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AI IN BANKING: Artificial intelligence could be a near $450 billion opportunity for banks — here are the strategies the winners are using

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:02pm

Discussions, articles, and reports about the AI opportunity across the financial services industry continue to proliferate amid considerable hype around the technology, and for good reason: The aggregate potential cost savings for banks from AI applications is estimated at $447 billion by 2023, with the front and middle office accounting for $416 billion of that total, per Autonomous Next research seen by Business Insider Intelligence.

Most banks (80%) are highly aware of the potential benefits presented by AI, per an OpenText survey of financial services professionals. In fact, many banks are planning to deploy solutions enabled by AI: 75% of respondents at banks with over $100 billion in assets say they're currently implementing AI strategies, compared with 46% at banks with less than $100 billion in assets, per a UBS Evidence Lab report seen by Business Insider Intelligence. Certain AI use cases have already gained prominence across banks' operations, with chatbots in the front office and anti-payments fraud in the middle office the most mature. 

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence identifies the most meaningful AI applications across banks' front and middle offices. We also discuss the winning AI strategies used by financial institutions so far, and provide recommendations for how banks can best approach an AI-enabled digital transformation.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Capital One, Citi, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Personetics, Quantexa, and U.S. Bank

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Front- and middle-office AI applications offer the greatest cost savings opportunity across banks. 
  • Banks are leveraging AI on the front end to smooth customer identification and authentication, mimic live employees through chatbots and voice assistants, deepen customer relationships, and provide personalized insights and recommendations. 
  • AI is also being implemented by banks within middle-office functions to detect and prevent payments fraud and to improve processes for anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulatory checks. 
  • The winning strategies employed by banks that are undergoing an AI-enabled transformation reveal how to best capture the opportunity. These strategies highlight the need for a holistic AI strategy that extends across banks' business lines, usable data, partnerships with external partners, and qualified employees.

In full, the report:

  • Outlines the benefits of using AI in the banking industry.
  • Details the key use cases for transforming the front and middle office using the technology.
  • Highlights players that have successfully implemented AI solutions.
  • Examines winning strategies used by financial institutions that are leveraging AI to transform their entire organizations. 
  • Discusses how banks can best capture the AI opportunity, including considerations on internal culture, staffing, operations, and data.

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
  3. Current subscribers can log in and read the report here. >>Read the Report

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BANKING AND PAYMENTS FOR GEN Z: These digital natives are the next big opportunity — here are the winning strategies

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 8:03pm

Generation Z, defined as customers born between 1996 and 2010, hold up to $143 billion in spending power, but haven't yet developed brand loyalties that dictate where they store and spend that money.

For banking and payments providers, attracting these customers while they're young could lead to lucrative relationships throughout their lives, with value increasing as they age, earn more money, and expand the number of financial products they engage with. 

Most Gen Zers haven't started using financial products beyond a bank account, which makes them a ripe opportunity for players in the space.

As a result, many firms target millennials and Gen Zers together in a push to attract younger customers, but this could be limiting their ability to effectively capture the interest of tweens, teens, and young adults, because Gen Z differs from their older counterparts. As a group, they're more responsive to influence from friends and peers than they are to traditional advertising, less likely to remember life before the internet, and more open to a wider variety of financial service providers than other consumers.

Understanding what makes Gen Zers tick is critical for marketers, strategists, and developers looking to cater to these younger customers and build out a suite of products, tools, and services that they'll want to adopt. In this report, Business Insider Intelligence will use a six-point framework — developed based on industry research and conversations — to explain the core attributes that Gen Z values in a product.

It will then explain how each of these attributes can be applied to banking and payments products, and offer actionable recommendations, strategies, and examples for how to implement them to grab younger customers ahead of the competition.

The companies mentioned in the report are: Affirm, American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Current, Discover, Instagram, Google, Grab, Greenlight, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, Venmo, Visa, Wells Fargo, Zelle

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Gen Z's lack of financial services product adoption offers providers a long runway for growth. While two-thirds of Gen Zers have a bank account, many don't yet use debit cards, haven't aged into credit cards or loans, and aren't responsible for the bulk of their own spending. As they navigate life transitions, like going to college or getting a first job, there's ripe opportunity for providers to engage these customers.
  • Gen Z is more interested in digital payments products and services than any other generation. While adoption of mobile wallets has been tepid among the general population and P2P apps, like Venmo and Zelle, are just now gaining traction among older users, Gen Zers are diving in head first: Over half use digital wallets monthly, and over three-quarters use other digital payment apps or P2P apps in the same time frame.
  • To attract, engage, and retain Gen Zers, financial services firms must develop products that are social, authentic, digital-native, and educational, offer value, and evolve over time. This combination, which emphasizes key attributes that Gen Zers value, serve as a roadmap for developing offerings with features that appeal to these users in both the short and long run.

In full, the report:

  • Explains why Generation Z represents a meaningful and urgent opportunity for financial services providers.
  • Outlines a six-point framework for building services that can attract, engage, and retain Gen Zers.
  • Offers specific strategies that banks and payments providers can implement to build products tailored to this generation.
  • Evaluates examples of tactics that work in bringing Gen Zers into the fold and turning them into lifelong customers.

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 Payments.

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FINTECH AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION: How low-overhead direct banking models enable banks to profitably serve the US' 33 million underbanked households

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 7:03pm

Historically, the US banking industry has discussed financial inclusion solely in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Offering services to the underserved — unbanked consumers who lack access to banking products, and underbanked consumers who make only limited use of mainstream financial services — has long been economically unviable. But two forces have flipped the conversation from CSR to a genuine business opportunity.

First, digital tools from mobile banking to AI are driving down costs and allowing financial institutions (FIs) to offer previously untenable products, such as fee-free accounts or credit scoring based on unconventional data.

Second, the US' financial landscape is more competitive than ever, as fintechs, incumbents, and even tech companies like Amazon vie for larger shares of the overall space. That's creating a compelling reason for banks to seek out fresh growth opportunities, and the financially underserved represent just that. And with close to 33 million US households either unbanked or underbanked, the opportunity for fast-moving banks is huge.

In Fintech and Financial Inclusion, Business Insider Intelligence explores the business opportunity for incumbent banks looking to tap the growing opportunity presented by the financially underserved, highlights through case studies how innovative players are utilizing technology to capture share in this market, and outlines recommendations for how banks can enter the space as well.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Amazon, BBVA, Chime, Citi Bank, Experian, FICO, LendingClub, Petal, and Synchrony.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Despite the US being one of the most developed financial ecosystems in the world, a quarter of households in the country make little or no use of mainstream banking products.
  • Several barriers have stymied underserved consumers' adoption of mainstream banking products, both from the consumer and FI perspective.
  • Innovation in digital banking channels has helped reduce some of these barriers to adoption, making financial products viable for consumers and FIs alike.
  • Banks planning to target consumers that are financially underserved need to consider a number of factors, including product fit, financial literacy, and how they measure metrics for assessing of a financial inclusion effort.

In full, the report:

  • Details the key reasons why millions of US households are either unbanked or underbanked.
  • Forecasts the market opportunity of serving this group.
  • Explores how seven players have leveraged technology to tap into this lucrative market — Citi Bank, Chime, BBVA, LendingClub, Petal, Amazon, and Synchrony Financial.
  • Provides actionable recommendations for how banks can successfully pursue a financial inclusion project.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are three 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
  3. Current subscribers can read the report here.

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REPORT: Ant Financial and Tencent are rapidly growing their financial services ecosystems — here's exactly what they offer and where we think they'll go next (TCEHY)

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 5:01pm

Over the past 15 years, spending in China has become increasingly powered by mobile payments. In Q4 2018, China's third-party mobile payments industry was estimated to be worth 47.2 trillion yuan ($6.8 trillion) per Analysys, as cited by TechNode. This eclipsed the country's total retail sales for all of 2018, which came in at 38.1 trillion yuan ($5.5 trillion).

The mobile payments market is controlled by Ant Financial's Alipay, which held a leading 53.8% market share in Q4 2018, and Tencent's WeChat Pay, which, along with fellow Tencent-owned payment service QQ Wallet, commanded a 38.9% share.

