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Financial Services: 6 Key Attributes to Attract Gen Z

Mon, 11/11/2019 - 1:01am

Now the largest generation worldwide, Gen Z accounts for nearly 68 million people in the US alone. As Gen Zers age, financial services providers will be increasingly pressed to shift focus to the burgeoning demographic.

As digital natives, Gen Zers are more receptive to influence from friends and family than traditional advertising. For marketers, strategists, and developers, understanding Gen Z's unique needs — and creating and marketing products accordingly — will be critical to reaping their value.

In Financial Services: 6 Key Attributes to Attract Gen Z, Business Insider Intelligence provides a six-point framework that highlights core traits of the demographic, which banks and payments firms can use to attract, engage, and retain Gen Zers.

This exclusive report can be yours for FREE today.

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

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FREE SLIDE DECK: The Future of Fintech

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 1:01pm

Digital disruption is affecting every aspect of the fintech industry. Over the past five years, fintech has established itself as a fundamental part of the global financial services ecosystem.

Fintech startups have raised, and continue to raise, billions of dollars annually. At the same time, incumbent financial institutions are getting in on the act, and using fintech to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving financial services landscape. So what's next?

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has the answer in our brand new exclusive slide deck The Future of Fintech. In this deck, we explore what's next for fintech, how it will reach new heights, and the developments that will help it get there.

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Millennials might be mired in debt, not saving for retirement, and delaying medical care, but there are 5 things you can do now to buck the trend

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 12:15pm

Many American millennials are in dire straits financially.

It's easy to blame low income for bad financial habits — as many millennials do — but the truth is that it's possible to build wealth no matter where you start. Most people want it to happen overnight, but that's exceedingly rare. It takes consistency, patience, and good habits to build a solid financial foundation.

Getting out of debt, saving for the future, and preparing for unexpected emergencies should be a priority no matter your age or income. Based on data from a recent Insider and Morning Consult survey, we identified a few financial pain points for millennials.

These tips for improving may seem small on the surface, but as financial expert Ramit Sethi says, they're "big wins." Enough of these smart choices will compound, placing you squarely on the path to building wealth.

1. Use your employer-sponsored retirement account

According to the Morning Consult and Insider survey, 12% of millennials have a retirement savings account but aren't actively contributing to it.

If your employer offers a 401(k) or 403(b), there's no reason not to open one — but don't stop there. Contribute as much as you can, even if it's just $100 per paycheck or a small percentage of your salary. If your employer offers to match your contributions up to a certain amount, make that your starting point. There's no use in missing out on free money.

The biggest advantages of these workplace retirement plans are that your contributions are automatic and the money is tax-deferred, meaning you don't have to pay income taxes on the amount you put in until you withdraw it in retirement. Not only does this give your money greater opportunity for compound growth, it lowers your taxable income now.

2. Open a retirement savings account elsewhere

If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, don't excuse yourself from saving.

Almost anyone can open an Individual Retirement Arrangement, or IRA. You can find these accounts at investment brokerages, robo-advisers, and traditional banks, and they offer tax advantages, too. 

Just like a 401(k), you can set up automatic contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA. In part because the annual contribution limits are lower for these accounts than workplace plans ($6,000 maximum in 2020), most financial experts recommend funding both a 401(k) and an IRA. That's right — it's not an "either, or" situation; it's "both, and." 

3. Automatically build up your emergency fund

Emergencies happen and having some cash on hand ensures you don't have to go into debt to take care of the expense — or worse, ignore it all together. According to our survey, nearly half of millennials have had to delay medical or dental care as a result of their finances. That's more than any other generation who responded to the question. 

As healthcare costs continue to climb, building up an emergency fund with at least three to six months worth of expenses should be a priority. You don't have to use the money just for medical emergencies either — consider it your financial safeguard against job loss, costly car repairs, home repairs, and anything else that crops up.

Make it effortless by setting up direct deposit or regular automatic transfers into a high-yield savings account. The money will be safe, accessible, and earn up to 20 times more interest than a regular savings account.

4. Make a plan to pay off debt

It's no secret millennials are mired in debt. Over half are in credit-card debt, a quarter owe money on personal loans, and nearly 30% have student loan debt, according to our survey.

And yet, about 30% of respondents with credit-card debt have little to no stress at all about paying it off.

Not all debt is detrimental to your financial health, but credit-card debt should be taken seriously. According to the survey, half of people who've paid off debt did it simply by following a payment plan.

Here's one suggestion: If you're balancing paying off debt from multiple sources, focus on the ones with the highest interest rates first — this will probably be credit cards or private student loans. Experts call this the debt avalanche method.

If you can afford to make more than the minimum payment, do it. This should be one of the only excuses to pause your retirement savings. The sooner you pay off high-interest balances, the less money you'll pay in interest over time.

5. Celebrate a raise, but use it wisely

Pay raises have been hard to come by for millions of Americans of late, the Morning Consult and Insider survey revealed. But even among those who have been able to boost their pay in the last year, 42% still aren't saving for retirement.

It's easy to inflate your standard of living when you bring home more money, whether it's traveling more, moving into a nicer neighborhood, or bumping up your self-imposed weekly Postmates quota (we've all been there).

But a raise is actually the perfect time to increase your retirement contributions because you won't even notice the difference. Say you get a 10% salary increase and bump up your automatic retirement contribution by 2% before the new paycheck even hits your bank account. Your savings are set and you'll still see more money in your pocket.

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A $20 million 3-deck superyacht made in Dubai won best in show at the world's biggest in-water boat event. Here's a look inside.

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 12:00pm

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has established itself as the biggest in-water boat show in the world.

With credentials like that, it's no surprise that the largest and most lavish yachts from shipyards across the world flocked to South Florida in early November for a chance to entice over 100,000 boat showgoers for the event's 60th year.

The yacht that impressed the most of all was Majesty 140.

The over 140-foot superyacht built in Dubai by Gulf Craft, in addition to being named best in show by NBC Sports, sold for around $20 million on closing day, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Keep reading for a closer look at the "best in show" superyacht.

SEE ALSO: The 7 biggest yacht debuts at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

DON'T MISS: The world's first hydrogen-powered superyacht was unveiled at the Monaco Yacht Show. Here's a look inside the game-changing 367-foot vessel concept.

Majesty 140, a superyacht built in Dubai by Gulf Craft, was named the best in show at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show at the beginning of November.

Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel

Although the vessel is less than half the size of Madsummer, the 311-foot megayacht that was the show's largest debut this year, it's certainly not lacking in luxurious amenities.

Source: Business Insider, Majesty Yachts/Gulf Craft

It has its own "beach club" on an upper deck ...

Source: Majesty Yachts/Gulf Craft

... with multiple spots to lounge around a centerpiece Jacuzzi.

Source: Majesty Yachts/Gulf Craft

There is ample space to relax indoors, as well.

