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Apply by by March 1, 2018 USADF - All On #Nigeria Off-Grid Energy - Challenge Call for Proposals

9 hours 53 min ago  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From USADF:
The U.S. African Development Foundation and All On invites proposals for innovative off-grid solutions to “power up” underserved areas of Nigeria. Applicants should be developing, scaling up or extending energy technologies to off-grid areas of Nigeria. In order to apply, applicants should submit the below application template, as well as the required attachments, to OffGridChallengeNigeria@usadf.gov by March 1, 2018. For details on eligibility and application instructions, please refer to the Request for Proposals document below.

Why the African Consumer Market is NOT the same as the African Middle Class - PrePaid Economy

10 hours 24 min ago  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From PrePaid Economy:
The biggest challenge faced by consumer facing companies looking at the African Consumer Market is the age old positioning of the “middle class” as the ideal target audience. This middle class is segmented by the same attributes as the original middle classes who formed the consumer markets of the developed world...[more]

10 things you need to know in markets today

10 hours 37 min ago  |  Clusterstock

Good morning! Here's what you need to know in markets on Tuesday.

1. HSBC's pre-tax profit for 2017 more than doubled due to the absence of hefty restructuring costs incurred in the prior year but still lagged expectations as the bank took a writedown following U.S. tax changes. Europe’s biggest lender by market capitalization, on Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver’s last day on the job on Tuesday, also announced plans to further bolster its capital base by raising up to $7 billion in the first half of 2018.

2. North Korean is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Monday. In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table. "It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula," KCNA said.

3. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said on Tuesday he can see commercialization of the Uber Air flying taxi service happening within five to 10 years. The U.S. ride-hailing app maker has said it expects flying vehicles to eventually become an affordable method of mass transportation.

4. Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund, told clients that cryptocurrencies will likely one day be described "as one of the most brilliant scams in history." "FOMO (fear of missing out) has solidly trumped WTHIT (what the hell is this??)," Elliott wrote in a fourth-quarter letter to clients.

5. Britain's financial sector will be "the servant of industry not the masters of us all" if the opposition Labour Party gets into power, its leader Jeremy Corbyn will say on Tuesday, accusing bankers of taking the economy hostage. "For a generation, instead of finance serving industry, politicians have served finance. We've seen where that ends: the productive economy, our public services and people's lives being held hostage by a small number of too big to fail banks and casino financial institutions," he will say.

6. Bitcoin has failed as a currency measured by the traditional benchmarks, and is neither a store of value nor a useful way to buy things, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Monday. "It has pretty much failed thus far on ... the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange," Carney told students at London's Regent's University.

7. Asian stocks dipped on Tuesday, their recent recovery slowing after European equities broke a winning streak run, while the dollar held firm after bouncing from three-year lows. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged down 0.1%. Australian stocks dipped 0.45%.

8. Deutsche Bank is cutting at least 250 investment banking jobs in locations including London and the United States, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, adding that the figure could rise to as many as 500. It is in the process of cutting 9,000 jobs group-wide from 2015 levels, or around one in 10 staff, with 4,000 jobs expected to go in Germany.

9. Euro zone finance ministers chose Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos to succeed European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio in May, a move likely to boost the chances of a German becoming head of the ECB next year. Initially faced with two candidates — de Guindos and Irish central bank governor Philip Lane — the ministers had their choice made simple for them by Ireland's decision to withdraw Lane's name.

10. The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon during thin trading. Bitcoin lost more than half its value between November and late January but has staged a strong rally over the last week or so, appreciating from around $8,000 on February 13 to more than $11,000 on Monday.

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AI IN BANKING AND PAYMENTS: How artificial intelligence is cutting costs, building loyalty, and enhancing security across financial services

11 hours 24 min ago  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most commonly referenced terms by financial institutions (FIs) and payments firms when describing their vision for the future of financial services. 

AI can be applied in almost every area of financial services, but the combination of its potential and complexity has made AI a buzzword, and led to its inclusion in many descriptions of new software, solutions, and systems.

