea to add to the company's war chest in case the US's long economic expansion comes to a close sometime soon.

"We just wanted to be prepared for anything that might happen — making sure the company is in a stable condition," he said.

Iterable is facing off against Salesforce and Oracle

Iterable's service allows users to communicate with consumers via text, email, and in-app and website messaging. Analysts and customers consider its product easy to use, and it has already attracted corporate clients including Priceline, Evernote, and Zillow.

Iterable is squaring off against the giant incumbents in the online marketing and customer relationship management software sector — Salesforce, Adobe, and Oracle. Zhu and his team designed Iterable's service so that customers could mix and match it with data warehousing and data analytics services offered by other startups. Clients can choose the best of all services, rather than having to get all three from one of the big cloud-based vendors, which have typically cobbled together their offerings by buying up different startups, Zhu said.

"We work better than any of the cloud solutions," he said.

The firm plans to use its new financing to add new features to its service and to further develop its artificial-intelligence feature, Zhu said. Right now, the feature can already track how often consumers interact with marketing messages Iterable's clients send and can help those clients adjust the frequency with which they send those messages accordingly so they don't annoy their customers.

Iterable also plans to use the financing to add 100 new employees, mostly to its product and engineering teams, Zhu said. The company is planning to reach profitability with the funds it now has on hand, he said.

Here is the pitch deck Iterable used to raise its latest funding round:

SEE ALSO: Here's the pitch deck a Montreal startup used to raise $2 million to get the word out about its AI-powered chatbot after funding it themselves for two years

Got a tip about venture capital or startups? Contact this reporter via email at, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

The actor who plays Cousin Greg on HBO's 'Succession' will star as WeWork founder Adam Neumann in an upcoming TV adaptation

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 6:48pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Succession's Nicholas Braun will star as Adam Neumann in an upcoming series about the WeWork implosion, a new report says. 
  • Chernin Entertainment and Endeavor Content have acquired the TV rights to an upcoming book announced by the Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrel, according to the Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg.
  • Braun, the 6'7 actor who plays the lanky Cousin Greg on the hit HBO series 'Succession,' is set to star in the new adaptation as WeWork's charismatic co-founder. He appears ready for the role, quipping on Twitter that 'the future is We.' 
  • The TV series is the latest in a long list of entertainment projects covering WeWork's implosion. Other projects include a feature film produced by Blumhouse Productions and a documentary produced by Campire.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. 

Nicholas Braun, of the hit HBO series 'Succession', has taken on a new gig, according to a report in the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. The lanky 6-foot-7 actor will star as WeWork's charismatic co-founder Adam Neumann, in an upcoming series tracking the office-leasing company's spectacular rise and fall, according to the Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg. 

Chernin Entertainment and Endeavor Content have acquired the TV rights to an upcoming book announced by the Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrel, the article said. Braun will reportedly both star and serve as an executive producer on the show. Endeavor Content did not immediately respond when reached for comment. 

WeWork was viewed as a rising star among unicorn startups, valued at nearly $50 billion. But when the company filed for an IPO, it drew scrutiny for Neumann's web of loans, erratic management and reckless spending. Questions about the company's business model quickly followed. The company cancelled its September IPO, ousted Adam Neumann, and tumbled in value. It accepted a bailout from the Japanese company SoftBank in October. 

Braun currently plays the bumbling Cousin Greg, an outsider desperate to ingratiate himself with the ultra-wealthy Roy family and make a name for himself at their media empire.

His new role as the exuberant 6-foot-5 Israeli entrepreneur Adam Neumann, who gained notoriety at WeWork for promoting a fast-paced alcohol-heavy hustle culture, promises to flex his acting skills, but the actor appears ready to take on a new persona. Braun tweeted in reaction to the Hollywood Reporter's article, quipping "The future is We." 

The TV series is the latest in the pipeline of WeWork projects announced. Blumhouse Productions is set to produce a feature film based on an upcoming book by the Fast Company's Katrina Booker, and the production company Campfire announced it would be producing a documentary in collaboration with Business Insider. 

Here's how Braun and Neumann look in real life. What do you think?


SEE ALSO: Sex, tequila, and a tiger: Employees inside Adam Neumann's WeWork talk about the nonstop party to attain a $100 billion dream and the messy reality that tanked it

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why it's so hard for planes to land on water

How to borrow money with a bank loan

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 6:09pm  |  Clusterstock

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • If you want to apply for a bank loan, the first thing you'll need to do is check your credit.
  • Then, you'll need to find out whether your bank offers personal loans. Generally, to get a bank loan you'll need to be an existing customer with good credit.
  • If your bank does offer loans, you'll need to assemble your paperwork, get clear on the terms of the loan, and make sure you have a plan to pay it back.
  • If your bank doesn't offer loans — or even if it does — you may want to get quotes for comparison from online lenders, which have fewer regulations and can base their offers less on your existing credit and more on your ability to repay.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Whether it's a personal loan to purchase a car, consolidate debt, finance a business or make home improvements, applying for a personal loan from a bank can be a way to build your credit and pay for what you need.

To get a personal loan from a bank, you'll generally need to be an existing customer with good credit, says Jamie Young, personal finance expert at Credible, an online loan marketplace. 

"If you bank with Chase, Bank of America, or Capital One, you'll have to look elsewhere — they don't offer personal loans," says Young. "Goldman Sachs Bank offers an online application process through its Marcus brand, and it's also easy to request rates from SunTrust Bank's online lending division, LightStream."

Note that banks face more regulations than online lenders, so "as a result, they have the strictest lending standards," says Priyanka Prakash, lending and credit expert at Fundera. "Online lenders are a lot more flexible. They place less importance on credit and more importance on your ability to pay back a loan. That means income is paramount."

Interested in seeing what an online lender could offer? Consider these options from our partners:

Or, you can use a personal loan marketplace like Credible to request rates from multiple lenders at a time.

How to get a bank loan 1. Check your credit score

If you're beginning the loan process for the first time, start by getting your credit score.

You can check it for free at any time at sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and You don't need a perfect credit score of 850 to get a loan, but lenders see your credit score as an indication of your trustworthiness as a buyer and adjust their offers accordingly — so the higher your score, the better.

2. If something looks amiss, pull your credit report

Your credit score is three-digit shorthand for the information contained in your credit report, which monitors all of your credit-related activity. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Note that there are plenty of opportunities to pay for your credit report, but is the best place to get your report for free (or call 1-877-322-8228). Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

2. Know that loans can actually boost credit scores

If you are looking to take out a loan to consolidate credit card debt, or pay debt down faster, it can help in more ways than you may realize.

"Taking out a personal loan to pay down high-interest credit card debt can boost your credit score by lowering your credit utilization ratio," says Young. "That's how close you are to hitting your limits on your credit cards. Try not to use more than 30% of your limit on any card."   

In addition, If you haven't taken out an installment loan like a car loan before, adding a personal loan to your credit mix can boost your credit score. "That's because your credit mix makes up 10% of your credit score," she says.