Source: Majesty Yachts/Gulf Craft

The interiors were crafted by Cristiano Gatto, an acclaimed Italian design team that has outfitted over 200 show-worthy yachts around the world.

Source: Business Insider, Boat International

The superyacht sold for around $20 million on the last day of the boat show.

Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel

Last year, "best in show" at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show went to the 135-foot Mangusta Oceano Namaste.

Source: Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

'Midway' $17.5 million opening weekend box office win marks lowest November champ in 20 years

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 11:35am

  • Lionsgate's "Midway" gets the surprise box office win this weekend, taking in $17.5 million.
  • However, it's the lowest opening weekend win for a November release since 1999's "The Bone Collector."
  • Warner Bros.' "Doctor Sleep" opened below expectations, bringing in only $14.1 million.
  • Universal's comedy "Last Christmas" brought in $11.6 million.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It was a historically bad weekend at the domestic box office, as the winning figure was so low you had to go all the way back to a Denzel Washington/Angelina Jolie thriller from decades ago to find a comparison.

Lionsgate's World War II movie "Midway" blew past its $12 million industry projection to win the weekend box office with an estimated $17.5 million. However, with a $100 million budget, it will need to put in more work for a profit to be made for its financiers (Lionsgate only picked up the movie's US and UK rights). 

The movie beat out Warner Bros.' "The Shining" sequel, "Doctor Sleep," which only brought in $14.1 million on 3,855 screens to come in second place. Projections had the movie bringing in around $25 million, but it turned out no one wanted to sit through a two-and-a-half-hour horror a week after Halloween.

The "Midway" win is the lowest opening weekend win for a November release since 1999's "The Bone Collector," which had a $16.7 million opening to win the November 5, 1999 weekend.

Historically, November is the time of year at the movie theaters where you have a mix of action tent poles and art house titles vying for awards consideration. So it's not like audiences avoid this time of year, especially Veterans Day weekend. In that past, this holiday weekend has seen the launch of big titles like "The Grinch" last year (which had a $67.5 million opening and went on to earn over $500 million worldwide), and "Skyfall" in 2012 ($88.3 million and took in over $1 billion worldwide).

So why was this weekend a crash and burn for the industry?

As we already noted, the release for "Doctor Sleep" is a puzzling one, as it opened after Halloween. By this weekend, everyone was done with scary movies. Warner Bros. likely wanted to stay clear of Paramount opening "Terminator: Dark Fate" last week. But it turned out that wouldn't have been a factor. "Dark Fate" has in no way lived up to the hype. After the weak $29 million opening last weekend, it followed that with a $10.8 million performance this weekend.

That's two wide releases from major studios not holding its weight.

Universal is thinking long game with an early November release of "Last Christmas," its holiday rom-com. The movie came in third place with a $11.6 million opening. Modestly budgeted (around $25 million), it will make its money back quicker than the above titles, but it's another title this weekend audiences weren't flocking to.

And Paramount's John Cena family comedy "Playing with Fire" took in a respectable $12.8 million, but in no way can help the studio rebound from "Dark Fate."

The box office should rebound next weekend with Sony opening "Charlie's Angels" and Disney/Fox releasing "Ford v Ferrari," but there isn't going to be a "Joker"-sized hit until "Frozen II" takes over the multiplex on November 22.

Box office highlights:
  • Amazon Studios' "Honey Boy" had an impressive $72,000 per-screen average on four screens in its first weekend in theaters.
  • "Jojo Rabbit" expanded to over 800 screens this weekend and took in $3.9 million. The Fox Searchlight title has brought in $9.1 million in four weeks.


SEE ALSO: "Last Christmas" director Paul Feig on people obsessing over the movie's twist and why he disagrees with "Joker" director on "woke culture" ruining comedies

Join the conversation about this story »

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

9 of the most tax-friendly states for retirees who want to save money

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 11:30am

  • Not all states are equally friendly to retirees. From sales tax to property tax, paying taxes can be a big expense to retired people living on a fixed income in the US. 
  • Data from Kiplinger shows that nine states stand out when it comes to tax affordability, based on low income, property, sales, and estate taxes. 
  • Wyoming, Nevada, and Delaware top the list of the best states for retirement taxes thanks to low property and income taxes
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Even in retirement, taxes can be a big expense. But, it's also an expense that could be avoided with some planning, as some states are friendlier than others when it comes to taxes. 

Personal finance site Kiplinger created a list of the most tax-friendly states in the US for retirees, and considered factors like average property tax paid, income tax rate, whether or not the state had an estate or inheritance tax, and the sales tax across all 50 states. Wyoming came out on top, offering the most affordable taxes all around. 

None of the states on the list tax Social Security income. Three states on the list — Wyoming, Nevada, and Florida — don't have any income tax. 

While it's not possible to change federal taxes, these tax-friendly states could help retirees save on state taxes. Here are the nine best states for retirees wanting to save on their tax bills, along with each state's income and property tax rates. 

9. Georgia

The Peach State has nice weather most of the year and relatively low taxes, making it a friendly state for retirees. 

Income taxes: 1% to 5.95%

Average property tax: $1,000 per $100,000 in home value

8. Florida

With no state income tax, Florida retirees will be able to keep more of their money. 

Income taxes: none

Average property tax: $1,041 per $100,000 in home value

7. Mississippi

Mississippi residents have a big benefit when it comes to retirement: funds from IRAs, 401ks, and other retirement accounts aren't taxed. Combine that with low property tax rates, and it's easy to see why Mississippi is ideal for retirees. 

Income taxes: 3% to 5%

Average property tax: $862 per $100,000 in home value

6. Tennessee

With both urban and rural settings and acres of nature, Tennessee is more than just good for tax savings. Affordable property taxes make it easy to own your own home in this state as well. 

Income taxes: No income tax, 2% on interest and dividends

Average property tax: $768 per $100,000 in home value

5. South Carolina

Retirees wanting coastal living and tax savings might find that making a home in South Carolina is ideal. With low income taxes, affordable property taxes, and generous retirement income exclusions, this state's nice weather is only part of the reason to move there. 

Income taxes: 3% to 7%

Average property tax: $601 per $100,000 in home value

4. Alabama

Alabama residents will have low living costs and affordable taxes. Low income and property taxes will make it easy for retirees to make a home there. 

Income taxes: 2% to 5%

Average property tax: $432 per $100,000 in home value

3. Delaware

With lots of shoreline and no sales tax, Delaware is ideal for retirees. While the state's property taxes are slightly higher than some of the southern and western states on the list, it's still fairly tax-friendly to live there. 

Income taxes: 2.2% to 6.6%

Average property tax: $604 per $100,000 in home value

2. Nevada

This affordable western state has been attracting retirees in droves in the past few years, and it's tax-friendliness might be why. 