This report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, cuts through the hype to offer an overview of different types of AI, and where they have potential applications within banking and payments. It also emphasizes which applications are most mature, provides recommendations of how FIs should approach using the technology, and offers examples of where FIs and payments firms are already leveraging AI. The report draws on executive interviews BI Intelligence conducted with leading financial services providers, such as Bank of America, Capital One, and Mastercard, as well as top AI vendors like Feedzai, Expert System, and Kasisto.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • AI, or technologies that simulate human intelligence, is a trending topic in banking and payments circles. It comes in many different forms, and is lauded by many CEOs, CTOs, and strategy teams as their saving grace in a rapidly changing financial ecosystem.
  • Banks are using AI on the front end to secure customer identities, mimic bank employees, deepen digital interactions, and engage customers across channels.
  • Banks are also using AI on the back end to aid employees, automate processes, and preempt problems.
  • In payments, AI is being used in fraud prevention and detection, anti-money laundering (AML), and to grow conversational payments volume.

 In full, the report:

  • Offers an overview of different types of AI and their applications in payments and banking. 
  • Highlights which of these applications are most mature.
  • Offers examples where FIs and payments firms are already using the technology. 
  • Provides descriptions of vendors of different AI-based solutions that FIs may want to consider using.
  • Gives recommendations of how FIs and payments firms should approach using the technology.

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

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 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
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

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THE BLOCKCHAIN IN BANKING REPORT: The future of blockchain solutions and technologies

12 hours 25 min ago  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Nearly every global bank is experimenting with blockchain technology as they try to unleash the cost savings and operational efficiencies it promises to deliver. 

Banks are exploring the technology in a number of ways, including through partnerships with fintechs, membership in global consortia, and via the building of their own in-house solutions. 

In this report, BI Intelligence outlines why and in what ways banks are exploring blockchain technology, provides details on three major banks' blockchain efforts based on in-depth interviews, and highlights other notable blockchain-based experiments underway by global banks. It also discusses the likely trends that will emerge in the technology over the next several years, and the factors that will be critical to the success of banks implementing blockchain-based solutions.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Most banks are exploring the use of blockchain technology in order to streamline processes and cut costs. However, they are also looking to leverage additional advantages, including increased competitiveness with fintechs, and the ability to use the technology to create new business models. 
  • Banks are starting to narrow their focus, and are increasingly honing in on tangible use cases for blockchain technology that solve real problems faced by their businesses. 
  • Regulators are taking an increased interest in blockchain technology, and they're working alongside major banks to develop regulatory frameworks. 
  • Blockchain-based solutions will start to emerge in different areas of financial services. The most successful solutions will solve specific problems for banks and attract a large enough network to create widespread benefits. 

 In full, the report:

  • Outlines banks' experiments with blockchain technology. 
  • Details blockchain projects at three major banks — UBS, Credit Suisse, and Banco Santander — based on in-depth interviews. 
  • Discusses the likely trends that will emerge in the technology over the next several years.
  • Highlights the factors that will be critical to the success of banks implementing blockchain-based solutions.

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

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 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
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Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund, described cryptocurrencies as ‘one of the most brilliant scams in history’ in a brutal takedown

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 8:43pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund, told clients that cryptocurrencies will likely one day be described "as one of the most brilliant scams in history." 
  • "FOMO (fear of missing out) has solidly trumped WTHIT (what the hell is this??)," Elliott wrote in a fourth-quarter letter to clients.

Elliott Management, a $34 billion hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Singer, has an acronym to describe the folly surrounding cryptocurrencies – WTHIT, or what the hell is this?

"FOMO (fear of missing out) has solidly trumped WTHIT (what the hell is this??)," Elliott told clients in a January 26 letter seen by Business Insider. "When the history is written, cryptocurrencies will likely be described as one of the most brilliant scams in history." 

The fund dedicated three pages to covering what it sees as issues with cryptocurrencies. The letter said:

"We all laugh at primitive tribes which used large stones (or pigs) as currency. Well, laugh as you will, but a stone or a healthy pig is something. Cryptocurrencies are nothing except the marketing power of inventors, financiers and others who love the idea of buying a black box (which is obviously empty) for the price of a Kia and dreaming that it will turn into a Mercedes. There have been times recently when this dream has materialized within hours. This is not just a bubble. It is not just a fraud. It is perhaps the outer limit, the ultimate expression, of the ability of humans to seize upon ether and hope to ride it to the stars."

This is not the first time Elliott has criticized cryptocurrencies; the firm raised concerns in a 2013 client letter. But the value of cryptocurrencies has surged since then, with some volatility surfacing earlier this year.

One of Elliott's concerns is the notion that bitcoin is scarce. The hedge fund cites a recent Barron's magazine interview with venture capitalist Avie Tevanian, who says “we know that only 21 million bitcoins will be created.”