Ant and Tencent's combined mobile payments dominance means that other companies need to actively work with or against the powerhouses, especially as they've also stretched into other financial services, including peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, cross-border capabilities, wealth management features, consumer lending, and insurance. 

Payments companies worldwide must take notice of Ant Financial and Tencent's success, strategies, and potential expansion, as they won't succeed in the extremely valuable Chinese market without understanding how the two companies are expanding their reach. And those payments companies settled in other countries should also familiarize themselves with the two companies and their successes, as both have been expanding internationally.

In Fintech Disruptors From The East, Business Insider Intelligence looks at a variety of financial services offered by Ant Financial and Tencent, the different categories they fall under, and the benefits each one offers the firms. We also examine their current strategies for expansion and consider the steps they may take in the future to grow their businesses, both in China and abroad.

The companies mentioned in this report are: Alibaba, Alipay, Ant Financial, Chase, Citcon, First Data, GCash, Go-Jek, Grab,, Line, Moneygram International, Paytm, QQ, Telenor Microfinance Bank, Tencent, Uber, WeBank, WeChat, WeChat Pay, WeChat Payments Score, Weixin, WeSure, and Wirecard.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Ant Financial and Tencent dominate China's huge mobile payments industry through Alipay and WeChat Pay, and both firms have built cohesive financial ecosystems to further attract consumers and their funds.
  • Generally, Ant Financial's payments and financial services are further developed, but Tencent's huge user base thanks to WeChat has helped it gain ground.
  • Ant and Tencent have expanded their services in Southeast Asia, but Ant appears more interested in further growing its reach.

In full, the report:

  • Examines the financial ecosystems of Ant Financial and Tencent.
  • Analyzes the offerings of Alipay and WeChat Pay as well as how they grew to their current positions atop the Chinese mobile payment market.
  • Details Ant Financial and Tencent's financial features beyond Alipay and WeChat Pay and how they create a more comprehensive slate of offerings.
  • Looks at the expansion of both companies and considers what each may do next, both in China and abroad.

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 Ant Financial and Tencent's rapidly expanding array of financial services.

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This is the 19-slide pitch deck two 22-year-olds used to nab $57 million in funding from Silicon Valley

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 3:00pm

Technology is shattering legacy financial systems that can't keep pace with market demand — and Brex is at the forefront. It's one of fintechs buzziest startups, aiming to rebuild B2B financial products starting with corporate cards for technology companies.

The company was quietly launched in 2017 by Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, two 22-year-old engineers who previously founded, one of Brazil's largest payment processors.

Brex already has more than 1,000 customers signed up with the help of backing from investors including PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, early Facebook investor Yuri Milner, former Visa CEO Carl Pascarella, and esteemed startup incubator Y Combinator.

And we caught a glimpse of the Series B pitch deck Dubugras and Franceschi used to win them over. 

In it, they lay out a clear problem: Technology startups often had trouble securing corporate credit cards — even if they had millions in the bank — because legacy banks and card issuers wanted to see company credit histories, which young institutions simply couldn't produce.

They had a simple solution: Remove the restrictions of legacy technology by giving instant approval to startups based on their available cash balance, including money raised through venture, rather than credit history. 

In the deck, the founders outlined their plans to help startups of all sizes instantly get cards with higher limits, as well as automatic expense management and seamless integration with existing accounting systems.

As part of our coverage of the genesis of today's successful companies, BI Prime received Brex's permission to offer a look into the startup's full 19-slide pitch deck, which includes considerations such as:

  • The startup's mission
  • Key team members and previous backers
  • The size of the market opportunity
  • A step-by-step plan of how to solve credit cards for startups
  • Some of the card's coolest features
  • Data points showing how to scale the business

BI Prime is publishing dozens of stories like this each and every day. Want to get started by reading the full pitch deck?

>> Download it now FREE

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Open Banking 101: How Financial Institutions Can Take Advantage of a Global Movement

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 1:01pm

Open banking, which has been implemented in the U.K., involves sharing customers' financial information electronically and securely, but only under conditions that customers approve.

Open banking forces lenders to offer a digital "fire hose" of data that any third party can use to get standardised access — provided the startup is registered with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the customer agrees to share their data.

This system has already taken root in the U.K., but it could soon spread to the rest of the world. That's why Business Insider Intelligence has put together a report called Open Banking 101: How Financial Institutions Can Take Advantage of a Global Movement to Collaborate with Partners and Developers.

The report offers a look inside how this spreading movement is forcing banks to change their business models. It also walks through one specific bank as an illustration of how open banking is transforming the way financial institutions do business.

You can receive a FREE download of this report simply by entering your email address!

As an added bonus, you'll receive a free preview of our Banking Pro Briefing.

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SMB LENDING REPORT: How alt lenders are providing SMBs with new funding options, and the ways incumbents can respond to stay ahead

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 12:01pm

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. Current subscribers can read the report here.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are vital creators of wealth, income, and jobs in the global economy. For example, they make up 99.9% of all private sector businesses in both the US and the UK, and they employ 60% and 48% of all workers in those countries, respectively.

The income and assets of these businesses make them an irreplaceable customer base for financial institutions. However, incumbent financial institutions are falling short of SMBs' lending wants and needs.

Fintechs — including alt lenders, payment providers, and lending platforms — are changing the SMB lending space by filling that gap and capturing an increasingly large sliver of the SMB lending market. For example, alternative financial providers only accounted for 2%, or £11.5 billion ($14.7 billion), of the UK SMB lending market in 2018. However, their share is projected to surge to 9.1%, worth £52.6 billion ($67.4 billion), by 2021.

In the SMB Lending Report, Business Insider Intelligence will examine the key players in the SMB lending space, determine the advantages of each player, and discuss how incumbents can improve their offerings to better serve SMBs and stave off the growing competition from alt lenders in the space. Additionally, we will look at what the future of SMB lending will hold.

The companies mentioned in this report are: NatWest, BNP Paribas, Esme Loans, OnDeck, ING, Kabbage, Funding Circle, Lending Club, PayPal, Square, Lendio, ING, Funding Options, INTRUST Bank, Behalf, Lending Express, and Fundbox, among others.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • SMBs are underserved by conventional lenders, so fintechs are increasingly offering digital services tailored to meet SMBs' wants and needs.
  • Some incumbents have already woken up to the opportunity of better serving SMBs and leveraging this revenue stream, but the majority are still unaware.
  • This has given fintechs the opportunity to grow their market share among SMBs. If incumbents don't fight back with their own digital services, they will like lose further share to fintechs. 
  • There are three main ways incumbents can revamp their SMB lending products, each of which requires a different level of effort: partnering with fintechs, developing tech-enabled solutions in-house, or launching their own challenger products. 

 In full, the report:

  • Outlines the current state of the SMB lending space.
  • Details the different players that are involved in SMB lending.
  • Explains three ways in which incumbents can up their SMB lending game and fight off competition.
  • Highlights the benefits and hurdles that come with each of those strategies.
  • Discusses what the future of the SMB lending space will hold.

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 SMB lending.

Join the conversation about this story »

I've tried 4 major tax software programs, and TurboTax gets me the biggest refund every time

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 11:18am

  • I've tried professional tax preparers and four different tax software programs, and I'm sticking with TurboTax for my family's taxes this year.
  • While it isn't the cheapest around, using TurboTax last year got me a much higher refund than I would have had with other apps I tested.
  • TurboTax makes it easy to input details from your financial life. Most people with basic computer skills should be able to navigate the simple menus and forms with ease.
  • Use TurboTax to file your taxes this year »

Let's just skip the joke about death and taxes and get right to it: The deadline to file taxes for 2019 is about three months away. That means you have a limited window to complete your tax forms and ship them off to the IRS. 

To avoid the stress of filing on the very last day, it's a good idea to get an early start on gathering your tax forms and pulling together anything else you may need for Tax Day 2020.

I've tried TurboTax, Credit Karma Tax, H&R Block Online, and TaxAct for my taxes, and all did a fairly good job of handling my somewhat complex financial situation. 

But for my taxes, where I have multiple businesses in addition to my investments, mortgage, and family to account for, TurboTax is my top choice. 