Income taxes: none

Average property tax: $693 per $100,000 in home value

1. Wyoming

Taxes in Wyoming are incredibly low across the board, from property to sales tax. This state doesn't have any income tax, and there's no estate or inheritance tax either. Throw in relatively affordable costs of living, and Wyoming might just be the ideal state for retirement. 

Income taxes: none

Average property tax: $635 per $100,000 in home value

Climate events have cost the US economy more than $500 billion over the last 5 years, Fed official says

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 11:15am

  • Climate- and weather-related events have directly cost the US more than $500 billion over the past five years, according to a Federal Reserve official. 
  • In addition to causing damage to natural resource and infrastructure, global warming is expected to disrupt business operations and economic activity in the coming years. 
  • In January, top economists from both sides of the aisle signed a letter that said climate change was "a serious problem calling for immediate national action."
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Climate and weather-related events have directly cost the US more than $500 billion over the past five years, according to Kevin Stiroh, an executive vice president at the New York Fed who is responsible for bank regulation. 

"Climate change has significant consequences for the US economy and financial sector through slowing productivity growth, asset revaluations and sectoral reallocations of business activity," Stiroh said at the GARP Global Risk Forum in New York on Thursday. 

In addition to causing severe damage to natural resource and infrastructure damage, global warming is expected to disrupt business operations and economic activity in the coming years. Stiroh said climate-related changes raised the potential for losses related to policy changes, consumer sentiment, and how technological innovations affect the value of certain assets and liabilities.

"These effects will be felt across business sectors and asset classes, and on the strategies, operations and balance sheets of financial firms," Stiroh said. 

Fed Chairman Jay Powell told Congress this year that while addressing climate change fell under the direction of other agencies, the central bank would "use its authorities and tools to prepare financial institutions for severe weather events." Others in Washington have issued similar warnings. 

In a more than 1,500-page report released in late 2018, scientists from 13 federal agencies predicted that climate change would slash gross domestic product by a tenth by 2100 if steps weren't taken to reduce the carbon emissions that warm the planet.

The scientists said extreme weather would wreak havoc on growth through adverse effects on the healthcare system, infrastructure, supply chains, labor productivity, agriculture, tourism, power generation and electricity costs. 

"With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product of many US states," the report said. 

In January, top economists from both sides of the aisle signed a letter that said climate change was "a serious problem calling for immediate national action" and called for a national tax on carbon. 

But President Donald Trump has steadily taken steps in the opposite direction. Over the past several years, the White House has taken steps to loosen environmental rules and shrugged off a series of landmark reports on climate change. 

Now read: The economic picture is darkening in states critical to Trump's reelection bid

SEE ALSO: Trump says he hasn't agreed to roll back China tariffs

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption

Meet Zhang Yiming, the secretive, 35-year-old Chinese billionaire behind TikTok who made over $12 billion in 2018

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 10:24am

  • Zhang Yiming built a $16.2 billion fortune after founding ByteDance, the Chinese software developer behind TikTok.
  • Despite being the 13th-wealthiest person in China, Zhang is extremely private and little is known about his personal life.
  • TikTok's growing influence in the US has raised questions from US regulators.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The widespread popularity of TikTok has not just created a new generation of social media stars, it's also created a social media billionaire.

Zhang Yiming, the 35-year-old software engineer who founded the app's parent company, now has a net worth of $16.2 billion, Forbes estimates. Despite being the 13th-wealthiest person in China as ranked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Zhang is extremely private and little is known about his personal life.

Keep reading to learn everything we know about Zhang Yiming.

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Zhang, 35, lives in Beijing, China.

Zhang was born in 1983 in China's Fujian province, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Zhang's parents worked as civil servants, Bloomberg reported.

His name is based on a Chinese proverb about "surprising everyone with a first attempt," according to the South China Morning Post.

He married his college sweetheart.

Zhang graduated from Nankai University in 2005, where he started off studying microelectronics before switching his major to software engineering, the South China Morning Post reported.

The couple does not have any children, according to the South China Morning Post.

Zhang's first job out of college was at a digital travel booking startup called Kuxun.

"I was one of first employees. And I was an ordinary engineer at the beginning, but in the second year, I was in charge of about 40 to 50 people responsible for back-end technology and other tasks related to products," Zhang told ByteDance employees, according to the South China Morning Post.

Zhang credits that job for teaching him sales skills that he later used to grow ByteDance.

"I remember that at the end of 2007, I went to meet the client with the sales director," Zhang said, according to the Post. "This experience let me know what sales are good sales. When I established Toutiao and recruited staff, these examples helped me a lot."

Zhang also worked at Microsoft before founding ByteDance, the South China Morning Post reported.

Zhang founded TikTok's parent company in 2012.

The company is now worth $75 billion, according to Pitchbook, making it the most valuable privately held company in the world.

The company owns several social networking apps that operate within China, Business Insider previously reported. The company released a WeChat rival called FlipChat, and a video-messaging app called Duoshan in 2019.

Zhang and ByteDance's first product was a news aggregator app called Toutiao.

Zhang wanted to create a news platform whose results were powered by artificial intelligence, separate from China's search engine Baidu, Business Insider's Paige Leskin previously reported.

"We push information, not by queries, by news recommendations," Zhang told Bloomberg in 2017.

Despite its focus on news, Zhang told Bloomberg's Lulu Yilun Chen and Mark Bergen in 2017 that ByteDance does not have any journalists on its staff like many other social networks.

"The most important thing is that we are not a news business," Zhang told Bloomberg. "We are more like a search business or a social media platform. We are doing very innovative work. We are not a copycat of a U.S. company, both in product and technology."

Zhang launched ByteDance's most successful app — TikTok — under the name 'Douyin' in September 2016.

TikTok is now the No. 1 non-gaming iOS app in the U.S, Business Insider reported in September. TikTok is one of the most popular social networks among American teens and has been downloaded more than 1 billion times.

TikTok still goes by the name 'Douyin' in China, Business Insider previously reported. 

Zhang makes his own TikToks — and requires his senior employees to as well.

"For a very long time, I was merely watching TikTok videos without making any of them myself, because it's a product mainly for young people," Zhang said, according to the South China Morning Post. "But later on we made it compulsory for all management team members to make their own TikTok videos, and they must win a certain number of 'likes'. Otherwise, they have to do push-ups. It was a big step for me."

Zhang's leadership style is "soft-spoken yet charismatic, logical yet passionate, young yet wise," according to Time Magazine's Kai-Fu Lee.

TikTok's global reach makes Zhang's life "much more interesting."

Zhang wants the app to continue to grow abroad, saying that he hopes his ByteDance will be "as borderless as Google," according to the South China Morning Post.

"We must work harder, we must also be more perfectionist," Zhang said, according to the Post. "Just like there was an international division of labour in the industrial age, in today's information age there's also an international division of labour. Chinese entrepreneurs must also improve their own capabilities as they go global," he said.

However, TikTok's growing influence in the US has raised questions from US regulators.