3. Understand that there are types of personal loans

There are two types of personal loans: secured and unsecured.

Unsecured are loans which aren't supported by collateral, like personal assets or a house. A bank evaluates whether to grant you the loan based on your financial history and credit score.

If you don't qualify for an unsecured loan, lenders also offer secured options, which may be leveraged against assets or accounts you have at the bank, or something more tangible, like a house or car. Mortgages, home equity loans, and auto loans are considered secured loans, since you're putting up collateral.

Remember that if you take out a secured loan using your home, your car, or something else as collateral, you run the risk of losing whatever you've leveraged should you become unable to pay your loans.

Most any lender that offers unsecured loans, including banks and credit unions, will also offer secured loans.

4. Make sure your bank offers personal loans

As Jamie Young from Credible said above, to get a personal loan from a bank, you'll generally need to be an existing customer with good credit. Some banks don't offer personal loans, so you'll want to find out what your bank does offer.

If your bank doesn't offer loans — or even if it does — you may want to get quotes from online lenders, which have fewer regulations and can base their offers less on your existing credit and more on your ability to repay. Online lenders can be an alternative to bank loans, or a basis for comparison.

After you've checked rates offered by online lenders, see if your bank will offer you a better deal.

5. Get your paperwork in order

One of the most challenging parts about getting a bank loan is the amount of documentation that's required as part of the process.

"Getting a bank loan can take weeks, even months. The main reason it takes so long is that you have to submit a bunch of paperwork," says Prakash from Fundera.  

The nature of the paperwork will vary based on the type of loan you're applying for, but in general, you can expect to need:

  • pay stubs/proof of income
  • the last couple years of tax returns
  • documentation of 401(k)s and other financial accounts
  • photo ID
  • rent/mortgage history
  • proof of collateral, if you're pursuing a secured loan

It's a good idea to get these basics in order before applying for the loan, in order to speed up the process.

6. Try and get preapproved

Although it's not a solid guarantee, preapproval is when a lender extends an unofficial offer on a loan, pending full approval.

In this instance, preapproval will tell the borrower what loan amount, terms, and repayment schedule they will likely qualify for in advance. Also, a preapproval acknowledges that the borrower has met the bank's general eligibility requirements.

The process usually includes an application and a credit history evaluation, and while it's a worthwhile step to take, it's not a guarantee that the bank will extend those exact terms when it comes time to issue a loan.

7. Know the terms

Personal loans are installment loans, which is when you borrow a fixed amount of money and pay it back with interest in monthly installments over the life of the loan.

The terms of the loan are in months and can range from 12 to 96 months. When you complete the loan terms, that loan is considered closed. If more money is needed, you must reapply for a new loan.

8. Make a plan to pay it back

Once you get your loan, make sure you have a plan to pay it back. How much will you owe per month? Do you plan to pay the minimum required, or to make extra payments and pay it back more quickly? When is the payment due?

Consider setting up automatic payments from your checking account once your paycheck clears, or calendar reminders to make sure you never miss a due date.

"Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score," says Young from Credible. "If you continue to make on-time payments and reduce your total amount of debt, your credit will improve" — and the next time you want to borrow money, it will be easier.

Considering an online lender instead of a bank? Take a look at these offers from our partners:

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Behind the scenes with Shepard Smith — the Fox News star who just announced his resignation from the network

Microsoft's cloud crew is ready to rumble but Amazon is squaring off with Trump (GOOG, GOOGL, AMZN, MSFT)

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 5:33pm  |  Clusterstock


Welcome back to Trending, the newsletter where we highlight BI Prime's biggest tech stories of the week. I'm Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider's West Coast bureau chief and global tech editor.

If this is your first time reading Trending, here's how you can get it in your inbox every week.

This week: Microsoft's cloud crew is getting ready to rumble, but Amazon is squaring off with Trump

By now there's nothing novel about Donald Trump's twitter attacks, which have targeted political rivals, critics, and companies that, for one reason or another, have earned his ire.

But Amazon's recent challenge to the Pentagon's JEDI contract decision shows how the President's personal version of call-out culture has become part of the industry's competitive landscape. In this case, Amazon is citing Trump's comments as evidence that the Pentagon's process for awarding the $10 billion contract was inherently biased, given the commander-in-chief's very public antipathy toward Amazon and its founder.

As Julie Bort writes, Amazon argues that its experience providing cloud services to the CIA and its proprietary Nitro smart cards made its technology "objectively superior." The only explanation passing Amazon over must be Trump, the company says. But as Bort points out, Amazon's claims to technological supremacy aren't as convincing as they once might have been. Microsoft also has its own smart-card technology and has worked on a smaller cloud project with the CIA.

While Microsoft's Azure cloud still lags considerably behind Amazon Web Services in market share, the company is prioritizing its cloud business. Check out Rosalie Chan and Ashley Stewart's report on the team of high-powered execs and technical hotshots that Microsoft assembled to lead its assault on Amazon's cloud. From AI to security and sales, the Azure A-team is broad and deep.

Read the full story here: Here are 19 of the most important executives leading Microsoft's cloud business as it takes on Amazon Web Services What does Adam Neumann have to do with your 401(k)?

If you thought that only WeWork insiders and venture capital investors felt the impact of the office-sharing company's fizzled IPO attempt, Troy Wolverton's lastest report makes for sobering reading. 

Mutual funds, in their quest for better returns, have been adding investments in private tech startups to their portfolios in recent years. And that includes WeWork, which until recently was one of the most-hyped startups.

The funds' stakes in these startups are relatively small, in part because regulations cap so-called "illiquid investments" at 15% of a portfolio. One of the funds with the most exposure to WeWork was the John Hancock Mid Cap Stock fund, for which WeWork comprised 0.77% of its investments.

As Wolverton points out though, even such small investments come with a special risk. The lack of liquidity in private company shares means that funds have an easier time swapping out holdings in public companies, and that can amplify a fund's exposure to sputtering startups. 

Mutual funds don't make it easy to find out which private startups they invested in. But if you're wondering about your 401(k)s recent performance, you might want to roll up your sleeves and see if you have any WeWork exposure.

Read the full story here: WeWork's meltdown was supposed to leave everyday investors unharmed. It didn't, and you probably don't even realize if your 401(k) took a WeWork hit. Google's curious disappearing act from Area 120

While we're on the subject of transparency and fine print, Rob Price has a look at some popular smartphone apps with a secret.

These apps, with names like Pigeon and Rivet, are focused on job-hopping, transportation, and education, and they are made by Area 120. If you're reading this, you're more likely than most to know that Area 120 is a Google incubator for new apps. 

But people who don't follow the tech industry closely — who are among the target audience for these apps — likely have no idea that Area 120 has anything to do with Google. And they wouldn't be enlightened when downloading the apps. As Rob notes, there's no mention of corporate ownership when users download or boot up the apps on iPhones. The Google relationship is disclosed on the apps' standalone websites, but how often do people check out websites for apps they download?