More accurate than an accountant

My parents have used an accountant to file their taxes as long as I've been alive, so I dutifully signed up with the family accountant when I was 16 and got my first job that required I complete my own tax return every year. I stuck with this accountant for about a decade before deciding to take things over myself.

Two years in a row, I found some mistakes when reviewing my tax return before sending everything into the IRS. The last year I used the accountant, I found a handful of retirement account transactions treated as taxable, which would have cost me hundreds of dollars on my taxes if it hadn't been fixed.

That was the moment I realized I know my money better than anyone, including an accountant. I know my bank accounts, investments, businesses, and spending inside out. While accountants know a lot about the tax code, they are human and far from infallible.

While you don't usually see it, most accountants use a program very similar to TurboTax to handle all of their clients' needs. I can type my income and deductions into a form just as easily, and more accurately, without paying someone else to do it for me.

I started doing my own taxes in 2014, and have never seriously considered going back to a paid tax preparer since.

TurboTax handles just about any form or situation

Millions of people use TurboTax to prepare and file their taxes every year. As one of the top two tax preparation services in the US, the team behind TurboTax has run into just about every possible tax scenario a US filer could experience.

Some tax programs struggle with things like years split living in two states, managing how foreign taxes paid on investments impact your US taxes, and other less-common needs. When I moved from Oregon to California in 2016, I needed a program that could cover both of those examples. 

I have an investment portfolio that includes international exposure, so I need to enter foreign tax details. I've run into dead ends with other apps, but TurboTax has always been able to handle anything I've needed.

If you are considering changing to a new tax program any year, make sure to read about what it can and can't do so you don't have to start over when you're already 80% of the way done with your taxes using a program that doesn't support your needs. 

Biggest possible refund

At the end of the day, your tax decisions should all be focused on spending as little as possible to accurately prepare your taxes and pay the least possible to the IRS and your state. Last year I tried a couple of programs that would have cost less than TurboTax, but found they mishandled some deductions.

Notably, 2018 was the first year of a 20% deduction on profits for many small business owners. As a self-employed freelancer with pass-through income, I qualify for the deduction. But not all tax apps handled that correctly. TurboTax got me thousands of dollars more back, mainly due to handling the pass-through deduction correctly.

I didn't do the math to compare every single line item, though most matched exactly from app to app. But where they don't match, you could be throwing away money on taxes unnecessarily and never know it. That's why getting your taxes done accurately is so important.

The 2017 tax law that went into effect for 2018 took my effective tax rate down to just 4.10%, partially thanks to the qualified business income deduction, partially thanks to the child tax credit, and partially thanks to a new, higher standard deduction.

It all comes down to dollars and cents

Unless you have a low enough income to qualify for the IRS Free File program, you can count on paying to do your taxes. For 2019, I'm using TaxAct for my business taxes and TurboTax for my personal taxes. This is exactly what I did last year too, and I'm happy with the setup.

The combined experience gets me the lowest cost on my taxes and tax preparation combined. Don't pay more for services you don't need and don't overlook important deductions and credits. That's what savvy tax preparation is all about.

Find out if TurboTax is the right tax software for your needs this year »

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NOW WATCH: People are still debating the pink or grey sneaker, 2 years after it went viral. Here's the real color explained.

Disney finally opened 'Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance' and it could be a big boost for business

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 11:04am

  • Disney recently opened "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance" in both Disneyland, California and Disney World, Florida.
  • "Star Wars" fans have delayed visiting the parks until the star attraction opened, meaning the new rides promise to release pent-up demand and boost Disney's theme-park business.
  • Domestic park attendance slid 3% in the third quarter, and Disneyland attendance fell in the fourth quarter.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Disney recently opened "Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance" — one of the two star attractions in the "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" areas of Disneyland, California and Disney World, Florida. The rollout of the rides, more than six months after the "Star Wars"-themed sections opened, promises to release pent-up demand and provide a welcome boost to Disney's theme-park business.

"There are people that are just waiting for the whole thing to be open, which is fine," Disney CEO Bob Iger said on the media titan's fourth-quarter earnings call in November.

"Awareness and intention to visit remain strong," finance chief Christine McCarthy added, pointing to booking rates at Disney's domestic hotels tracking 5% higher.

"Star Wars" fans delaying their visits to both parks until "Rise of the Resistance" opened, coupled with Disney fanning fears of overcrowding, slashed domestic park attendance by 3% in the third quarter. Attendance fell again in the fourth quarter, the company said.

However, both Galaxy's Edge areas "have been far more successful than has been reported," Iger said on the call. They fuelled a 5% rise in guest spending, he said, as people spent more on admission, merchandise, and food and drink.

Moreover, the popularity of the areas' other star attraction bodes well for the new rides.

"Just to give you one crazy stat, the Millennium Falcon attraction has carried over 1.7 million people already since they've opened across both places," Iger said.

The Disney boss added that guest ratings for experience, satisfaction, and attraction availability are in the high 90s out of 100, indicating a "very, very complex technological attraction is running really well."

In other words, the parks are already cashing in on "Star Wars" fever, but "Rise of the Resistance" should help unlock their full potential.

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

Read the pitch deck that helped Divvy raise $30 million to provide alternate financing for prospective homebuyers

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 11:01am

Buying a home, particularly for Millennials, is a complicated and expensive process – at times it can be complicated and expensive enough to discourage potential buyers from even trying.

Enter Divvy, one of the many Silicon Valley startups working to change the way people buy homes. The company is specifically interested in providing alternative financing options for prospective homebuyers who don't qualify for traditional mortgages.

Divvy accomplishes this by purchasing homes outright and allowing customers to pay the company back through monthly installments — 25% of the total goes toward building equity and 75% goes toward paying "rent."

And some top venture capitalists have bought into Divvy's mission as well. In October 2018, Divvy raised a $30 million series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Caffeinated Capital, DFJ, and Affirm CEO Max Levchin.

Divvy helped purchase homes for more than 100 buyers in its first year, but it has much higher hopes. The startup's official mission is to put 100,000 families into their first homes within five years.

To really understand Divvy's strategy, Business Insider Prime has published the investor deck the company used to acquire that $30 million in funding. Simply enter your email address to receive a FREE download of the full deck!

BI Prime is publishing dozens of stories like this each and every day, chock full of exclusive content and industry analysis. Get started by reading the full investor deck.

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In 9 US states, a divorce could mean losing half of everything you own

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:30am

Estimates of divorce rates in America vary, but the reality is many marriages reach this unfortunate conclusion, and the aftermath is frequently messy, both emotionally and financially.

When a couple joins as one, their assets typically combine to form a marital estate, and anything they acquire thereafter becomes joint property. Upon divorce, those assets — including real estate, dependent children, income, cars, furniture, investments, and retirement accounts — get divided between the former spouses.

If you and your spouse can't agree on how to divide all or part of your assets when you get divorced, there are two ways they could be divided, depending where you live.

Which states are community property states in a divorce?

In community property states, marital assets — and debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage — are divided 50-50. Separate property is considered anything held in only one spouse's name, including property owned before marriage, given as a gift, or inherited.

The states that observe this law are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Residents of Alaska can opt-in to a community property agreement.

A court may also deem marital assets "quasi-community property" if, at the time they were acquired, the couple lived in a non-community property state but later moved to and filed for divorce in a community property state. 

All non-community property states divide assets 'fairly'

If you live in a state that doesn't observe community property law and you and your spouse can't agree on how to divide your marital assets, then it's subject to equitable distribution. This means everything (except for gifts or inheritances) is divided "fairly" at a judge's discretion, taking into account each person's earning potential or income, financial needs, and personal assets.

It's possible that a judge in one of the 41 equitable distribution states will decide to split the assets 50/50 anyway after taking a variety of factors into account, but it's not a given. And even so, couples are generally encouraged to arrive at a settlement agreement before a judge has to weigh in. Aside from dividing property, there are also alimony and child support payments to consider.

To protect personal assets regardless of where you live, couples can set up a prenuptial agreement, which establishes terms for a division of assets or continued financial support in the event of a divorce.

A financial planner can help you organize your money during and after a divorce. SmartAsset's free tool can find a planner near you »

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NOW WATCH: Most maps of Louisiana aren't entirely right. Here's what the state really looks like.