TikTok agreed in February to pay a $5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission over allegations the app illegally collected personal information from children under age 13 without parental consent, in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, Business Insider previously reported.

The billionaire attributes his success to his work ethic.

Zhang learned the value of pursuing excellence while still in his first job at Kuxun, he told ByteDance employees, according to the South China Morning Post.

"At that time, I was responsible for the technology, but when the product had problems, and I would actively participate in the discussion of [the] product plan," Zhang said, according to the South China Morning Post. "A lot of people say this is not what I should be doing. But I want to say: your sense of responsibility and your desire to do things well, will drive you to do more things and to gain experience."

Zhang's fortune is growing rapidly: He made over $12 billion in 2018 alone.

The majority of Zhang's fortune comes from his 24% stake in ByteDance, according to Forbes.

Forbes first declared Zhang a billionaire in March 2018, estimating that Zhang was worth $4 billion. The magazine now estimates his net worth at $16.2 billion.

CVS and Walmart are betting they can change how Americans get healthcare. Here’s why that should worry hospitals.

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 9:37am

  • Retailers like Walmart and CVS are pushing deep into healthcare, betting they can boost sales and offer more convenient healthcare. 
  • The retailers stand to win out on the big percentage of Americans that don't have a go-to doctor, potentially threatening health system's future revenues. 
  • Here's why that should make health systems nervous. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

The way Americans go to the doctor is changing. 

Options promising convenient care at all hours have popped up at drugstores and strip malls across the country. They promise American consumers the same easy experience navigating the healthcare system that they get shopping on Amazon.

Take CVS Health and Walmart. Over the past year, the biggest pharmacy chain and the dominant US retailer have both pushed deeper into providing healthcare, revealing plans for new health clinics.

The inroads from the retailers, as well as urgent care clinics that can provide a broader array of health services, are forcing major hospitals to rethink how they appeal to patients. Of course, retailers like CVS and Walmart aren't likely to offer surgeries or overnight stays. 

But medical centers used to be able to rely on their reputations for providing cutting edge medical treatments and top quality care to drawn in patients. As Americans are increasingly able to get health needs taken care of at clinics, it threatens to make them less loyal to big health systems, which could threaten those systems' profits.

"This does represent the beginning of competition at the top of the funnel. which will in the long term hurt health systems," Tom Charland, the CEO of Merchant Medicine, a consulting firm that tracks retail clinics, told Business Insider.

Where CVS and Walmart could gain on health systems

Historically, clinics in stores like CVS and Walmart have employed nurse practitioners or physicians' assistants who offer a fairly limited range of services, like checkups, shots, and care for coughs and colds.

Now, though, one of the ways retailers stand to gain ground from health systems is by expanding the types of care they provide. One area they're focused on is managing the care of patients living with chronic conditions.  

In February, shortly after the completion of its merger with health insurer Aetna, CVS began setting up its HealthHub stores, which have an increased focus on health services, including a wellness center and more chronic care management for people with diseases like diabetes.

By the end of 2021, the company plans to turn 1,500 pharmacies into locations that can provide an array of healthcare services.

Walmart in September opened a "prototype" health center in northern Georgia, offering primary care, dental, lab testing and counseling services at lower prices. For instance, a primary care visit costs $40, while a dental visit costs $25. Sean Slovenski, Walmart's president of health and wellness, told Business Insider in September that Walmart could quickly become the largest provider of basic healthcare in the region.

Both CVS and Walmart say they want to work with existing health systems, and that they'll refer patients to those partners for some more complex or ongoing care needs. Walmart is partnering with other healthcare firms to offer some of the services in its stores.

"Health systems have to be more innovative and forward looking, or they stand to lose what they would historically, they would say is 'These are our patients, This is our community, This is where we're investing."  Todd Latz, the CEO of urgent care chain GoHealth, which partners with health systems, said in an interview on the sidelines of the HLTH conference in Las Vegas in October. "That's all true. But you can have that taken away from you."

Delivering care at CVS's HealthHubs

In a recent interview with Business Insider, CVS CEO Larry Merlo recounted a story that he said illustrates how the company's HealthHubs can help people with chronic diseases.

He told us about an instance in which a patient came to the CVS MinuteClinic at a HealthHub more than two years after being diagnosed with diabetes. The patient hadn't been back to see a primary care doctor since, and when the nurse practitioner at the MinuteClinic took a blood test to get a better picture of the patient's disease, it showed the situation was serious.

From the MinuteClinic, CVS linked the person back up with their primary care doctor, who could help the patient manage their diabetes on an ongoing basis. Merlo also pointed out that about 50% of the patients who visit MinuteClinics don't have a go-to primary care provider.

"There is an important complementary role that we can play to ensure that those care plans are in fact being followed," Merlo said. "We're confident that executing the strategy will make a difference in the health of those we're serving and in doing so reduce overall healthcare costs."

Read more: The CEO of CVS Health just gave us one key example that shows how it plans to use its 10,000 pharmacies to upend healthcare

As an insurer, CVS stands to benefit from managing the care of those living with chronic conditions. If the HealthHubs help Aetna decrease the amount it spends on healthcare for its members, by better managing chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes, for instance, that would result in higher profits for the company.

Some analysts have said that CVS should go deeper into healthcare to wring more benefits from operating the clinics.

"We believe the value is in having primary care at retail taking full medical risk for patients and having greater convenience and ability to manage chronics," Bernstein analyst Lance Wilkes wrote in a note Wednesday. "Management comments that HealthHubs are not a replacement for PCPs, and that they are Nurse Practitioner focused, which is not aggressive enough in our opinion."

What health systems are doing instead to compete

Going toe-to-toe with retailers by opening competing clinics might not be the way forward for hospitals. The business is expensive to run and often loses money, Charland said, and health systems run into the issue of competing against themselves for providers. 

Walgreens, the second-biggest operator of retail clinics in the US, is shrinking its footprint. The company said in October that it's closing more than 150 clinics and plans to work with health-system partners to run about 200 others.

Walmart and CVS are both in the early stages of rolling out their new clinic strategies. Walmart for its part has taken a number of stabs at building clinics in the past without much success. While the company has announced plans in the past to have as many as 2,000 clinics, it currently has about 20 clinics over three states. 

"Everybody is still trying to figure out the whole concept of a retailer participating in what I would call traditional healthcare," Charland told Business Insider in September.

There are a number of ways health systems are working to compete with retailers and make sure they own their relationships with patients. 

Health systems have been betting heavily on urgent care as a way to capture more of the first patient interactions as both a less-expensive alternative to emergency rooms and a way to gain referrals. GoHealth, for instance, collaborates with health systems in each area that it operates. In New York, it partners with Northwell Health, the largest health system in the state. It has about 135 urgent care clinics around the US. 

Health systems are also working with some newer entrants. For instance, One Medical, a primary care service that comes with a $200 annual fee, has been partnering with health systems in different geographies. The idea is to offer services that go beyond primary care but can often be done by a primary-care doctor, as well as give One Medical users access to the larger health system.