According to Elliott, this is misguided because "through a process known as a 'forking event,' this limitation is not nearly as sacrosanct as the bitcoin evangelists would have you believe."

A forking event is basically when new rules are created to the software backing bitcoin, which creates a new currency, according to CoinCentral.com.

Elliott added: "Forking events ... have created an increase in supply and a dilution (really an evaporation, as is the case with all currency debasements throughout human history) of the value proposition for cryptocurrencies."

Here's more from Elliott's letter (emphasis added):

"There is no basis excepting a brand new theology for accepting the “21 million bitcoin limit,” or any limit at all, for that matter. There is a theory in semiconductors called “Moore’s Law,” which basically says that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years . Perhaps we can coin a “More’s Law,” which is: As the aggregate purported market value of cryptocurrencies continues to explode higher, the incentives to conjure more of them, more versions of them and more imitations and “improvements” of them, continue to soar. Since bitcoin and its cousins are, at the core, absolutely and utterly nothing, there is no limit on bitcoin supply except the outer boundaries of human folly. At a “market cap” of $175 billion for bitcoin alone (as this piece is written), a 1% increase in the “limited” supply of bitcoins conjures $1.75 billion out of thin air. Humility plus truth causes us to admit that we first expressed these kinds of thoughts in a 2013 quarterly report, when bitcoin had no real imitators and no forks, and when it traded at a tiny fraction of today’s price. But is it not glorious that when the equivalent of nothing attracts priests and parishioners who run up the price, the very willingness of the mob to buy it at higher and higher prices is seen as validation of the thing, rather than an indication of the limitless ignorance of swaths of the human race? 

Elliott managed $34.1 billion as of January 1, according to the letter. The Elliott Associates LP fund returned 8.7% last year.

SEE ALSO: A new lawsuit casts doubt on what billionaire Steve Cohen's deputies have been saying for years

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THE EVOLUTION OF ROBO-ADVISING REPORT: How automated investment products are disrupting and enhancing the wealth management industry

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 8:03pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Startups with robo-advisor products are failing to live up to their initial promise.

As solutions proliferate and consumer adoption remains slower than expected, many firms are re-examining and updating their strategies to survive. 

In a new report, BI Intelligence scopes the current market for robo-advisors, providing an updated forecast through 2022. In addition, we explain the different types of robo-advisors emerging, detail how startups and incumbents are working to ensure the success of their products, and outline what will happen to the market over the next 12 months.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • BI Intelligence forecasts that robo-advisors — investment products that include any element of automation — will manage around $1 trillion by 2020, and around $4.6 trillion by 2022. 
  • Startups offering robo-advisors are struggling to acquire AUM due to overcrowding in the global robo-advisory market and lower than expected customer uptake. 
  • Incumbents are rolling out their own robo-advisor products, a trend we expect to pick up in the period to 2022. 
  • North America remains the leading robo-advisory market, but we expect Asia to catch up and outpace the region in terms of AUM managed by robo-advisors in the period to 2022. 
  • There will be a winnowing of the startup robo-advisory market as only a few firms remain stand-alone, while incumbents looking to launch their own products will profit from purchasing the technology of startups that have fallen by the wayside, at low cost. 

 In full, the report:

  • Provides a forecast for the volume of assets robo-advisors will manage by 2022.
  • Outlines the current robo-advisory landscape.
  • Explains how startups with robo-advisor products are evolving their business strategies. 
  • Provides an outlook for the future of the robo-advising industry. 

To get the full report, subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI 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

You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.

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THE BLOCKCHAIN IN THE IoT REPORT: How distributed ledgers enhance the IoT through better visibility and create trust

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:30pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Blockchain isn't just for bankers anymore. Most of the buzz around the distributed ledger has focused on its uses in finance, where it originated. But one of the most promising blockchain trends is its growing disruptive presence in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Companies are pioneering innovative new solutions that use blockchain for tasks like tracking goods as they move and change hands in the supply chain, monitoring the location and condition of assets like industrial machinery at remote work sites, or storing medical data, and they are transforming the IoT

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we analyze the developing role of blockchain in the IoT ecosystem. First, we look at how blockchain works, both generally and as part of an IoT solution. We then identify the areas most suited to use blockchain as part of larger IoT projects, specifically looking into the supply chain, asset tracking and monitoring, and health care. Finally, we discuss the challenges companies looking into blockchain solutions for IoT programs will face, and explore what the future holds for blockchain in the IoT.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Blockchain is emerging as a key tool with numerous applications throughout the IoT. Companies are developing innovative solutions that use blockchain to cut costs and improve services.
  • While solutions address a number of potential pain points in the IoT, several challenges exist that could hold back widespread adoption. These issues include blockchain’s complexity, companies’ loss of control, regulation, and hardware requirements.
  • Blockchain is poised to provide a new, powerful tool for companies developing and implementing IoT solutions, offering increased versatility, security, and efficiency.