Read 58 pages of letters revealing how WeWork convinced securities regulators to let it use an accounting measure that painted a rosy picture

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:14am

  • Business Insider obtained 58 pages of correspondence between the SEC and WeWork about the coworking company's IPO filing and questions or concerns the agency had about the document.
  • One crucial piece of the back-and-forth centered on the company's use of a non-GAAP financial metric.
  • The SEC originally asked WeWork to "remove disclosure of this measure throughout your registration statement."
  • After pushback from WeWork's lawyers, including a former chief of the same SEC division asking the company to scrap the metric, the agency relented and allowed the company to continue using the metric after it made some changes. 
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When WeWork first released the documents for its initial-public-offering filing in mid-August, investors, analysts, and journalists zeroed in on a creative financial metric the company was using to show the performance of each location. 

Dubbed the contribution margin after an earlier and quite similar metric called community-adjusted EBITDA was universally panned, it departed from general accepted accounting principles (GAAP, in accounting speak) in how it accounted for lease costs.

The metric was intended to reflect the true timing of revenue and costs associated with the real-estate leases, according to the company. The figure was positive when key GAAP numbers were in the red. 

It turns out the Securities and Exchange Commission had concerns about the metric. In a nine-page letter to then-CEO Adam Neumann dated August 30, the SEC's division of corporation finance raised numerous issues and concluded one section with the words: "Please remove disclosure of this measure throughout your registration statement."

After the company offered to change the disclosure as long as it could keep the metric, the agency relented. A subsequent letter from the SEC asked WeWork to clarify some elements and change its name to reflect its purpose as a location profitability metric but otherwise allowed it.

WeWork now uses something called "location contribution margin," which includes straight-line lease costs, according to an October 11 presentation. The exclusion of those lease costs was one of the SEC's chief gripes.

Business Insider got the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that was initially denied before a successful appeal. The Wall Street Journal first reported on some of this in November, but we're making all 58 pages of correspondence between the company and the SEC available here for the first time.

A WeWork spokesperson declined to comment for this story, as did a spokesperson for Neumann. The SEC declined to comment. 

The correspondence is interesting because it came after WeWork had publicly revealed its filing, suggesting the company thought it had successfully answered the bulk of the SEC's questions.

The company had filed an S-1 confidentially in December 2018, meaning draft revisions were shielded from broader view. Because of the JOBS Act behind the confidential filing process, Business Insider has not been able to secure any of the correspondence between when the company filed confidentially and when the S-1 was made public in mid-August. 

The lengthy and dense letters show a back-and-forth over a figure that was critical to WeWork selling itself. Comment letters from the SEC are often part of the S-1 process — but what was unusual here is that so much still needed to be worked out and that an SEC accountant would go on to publicly slam the issue. 

At a December accounting conference months after WeWork shelved its offering, Patrick Gilmore, a senior SEC accountant, chided an unnamed subleasing company over its use of contribution margin. The company had used its own "tailored" way of calculating the number — even though its gross margin, a comparable "official" number, was negative, he said. "It was eye-opening." (The SEC's August 30 letter cited the gross margin specifically.)

The company spent a lot of space in its SEC filing justifying its use of contribution margin, he said in December, and if simply explaining why a company is using a metric is that complex, "you probably want to rethink that measure."

The SEC's August 30 letter took a more measured tone, specifically raising four points with respect to the use of the metric. On September 5, WeWork lawyers Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP pushed back in a letter signed by John White, who once led the SEC division he was now communicating with. It came a day after other lawyers at Skadden Arps addressed the agency's comments on everything but that metric and a related point.

Below, we've presented both group's comments about the contribution margin point by point to make it easier to understand how the company successfully countered the agency's argument. The contribution margin stayed in WeWork's IPO prospectus all the way through the company's official cancellation of the offering in September.

Each excerpt contains a link to the source documents.

SEC (August 30): "The measure 'Contribution Margin excluding non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost' ignores the recognition principles prescribed by ASC 842, specifically paragraph 2025-6, resulting in a performance measure that excludes a material aspect of your lease costs and primary cost of sales." Link.

Cravath (September 5): "The Company understands from conversations with the Staff that this could be considered misleading in violation of the principle enunciated in the Staff's Non-GAAP Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation 100.01. The Company respectfully disagrees, however, and would note, respectfully, that whether a non-GAAP financial measure is misleading is ultimately a legal determination which must be informed both by Supreme Court and other judicial precedent and by Commission rules and guidance relating to materiality." Link.

SEC (August 30): "We understand from your disclosure on page 82 that there will be periods during which your non-GAAP measure will include revenues from leasing certain properties without the related lease costs. In this regard, we note that the average rent free period for your lease arrangements is nine months, with some leases containing provisions for significantly longer periods of free rent. We also note that the same property may start generating revenue as early as five months after your date of possession." Link.

Cravath (September 5): "The Company wishes to respectfully point out that while some locations may earn revenue for a short period of time during which there are no related lease costs, the limited period of time in which this occurs is only a one-time period toward the beginning of the opening of a new location." Link.

SEC (August 30): "Your measure excludes the straight-line aspect of lease cost, while including the benefit related to lease incentives." Link.

Cravath (September 5): "The Company respectfully submits that the Registration Statement is fully transparent about its treatment of lease incentives and contains robust disclosure regarding the treatment of the benefit related to lease incentives and why those amounts are not adjusted out of the Company's two Contribution Margin non-GAAP measures. ... The Company believes that including the impact of amortization of lease incentives also helps it compare the performance of locations across its portfolio, as in some cases— particularly in certain non-U.S. jurisdictions where the Company is opening new locations—the Company has not always been able to negotiate a tenant improvement allowance into the terms of its leases." Link.

SEC (August 30): "On page 72, you characterize Contribution Margin as a measure of unit economics or non-GAAP gross profit. Your current disclosure does not include a presentation of the most directly comparable financial measure, gross profit, calculated and presented in accordance with GAAP. Gross profit should contemplate all cost of sales per Rule 503 of Regulation S-X including, but not limited to pre-opening costs, depreciation or amortization expense associated with leasehold improvements, equipment and furniture, which are an integral part of your customer offerings." Link.

Cravath (September 5): "The Company respectfully advises the Staff that it has revised the disclosure on page 74 of the Registration Statement to remove reference to the term non-GAAP gross profit in response to the Staff's comment. Contribution Margin is a measure of non-GAAP unit economics (not of gross profit) and the Company does not present gross profit on its consolidated statement of operations [link]. ... Accordingly ... the Company views loss from operations as the most directly comparable financial measure calculated in accordance with GAAP as presented on the Company's consolidated statement of operations. The Company thus provides reconciliations of its Contribution Margin non-GAAP measures to loss from operations as presented on its consolidated statement of operations." Link.

Lastly, the SEC concluded by asking WeWork and Neumann to "Please remove disclosure of this measure throughout your registration statement."

The lawyers answered the broad point, citing the items above and telling agency staffers that their interpretation of the agency's regulations weren't necessarily correct. 

Cravath (September 5): "In light of the Company's desire to find a course forward, the Company proposes for your consideration a revision to the Company's future disclosures of Contribution Margin to present only Contribution Margin including non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost and then to provide the amount and description of non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost impact immediately next to such measure, and to not present Contribution Margin excluding non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost (as shown in the attached changed pages removing Contribution Margin excluding non-cash GAAP straight-line lease cost), while otherwise leaving the calculation and presentation of Contribution Margin as reflected in the Registration Statement being filed today. If such an approach would address your concerns and allow the Company to move forward, the Company will include a revised presentation reflecting such an approach in the next amendment to the Registration Statement." Link.

One week after receiving Cravath's response, on September 11 the SEC appeared to concede on the contribution margin, dropping its demand to remove mention of the metric and instead offering five suggestions of how to frame it in the document. The agency asked the company to change its name and to remove the qualifying language that the company had proposed. Link

In its initial letter, the agency also took issue with other elements of WeWork's filing, including its decision to group the underwriters in a circle rather than the customary lineup, its various membership levels, and a chart that seemed to suggest that some locations broke even before they were open to members. The lawyer responses here are from Skadden Arps, another firm hired by WeWork.