Then there's the decision to hire tech talent and try to disrupt yourself before anyone else can do it, a method West-Coast based health system Providence St. Joseph Health is deploying. Providence has upgrade the health system's technology, partnered with tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon to design health clinics, and made it easier to schedule appointments.

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Ashton Kutcher says he's not setting up a trust fund for his kids, and his parenting approach echoes what billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have said

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 9:34am

Ashton Kutcher's kids aren't getting his money.

In a recent episode of the Dax Shepard podcast "Armchair Expert," he said he's not creating trust funds for his two children with wife Mila Kunis, reported Mitch Tuchman for MarketWatch. He also said he'll hear out their business ideas, but won't give them special treatment.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," Kutcher, who has an estimated net worth of $200 million, said.

Kutcher's parenting approach isn't unlike that of other well-known wealthy individuals. Elton John, Sting, and Simon Cowell have all said they don't plan to leave their kids vast amounts of money and instead prioritize teaching them the value of hard work and a dollar earned.

Even billionaires aren't leaving their kids much. Consider Bill Gates, who is leaving $10 million to each of his three children — only a fraction of his $108 billion net worth

In a Reddit AMA, Gates said: "I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favour to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right."

Buffett plans on pledging 100% of his estimated $87.3 billion fortune to various charities. And rather than giving each of his three children cash, Buffett has instead promised to give approximately $2.1 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock to each of his children's charities.

Dynastic wealth and the "Great Wealth Transfer"

It's estimated that $68 trillion will be passed down from boomers within the next few decades — but it seems that Buffett, Gates, and the rest won't be part of the anticipated "Great Wealth Transfer." By 2030, millennials will hold five times as much wealth as they do today — and it might make them the richest generation ever.

Buffett's decision might stem from his views on dynastic wealth — the pattern of families passing money down from one generation to the next. He's been vocal about his efforts to reduce the vast wealth sitting in the hands of a few influential people.

"Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise," Buffett said in 2007. "Equality of opportunity has been on the decline."

Dynastic wealth could be a factor in the widening gap between the rich and the poor. It's also a cyclic process: Each generation can grow the previous generation's money and leave it to the next generation, which then continues to grow it.

Some of the superrich are thinking twice about how they pass down wealth, Michael Rosen-Prinz, a partner in the Private Client Practice Group at McDermott, Will & Emery who works with ultra high net worth clients, previously told Business Insider. "The previous generation's plan to just transfer as much money tax free down the family tree is being reconsidered in favor of a more nuanced approach based on the personalities and circumstances of the beneficiaries," he said.

Older generations may think about limiting the access their children will have to family wealth thanks to highly visible heirs and "trust fund babies" flaunting their wealth on social media, he added, and might include provisions to ensure that the trust can be modified in the future. 

Looks like Kutcher isn't alone.

SEE ALSO: People assume trust-fund babies are spoiled 20-somethings born with silver spoons — but they're not always who you think

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I always book a warm-weather escape around the holidays using points from the Hilton Aspire card. It's not too late for you to do the same if you start now.

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 9:23am

  • The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express can help you earn enough points for a free winter resort vacation
  • The card offers several opportunities to rack up points quickly, including a big welcome bonus and earnings rates
  • The free weekend night certificate and resort fee credit that come with the card annually can help you add additional nights without spending
  • The Hilton Los Cabos Beach and Golf Resort, Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea, and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island make great options for cashing in on the points you earn with the Hilton Aspire card.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

There's no FOMO quite like the FOMO you get when you're at home in the cold over the holidays and your social media channels are awash with photos from friends and family living it up on the beach. A few years ago, I decided I would make sure I never again ended up in that position, and a warm-weather December trip became a non-negotiable calendar item.

There is, of course, one major issue with planning a tropical vacation during one of the busiest travel times of the year, and that's through-the-roof hotel prices. The key? Hotel points — enough of them to get me a yearly six-night stay in a nice beach resort. Here's how one hotel credit card — the Hilton Honors Aspire from American Express — has helped me do it year after year, and how it can help you do the same.

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. 

Welcome bonus

If you don't yet have the Aspire card or you're just starting out with it, you're in luck. American Express is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

It's hard to quantify exactly what 150,000 points will get you because Hilton uses dynamic pricing, which means the prices of its award stays can fluctuate. Still, you can get a pretty good idea. With one exception, Hilton award prices for a standard room top out at 95,000 points per night, so the welcome bonus alone will bring you at least a night — and most of the way to two nights — at the chain's top-tier properties.

And that doesn't mean there aren't deals to be found. You can find plenty of beachy options for 70,000 points per night or even less.

Earning Hilton points

Another star feature of the Hilton Aspire card is its sky-high earnings rate on Hilton properties. If you have any stays coming up between now and your desired winter escape and use the card to pay for them, you'll net a whopping 14 points per dollar you spend on eligible Hilton purchases.

Don't have any Hilton stays coming up? You can still earn 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or at, car rentals booked directly from select car-rental companies, and purchases at US restaurants, as well as 3 points per dollar on everything else. That means that assuming you spend enough to hit the welcome bonus, you'll already have an extra 12,000 points minimum at your disposal.

Complimentary Hilton Diamond status

If you're doing the math right now and still thinking there's no way you'll generate enough points for six nights by next month, hear me out. One big perk of Hilton elite status at any level is that if you book four nights with points, you'll get the fifth night free. And because the Aspire card confers Diamond status — the highest level in Hilton's program — if you can make it to four, you're already looking at five!

There are also a slew of great benefits that come along with Diamond status, not the least of which is an enhanced earning rate for members making paid stays. So once again, if you have stays coming up between now and December and go into them with the card in hand, you'll come out earning many more points than you would otherwise.

Free weekend night

At $450 per year, the Aspire card isn't cheap. But one feature that'll help you more than offset the fee is the annual free weekend night certificate, good at almost any Hilton property in the world.

I've used my annual certificates for each of my Hilton resort stays over the years to tack a sixth night onto a fifth-night-free points stay. As long as you can find a standard award on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday at a participating property, you're good to go.

Resort fee credit

Another major selling point for the Aspire, particularly for resort-lovers, is the $250 resort fee credit you receive annually. It's easy to use — spend $250 on eligible purchases at a Hilton resort (the chain uses that term liberally, so you have lots of options), and the money will come right back to your card, effectively bringing the annual fee down to just $200.

The good news for those who might be short on points? You can apply the credit to your room rate as long as you don't prepay. So even if you have to pay for a night on top of what you can book on points, you'll be able to lop $250 off the price.

(Even better: If you have enough points to cover your stay, you can use that credit to cover drinks at the swim-up bar.)


Traveling with a friend, family member, or significant other? If they also get the Aspire card, you'll have twice the welcome bonus, resort fee credits and free weekend night certificates to work with.