In full, the report:

  • Explains how firms are already exploring ways to make use of blockchain in all sorts of IoT projects.
  • Provides an overview of disruption in critical sectors including the supply chain and asset management.
  • Analyzes how blockchain is poised to see rapid expansion as a tool used in IoT solutions that reduce costs, increase efficiency, and remove reliance on cloud-based platforms.

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

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 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
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

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THE US FINTECH REGULATION REPORT: How the US regulatory environment is holding back the fintech industry

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 4:07pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Despite having one of the largest fintech industries in the world, the US is noticeably behind other regions when it comes to one factor crucial to the future growth of this burgeoning sector — regulation. 

The US regulatory environment is holding back fintechs and hindering their chances of success. 

A new report from BI Intelligence examines the current regulatory landscape in the US and how it's impacting the fintech industry. In addition, it discusses the methods fintechs are using to meet regulations as best they can, and details the fintech-specific initiatives that have already been launched by regulators and their likelihood of success. It also considers the future of fintech regulation in the US and how it may shape the fintech sector long term.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The US' regulatory system involves many different players at the federal level, as well as a regulator for each state. This complexity not only makes the US regulatory environment harder for fintechs to navigate in the first place, but it's a major barrier to the development of a coherent fintech policy.
  • The US regulatory landscape means it is falling behind other major fintech regions such as the UK and EU in certain segments. These regions already have established fintech regulatory policies. 
  • US fintechs are using a number of models to achieve compliance, but none are ideal. As a result, many are finding it hard to achieve the scale necessary for success. 
  • Some US regulators have realized the need to act regarding fintech regulation, and are launching initiatives with the aim of making compliance easier. That said, a coherent fintech regulatory policy for the US is still a long way off. 

 In full, the report:

  • Examines the current regulatory landscape in the US. 
  • Explains how it is negatively affecting the fintech industry.
  • Outlines the initiatives currently in play from major regulatory agencies. 
  • Considers the future of US fintech regulation and its potential impact on the fintech sector. 

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

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 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
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. » Purchase & Download Now

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THE PAYMENTS INDUSTRY EXPLAINED: The Trends Creating New Winners And Losers In The Card-Processing Ecosystem

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 3:07pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI 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, BI 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.

To get the full report, subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND more than 250 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> Learn More Now

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THE CREDIT CARD REWARDS EXPLAINER: Examining issuers' battle to attract and retain customers with perks and loyalty programs

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 2:05pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Credit card rewards have become so popular in the US that issuers capture headlines just by launching a new rewards card. And with consumers now caring more about the type of rewards being offered than any other card feature, competition to offer the most lucrative and attractive rewards has intensified dramatically. 

For consumers, the emphasis card issuers place on these cards has resulted in rewards becoming much more worthwhile and widespread, ranging from big sign-on bonuses to free travel. And with offers continuing to get better, consumers will continue seeking out the best rewards cards.

The value added from these cards is undeniable for issuers — in addition to increasing adoption of credit card products, the opportunity to earn rewards encourages cardholders to spend more money. This not only helps to drive up revenue, but also provides issuers an opportunity to mitigate any losses they may be feeling from the Durbin Amendment, which reduced how much fees issuers could charge on debt card transactions starting in 2011. 

But it’s also important to note that offering such high-valued rewards comes at a price — Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card ended up reducing the bank’s profits by $200 million to $300 million in Q4 2016, according to Bloomberg. And as costs continue to rise, issuers will have to adjust to this new landscape by leveraging technology and partnerships to keep consumers engaged without sacrificing profits.

In a new in-depth report from BI Intelligence, we walk through the new credit card rewards landscape, which now includes rising consumer demand for rewards, increased opportunity for issuers to drive up usage of their credit card products, and increasing costs. After discussing the evolution that has led to this current landscape, we analyze how issuers will have to adjust in order to continue reaping the benefits of offering rewards without sacrificing significant profits.