As Rob writes, Google's lack of transparency raises important questions just as Big Tech is under scrutiny:

"Should established firms have a responsibility to make clear when they're behind buzzy new products? How much onus is on ordinary users to thoroughly research apps before installing them? And if tech companies know their users won't read the fine print, do they have an obligation to do more to keep them informed?"

As Sundar Pichai takes over as CEO of Google parent company, Alphabet, these might be some good questions for him to think about. 

Read the full story here: Google has built a handful of buzzy new apps to help kids read and make commuting easier, but it doesn't clearly disclose it owns them Here are some other tech highlights: And more good stuff from across the BI newsroom:

Thanks for reading, and remember, if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

— Alexei

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Watch Elon Musk unveil his latest plan for conquering Mars

6 credit card benefits that double as last-minute holiday gifts

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 4:26pm  |  Clusterstock

I have 14 credit cards, and no fewer than five of them offer up to $100 as a statement credit to cover the cost of applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

While I'm set with my Global Entry membership (which comes with TSA PreCheck), I was able to put one of my extra credits to use by paying for my brother's Global Entry application with my United Explorer Card. A $100 credit was reflected on my credit card statement, and my brother now enjoys expedited airport security and fast-track immigration. Not bad, especially considering the Explorer card only has a $95 annual fee!

If you need to find a last-minute gift for anyone on your list, don't overlook the benefits offered by several premium credit cards. We're not just talking Global Entry application fee credits, either; you could also use statement credits for Saks purchases, or up to an $100 Away luggage credit with the updated American Express® Green Card (when you apply by January 15, 2020 and make an eligible Away purchase in the first three months).

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

Up to $50 in Saks credits with the Amex Platinum

If you have the Amex Platinum, you can get up to $100 in statement credits each year when you use your card to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue.

The benefit is divided into two statement credits of up to $50 — one for January to June, and another for July to December. So you can get up to $50 back when you use your Amex Platinum to buy a holiday gift for someone on your list. And may I suggest, Diptyque candles ($65) make a lovely gift.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum card »

Pay for someone's Global Entry or TSA application, and get reimbursed

If you're not set on your gift being a surprise, it's always a nice gesture to offer to cover the cost of applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (which comes with a PreCheck membership). To gift this benefit, you'll probably need to coordinate — your loved one has to make an Trusted Traveler Program account and enter a credit card number for payment. 

These are some of the many credit cards that offer a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck statement credit:

Up to $100 toward Away luggage

The Amex Green card was recently updated, and it's currently offering a welcome bonus that includes a statement credit with Away luggage.

If you apply by January 15, 2020, you can get up to $100 back as a statement credit when you make an eligible purchase with Away in the first three months from your account-opening date.

Read more: The best carry-on luggage you can buy now

The Amex Green card also offers up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the card to pay for CLEAR membership (which costs $179 per year), and up to $100 per year in statement credits for LoungeBuddy purchases. So you have a few different options for gifting benefits from this card.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Green card »

Up to $100 toward a purchase with Dell

The Amex Business Platinum card offers up to $200 in statement credits for Dell purchases in the US each year, divided into two credits of up to $100 for each half of the year.

$100 might not make a huge dent in the price of a laptop, but consider using this statement credit to shop for accessories like a laptop case or a smart-home device like the Nest thermostat.

Click here to learn more about the Business Platinum card from American Express »

Pay for someone's checked bag

Several American Express cards offer annual airline fee credits, which reimburse you up to a specified dollar amount for expenses like checked bags and in-flight purchases with your designated airline (you'll specify this in your Amex account).

Because you're limited to one airline and the credit doesn't apply to actual airfare, it can be difficult to use it all up, especially with the generous $200 limit on the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum. But you can pay for someone else's checked bags, or buy your travel companion an in-flight beverage. 

I used my annual airline fee credit from the Amex Platinum to cover checked baggage for both me and my aunt when we went skiing a few years ago — she appreciated the gesture, and I still got nowhere near the $200 limit that year!

Click here to learn more about the Amex Gold card »

Use your points and miles to gift award travel

If you're sitting on a stash of points or miles, don't forget that you can use those rewards to book someone a flight or hotel stay. 

With cards like the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the points you can earn can be transferred to a number of travel partners, and you can even book travel directly with Amex or Chase, respectively.

You could also use airline miles from a card like the United Explorer or hotel points from a card like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant to book travel for someone else.

Saudi Aramco isn't the best-performing stock debut of the day. Brazilian finance firm XP skyrocketed 24% in its multibillion-dollar IPO.

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 4:09pm  |  Clusterstock

Shares of Brazilian financial services group XP Inc. spiked as much as 26% Wednesday following its initial public offering, outperforming Saudi Aramco's record-breaking debut.

XP raised nearly $2 billion in its Nasdaq exchange offering after pricing shares at the top of its previously established range. The offering is the fourth-biggest hosted by the exchange this year, further solidifying its lead over the New York Stock Exchange in IPO funds raised in 2019.

Uber, Avantor, and Lyft had the largest IPOs of the year, raising $8.1 billion, $3.3 billion, and $2.6 billion, respectively.

XP's stock traded at $34 as of 3:05 p.m. ET, significantly higher than its $27 listing price. The post-IPO pop brings the company's valuation to roughly $18 billion.

XP grew by offering cheap stock and bond investing to Brazilians. The company has since expanded to offer fund management and investment banking services.

The offering comes the same day as Saudi Aramco's colossal IPO on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul exchange. The oil giant raised $25.6 billion after listing just 1.5% of its shares.

Aramco stock surged about 10% in its first day of trading, bringing the company's market cap to nearly $1.9 trillion. The public debut also established Aramco as the world's most highly valued firm, beating out Apple for the accolade.

XP's arrival on US markets also arrives after a number of IPO tumbles marred the public funding landscape. Uber, Lyft, and Peloton all slumped in their first day of trading, erasing hundreds of millions of dollars in investor wealth.

WeWork canceled its highly anticipated IPO after analyst scrutiny dragged the company's valuation lower. The company, which was once the US's highest-valued startup, went from a $48 billion valuation to bankruptcy talks in six weeks.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

A hedge fund-backed art dealer just lost an $11 million ruling to Sotheby's over an allegedly fake painting

It's getting more difficult to freely trade stocks as investing turns into an 'extreme sport' — and Bank of America warns the worst is yet to come

A sneakerhead who made nearly $7 million in sales last year reveals his secrets to tapping into the exploding multibillion-dollar resale market

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Citigroup has promoted a new class of managing directors in its $34 billion consumer bank — here are all the names

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 4:06pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Citigroup just announced its 2019 managing-director promotions for its Global Consumer Bank.
  • The MD distinction, the highest title at the firm, was earned by 25 employees at the firm's $34 billion retail bank.
  • Business Insider got a list of the names of all the newly promoted MDs.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Citigroup has been shaking up its Global Consumer Bank over the past year as it tries to jump-start revenues and win more customer deposits. The firm has named 25 new leaders who will have a hand in executing the new vision. 