SEC (August 30): "Please highlight the lead or managing underwriter(s) as required by Item 501(b)(8)(i) of Regulation S-K." Link.

Skadden (September 4): "As discussed with the Staff on August 30, 2019, the Company respectfully advises the Staff that the underwriters highlighted on the cover page of the prospectus are the lead underwriters for the offering." Link.

SEC (August 30): "We note the chart on page 5 depicting a timeline for your locations. Your chart seems to indicate that your locations 'breakeven' prior to the location opening for members. Please revise to make clear the number or percentage of your mature locations that are profitable and operate on a cash flow positive basis." Link.

Skadden (September 4): "The Company respectfully advises the Staff that is has revised the disclosure on pages 4, 81, and 134 to address the Staff's comments and has removed the chart to which Staff's comment referred." Link.

SEC (August 30): "In this regard, it appears you have several categories of membership types. In order to give investors more insight and understanding of your business, disclose your various membership types and the revenue associated with each membership type. For each membership type, disclose the average length of their contractual commitments." Link.

Skadden (September 4): "The Company respectfully advises the Staff that it has revised the disclosure on page 70 to address the Staff's comment. As disclosed on page 70, the Company has only two types of memberships: WeWork memberships and on-demand memberships." Link.

Read the entire 58 pages at this link.

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Davos says it is focusing on the climate crisis, but its billionaires and world leaders are still arriving on private jets

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:12am

  • The World Economic Forum made the idea of a sustainable world the key theme for this year's event Davos, Switzerland.
  • But the financial, political, and celebrity elites that travel to the event will largely continue to travel by private jet, which is hugely damaging to the environment.
  • The WEF says it offsets the carbon emitted from flights by funding emissions-reducing projects, but this practice does not stop the carbon entering the atmosphere.
  • Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg will address the forum again, after she last year stunned global leaders by saying that many of them likely profit from sacrificing the environment.
  • The WEF says it has taken other steps, including electric cars, monitoring food waste, and using renewable electricity.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The World Economic Forum said on Monday, one day before the event kicks off in Davos, Switzerland, that: "The climate crisis is going to be one of the dominant themes this week."

Its website prominently features Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is due to appear this year after criticising world leaders and urged them to act at last year's event.

"How to Save the Planet" is one of the seven "key" themes up for discussion.

And the overall theme of this year's event is "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World."

But as the world's financial elite, political leaders, and celebrities descend on the small town, the question is whether their transport choices can at all work with what the event — and many of those leaders — say they want to achieve for the planet.

The World Economic Forum recorded more than 600 plane journeys that can be attributed to Davos in 2019 — a figure that does not "take into account public figures such as presidents and prime ministers."

"There were around 60 of these but they tend to use military planes and land at a nearby military base, which makes it impossible to get flight numbers," Davos said.

Aviation is expected to contribute to 22% of the world's carbon emissions by 2050 .

World leaders, business leaders, and world-famous personalities are largely unlikely to copy Thunberg and take the train, as she did last year.

That lack of willingness to make changes was condemned by Thunberg at last year's event, when she stunned the world's most powerful people at a lunch by pointing at their power to help fix the crisis.

"Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame," she said.

"Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people."

The World Economic Forum says its offsetting the carbon from flights, and taking other environmental steps

The WEF said it is "constantly looking to reduce our carbon footprint."

Doing so involves "offering incentives to participants who come by train" and "includes offsetting all air travel by purchasing carbon credits" for both private and commercial flights, funding emissions-reducing projects.

CNN reported that the cars that will bring VIPs around the town are now 88% electric or hybrid, and that the event is monitoring food waste, eliminating single-use plastics, and refurbished its main conference center to use renewable energy.

And the WEF says it uses "locally-sourced food suppliers, introducing alternative sources of protein to reduce meat consumption, sourcing 100% renewable electricity, and reducing or eliminating the use of materials that cannot easily be recycled or re-used, such as carpets and introducing more electric vehicles."

And Davos disputed reports that 1,500 jets flew to the conference in 2019, and said that figure recorded some jets twice, masking an actual a 20% reduction in the number of jets between 2018 and 2019.

But Lucy Gilliam, a shipping specialist at European clean transport nonprofit Transport & Environment, criticized the idea of carbon offsetting to CNN.

"You're not actually removing the emissions that have been created by that plane," she said. "The plane will have burned that fuel, and the carbon has been released into the atmosphere."

Thunberg marched in Switzerland with 10,000 protesters on Friday before her journey to Davos, warning: "You have not seen anything yet."

This year's meeting — which takes place against the backdrop of devastating fires in Australia, US President Donald Trump formally announcing he is withdrawing his country from the Paris Climate Agreement, and increasingly dire warnings about the future of our planet — will be her latest effort to convince world leaders.

"So, we are now in a new year and we have entered a new decade and so far, during this decade, we have seen no sign whatsoever that real climate action is coming and that has to change," Thunberg said on Friday.

"To the world leaders and those in power, I would like to say that you have not seen anything yet. You have not seen the last of us, we can assure you that. And that is the message that we will bring to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week."

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Here's a look at the tech used at SoftBank-backed real-estate brokerage Compass — including a sneak peek of beta features

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:08am

SoftBank-backed real-estate brokerage Compass is developing what it calls the first end-to-end software platform for real-estate agents.

The company's New York regional president, Rory Golod, walked Business Insider through the tools for real-estate agent, and explained the short-term tech road map for Compass.

Founded in 2012, Compass was valued at $6.4 billion in its most recent funding round and has grown rapidly through buying up other brokerages.

Golod, who was previously Compass CEO Robert Reffkin's chief of staff (Reffkin was Gary Cohn's chief of staff at Goldman Sachs), explained that a lot of the tools are simply aimed at saving agents time. 

"The innovation is integration," Golod said. Compass' technology suite is interconnected and aims to replace the collection of software tools that agents use regularly. This end-to-end program also provides the data that Compass' AI and machine learning teams need to develop and train algorithms, he said.

Compass hired its CTO, Joseph Sirosh, in 2018, and he has helped launch a Seattle engineering office, with plans to build another in India soon. Sirosh was formerly CTO of artificial intelligence at Microsoft. 

Compass said in November it had bought New York-based artificial intelligence and machine learning company Detectica. Over the past year, Compass has also bought a real-estate customer-relationship management tool called Contactually.

The failed IPO of WeWork, another SoftBank-backed company, has prompted some to look more closely at the valuations of fast-growing venture-backed startups that put a tech-heavy spin on disrupting existing industries. 

The Real Deal reported in October that Compass CFO Kristen Ankerbrandt sent around talking points to staff to distance the company from WeWork. 

A number of top execs left Compass in September, including head of communications Jason Post and chief operating officer Maelle Gavet. 

A summary of Golod's walkthrough is below.

If you work in real estate and would like to share your experiences or comments about tech tools in the space, please send me an email at

Compass Search and Compass Collections

Golod began the demonstration by walking through Compass' Concierge and Search tools to help a buy-side agent and a buyer find a home to purchase.

The Compass Search tool contains both the MLS listings they have access to and Compass' Coming Soon listings, which are Compass listings that are listed first on Compass' website before they are listed on a MLS.

The service would be pretty familiar to anyone who has used a listing site, and basically looks like the company's consumer-facing listing site. The difference? More search functionality and smaller photos.

The company recently updated its search software, which now allows Compass agents to find properties that are within a self-defined distance of a landmark (like a buyer's workplace) or within multiple, agent-drawn locales (imagine a buyer who would want to buy in the 70s on either the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side.)

The agent's workflow then turns to Compass Collections, the product that connects Compass agents with their clients. The idea, according to Golod, is to keep all information about potential purchases and all communication in one place, instead of across "12 different tabs."

The GIF above demonstrates what the client-side interface looks like when accessed through the Compass app. The agent-side doesn't look much different, though Compass' recent investments and acquisitions in AI, like AI-consultancy Detectica, are working on more functionality. 

In six months, Golod says, the app will prompt agents with helpful hints before they send a property to a client. Golod gave the example of a property that attracts a lot of dog owners, the plan is for the AI to tell an agent that "70% of the time when potential clients looked at this listing, they asked if the building allowed dogs."