Here are some key takeaways from the report: 

  • Consumers put tremendous value on credit card rewards, which makes these them a major user acquisition channel for card issuers — almost 60% of consumers rank rewards as a major reason for adopting a credit card
  • By offering high-valued and attractive rewards, card issuers are able to drive up card adoption and usage — JPMorgan Chase reported a 35% increase in new card accounts in Q3 2016, after launching the Sapphire Reserve card.
  • Offering high-valued credit card rewards does come at a high cost to card issuers — the costs associated with offering credit card rewards have more than doubled since 2010 for the six largest card issuers in the US
  • However, major players in the space are already beginning to find ways to cut costs, including rolling back rewards on their most premium products and partnering with well-known brands to develop less expensive, more creative rewards offerings.  

In full, the report: 

  • Identifies the costs associated with offering rewards for issuers and how they have increased over time.
  • Details why credit card issuers continue offering high-valued rewards.
  • Analyzes how the industry has evolved since 2011
  • Explores how credit card issuers will advance in order to continue reaping the benefits of offering rewards without assuming increased costs. 

To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> Purchase and Download Now

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of credit card rewards.

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THE FUTURE OF LIFE INSURANCE: How insurtechs are tackling this notoriously tricky area of insurance

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 1:04pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click 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, BI 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.

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

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 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
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We asked 2 of Citigroup's top executives what they look for when hiring senior investment bankers (C)

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:35pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Citigroup's investment bank has been showing signs of progress and competing among Wall Street's best.
  • We asked two of the bank's top executives what they look for when hiring senior investment bankers.
  • Performance matters, but it's not the only thing. "We can't have people on solo missions," says Raymond McGuire, Citi's global head of corporate and investment banking.


Citigroup's investment bank has been making strides in recent years to compete for top honors in the league tables.

The bank, already a strong performer in arranging bonds and loans, has made marked progress in 2017 in both its mergers-and-acquisitions advisory and equity-capital markets businesses.

One key to Citi's success is talent — retaining their top performers, but also bringing in star bankers that will fit into Citi's team culture. 

"The foundation to this, the bedrock to this is talent. You have to make certain that you have the talent that is the best trained, that has the best experience, that can exercise the most refined judgment," said Raymond McGuire, global head of corporate and investment banking, who's personally involved in every major strategic hire for his department.

Citi has hired more than 20 at the managing director level around the world for its corporate and investment-banking division this year, according to a memo McGuire sent his staff in early November.

And the bank this week promoted 33 staff in its corporate and investment bank to managing director, along with seven staff in capital markets origination. 

Business Insider recently spoke with McGuire and Tyler Dickson, the global head of capital markets origination, about what they look for in hiring senior-level bankers:

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

SEE ALSO: We asked a top hedge-fund recruiter what it takes to get a senior-level job these days

McGuire's overall strategy revolves around both attracting and maintaining strong performers who are also "culture carriers" — no solo missions allowed. That means getting involved in every major hire.

"You have to attract and retain the best talent. So for the existing talent, you’ve got to make certain that they continue to perform, that they continue to be engaged and inspired to be the best. And for the talent that you onboard, you have to be really careful about the talent that you onboard. They have to not only be the best practitioners, but they also have to be culture carriers. And we have found that, while we've had some challenges, for the most part we've been very effective at integrating new people into the culture. In large part, we do that from the outset. I personally get involved in every one of these major strategic hires.

"It's very clear that you not only have to maintain the best of the existing talent. You cannot ignore that. You have to maintain it, you have to focus on that. And you also have to make sure that the talent that you onboard has got a value system and has got an alignment that is very clear. There should be no ambiguity in terms of what our objectives are. None."



What question does he ask potential candidates to find out whether they're the right fit?

"There's not one question that you ask, there are a series of questions. What kind of character do they have. What kind of client impact. How is that client impact reflected in their performance, historically. And character gets to whether they are a team player or whether or not they're on solo missions. We can't have people on solo missions, we need to have people who are prepared to engage as partners. 

"We also recognize that you have to have a combination of management and leadership. You have to be able to give people the details on a daily basis on the metrics that we expect for them to manage to. And then you have to be able to inspire them."



For equity capital markets, Dickson looks for leaders with years of experience and the respect of investors and issuers. But they also have to be comfortable sharing the spotlight.

"In the business of financial services, talent is the most valuable resource, if you can get the best talent. From Citi's perspective we want the best-in-class, best-performing people in the marketplace. So experience matters. In my case, if we're looking at the equity capital markets arena, are they leaders with issuer clients? Do they have the respect of investing clients? Do they have years of experience in their sector or subproduct?