But the icing on the cake is that if you refer said travel companion using an Amex referral link, you'll pick up an extra 20,000 points. While you're at it, if you can convince a few more friends to sign up, you can earn up to 80,000 points per year on referrals.

Where to use your Hilton points for a warm-weather vacation

Now that we've gone over how to earn the points you'll need for a last-minute resort stay, where should you use them? Here are a few of my favorite Hilton properties for beach vacations.

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort

If you're looking for a beautiful locale south of the border, this is it. The Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort is a stunner with its own private, swimmable beach, which is something that's tough to find on Cabo's rocky coastline. I loved the ocean access, the infinity pool, and the food at this resort, where you can snag standard rooms for just 70,000 points per night.

Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea

The largest resort on Maui, the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea sits on a more temperate part of the island with predictably great weather. And in addition to all the outdoor recreation activities you could want — including nine pools and a swim-up bar — you can also take art tours of the hotel to learn about its impressive collection, which includes several sculptures from famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Standard rooms go for 95,000 points per night.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Okay, if you're a US-based flyer, you probably don't want to fly all the way to the Maldives unless you've got at least six or seven nights to play with. But if you can swing it, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island — whose lowest-priced options, the beach villas, can easily go for over $1,200 per night in December — is one place where you can get incredible value from your Hilton Honors points and free weekend night certificate.

I stayed at the property in 2018, and not only was I able to find an over-water villa at the standard rate of 95,000 points per night, but I got upgraded to a superior water villa — with a private hot-tub on the balcony — thanks to that Diamond status from the Aspire!

Click here to learn more about the Hilton Aspire card.

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I sat in every type of seat on Qantas' new world's longest flight from New York to Sydney, Australia. Here's what they were like.

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 9:03am

When Qantas ran a test of the world's longest flight, a nonstop from New York to Sydney, Australia, the airline used a brand new 787-9 airplane.

However, the plane only had 40 people on board (including this reporter).

That's because the plane doesn't have the necessary range to make it the 9,950 mile flight with a full load of passengers and crew. Instead, Qantas was using the mostly empty flight to research how pilots, cabin crews, and passengers cope with the long flight time.

Qantas uses the 787-9 for its current longest flight, a 9,000 mile jaunt between Perth and London, currently the third-longest in the world.

The plane has three classes — business, premium economy, and coach — and I spent time sitting in all three. On the flight home, which involved a brief stop at LAX, I was in coach the whole way.

The seats in each cabin have a few features to make ultra-long-haul flights more tolerable. Here's what they're like to fly in.

SEE ALSO: Here's how pilots on the world's new longest flight will stay rested and alert for the 20 hours from New York to Sydney

On a 20-hour flight, business class is obviously the most comfortable, and most expensive, option.

On the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that operated the test flight, the business-class cabin is split into two sections: a larger cabin to the left of the boarding door, and a smaller "mini cabin" with just three rows to the right.

I was in the smaller cabin, further back.

Here's my seat, 11E. Each of Qantas' business-class seats has a small side table and is consequently staggered, meaning some seats have the table between the seat and the aisle, and others, like mine, are directly against the aisle and have the table on the inside. On some planes, this can feel a lot less private and make sleeping a bit harder, though it certainly wasn't an issue on this flight.

Each seat comes with a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which can hang on a hook just under a small reading lamp. There's also a holder for a water bottle.

Under that, just above the side table, there's a power outlet for charging things like laptops, a USB port for charging phones, and a headphone jack for the in-flight entertainment system.

There's a small storage cubby under the side table, where I put a few things like my camera, notebook, and an extra water bottle. On a normal flight, it would be a good spot for things like a book.

Each seat also had an in-flight entertainment screen.

There was also a storage area in a cubby under the seat in front of me. When the seat is turned into bed mode, this serves as the end of the bed. There's plenty of room for your feet.

The tray table is stored within the side table. In business class, you get a tablecloth during meal services.

The biggest perk is that the seat turns into a bed. The flight attendants come by with a fitted mattress pad ...

... And with the push of a button, the seat folds flat, transforming into a bed.

With a blanket and a pillow, you can look forward to a good night's sleep.

Business class is great, but for most of us, it's unaffordable on such a long flight.

If you're looking for something a bit more spacious than coach, but more affordable than business, premium economy presents a great option.

I spent some time during the flight in the premium economy seats and was definitely impressed.

Some airlines' premium-economy products are basically the same as coach, just with slightly larger seats and slightly better food.

These seats, though, were much different from a standard economy seat. One Qantas employee described them as "more of a level below the full business class, rather than a small improvement on coach" — and after actually sitting in it for a while, I think that's a fair assessment.

A crucial aspect is the leg rest, which shockingly few premium-economy products offer.

When it's extended and the seat is reclined, it's actually quite comfortable. There's a net beyond the leg-rest that serves as a comfortable footrest.

There's a decent amount of legroom, or pitch, as well. Even when the seat in front of you is reclined, it does so at an angle where there's still plenty of room for your knees.

The majority of passengers, though, will be in the 3-3-3 economy cabin.

It's closer to the standard product you'd expect, but it has a few little tweaks that help make a long flight more bearable. Twenty hours in one of these seats would certainly be tough, but I felt fine after my 18 hours of flying home (broken up by a short, unpleasant connection at LAX. I was wishing we could have just kept flying to New York!)

Economy seats have about 32 inches of pitch, which is on the higher side of standard for long-haul airplanes.

Economy seats also have an adapted version of the premium-economy footrest. Even though it lacked the leg portion, it was definitely helpful.

While business class is obviously the most comfortable way to travel for a long flight, I was surprised by how comfortable coach on the 787-9 was, at least compared with other long-haul flights I've taken ...

... though even coach on the Airbus A380, which I flew home to the states, was great!

You can read a full review of that flight here »

Softbank is getting exactly what it deserves, and it's thanks to something way bigger than WeWork

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 8:15am

  • Softbank took a $6.5 billion loss on investments in Uber and WeWork this quarter, and it deserves to lose more.
  • It deserves it not because these are simply bad investments, but because SoftBank approaches investing from a bad thesis. Its aim is to create monopolies.
  • SoftBank's strategy is to pour so much money into a company that it leaves competitors in the dust and consumers with no choice. Then the company has all the power.
  • This is bad for investors, bad for consumers, and bad for capitalism.

Softbank — the Japanese conglomerate and investment firm with seemingly limitless resources — is suffering. And in its suffering the company is getting what it richly deserves thanks to the toxic nature of its core investment philosophy.

On Wednesday, Softbank, which invested heavily in the darlings of Silicon Valley, reported a $6.5 billion loss, mostly because of investments in WeWork and Uber. It was the company's first quarterly loss in 14 years.

WeWork, as you likely know, imploded dramatically during an attempt to make it to the public markets. And in his presentation to investors Masayoshi Son, SoftBank's founder and CEO, was liberal with his mea culpas.