Citi on Friday announced its 2019 class of managing-director promotions in the Global Consumer Bank, the firm's retail-banking arm that produced $34 billion in revenues last year.  

The MD title is the highest at the firm and a coveted distinction. Fourteen Global Consumer Bank employees in North America, seven in the Asia-Pacific region, and four in Mexico earned the promotion.

A Citi spokeswoman confirmed the names of the new MDs in each region. 

The bank also recently announced 137 MD promotions in its Institutional Clients Group, the division that houses its investment-banking and sales and trading operations. 

Citi has been overhauling its consumer bank over the past year, including unsheathing new battle plans to drive digital deposits and penetrate new territory. The efforts have yielded strong results thus far in 2019.

It has also installed new executives to lead the charge, most recently naming Jane Fraser as division head to replace the longtime retail banking chief Stephen Bird, who departed in October.

Come January, Fraser will have 25 new MDs to lean on as she looks to continue the momentum.

Here's the list of 2019 managing-director promotions in Citigroup's consumer bank: 


North America

Michael Boghosian

Dennis McCarthy

Lisa Cochran

Lora Monfared

Jason Cramer

Jason Osborne

Todd Domecq

Krista Phillips

Jason Gordon

Jennie Platt

Tammy Levine

Kim Pulliam

Cori Lin

Brad Wayman



Rahul Banerjee

Harpreet Grewal

Sandeep Batra

Tanaaz Irani

Vishal Bhardwaj

Kate Luft

Serene Gay



Jorge Baez

Mauricio Lopez Lajud

Karen Bernhard

Mauricio Schwartzmann

Join the conversation about this story »

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Here are the best savings accounts right now

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 4:03pm  |  Clusterstock

The best savings accounts right now:

Picking the best savings account to store your money is nearly as important as how much you save. Fees can eat into your cash, but a good interest rate can help grow it.

Many of us are guilty of settling for the savings account at the bank that holds our checking account. While there can be advantages to this — speedy cash transfers, most of all — it can be limiting. 

Below you'll find our picks for the best savings accounts right now, which includes high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) — two types of savings products that can help you earn up to 20 times more in interest than a traditional savings account. Each of these accounts has no fees, FDIC insurance up to $250,000, and online or mobile app access.

The most common way to access cash in a savings account is through electronic transfers to an internal or external checking account. With some accounts, an ATM card is provided or checks can be requested.

Keep in mind that most savings accounts limit the number of transfers and withdrawals to and from a checking or other savings account to six per statement cycle. With a CD, you cannot add additional money to the account or withdraw any money between the end of the initial funding period (usually between 10 and 14 days) and the maturity date without forfeiting your interest earnings.

Ally: Best savings account overall

Why it stands out: Ally has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. It's a particular favorite among millennials, who tout its accessibility and ease of use. You can deposit checks through the mobile app and open multiple accounts in minutes with $0 down. Ally's suite of products also includes a checking account, home and auto loans, and investing accounts.

Rate: 1.70%

What to look out for: An excessive transfer charge. Each transfer over the federal limit of six per statement cycle will incur a fee of $10.

BrioDirect: Best savings account for high APY

Why it stands out: BrioDirect is the online division of Sterling National Bank and it offers one of the top APYs for high-yield savings accounts right now, paired with a low minimum deposit. It's also accessible via mobile app.

Rate: 2.20%

What to look out for: Minimum deposit. You need at least $25 to open an account. Also, bear in mind that interest rates fluctuate with the federal funds rate, which means you aren't necessarily guaranteed to earn the highest rate with this account forever.  There are still good reasons to open a high-yield savings account when interest rates are low, but be aware they can change.

Capital One: Best savings account for kids/teens

Why it stands out: Kids under 18 can use Capital One's Kids Savings Account to deposit and store money with a little oversight from Mom and Dad. There are no fees and all balance tiers earn the 0.60% APY — much higher than kids' savings accounts at competing banks.

The mobile app allows kids to deposit checks and play with savings interest calculators to see how their money could grow. When the child turns 18, the account automatically becomes a Capital One 360 online savings account earning 1.80% APY.

Rate: 0.60% APY

What to look out for: Parental controls. Kids have their own online login to the account, but money can't be transferred without parental approval. 

Synchrony Bank: Best savings account for college students

Why it stands out: Synchrony Bank's high-yield savings account comes with an ATM card and doesn't limit the number of transactions or withdrawals that can be made via ATM, so it acts like a checking account. The bank will reimburse up to $5 a month in ATM fees charged by other financial institutions. But even better: All balance tiers earn 1.80% APY.

Rate: 1.80% APY

What to look out for: Non-ATM transfer limits. If you're making transfers to other accounts electronically, you're limited to six per statement cycle. Also, you cannot swipe the ATM card at retailers like a debit card.

Barclays CD: Best savings account for long-term goals

Why it stands out: If you have a savings fund that you won't need until a future date (and not before then), a CD is a good option for earning more. Barclays offers some of the highest rates on long-term CDs paired with no minimum deposit requirement. 

Rate: 2.10% on 1-year to 4-year CDs; 2.20% on 5-year CDs.

What to look out for: Early withdrawal penalties. The penalty for early withdrawal on a CD with a term of 24 months or less is equal to 90 days of interest. The penalty on a CD with a term of more than 24 months is equal to 180 days of interest.