"But I'd say what's also important is culturally for Citi, we're a firm that succeeds as a team, and so they have to be people who can fit in with Citi's overarching culture. But also within capital markets, we're very much a team-wins orientation, and so you need a lot of leadership and energy and inspiration to lead the team, but we want people who think when we're winning it's because the team is winning. And I think that the folks that we've developed, and I've said we've been blessed with this consistency, all feel like partners in the business."



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Growing and Processing the Nigerian tomato - @kazey

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:33pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Kayode Muyibi writes:
It's always exciting to be in Nigeria during the harvest period, which could be during the dry or wet season. It’s not only exciting because of the opportunities that seem to always present themselves across a wide array of fresh produce, it is so, because of the distribution opportunities across the massive population. The opportunity for preservation...[more]

'Red flags' for the oil market are popping up all over the world

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:05pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Crude oil prices entered a correction, plunging more than 10% from their January highs.
  • While its easy to point fingers at the broader market turmoil, RBC Capital Markets highlights a number of warning signs that could weaken the commodity even more. 
  • They include the crowd of investors betting on higher prices, gushing US production, and rising Chinese exports. 


Crude oil prices slumped into correction — a 10% drop from their January highs — amid the turmoil that hit stocks over the past two weeks. 

But according to commodity strategists at RBC Capital Markets, investors would be wise not to ignore several risks that may drive prices even lower. Short of sounding "alarm bells" in their note on Tuesday, the strategists led by Michael Tran said pockets of the market are getting oversupplied again. That's problematic because production cuts led by members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia helped drive a nearly 45% rally since last September, and pushed oil above $60 per barrel.

"Oil prices needed a breather and investors should not discount the caution signs that have been emerging," Tran said in the note. 

He added: "In our view, the market has been overly focused on the race toward rebalance without realizing that transient pockets of oversupply have been emerging in the physical market."

West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the US benchmark, traded down 1% at $58.75 per barrel at 9:18 a.m. ET on Tuesday. 

In the North Sea, Tran identified the weakening premium that crudes produced there, such as Brent, held over their benchmark contracts. "The Forties differential to front month Brent futures moved from a premium of 75¢/bbl last month to lows last week of -50¢/bbl," Tran noted. "Such drastic weakness is indicative of an oversupply or a soggy regional spot market." He added that the sudden shutdown of the Forties, Britain's largest oil pipeline, failed to move oil meaningfully higher. 

Across the Atlantic and in the US, Tran noted that shale producers continue to gush oil, funded by a market that got "too bullish" on price.

"The bearish output rhetoric seemingly took a temporary back seat while the market rallied over recent months, but the spotlight has returned following the surge in production to levels well eclipsing 10 mb/d for the first time in almost 50 years," he noted. 

Additionally, the next few weeks will be key to watch as refineries fire up after their maintenance season. That's when the market's ability to absorb US barrels will be tested, he said.

In Asia, China's import growth, which nearly doubled over the last two years, has been a key source of demand. But its exports are also rising, Tran said, showing that domestic refineries are overproducing. 

And although they've been dialed back, Saudi Arabia's exports are nearing record levels. 

One final, location-agnostic red flag is overextended investor positioning. Passive investors have piled into long West Texas Intermediate crude positions since the start of the year. 

"Stretched investor length means that a further jolt to the market, irrespective of origin, whether it be from broad market jitters or softer physical fundamentals, can make for violent swings to the downside," Tran said. 

SEE ALSO: CITI: There's a ‘clear winner’ for investors who want to cash in on the market's biggest fear

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NOW WATCH: Microsoft President Brad Smith says the US shouldn't get 'too isolationist'

Here's a definitive guide to the state of each business on Wall Street, which is coming off a ghastly year

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:18am  |  Clusterstock

  • Wall Street investment banks had a rough 2017 as revenues slid to $150.4 billion — the lowest level since 2008. 
  • Struggles in trading plagued the banks, with fixed income, currency, and commodities (FICC) businesses especially hard hit.
  • Business from investment banking underwriting and advisory services was the lone bright spot, but the substantial gains weren't enough to compensate for the losses in trading.


Wall Street investment banks had a ghastly year in 2017, with revenues sinking to $150.4 billion — the lowest level since 2008. 

That's according to a new report from industry consultant and analytics company Coalition.

The dismal year was led by banks' underperforming trading departments, which were plagued by low volatility. Revenues from fixed income, currency, and commodities (FICC) fell 11% to $68 billion and equities fell 4% to $41.8 billion, according to Coalition. 