"My own investment judgment was really bad. I regret it in many ways," he said at a news conference. He bemoaned the fact that he gave now former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann so much power, which ultimately led to Softbank's stunning $4.7 billion loss (so far) on that single investment.

But focusing on WeWork ignores why Softbank's losses (and all its losses to come) are so deliciously justified. For that, we must consider Uber. Unlike WeWork, Uber managed to pass the public market's initial smell test, but now investors are treating the company like it stinks. The company went public in May at nearly $42 a share. It is now hovering around $26.

The basis of the Uber and WeWork investment decisions was part of Softbank's core philosophy, former Softbank executive Nikesh Arora told CNBC. He said there is evidence that if you throw enough money at a company in the consumer space at the outset, it could, in theory, outgrow all its competition and leave it in the dust.

In other words, it would become a monopoly, a company that could control consumers and raise prices at will.

It's why Softbank has earned the reckoning it is facing. It's plan was to be a monopoly maker, and monopolies suck.


Part of the problem here is that we, as a society, have forgotten everything we learned since the New Deal in the 1930s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought Wall Street to heel, created the Securities and Exchange Commission, and helped Americans understand that when it comes to corporations with great size comes great power, and with great power comes exploitation.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, Linette, the public markets stopped the WeWork disaster and are dropping Uber like a hot rock. That shows that something is working.

Let me stop you right there. Uber, to the millions of people who bought into the company after its IPO, is still a disaster. It's still playing this long domination game, which it may never win. No matter how much revenue it makes, it still can't seem to find a business model that works. For evidence, look no further than that it's running to the ultimate refugee business model of Silicon Valley charlatans — becoming a bank "for the unbanked."

It's unclear whether Uber will ever become a ride-hailing monopoly. Worse yet, it's unclear if becoming a ride-hailing monopoly would save Uber. SoftBank, for its part, is invested in multiple ride-hailing companies all seeking domination and all in the same money-losing position. This is not a show of confidence in the sector; SoftBank is just spreading its bet. Uber shareholders, on the other hand, may not have the same luxury.

Uber is aspiring to be like the other great monopolies of our time from Silicon Valley, many of which have been blatantly exploitative. Among those monopolies is Facebook, which has proved itself a danger to democracy and a completely irresponsible actor when it comes to private data — though we let it gobble up the most popular applications on the internet anyway.

And then there's Amazon, the poster child of losing money until you dominate a market (or every market). Jeff Bezos' empire has left stunning wreckage in its wake, but I'll give you one instructive example of how it has used its power to try to destroy and dominate the online-shopping world.

In 2008, Amazon tried to buy a company called Quidsi (the owner of,, and, but Quidsi refused. In response, Amazon slashed prices on competitive products by 30%. Quidsi executives then say that Amazon's price bots were monitoring their company's prices and reconfiguring its own to match. Amazon lost $100 million on diapers alone to do this, according to Quidsi executives cited by Columbia Law researcher Lina Kahn. After that, Amazon eventually bought Quidsi and raised prices again.

This is losing to win, and that's one way to build a monopoly. It's what Softbank and seemingly so many in Silicon Valley are trying to do: Squash competition, be the only game in town, and eventually, after a gargantuan amount of capital is spent, maybe make investors rich. Never mind the small businesses or startups they destroy or discard, the democracies they corrupt, the privacy they invade, or the data they are careless with on the way to that goal.

Never mind the consumer who wants choices and the lessons we've learned about the corrupting power of size, and certainly never mind that it's competition that makes capitalism.

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A quant expert warns the largest investors are facing a new, post-crisis danger that could lead to several years of losses — and explains how they can start limiting the damage

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 6:05am

  • The era of persistently lower interest rates has introduced a new risk to the already challenged fund-manager industry.
  • Joseph Mezrich, the head of equities quantitative strategies at Nomura, explained in a recent note why fund performance could be persistently lower, and what fund managers can do to remedy this.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

One of the defining features of the era since the Great Recession for investors has been the prevalence of low interest rates. 

Equity fund managers have not been exempt from the impact of this trend. In fact, their portfolios have felt the pain over the past 40 years whenever interest rates fell, according to Joseph Mezrich, the head of equities quantitative strategies at Nomura.  

The reason, he said, is that interest rates tend to fall when the economy is not doing well and rise when conditions are on the upswing. Concurrently, the diversity of smaller, domestically oriented firms that stock pickers can profit from usually increases when rates are rising. The reverse is typically the case: lower rates and expectations for the economy limits the number of stocks that investors can pick from.

But there are new ways in which low interest rates are hurting active funds' performance — and this pain could continue to if managers do not course-correct, Mezrich said in a recent note to clients. 

What is new post-crisis is that low interest rates have fueled the rise of stocks that offer the kinds of yields investors earned when rates were structurally higher. Since 2011, these so-called bond proxies that are part of the Russell 1000 have consistently offered dividend payouts that exceed the 10-year yield, Mezrich said. 

The problem is that despite this built-in advantage, active fund managers have tended to underweight high-dividend-yield stocks and overweight low-dividend-yield stocks, positioning their portfolios in a manner that does not benefit them, Mezrich said. He illustrated his point with the following chart: 

He sees this trend potentially crimping performance going forward, and compounding the challenges that the mutual-fund industry is already confronting.

Every year since 2016, more mutual funds have closed shop than have opened, according to data compiled by Morningstar. That's the longest streak of net-negative change going back to at least 1999. 

Active fund managers will likely continue facing headwinds "if America goes the way of Japan, with interest rates drifting towards zero, and if current cost-cutting trends in the financial services industry continue," Mezrich said.

Remedies for the future

The good news is that there are ways to address these challenges. 

Mezrich's first suggestion is that the fund industry stops blaming the wrong culprit for much its underperformance. The usual suspects include quants, who are able to quickly spot mispricings in the market and exploit the same opportunities that stock pickers want for themselves. 

Moving forward in a lower-interest-rate world, one way to remedy fund underperformance is to flip the script and gain more portfolio exposure to the high-dividend-yielding stocks they were previously underweight. 

Mezrich also proposes that fund managers become aware of how low portfolio turnover — the frequency with which stocks are bought and sold — can hurt their performance. 

He describes it as avoiding the "momentum trap." When a fund's performance becomes driven by a few outperforming stocks, it inevitably becomes exposed to the downside scenario. We saw this firsthand in September when many of the market's favorite growth stocks fell out of bed. 

"Increasing portfolio turnover may be the simplest corrective for this 'momentum trap,'" Mezrich said. "More generally, control of unintended momentum tilts by optimization or momentum factor hedging would help."