Other savings accounts we considered and why they didn't make the cut:
  • Wealthfront: Although this account took the top spot on our best high-yield savings accounts list for its high APY and investing opportunities, the online banking service does not offer other financial products, like loans or a checking account, or have mobile check deposit.
  • Betterment: This robo-adviser's high-yield cash account, which requires a $10 initial deposit but doesn't limit transfers, is generally a good deal. But in order to clinch the top APY of 1.85%, you have to join the waitlist for Betterment's checking account.
  • Discover Bank: While it offers the same 1.70% APY, Discover's high-yield savings account isn't as beloved by customers as Ally's.
  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs: While this high-yield savings account is a contender for fan favorite, there's no mobile app, which means there's no easy way to deposit checks.
  • American Express: With a solid 1.75% APY, this account is a good option if you don't mind not having mobile access.
  • Wells Fargo Way2Save: While this account comes with ATM access, it offers a dismal 0.01% APY and charges a $5 monthly fee unless certain balance or auto-transfer requirements are met.
  • Chase Savings: Despite access to thousands of physical branches and ATMs, Chase offers just 0.01% APY on its savings account and charges a $5 monthly fee unless certain balance or auto-transfer requirements are met.
  • Bank of America: Despite access to thousands of physical branches and ATMs, Bank of America's savings account earns just 0.03% APY and charges an $8 monthly fee unless you keep a $500 daily balance.
  • HSBC Direct: The 2.05% APY makes this high-yield savings account a good choice for high earning potential, but it's not the best no-fee, low minimum balance option out there.
  • CIBC Bank: To earn the 1.85% APY on CIBC's high-yield savings account, you only need to maintain a balance of $0.01, but you have to put down $1,000 to open the account in the first place.
  • Citizens Access: Despite offering a respectable 1.85% APY, the minimum deposit to open a high-yield savings account here is $5,000. Citizens Access offers high APYs on its CDs, ranging from 2.10% to 2.25%, but all terms require a minimum deposit of $5,000.
  • Sallie Mae: The rates on Sallie Mae's CDs are all above 2%, but the minimum deposit to open an account is $2,500 and there isn't a no-penalty CD available.
  • MySavingsDirect: This high-yield savings account earns 2%, but there are others with better user experience and similar features that earn more.
  • SFGI Direct: A 2.27% APY may be attractive to interest-rate chasers, but you need at least $500 to open an account here.
  • PurePoint Financial: PurePoint's rates are on par with the best CDs on our list, but its $10,000 minimum deposit could be a major drawback for more modest savers.
  • Vio Bank: Although Vio Bank's high-yield savings account earns just over 2%, it requires $100 to start and didn't stand out among similar accounts.
  • Credit Karma: This high-yield savings account earns 1.90%, but as a credit and loan company, Credit Karma's expertise is not in traditional banking. 
  • Personal Capital: This is technically a cash account, which makes it easy to sweep some money into investments, but it only offers a 1.55% APY on your savings.
  • CIT Bank Savings Builder: This account requires a $100 monthly deposit or a $25,000 daily balance to earn the top APY. It's a great account to create savings momentum, but not the best overall.
Frequently asked questions: Why trust our recommendations?

Personal Finance Insider's mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that "best" is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account — a high APY, for example — we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don't have to.

How did we chose the best savings accounts?

We reviewed over two dozen banks and financial institutions and found that the best offerings are at online banks, in large part because they offer much higher interest rates and fewer fees. We ultimately narrowed our focus to banks offering at least 1% APY on their savings products (high-yield savings accounts and CDs included), with the exception of kids' savings accounts.

For this list, we did not consider credit unions — though they tend to offer high interest rates on savings accounts and CDs, many limit membership to people who work in a specific industry or live in a designated area. 

What bank offers the best savings account?

Because of its ease of use, high customer satisfaction, and good interest rate, Ally Bank has one of the best savings accounts overall. However, the "best" savings account for you will depend on your goals and priorities. Some people prefer to have a savings account at a bank that offers other financial products, like loans or checking or investment accounts, so we took this into consideration as well.

What is the best savings account to have?

The best savings account to have is one that does not charge excessive (or any) fees, is easy to access, and earns an interest rate above the national average of 0.09%. Interest rates on traditional and high-yield savings accounts are variable, however, so it's important to consider other features of an account before opening it for a high APY.

If you don't need immediate access to your cash, you may want to consider a CD to potentially lock in a higher interest rate. Otherwise, for cash that you will need to access on a regular basis — whether you're adding or withdrawing money from the account — a high-yield savings account is the best option.

Are online savings accounts safe?

Just like a savings account opened through a brick-and-mortar bank, most online savings accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000. The account is set up through a bank's website using the same information required at a physical branch — name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver's license or passport number, and address — but you will also need to create a username and password for online access.

Are high-yield savings accounts worth it?

Yes — a high-yield savings account has very few downsides, if any. There's no risk that you'll lose money, your account is insured by the FDIC (usually up to $250,000, but up to $1 million in some cases), and it gives you a shot at beating inflation.

The only time a high-yield savings account may not be worth it is if you're paying excessive maintenance fees that eat into your interest payments or you find yourself restricted by the monthly transfer limit or time it takes for your money to get to your checking account.

Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is in the process of becoming a licensed CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP).

Join the conversation about this story »

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THE EVOLUTION OF THE US NEOBANK MARKET: Why the US digital-only banking space may finally be poised for the spotlight (GS, JPM)

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 4:00pm  |  Clusterstock

What is a neobank?

Neobanks, digital-only banks that aren't saddled by traditional banking technology and costly networks of physical branches, have been working to redefine retail banking in major markets around the world.

Top neobanks in the US & EU

The top neobanks in the US and EU include:

  • OakNorth (EU)
  • N26 (EU)
  • Atom Bank (EU)
  • Revolut (EU)
  • Monzo (EU)
  • Chime (US)
  • Starling Bank (EU)
  • Varo (US)
  • Aspiration (US)

Driven by innovation-friendly regulatory reforms, these companies have especially gained traction in Europe over the last three years. While the US is home to some of the oldest neobanks — including Simple, which set up shop in 2009, and Moven, which was founded in 2011 — the country's neobank ecosystem has lagged behind its European counterpart.

That's largely because of an onerous regulatory regime, which has made it very difficult to obtain a banking license, and the entrenched position incumbents hold in the financial lives of US consumers. Navigating the tedious and costly scheme for obtaining a banking charter and appropriate approvals has been a major stumbling block for the country's digital banking upstarts. However, developments over the past year suggest these startups are finally poised for the spotlight in the US. 

Neobanks vs Traditional banks

Consumers', particularly millennials', growing frustration with legacy banking service providers, combined with their increased appetite for digital solutions, has accelerated the shift to digital-only banking. Startups and tech-savvy players are redefining the retail banking space and forcing incumbents to either evolve or lose out on this key business segment.

In The Evolution of the US Neobank Market, Business Insider Intelligence maps out the factors contributing to this shifting tide, examines how key players are positioning themselves to take advantage, and explores how incumbents can embark on their own digital transformations to stave off disruption.

The companies mentioned in this report include: Aspiration, Chime, Goldman Sachs' Marcus, JPMorgan Chase's Finn, N26, and Revolut.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Despite lagging behind Europe, recent developments suggest that neobanks are finally ready for the spotlight in the US.
  • Three distinct influences are responsible for creating the fertile ground for this evolution: regulation, shifting consumer attitudes, and the activity of incumbent banks.
  • Among those driving this evolution in the US are foreign neobanks including Germany's N26 and UK-based Revolut.
  • Meanwhile, two notable incumbent-owned outfits have deployed amid great fanfare: Marcus by Goldman Sachs and Finn by Chase. 
  • In this increasingly competitive landscape, incumbent banks have a range of strategic options at their disposal, including overhauling their entire business for the digital era.

 In full, the report:

  • Details the factors contributing to a shift in the US' neobank market.
  • Explains the different operating models neobanks in the US are deploying to roll out their services and meet consumer demands.
  • Highlights how incumbent banks are tapping into the advantages offered by stand-alone digital outfits. 
  • Discusses the key strategies established players need to deploy to remain relevant in the US' increasingly digital banking landscape.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are four ways to get access:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >>  Purchase & Download Now
  2. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
  3. Join thousands of top companies worldwide who trust Business Insider Intelligence for their competitive research needs. >> Inquire About Our Corporate Memberships
  4. Current subscribers can read the report here.