This software, according to Golod, will allow agents to both provide better service and to save time on answering client's questions. 

After a client has narrowed down the listings they're interested in, the app will create a tour schedule and route, optimized for travel time, and then allows the buying agent to connect with the selling agents showing the property. 

Compass CRM

The next product, Compass' CRM, is where agents will track their old clients and social connections in search of new business. The company bought Contactually, a CRM provider that Compass was already using for its internal CRM, this February. 

The technology allows a Compass agent to set up a contact plan for any future clients, both with individual tasks and more comprehensive action plans. The GIF above shows an entire action plan for an agent to keep in touch with a client who just purchased a home. 

In the relationship-heavy life of a real-estate agent, the ability to keep in touch with clients without overwhelming them is key to bringing in more business. 

Golod said that Compass's AI team is working on new ways to do this by plugging in Compass's market data to create prompts.

If a former client's home has drastically appreciated in value since they purchased it, Compass is developing the ability for the CRM to auto-suggest a reach out to see if they're ready to purchase. These sorts of features, Golod hopes, will make the work-intensive art of finding clients much simpler. 

Marketing Center

Golod said that Compass' Marketing Center was created to solve agents' top request: an easy way to create print and online marketing material.

Previously, these agents were either paying graphic designers every time they needed something done, or they figured out how to do it themselves, spending time that could have been spent on finding new business. 

Marketing Center auto-generates a wide range of marketing material, from paper brochures to Instagram posts, importing property photos and descriptions from Compass's listings. It also allows agents to resize and swap out any photos or rewrite any of the text. 

The Marketing Center also includes an insights center with details about the success of marketing campaigns. For the more tech-savvy agents, this allows them to target and understand their potential buyers.

For the less tech-savvy agents, Golod said, it gives them something to point to when their clients ask what they've been doing to sell their house. 

Compass also has a Network tool that provides details about what agents perform best in a submarket, and then auto-generates marketing emails to be sent to them. In the past, agents would have to blast emails to everyone in the submarket. Now, with Compass's market data integrated with their email, they can specialize their emails for the agents that are most likely to have clients that are willing to buy. 

Compass Hot Sheets and Future Development

Compass also gave a sneak peek of the beta version of a new product, the Hot Sheet. The Hot Sheet is a dynamic reference sheet for agents to track markets inventory changes in markets that are important for them.

This could help agents better price their clients' homes, and indicate what markets may give them the most potential business or where their clients may want to purchase. 

Another feature, Compass' feedback site, drives the company's technical decision making. It's technologically simple, but Golod says it helps the company to "learn from reality." 

Agents can submit any changes they would like to see made to existing tools, or new tools to a public forum. Other agents can then like or comment on the idea, providing more detail for Compass's product and tech team. 

The product and tech teams then update the post periodically, explaining either their progress on the idea, or the reason why they're not working on it. 

Golod said that including agents in the process makes sure that Compass is creating tools that agents, who can be tech-averse, will actually use. 

"If we build the tools that they ask for, we will deliver what they actually want," Golod said.

Bank of America promoted 74 new managing directors in its sales and trading division — here's who passed what the firm calls a 'prestigious career milestone'

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:06am

  • Bank of America announced a new class of managing directors to the firm on Thursday morning. 
  • In global markets, the firm's sales and trading division, there are 74 new MDs, according to a memo seen by Business Insider. 
  • The announcement comes later than usual for the bank, which has announced in the fourth quarter in years past. 
  • The full size of the firm's MD class isn't clear. 
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Bank of America has promoted 74 managing directors from its sales and trading division as part of its 2019 class — slightly more than last year, according to an internal memo seen by Business Insider. 

BofA insiders told BI that new promotes were individually notified in late November, but the firm just sent an internal email early on Thursday morning revealing the promotions — much later than usual for the bank, which has announced its MD class to the firm in November or December in recent years. 

It's not clear why the announcement was delayed this year. 

A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment. 

According to the memo announcing the promotions within the firm's Gobal Markets division, 74 employees were promoted to MD this time around, up from 71 last year. 

We have not yet seen the names of MDs in the bank's other divisions, and the full size of the firm's 2019 MD class isn't clear. 

Morgan Stanley announced its most recent class of 130 managing directors earlier this week, its smallest class in recent memory. Citigroup in December announced 220 new managing directors across the firm. 

The managing director title is the highest at the firm and, as the internal memo states, it is considered a "prestigious career milestone."

Here are all the sales and trading names in the 2019 Bank of America Merrill Lynch managing-director class: 


Tazeen Ahmad

Rohan Almeida

Rico Arguello

Martin Ayre

Antonio Belato

Frantz Bien-Aime

James Bignell

Jean-Baptiste Binz

Sinead Brogan

Rod Burns

Mark Cabana

Nicholas Callaway

Chris Carfagno

Sonia Chandnani

Sang Woon Cho

Niels Christensen

Paul Connaughton

Gordon Corbett

Max Cordonnier

Gregory David

Amanda Deckelman

Alexey Demyanov

Serena Ding

Ryan Driscoll

JP Duayhe

Rob Ellis

Don Ellithorpe

Matt Fields

Katie Fike

Quentin Fogan

Tim Gross

Guillaume Gruchet

Dermot Hanlon

Christin Hinkle

Jack Hsieh

Arjun Jaswal

Tyler Kaiser

Josephine Kim

Lauren Kohr

Grant Koziol

Quentin Lancon

Matt Lewin

David Litt

Vincent Littke

Chiyan Luo

Bill Lyons

Shaamil Magecha

Chris Mercer

Peter Milano

Kevin Milsom

Tim Murtha

Alex Naboicheck

Don Nguyen

Stephen Peyser

Roberto Pilnik

Shrijit Plappally

Ebrahim Poonawala

Giulio Recchia

Benny Salerno

Sachin Salgaonkar

Ross Smith

Afonso Soares

Matthew Spoerlein

Joel Stainton

Milos Starovic

Nick Stimola

Mitchell Story

Fredrick Suzuki

Annamaria Timofte

Cesar Adrian Tiron

Claudia Welch

Kevin Wenk

Christopher Wood

Nathan Michael Zibilich

Have a tip or internal memo to share? Send an email to the reporter at or reach him via Signal.

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These 5 factors are fueling a massive transformation in banking

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:04am

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I thought I wasn't a 'Costco person' until my friend showed me what I was missing, and I've never looked back

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:02am

  • I bought a Costco membership a while back, but I found the store so overwhelming that I barely made use of it.
  • After a friend showed me the ropes, though, I started planning my family's meals to get the most out of my savings.
  • Now I'm a Costco pro and spend about half of what I used to on some of my family's meals.
  • You can use the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi to earn 2% back on eligible in-store and online purchases.

"Thanks, I got it at Costco!" I had heard this so many times over the years in response to compliments I'd given that I began to realize a club of people were buying their winter coats at the same place they were buying delicious pizza, and I wanted in. So I went to Costco and bought a membership

On my first shopping trip, though, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place that I found myself wandering the endless aisles staring bug-eyed at brands I had never heard of and couldn't be sure I liked. 

I couldn't tell if the prices were good or bad, and I had no way of knowing because I had never bought 600 vitamins in a single bottle before. I ended up leaving the store with only a box of chocolate almonds and an oversize pack of lightbulbs. It wasn't much, and it certainly didn't justify the $60 membership fee, but it was all I could find.

In the months that followed, I made a handful of mostly futile trips to Costco, and at the end of the year, I sighed with relief when my membership expired. I decided I simply wasn't a "Costco person."

Getting some help from my friend

When I told my friend Amanda this, I think she may have gasped audibly. I explained to her that while I felt silly admitting it, I didn't think I knew how to shop at Costco. She promised to take me to Costco and teach me how it's done. 

Our trip together was centered on groceries. As busy mothers, we don't have time to gawk at flat screens, though we did double back to check out the clothes.

We stopped first at the produce section. That is when I remembered why Costco hadn't worked for me. Sure, $3.69 for a pound of blueberries is a steal, but who needs a pound of blueberries?