Business from investment banking underwriting and advisory services — on mergers and acquisitions and other transactions — increased substantially to $40.6 billion, a 10% increase from the previous year but not nearly enough to compensate for the losses in other lines of business. 

Even with volatility jolting back to life thus far in 2018, investment banks face a tough road ahead to fattening revenues and reviving their trading operations. 

Here's a breakdown of the state of every line of business on Wall Street. 

Investment banking revenues fell 4% to $150.4 billion, a $5.7 billion decline from 2016. A terrible year in FICC was the main culprit, with revenue falling $7.9 billion, or 11%.

The year started off with strong momentum, as banks generated $82 billion in the first half — up 4% from the first half of 2016. But the second half was abysmal. Revenues in the back half of 2017 fell 11%, or $8.6 billion, below last year's mark.

FICC businesses saw deep declines as they reckoned with record-low volatility. Revenues now sit $35 billion below 2012 levels — a 33% decline. Commodities fell 42% from 2016 to $2.5 billion, its lowest level since 2006. Securitization was the exception, increasing 15% thanks to the demand for complex financing solutions.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Investors are piling back into an infamous trade that just blew up

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:11am  |  Clusterstock

  • The short-volatility trade imploded last week, as a sharp spike in the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, wiped out positions.
  • That hasn't stopped investors from continuing to pile into short-VIX products, even on the heels of a stock market correction that the strategy helped fuel.

Investors have wasted no time in piling back into a now-infamous trade that recently blew up.

They've poured more than $575 million into the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (SVXY) since the start of the stock market's correction back on February 2, according to Bloomberg data. At a time when volatility has come raging back, the inflow activity shows a continued willingness to bet against price swings in equities.

Designed to return the inverse of the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, the fund was blamed for exacerbating the stock market's drop of more than 10%. The fund and the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV) lost roughly 95% of their combined value last week when the underlying VIX more than doubled in a single day.

That triggered a swift unwinding in the short-volatility trade as investors were forced to buy VIX to close their positions. The implosion was ultimately blamed for the late-day selling that contributed to a 4.1% one-day drop in the S&P 500.

The argument can be made that investors have failed to learn their lesson following the massive declines in SVXY and XIV. After all, according to the flows outlined above, SVXY has kept chugging along just fine, even as the suspension of XIV looms. Apparently there's still a large contingency of VIX bears who are now looking to rebuild short positions at more attractive prices.

The continued short of the VIX is sure to draw the consternation of the experts across Wall Street who repeatedly criticized the strategy leading up to its meltdown.

Those experts include Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan's global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy, who has in the past said the shorting of volatility reminded him of the conditions leading up to the 1987 stock market crash. Alain Bokobza, Societe Generale's head of global asset allocation, is also likely to be perturbed, considering he once likened shorting the VIX to "dancing on the rim of a volcano."

Morgan Stanley's chief US equity strategist, Mike Wilson, however, thinks the situation is far less dire than before, and argues the big drop in short-volatility products actually helped flush out risky positions.

"We cleansed a risk that was out there for the marketplace," he told Business Insider in a recent interview. "The market handled this risk very efficiently. If we ever do have a real fundamental sell-off or recession, people are worried that there's going to be unlimited selling from these strategies, but I think that's wrong."

SEE ALSO: 2 red-hot investment products just blew up, erasing almost $3 billion in minutes

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Microsoft President Brad Smith says the US shouldn't get 'too isolationist'

THE MOBILE BANKING COMPETITIVE EDGE REPORT: How banks rank on offering the features consumers say are critical for choosing a bank

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:03am  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. This report is exclusively available to enterprise subscribers. Check to see if your company has access

Banks are going to new lengths to attract and retain customers with mobile features. 

In BI Intelligence's Mobile Banking Competitive Edge study, 83% of respondents said they use mobile banking. And banks are investing in mobile banking capabilities at unprecedented levels: Bank of America tripled its 2015 mobile banking budget in 2016, and maintained it through 2017, for example. Cutting-edge banking services are “table-stakes to attract and retain customers,” according to Michelle Moore, Head of Digital at Bank of America.

BI Intelligence’s first Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Report identifies which mobile banking and emerging features are most important to consumers when choosing a bank. The study ranks the largest 15 banks and credit unions in the US by whether they offer the mobile features that customers say they care most about. The report helps channel strategists choose which features they should focus their attention on, and lets them see how they compare to rival banks in offering those features. 