SEE ALSO: Latest fintech industry trends, technologies and research from our ecosystem report

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This is how Facebook learns what you buy at physical stores in order to show you relevant ads — and how to opt out (FB)

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 3:54pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Facebook gathers information about what you buy — both online and in physical stores — in order to serve you ads that correspond to those purchases.
  • The practice is relatively new — it quietly launched in August and is still rolling out globally.
  • This is a breakdown of how Facebook learns about your offline activity, and how to opt out.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you recently bought something at a physical store, you might have noticed an uptick in the number of Facebook ads you saw related to that store or the item you bought.

The phenomenon — which has been documented by Reddit and Twitter users — is not a coincidence. 

Through its partnerships with retailers, Facebook learns about what users are buying, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. That data is ultimately used to target ads to people, based on what they're likely to spend money on.

Any business can send opt to send Facebook information about customers, including identifying information like an email, name, or phone number, and a record of what they bought. Facebook matches that information to user's profiles, allowing the business to advertise to those people directly on its apps.

The advertising service is already being used by a range of Facebook's advertising clients, including Macy's and Dick's Sporting Goods.

Facebook rolled out an "off-Facebook activity" tool in August that allows users to view how the social network gauges their activity off the site.

Ad money comprises the lion's share of Facebook's revenue — of the $17.6 billion the company made in the third quarter of 2019, $17.3 billion came from ads. Part of what makes Facebook appealing to advertisers is the fine-tuned demographic information on users it offers, borne out through its tools that allow for hyper-targeted ads.

Business Insider asked Facebook to explain how it learns about people's offline purchases. Here's how the process works, and how to opt out.

The process begins when you buy something, either online or in a store. The retailer may retain information about you from the purchase.

If that retailer wants to target those customers with Facebook ads, it can send Facebook details of what was purchased, along with information that could match that purchase to a Facebook profile.

Personally-identifying information sent by the business could include your name, email, phone, or date of birth.

Facebook only needs a few data points from retailers in order to create a "custom audience," or a group of users it determines have shopped at that retailer.

According to a study published earlier this year, algorithms are capable of confidently identifying people based on just a few anonymized data points — and few companies have as much user data as Facebook.

All identifying information is hashed before it's sent from retailers to Facebook and subsequently deleted after being used to match a user to a purchase, according to a Facebook spokesperson.

Hashing is a common data-privacy practice that converts plain-text data to code that can only be read by an algorithm.

After the hashed data is deleted, what remains is the match — that is, Facebook has used the information from retailers to match specific user profiles to that business.

From there, the retailers can buy ads on Facebook that will be shown directly to the "custom audience" of users matched to them.

Several retailers use these ad tools, including Macy's and Dick's Sporting Goods.

"With store visits custom audiences, we re-engaged customers who had visited one of our stores with a targeted Facebook ad," a Dick's Sporting Goods spokesperson said in a statement. "And, using lookalike audiences, created from people similar to those who visited our store, opened up a broader audience of new customers for us to reach, driving incremental foot traffic and sales."

A Macy's spokesperson said the retailer has used Facebook ads to drive more in-store sales.

"We are encouraged by the positive results we saw in-store and are excited to continue testing Facebook's offline suite to fuel our growth," the spokesperson said.

Users can opt-out of being served ads based on offline events by going to their Facebook settings, selecting "Ads," and disallowing "ads based on data from partners."

The "ads" section of Facebook's user settings can be found here.

Facebook also offers a tool to let people check whether an ad is specifically targeting them. To use the tool, select "Why am I seeing this ad?" from the dropdown menu on the top right of the ad.

GM's former president is now running the self-driving-car company Cruise. He says it's time to move past the automobile. (GM)

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 3:29pm  |  Clusterstock

The automobile has been with us for over a century and has quite literally created fortunes.

But former GM President and now CEO of self-driving company Cruise says its time is over.

"To make order-of-magnitude — rather than incremental — improvements in transportation, we need to build alternatives that are superior to the status quo in every way," Ammann wrote in a Medium post published Wednesday.

General Motors bought what was then called Cruise Automation in 2016, when the self-driving startup had fewer than two dozen employees. The No. 1 US automaker, relatively fresh off a 2009 bankruptcy but enjoying a booming business in SUV and pickup trucks sales amid a robust US recovery from the financial crisis, paid $1 billion, all in. 

Cruise is now valued at almost $20 billion, after subsequent funding rounds from SoftBank, Honda, GM, and other institutional investors. (For comparison's sake, GM's current market cap is about $50 billion.)

An extraordinary statement about the future of mobility

To say that it's extraordinary for a longtime GM executive — Ammann joined GM in 2010 — who's now running the carmaker's most prominent effort to ensure its future to take a staunch position against the internal-combustion-powered, individually-owned automobile is an understatement. (Ammann became Cruise CEO in 2018, as cofounder Kyle Vogt shifted to being CTO)

"Imagine if someone invented a new transportation system and said, 'I've designed a new way of getting around: It's powered by fossil fuels that will pollute our air.'" Ammann wrote.

"'It will congest our cities to the point of inciting rage in its users. Its human operators will be fallible, killing 40,000 Americans — and more than a million people around the world — every year. Most of the time, the equipment will sit unused, occupying prime real estate and driving up housing costs. If you're young, old, or living with a disability, then you can't use it. And for those who can, the privilege will cost $9,000 a year and suck up two years of your life.'"

And then he offered the astonishing message: "You'd say, 'You're crazy.' And yet, here we are, living in a state of cognitive dissonance with exactly this — the human-driven, gasoline-powered, single-occupant car — as our primary mode of transportation."

Ammann went on to criticize the highly-touted, so-called disruptive alternatives to the automobile as, effectively, being more of the same. "Despite making up less than 1% of all vehicle miles traveled, ride-sharing has added further congestion, more emissions, and potentially even decreased safety in our cities from over-tired and overworked drivers," he wrote. Uber and Lyft, currently financially embattled on Wall Street after disappointing IPOs, aren't solutions.

Understandably, Ammann thinks Cruise is. 

Preparing to launch

The company is now engaged in community outreach to prepare for a commercial rollout in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cruise has also intensified the pace of its testing, designed to prove its all-electric autonomous vehicles can operate safely, without drivers, in dense urban areas where the passengers are concentrated. That's the only way the business model works, scales, and can be adapted to other cities.

"Only then will we truly move beyond the car to the transportation system that we deserve — one that is safer, more affordable, and better for us, for our cities, and for our planet," Ammann wrote.

Cruise is a completely separate enterprise from GM at this point, but the carmaker is still spending about $1 billion a year to help Cruise maintain operations. 

The irony here is that as GM continues to rack up billions in annual profits, selling large and pricey SUVs and pickups to an eager buyership, the company is moving full-speed-ahead under CEO Mary Barra to pursue an electrified future. 

"We believe in the science of global warming," she said recently, when announcing that GM and South Korea's LG Chem would jointly build a $2.3-billion new battery factory in Ohio.