"Freeze them," Amanda told me. "Or better yet, think of all the ways you can use blueberries: smoothies, by themselves, as a snack, on oatmeal."

She was right. My children love blueberries and would eat a pound in a single sitting if I allowed them to, but I'm typically so busy rationing out the contents of a quarter of a pint from my local grocery store that the final few shrivel up waiting to be distributed.

The Costco Anywhere Visa earns 2% cash back on in-store and online purchases and has no annual fee. See Business Insider's review of the Costco Anywhere Visa card for more »

Things were just as overwhelming in the baked-goods section: a dozen Einstein Bros. bagels for $6, a dozen enormous muffins for the same price. I have often spent $5 at my local grocery store for four comparable muffins, so the savings were undeniable, but I couldn't imagine needing so many jumbo-size baked goods. 

"I always brought them to the office," Amanda told me. As a freelance writer, I have no office, but my husband does. I could also bring them as an easy contribution to my next book club. Or, as Amanda would say over and over throughout the course of our shopping trip, "Freeze them!"

As we continued shopping, the deals were so good that I found myself taking pictures of the price tags, all while Amanda suggested ways I could use a jumbo vat of coconut oil or peanut butter. But while buying in bulk is a significant component of shopping at Costco, it isn't the only part. 

Saving money on family dinners

We make six out of seven of our weekly dinners at home, and while it's a savings over takeout, I can't tell you how many times I've longed for something between sweating over the stove all afternoon and dropping $40 on Grubhub. 

While many meal-kit delivery services posture themselves as the solution for families like mine, I find myself wincing every time I go over their price plans. Costco offers a real alternative. Its premade-meal section is massive and packed with variety — plus, it's affordable. 

It is famous, of course, for its $4.99 rotisserie chickens and $9.95 18-inch pizzas, but it also sells dinner salads that easily feed a family of four, large tubs of soup, ready-to-bake pasta, and street-taco kits, with the average price of dinner coming in at $15. It's affordable and convenient — and maybe enough of a justification for the membership fee on its own. 

However, if I'm being honest, Costco is such a large store that "Costco runs" aren't a thing, only "Costco trips." So personally, I would need more reasons to hike through the store beyond a few days of premade dinners to make the trek. 

Understanding Costco's assortment of brands

Of course, Costco offers no shortage of reasons to stop in, but in the past, I had struggled with buying brands I didn't recognize. Amanda helped me find the familiar in the unfamiliar. 

Much of this came down to recognizing which items I already use in bulk quantities without preexisting brand loyalty. For example, to my uncultured palate, one olive oil is much like another, and our family pours through it quickly. Picking up a 2-liter jug for $15.99 from Costco saves me both time and money. 

That said, Costco has brand options beyond Kirkland, and on some items, the brand really matters. I love baking and use King Arthur Flour exclusively. At my local grocery store, a 3-pound bag is usually $5. Costco sells a 12-pound bag of King Arthur for $6. Even Amanda, my Costco guru, was surprised to see some of her favorite brands, at one point shouting, "Shut your face!" as she lunged for a package of Kite Hill yogurt. 

Finding my savings

I had to stop myself from a similar exclamation when the cashier announced my total. It felt like a big number for a few items, especially considering I had recently been geeking out over all the deals. But when I broke the numbers down into meals, snacks, and family members fed, I found my savings. 

I had only 10 items on my receipt, and my total was $105. But when I calculated how many meals were included in those 10 items and compared the price with my typical $150 weekly grocery bill that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the week, I realized that while my while my Costco bill was not a direct meal-to-meal comparison, it was much more affordable for my family. 

For instance, the $10 box of individual pho servings would cover nine of my husband's lunches. The large bag of precooked frozen chicken sausages I purchased for $13 and the box of frozen blueberry-vegetable muffins I also got for $13 would provide my family with easy and nutritious breakfasts for less than $2 a day for the next two weeks. Typically, I spend at least $35 a week on our breakfasts. 

There were other savings as well. My grocery shopping always includes more than just groceries. My daughter's teacher recently asked parents for pencils for the classroom. With the 96-count box I bought at Costco for $9, I was able to provide pencils for the entire classroom.

Another store would have sold a 12-pack of the same pencils for $2.39. I would have not only spent much more money at another grocery store, but I also would never have bought 96 pencils at another grocery store at all. 

As someone who is used to running to my neighborhood grocery store on an as-needed basis, this mindset shift was the most important part of my Costco lesson because in so many ways, Costco is not just a grocery store, it's a way of life. It's a one-stop shop that has just about everything you need, but buying in bulk also requires a degree of planning and commitment. 

And a deep freezer helps.

Earn 2% back on eligible purchases: Click here to learn more about the Costco Anywhere Visa »

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Private equity firm Partners Group just got hit with a trade-secrets lawsuit from a railroad company that says it took investment ideas

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 10:01am

  • Private-equity firm Partners Group has been hit with a trade secrets lawsuit by a railroad operator with which it once discussed possible investing opportunities, according to a lawsuit filed in New York state court. 
  • MidRail, a freight rail operator, claimed it entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Partners Group in 2017 to discuss rail investments together.
  • But after MidRail provided Partners Group with "confidential business information," including about its merger and acquisition pipeline and business model, the PE shop used this information for its own investing purposes, the lawsuit alleges.
  • The lawsuit claims Partners Group used the MidRail information to compete directly with MidRail in a 2019 bid for US rail operator Patriot Rail.
  • MidRail ultimately won the bid, but paid $100 million more for Patriot than it had originally planned, the lawsuit said. 
  • The lawsuit filed "is wholly without merit, and Partners Group will vigorously defend against the asserted claims," a Partners Group spokeswoman said.
  • Click here to read more BI Prime stories.

Private equity firm Partners Group has been hit with a trade secrets lawsuit by a railroad operator with which it once discussed possible investing opportunities, according to a lawsuit filed in New York state court. 

MidRail, a freight rail operator, claimed in the lawsuit that it entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Partners Group in 2017 to discuss rail investments together.

But after MidRail provided Partners Group with "confidential business information," including about its merger and acquisition pipeline and business model, the PE shop used this information for its own investing purposes, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit said Partners Group solicited MidRail's "most sensitive information" and then used it to compete directly with MidRail, including in a 2019 bid for U.S. rail operator Patriot Rail.

MidRail, partnering with a new private equity firm, won the bid, but says that it paid $100 million more for Patriot than it had originally intended, according to the lawsuit.

Reached for comment on Friday, a Partners Group spokeswoman called the lawsuit "wholly without merit."

"Partners Group will vigorously defend against the asserted claims," she said. 

Patriot bid allegations

The events leading up to the Patriot bid, as alleged by MidRail, help explain the lawsuit. 

MidRail said it introduced the potential purchase of Patriot to Partner Group in 2018. That was before Patriot was even on the market for sale, MidRail said. 

Then, following that introduction, Partners Group "responded with interest" and MidRail continued to share information about the possible deal throughout 2018. 

MidRail stated that information provided to Partners Group was done with the express understanding that the PE shop would use the information "only for evaluating and/or entering" into business transactions with MidRail and for no other purpose. 

It also referenced a non-disclosure agreement, which MidRail claims it later found Partners Group to have violated.

Deal talks

In May and June 2019, they continued to talk about Patriot, which by then was engaged in a formal sale process, the suit alleges.

At this time, the lawsuit said, Partners Group told MidRail it was planning a first round bid for Patriot and assured MidRail that if it made it past the first round, it would partner with MidRail.

MidRail provided Partners Group with confidential information about its strategy for Patriot, the lawsuit said, including information on how the materials for a previously discussed deal could be adapted for a Patriot acquisition. 

Then, Partners Group made "repeated requests" for detailed information from MidRail about the application of MidRail's strategy and M&A pipeline as it related to Patriot, which MidRail provided. 

But after getting into the second round of bidding, Partners Group refused to work with MidRail, the lawsuit said. 

In July 2019, the lawsuit said Partners Group met with Patriot, including a management meeting and a dinner, during which Partners Group "improperly shared MidRail's confidential plans for Patriot... while falsely representing these MidRail creations as [Partners Group's] own."

As a result, MidRail "was forced to drastically increase its bid, and therefore cut into its projected investment profits, to compete against (for all practical purposes) itself," the lawsuit said. 