This study uses exclusive data from the BI Insiders Panel (BIIP), an exclusive online community of 17,000 of our readers from all over the world. Designed to be a leading-edge indicator of what’s next in digital, BIIP members tend to be affluent, tech-savvy early adopters. This means that the BIIP community is an especially sensitive indicator of what consumers will buy and adopt, as well as what behaviors, devices, and platforms will be the winners in digital disruption. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Wells Fargo leads the pack. The bank offers in-demand mobile transfer capabilities, along with competitive features related to security and mobile wallets. USAA follows closely behind in second. Bank of America and Citi are tied for third, and Capital One rounds out the top five.
  • Mobile transfers are the most in-demand mobile features. Transfers are the most important category of features to consumers when choosing a bank, according to our study. The most in-demand feature in this study, instant transfers, is in this category. Transfers also include bill pay, international transfers, and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments.
  • Post-Equifax, consumer interest in security tools is high. Security and control was the second most popular category in the study. Gen Xers value several features in this category — such as setting travel notifications and mobile access to ATMs — more than millennials.
  • Interest in advanced mobile banking account access is poised to jump. The account access section, the third most popular in this study, includes features like biometrics and account aggregation. With Face ID giving customers a new way to log in to banking, interest in the group of features will likely rise.
  • In spite of lagging adoption, interest in mobile wallets is still healthy. This category weighs not only whether banks support provisioning their cards in each of the popular wallets, but if they offer their own bank-branded wallets. Our study shows consumers rank support of third-party wallets as much more important than banking solutions.
  • Conversational features have the lowest demand in the study. The voice- or chatbot-based banking tools in the category are desired by only a small fraction of consumers. Instead of using the features to attract new customers, banks are exploring offloading costly transitional conversations with live support staff to AI. 

 In full, the report:

  • Shows how 32 mobile features stack up according to how important consumers say they are for choosing a new bank.
  • Ranks the top 15 banks on whether they offer each of those features.
  • Analyzes how demographics effect demand for different mobile features.
  • Provides strategies for banks to best attract and retain customers with mobile features.

The full report is available to BI Intelligence enterprise clients. To learn more about this report, email Senior Account Executive Chris Roth (croth@businessinsider.com). BI Intelligence's Mobile Banking Competitive Edge study includes: Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Fifth Third, HSBC, Key Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, SunTrust, TD, US Bank, and USAA.

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Bitcoin climbs back above $11,000

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:01am  |  Clusterstock

  • The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon.
  • Having lost more than half its value between November and late January, bitcoin has staged a strong rally over the last week or so.
  • "This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan," said Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro.


LONDON — The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon during thin trading.

With Americans celebrating Presidents' Day, trade quieter than usual but that hasn't stopped investors buying into the cryptocurrency as it continues to bounce from recent lows.

By 3.50 p.m. GMT (10.50 a.m. ET), bitcoin is trading at $11,139 — up around 7% from its previous close.

Bitcoin lost more than half its value between November and late January but has staged a strong rally over the last week or so, appreciating from around $8,000 on February 13 to more than $11,000 on Monday.

"This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan," Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in an email.

"Traders in the land of the rising sun are no fools. They allowed the prices to drop when it got to the top and now they're buying up the bottom.

"The crypto market is also celebrating some positive updates from Europe, of all places. The European banks have been notoriously harsh on Bitcoins and everything Blockchain. Over the weekend the Swiss government has come out with some clear-cut groundbreaking regulations on how to handle ICOs."

Elsewhere in the crypto space, it emerged that Poland's central bank has paid YouTube stars to talk down cryptocurrencies.

According to Business Insider Poland, the Narodowy Bank Polski (NFB) spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon.

The Gamellon network reportedly represents many of Poland's top YouTubers, including popular prankster Marcin Dubiel.

In December, Dubiel published a video titled "STRACIŁEM WSZYSTKIE PIENIĄDZE?!" — which loosely translates as "I LOST ALL MY MONEY?!"

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: We asked Jamie Dimon why JPMorgan is forming a new healthcare company with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway — here's what he said

Nigerians Trade $3.6 million #Bitcoin weekly on 13 Platforms

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:35am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Bukola Idowu reports:
Despite warnings by regulators and legislators, Nigerians have continued to invest in crypto currency, trading up to N1.38 billion across 13 local crypto-currency exchanges in the country. However, analysts have urged government to embark on smart regulatory tactic in controlling the surge in the trend...[more]


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