Ammann's views on the automobile, combined with Barra's vision for a GM that can survive for an other century, are the strongest indications yet that the carmaker giant and its bold self-driving undertaking don't intend to surrender the 21st-century to any newcomers.

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WeWork, SmileDirectClub, and Peloton: Here are the 5 biggest 'unicorn' IPO flops of 2019

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 3:07pm  |  Clusterstock

  • 2019 was a tough year for unicorn startups — privately held companies valued at more than $1 billion — going public through an initial public offering process. 
  • Though the first half of the year was strong for IPOs, "investors got really turned off" after big disappointments from companies like Uber and Lyft, according to Kathleen Smith of Renaissance Capital. 
  • Still, the IPO market as a whole has outperformed this year. The Renaissance IPO ETF is up 30% this year compared to the S&P 500 index, which is up roughly 25% in the same time frame. 
  • Here are the biggest unicorn IPO flops of the year. 
  • Read more on Business Insider. 

This year has been a rough one for some companies trying to go public through an initial-public-offering process, or IPO. 

Unicorn startups, or privately held companies with valuations over $1 billion, didn't fare very well in the public markets in 2019, as investors grew increasingly wary of unprofitable companies

"I think the market was very robust all the way through the first half," said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, a provider of institutional research and IPO exchange-traded funds. But then, a few weak IPO performances early in the second half spooked investors, Smith told Markets Insider in an interview. 

"Investors got really turned off," Smith said, and they stopped flocking to buzzy unicorn IPOs. "I'll call it a buyer's strike, not wanting to participate because there were such big disappointments." 

Those large "unicorn" disappointments weighed on IPOs for the rest of the year. In the fourth quarter, most companies going public have priced at the lower end of their proposed ranges, Smith said. 

While that can be frustrating for companies that use the IPO process to raise capital, it is good for investors, Smith said, because companies that are underpriced tend to gain in the market later.

"When investors are risk averse, IPOs are priced better," she said. "This is a good time for investors in the IPO market, not such a good time for companies." 

Overall, the IPO market slowed this year, Smith said. In 2019, 152 companies IPO'd, raising roughly $44 billion, according to Smith. That's less than 2018, when 192 companies IPO'd and raised nearly $47 billion in proceeds, Smith said. 

Still, IPOs in general — not just those with sky-high valuations — performed well for investors in 2019. The Renaissance IPO ETF is up 30% year-to-date through Tuesday's close, compared to the S&P 500 index, which is up roughly 25% in the same time frame. 

Smith said that in 2020, it's likely that companies will try to push back on the processes available to them for becoming public, because the "regular IPO process is not working" for all companies. That could include more direct listings, like Slack in 2019 and Spotify in 2018, even though they haven't been successful for investors, she said. 

Here are the top unicorn IPO flops of 2019, in chronological order:

1. Lyft

Ticker: Lyft

IPO date: March 29, 2019

IPO price: $72 per share 

Performance on first day of trading: +8.7%

Performance from IPO price through December 10: -37%

2. Uber

Ticker: Uber

IPO date: May 10, 2019

IPO price: $45 per share 

Performance on first day of trading: -7.6% 

Performance from IPO price through December 10: -38% 

3. SmileDirectClub

Ticker: SDC

IPO date: September 12, 2019

IPO price: $23 per share 

Performance on first day of trading: -27%

Performance from IPO price through December 10: -65%

4. Peloton

Ticker: PTON

IPO date: September 26, 2019

IPO price: $29 per share

Performance on first day of trading: -11% 

Year to date performance through December 10: +13%

5. WeWork

WeWork actually did not make it through the IPO process. After Uber and Lyft's disastrous IPOs, investors were on high alert for unprofitable unicorn companies looking to list on the public market. 

Then, WeWork released its S-1, or prospectus, a regulatory filing all companies looking to list publicly must submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

"When everyone talked about WeWork and they the opened the prospectus, it was like, you're kidding," Smith told Markets Insider. "No one could believe what was inside." 

She continued: "This was so bad. We heard everything was so good." 

In six weeks, the company went from one with a $47 billion valuation to one that was reportedly considering bankruptcy. In addition, WeWork's cofounder and then-CEO Adam Neumann stepped down from the top job.

One of SoftBank Vision Fund's 12 managing partners is leaving the company

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 3:04pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Praveen Akkiraju, a managing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund, is leaving the company.
  • Akkiraju, a former executive at Cisco Systems, joined the $100 billion investment vehicle last year to focus on enterprise technology investments. 
  • A Vision Fund spokesperson said senior managing partner Deep Nishar would shoulder some of Akkiraju's former responsibilities, including his board seat at the Indian company Automation Anywhere. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. 

Praveen Akkiraju, a managing partner at SoftBank Vision Fund, is leaving the company. 

An email announced the news internally, and said that Akkiraju was "leaving to explore his passion for working with early-stage start-ups (operating or investing role)," Axios's Dan Primack reported Wednesday. A spokesperson from SoftBank Vision Fund confirmed the news. 

"I want to thank Praveen for everything he's done for the Vision Fund. His deep technical expertise, thoughtfulness and passion for entrepreneurs will be missed. We wish him all the best on his next adventure," a statement from Vision Fund CEO Rajeev Misra said. 

Akkiraju was one of the fund's twelve managing partners, managed investments in both America and Asia, and served as the co-lead on India investments. 

The former Cisco executive joined SoftBank Vision Fund last spring, and has the fund's enterprise software investments. One of Akkiraju's deals was intelligent automation company Automation Anywhere from India, in which SoftBank Vision Fund invested $300 million. Akkiraju currently holds a seat on Automation Anywhere's board. 

On the company board page, Akkiraju has said that he believed that technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing were "redefining the way products and services are being delivered." 

SoftBank's first Vision Fund backed some of the biggest names in tech, including Uber, WeWork, and DoorDash. It also has a few sizable investment in enterprise technology companies like the office-messaging service Slack. But doubts about the investment vehicle have intensified after the collapse of WeWork's planned IPO, as well as Uber and Slack's disappointing stock performances. 

SoftBank Vision Fund had initially targeted raising $108 billion in funding for its second act, which aimed to shake up next-generation enterprise technology. Last month, the company's first fund-raising round collected $2 billion, Bloomberg reported. That's less than 2% of the company's original vision. 

Vision Fund declined to comment on what implications Akkiraju's departure would carry for its second iteration. 

No replacement for Akkiraju has yet been announced. Senior managing partner Deep Nishar is said to be taking on many of Akkiraju's responsibilities, including his board seat with Automation Anywhere.

SEE ALSO: SoftBank is selling back its stake in the embattled dog-walking startup Wag amid the company's 'painful' layoffs

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Your life insurance beneficiary determines who gets the money upon your death, and your will can't override it

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 2:58pm  |  Clusterstock

What is the point of life insurance? To ensure the financial security of your loved ones if you pass away. You choose the person or people who get your life insurance proceeds, but if you don't keep them updated, the results can be catastrophic for your family's money.