MidRail teamed up with a new equity partner and ultimately bid $100 million more for Patriot than it had originally planned, the lawsuit said. 

Fundraising claims

It also said in the suit that, based on information and belief, Partners Group has continued to use its information including as part of fundraising efforts.

The lawsuit referred to a new $5 billion Euro infrastructure investment fund Partners Group was raising.

It said that Partners Group featured MidRail's confidential information in order to solicit investments for the fund. 

The lawsuit seeks economic damages and says it was harmed at least in the tens of millions of dollars. 

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Morgan Stanley is looking to add 1 million wealth clients by wooing young startup workers who are paid a lot in stock (MS)

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 9:57am

  • Morgan Stanley, the largest US wealth manager, on Thursday broke down how it plans to turn customers using its newly purchased stock-plan system into full-fledged wealth management clients.
  • Over the next five to seven years the firm expects to shift more than 1 million employee participants to its wealth arm's advisory or digital channels, like its Access Investing offering. 
  • Visit BI Prime's homepage for more wealth management stories.

Morgan Stanley made a $900 million bet around its wealth management business last year. Now it's sharing new details with around how it plans to execute on it.

The New York bank's executives on Thursday explained how they are looking to convert customers already using its recently purchased stock-plan platform, ShareWorks by Morgan Stanley, into possibly lucrative full-fledged wealth management clients down the line.

The acquisition of the Canadian equity-administration firm formerly known as Solium Capital, which was announced last February and closed three months later, was Morgan Stanley's largest purchase since the financial crisis. ShareWorks, used by employees at startups like Stripe and Instacart, is now part of a larger suite of tools called Morgan Stanley at Work. 

Over the next five to seven years the firm expects to turn more than 1 million employee participants to its wealth arm's advisory or digital channels like the Virtual Advisor, Access Investing, or Access Direct offerings.

That would build on its 3 million-plus client relationships, chief executive James Gorman said on a call with analysts to discuss the firm's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings results

"We'll be able to provide a compelling offering for all our relationships, servicing the ultra-high and high net worth segment with financial advisers and more mass affluent clients with our virtual adviser or digital solutions," Gorman, who has helmed the firm since 2010, said. 

The plan and the acquisition itself underscore a more sweeping, urgent focus playing out across the big business of managing money. With inexpensive introductory offerings, firms are making moves to attract a generation of young, digitally inclined customers still building up wealth with the hope of shifting them to more premium services as their situations grow more complex. Getting inside the workplace with "financial wellness" tools is one way firms are hoping to do that.

Morgan Stanley, for its part, expects to fully convert all of its existing corporate equity-administration clients over to Morgan Stanley at Work by the end of 2021 — at which time employees of the companies it serves will be able to access "financial coaching, exclusive educational content, and our self-directed brokerage offering, providing them with an introduction to our wealth management services," Gorman said.

Nearly 40% of those plans on its existing systems have been transitioned over to Shareworks. The remainder will be completed by the end of 2020, Gorman added. 

When an analyst on the call asked for more details around what kind of assets-under-management growth and revenue could come with successfully drawing in new wealth management clients, finance chief Jonathan Pruzan said it's still relatively early days. 

"I think we'll see sort of an acceleration, a slow build, if you will, of converting our Morgan Stanley at Work clients into either the digital or advisory channel," he said.

Pruzan said on the firm's third-quarter earnings call in October that it had won 265 new corporate clients since the deal closed earlier that year.

How Shareworks fits into the unit's future

Gorman has emphasized that its wealth-management arm, the largest in the US with some $2.7 trillion client assets and around 15,400 financial advisers through the fourth quarter, has stabilized the firm.

With a steady stream of fees locked in from clients who will theoretically stick around for years, business are typically seen as more steady units than other areas of banks like trading, which are more tethered to markets' fluctuations.

And Shareworks is a major part of Gorman's vision for the future. "I see it less characterizing as going down market and more characterizing as just expanding the universe of clients," he said on the call.

"There are a lot of people out there, working at companies making good money through these share plans," he added. "They do not want or need one of our large financial adviser teams, that's for sure. But that doesn't mean they can't have access to what Morgan Stanley can deliver."

Devin Ryan, an analyst at JMP Securities, meanwhile isn't blown away by what these clients could do for Morgan Stanley's wealth business.

He crunched the numbers and pointed out that its 2.7 million corporate stock-plan customers hold $1.5 trillion of wealth away from Morgan Stanley. By Ryan's estimates around the 1 million additional customers it's hoping to capture, the firm is going after some $500 billion in assets held away. 

"We believe a successful wallet share outcome would be around 50%, implying this could be a $250 billion-plus asset opportunity (on a current WM customer asset base of over $3 trillion) — thus, we think this would be a positive and is clearly incremental, but also not transformational," he said in a Thursday report to clients. 

Read more: Jamie Dimon makes renewed pitch for JPMorgan to be valued like a subscription service — and it shows how Wall Street is trying to echo Big Tech

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A consultant who travels every week shares why the Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve are his go-to cards for benefits and rewards

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 9:45am

Traveling for work doesn't make this consultant (who preferred not to share his name or company to protect his privacy) any less excited about doing it for fun in his free time. He uses two premium cards to book work travel when he can, and for his everyday spending to maximize his rewards. 

"I use the cards to make my business travel less of a hassle and earn rewards so that I can enjoy aspirational travel in my personal time with my wife and my family," he tells Business Insider. 

This consultant, who works for a top consulting firm, travels weekly for work. His favorite cards are two high-end travel rewards cards: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum card. While both have high annual fees, he finds that the combination of fast rewards and luxury perks make them well worth the cost. using them to earn free travel, achieve status with hotel chains, and more. 

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. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers top-tier earning potential 

This consultant loves his Sapphire Reserve because he finds it easy to rack up rewards. "I really enjoy that card because it offers more points on the categories that I use the most: travel and restaurants or dining," he says. "On the weekends, I'm usually going out with my wife to dinners and to bars. A large portion of our expenditures on the weekend are for restaurants and dining." 

The Sapphire Reserve might come with a hefty fee — the annual fee recently increased to $550 — but it racks up 3 points per dollar on travel spending and dining. Travel spending includes both vacationing and everyday expenses, ranging from airfare and cruises to subway fare, and dining points can be earned on anything from DoorDash orders to high-end restaurants. The card also offers up to $300 in annual statement credits that are automatically applied whenever you use the card to make eligible travel purchases.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve » The Amex Platinum offers lots of luxury benefits

The Amex Platinum is another staple in this consultant's wallet, thanks to a long list of travel perk.

"I really like the American Express Platinum card because of the status and benefits for both myself as well as my family," he says. Like the Sapphire Reserve, this card has an annual fee of $550. 

"It helped me kick start status with hotel chains and car rental services until I had enough nights and points to actually get the status myself," he says. The Amex Platinum offers Gold elite status with Hilton and Mariott, giving cardholders complimentary upgrades, late checkouts, and more. 

In addition to hotel status, he finds that the airport lounge access benefits make travel easier. "I have Delta Sky Club access, which I value quite a bit, especially if my flights get delayed," he adds. For frequent travel in and out Atlanta, which is a Delta hub, the Amex Platinum's free Delta Sky Club lounge access (when you have a same-day Delta flight) is very useful.

The consultant also said that Amex's concierge services have helped him out quite a bit, both when traveling and at home. "Their concierge services have helped me get restaurant reservations at some restaurants that I couldn't get reservations at myself," he says. 

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum » It's all about the rewards, and these two cards help them add up

By using two cards, there are two sets of rewards at play: Amex Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with putting all of your spend on a single rewards credit card," he says. "But I think for me, I enjoy looking at how I can optimize my spending across credit cards. I'm willing to put in the time and the effort." 

"It's not that much effort to be honest, but it does involve checking every day, making sure that things are on track, and having a long-term strategy in place," he says. Most importantly, rewards credit cards are only worth it if they're paid in full each month, as carrying a balance will negate any rewards you earn. 

Elite status and airport lounge access benefits: Learn more about the Amex Platinum » Earn 3x points on travel and dining: Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve »

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