If you don't know what a life insurance beneficiary is or want to find out how to avoid a critical mistake, make sure you understand these vital facts about life insurance beneficiaries.

What is a life insurance beneficiary?

In life insurance, the term life insurance beneficiary is the person who receives a death benefit if the insured individual passes away during the covered term. In other words, if the person with life insurance dies, the beneficiary gets the cash from a life insurance policy.

The entire purpose of life insurance is to give someone money if you die, so it's important to choose who will get that money, and keep that person up to date. Whether you get life insurance through work or a policy you purchased on your own, the beneficiaries work the same.

You can generally add one or more life insurance beneficiaries. If you put multiple people, you can divide the proceeds evenly or give a specific percentage to each. You can also designate a contingent beneficiary. That's a fancy way of saying backup beneficiary in the event your chosen beneficiary has also passed away.

If you don't choose a beneficiary, the policy generally pays out to your estate. That puts the cash up for creditors and lenders who will try to get the money for unpaid debts instead of writing a check directly to your loved ones.

Life insurance beneficiaries are final

If you get divorced, something very common in the United States today, you probably don't want your ex-wife or ex-husband to get your life insurance payout if something happens to you. However, that very scenario happens quite frequently.

A will or a trust controls what happens to your assets like bank accounts, investments, real estate, and possessions if you pass away. However, life insurance is outside of a will or trust. You have to update your life insurance beneficiaries even if you update your will. Life insurance beneficiaries are final.

Nothing overrides your choices here, so make sure to update your beneficiaries if you have a major life change or change in preferences.

It's easy to designate or update beneficiaries

My first life insurance came from work in my early 20s. I wasn't married and didn't have kids, but life insurance was a completely paid-for benefit from my employer. You can't beat free! I chose my sister as my life insurance beneficiary at that time.

When I got married, I filled out a form on my company's intranet to update the beneficiary from my sister to my wife. It took less than five minutes. All I needed was her name, contact information, and optionally her Social Security number for verification.

For your own life insurance outside of work, contact the insurance company for information on making updates. It usually requires a quick form, which may be completed online in some cases.

If you have children or other preferences for where your life insurance money goes, make sure to include them as well. Take a few minutes to update or review your choices if you have any doubts or questions.

Beneficiaries are the most important part of life insurance

Life insurance is meant to protect someone else. You won't be around to enjoy the proceeds of your own life insurance, should it ever pay out. To make sure your monthly premiums provide your loved ones the benefits you expect, make sure your life beneficiaries are up to date. It's simple and takes just a few minutes to make sure your loved ones are protected.

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NOW WATCH: Behind the scenes with Shepard Smith — the Fox News star who just announced his resignation from the network

Germany is still guarded against mobile payments – but there is a path to growth

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 2:51pm  |  Clusterstock
  • At Business Insider Intelligence, our mission is to bring you the most important insights, data and analysis from the digital world. So when we come across outstanding research from our partners that we think our audience can benefit from, we like to make sure you hear about it. 
  • That's why we're giving you a preview of one of eMarketer's most popular reports: Germany Mobile Payment Users 2019.
  • You can purchase and download the full report here.

Germany remains relatively closed off to the idea of mobile payment services compared to other European nations, but certain marketing tactics may help consumers meet this technology with open arms.

While insecurities around mobile spending won't vanish tomorrow, advertisers can break down the walls of their customers by recognizing their specific concerns and demonstrating transparency when addressing them.

eMarketer has put together the report Germany Mobile Payment Users 2019 to create visibility around the factors impacting mobile payment growth and offer insight to advertisers looking to break through a guarded cash culture.

Some highlights include:

  • Consumer readiness with proximity payment services will depend on the perceived preparedness of retailers, signaled not only by the technology made available, but also the proficiency of staff on these services. 
  • Simplicity will shine as we see consumers lean towards third-party applications compatible with their current operating systems and shy away from services requiring additional smartphone updates.
  • While consumers still worry about being vulnerable to the perceived peril of mobile spending, incentives, like loyalty points and transit benefits, and security features, like facial recognition and fingerprinting, could be the way to win them over.

Interested in getting the full report? Purchase & download it from our research store.

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A top tech banker compares companies that are struggling to innovate to a $16.2 million futurist sculpture – here's the full 2020 outlook memo he sent to staff

Wed, 12/11/2019 - 2:47pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Aryeh B. Bourkoff, a tech, media, and telecom banker who founded LionTree Advisors, said "profitable, scaled businesses" that have survived many new challengers should last for at least the next five to 10 years.
  • Instead of fighting startups, as they did in the last few years, those incumbents will battle each other for market share. 
  • He also highlighted hot areas for young companies, including audio, video gaming, beauty/fashion/luxury, food technology, and health and wellness. 
  • Despite a public-private disconnect, Bourkoff said he expects the IPO market to stay open for private equity-driven companies and exits. 

A top tech banker used a Futurist sculpture that sold last month for a record price – $16.2 million – as a metaphor for how he's thinking about market tensions right now. 

Aryeh B. Bourkoff, the LionTree founder and renowned tech, media, and telecom banker, said in a letter to staff on Wednesday that Umberto Boccioni's "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" sculpture "serves as a metaphor for the tension and synthesis between scale and motion that we are seeing right now." 

Bourkoff wrote that "profitable, scaled businesses" that have survived many new challengers should last for at least the next five to 10 years. In the last few years, fighting startups made these businesses "stronger and more creative." Now, established companies' fight needs to focus on battling peer incumbents for market share and to continuing to innovate internally. Last year, Bourkoff wrote that one of 2019's hottest issues would be direct-to-consumer video

For 2020, Bourkoff said that the streaming wars represent one area where scale players are crowding a space that's also competing with video games and other entertainment for consumers' time and money.

Now, incumbents' scale across industries could limit startups' access to capital, making funding more expensive.

"The differentiated cost of capital for scale players relative to smaller companies, driven by more discerning capital markets, bodes well for larger companies. This reality will likely force mergers among sub-scale companies and sharpen distinctions between winners and losers," Bourkoff wrote. 

Despite those challenges, he highlighted a number of hot sectors for young companies: audio (music and podcasting), video games, beauty/fashion/luxury, food technology, and health and wellness.  

Bourkoff said incumbents will also look to some of those areas for acquisitions. He added that there will be fewer cross-border deals in 2020, with more in-market focus. Because of the ongoing public-private market disconnect, Bourkoff expects to see an uptick in private sales, although the IPO market will remain open for private equity-driven companies and exits. 

Read Bourkoff's full letter here:  DV.load("", { responsive: true, sidebar: false, container: "#DV-viewer-6574077-Aryeh-Bourkoff-Year-End-Letter-December-2019" }); Aryeh Bourkoff Year End Letter December 2019 (PDF)
Aryeh Bourkoff Year End Letter December 2019 (Text)


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NOW WATCH: WeWork went from a $47 billion valuation to a failed IPO. Here's how the company makes money.

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