SEE ALSO: One market expert breaks down why the 'mother of all bubbles' is unlike anything investors have ever seen — and lays out additional evidence that a crisis is approaching

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What went on inside SoftBank-backed Fair as it burned through cash — plus fresh proptech funding and JPMorgan's new VC coverage group

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 5:04pm

Hello readers,

SoftBank is in a "rough sea" — or at least, that's how its CEO, Masayoshi Son, describes it. 

That may be putting it lightly. SoftBank Group this week reported a $6.4 billion quarterly operating loss thanks to massive writedowns on WeWork, Uber, and other investments by SoftBank and its Vision Fund. 

And as we're reporting, the factors creating this storm are not unique to the high-profile IPO implosion (and subsequent bailout) at WeWork. Just this morning, we published a deep dive from Meghan Morris into Fair, the auto rental startup that raised $385 million in a December Series B round led by SoftBank's Vision Fund.

Meghan talked to company insiders who told us how Fair's breakneck growth meant it lost track of millions of dollars in inventory as it burned through funding. And speaking of rough seas, insiders told us that Fair's co-founder and now ex-CEO often used sailing analogies to explain his vision.

SoftBank has stepped in at Fair with an extra $25 million and installed an interim CEO. Fair meanwhile has laid off hundreds and is reevaluating its business model. 

It's worth mentioning that Fair bought Uber's money-losing leasing program this January as Uber was gearing up to go public. That brings us to another big source of pain for SoftBank. 

Uber's stock suffered a one-two punch this week. On Monday Uber reported a $1.1 billion third-quarter loss and its shares tumbled 10% the next day. On Wednesday, the expiration of its post-IPO lockup allowed early investors and employees to cash out, and its shares tanked another 4% to mark a record low.

Still, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi dangled the goal of the 10-year-old company reaching profitability (asterisk: on an adjusted EBITDA basis) by full-year 2021, and on the earnings call pledged to be "disciplined and efficient " with capital. Just a few day earlier, smaller rival Lyft, which was founded in 2012, said it would deliver positive adjusted EBITDA by Q4 2021. 

Financial discipline and sustainability are terms that popped up a lot this week. On Thursday, we published an internal memo to WeWork's staff from its new chairman Marcelo Claure (who's also SoftBank's COO) laying out the coworking company's priorities for the next five years. No sailing comparisons, but it opened with an anecdote about Claure's recent New York City Marathon run and mentioned sustainable growth twice (the word "profit" did not appear.) 

WeWork this week also released a 49-slide investor presentation, and a "key principle" it flagged was prioritizing "disciplined growth with profitability."

We've written plenty already about insiders concerned about bloated valuations and wide losses. And this week, we added another voice to the mix.

Our hedge fund reporter, Bradley Saacks, attended the Greenwich Economic Forum on Tuesday, where billionaire Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio told the crowd that years of ultra-low interest rates that sent investors scrambling for yield has created an environment where companies "sell dreams instead of earnings."

Against this backdrop there's still plenty of VC appetite on the proptech front, where our real estate reporter, Alex Nicoll, had a busy week covering another flurry of fundraisings at startups looking to put a tech spin on real estate. 

More links below, but one was real estate data company Reonomy's $60 million Series D. SoftBank Capital had made earlier bets on Reonomy, but didn't partake this time around. The latest funding was led by SaaS-specialists Georgian Partners, and other investors included bank venture arms Wells Fargo Strategic Capital and Citi Ventures. 

I'll wrap up with two JPMorgan hiring stories from Shannen Balogh. JPMorgan's commercial bank has hired four execs away from Silicon Valley Bank for a new coverage team to manage VC relationships alongside middle-market bankers in groups with names like "technology and disruptive commerce."

Meanwhile, in a move the projects less optimism,  it also appears that JPMorgan's consumer and community banking arm is building a"recession readiness team." 

We know there's still plenty of unpacking to do when it comes to the web of money and influence that ties back to SoftBank. As always, we're eager to hear your feedback on the coverage, and to learn what you'd like to see more of! 

Have a great weekend, 


Citi is targeting big markets like Seattle and Dallas as battlegrounds to snatch deposits from rivals like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America

In its bid to win more consumer deposits and grow revenues in the US, Citigroup is targeting new territory for expansion.

On the list are cities across roughly a dozen states outside Citi's current retail bank footprint where it has large caches of credit-card customers and ATMs.

Citi's push into new banking markets like Washington, Texas, and Minnesota, laid out by US consumer banking chief Anand Selva at a financial conference on Tuesday, may include a "light physical presence" with new storefronts.


Merrill Lynch just overhauled client-retention incentives for retiring advisers. An internal memo said it will hike payouts and subsidize handovers starting in 2021.

Merrill Lynch is sweetening the pot for financial advisers primed to retire in the coming years and boosting incentives for remaining colleagues to pick up their clients. 

The firm is bumping up its payout rate for its senior consultants — meaning veteran advisers — regardless of production levels, by up to 75 percentage points. But the updated payouts to retiring advisers, which they get for five to seven years based on how much business they've brought in,  don't go into effect until November 2021, meaning they have to hang around at least that long to take advantage.

Merrill will also subsidize 20% of the cost to the inheriting adviser, meaning the remaining adviser has the chance to be fully credited for revenues from their new book more quickly, particularly if they grow the business more themselves.


Green Dot's bread-and-butter businesses have been undercut by VC-backed neobanks. It's turning to techy partnerships with the likes of Uber to restart growth.

It seems everyone wants to be a bank these days, or at least do bank-like things. There are the obvious players like challenger banks, digital wealth managers, and payment processors.

Then, there are some less-expected entrants, like ride-hailing giant Uber, or global retail chain Walmart. 

Green Dot, a bank known for its prepaid debit cards, has seen that long-standing business come under pressure and its stock has lost roughly have of its value this year — its execs have blamed a loss of active accounts on a rush of VC cash into digital banks. Now, it's leaning more on partnerships with companies that want to offer their own bank-like services without the hassle of actually being a bank. 


Goldman Sachs' new CTO shares his strategy for attracting outside developers to work more closely with the bank, giving a glimpse into the future of how Wall Street will work

For much of its 150-year history, Goldman Sachs' key clients have been traders, portfolio managers, and corporate executives. Now the firm is ready to add another group to that list: developers. 

That's at least how Atte Lahtiranta, the Wall Street firm's new chief technology officer, is thinking about his new role, he said in an exclusive interview with Business Insider. Lahtiranta, introduced as the incoming chief technology officer in September, joins the firm after stints at Verizon's media group, Yahoo, and Nokia.

Lahtiranta said his years of experience working in big tech taught him about the importance of wooing third-party developers. As chief technology officer, he will encourage his engineers to make it as easy as possible for outside developers to interact with the bank — treating them as some of the firm's "most valued customers." 


Some cannabis stocks now have the green light from US wealth managers like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and Wells Fargo. We have details on firms' policies.

Financial advisers at some of the biggest US wealth managers are slowly opening their doors to cannabis.

Wealth-management firms including Wells FargoMerrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley have started permitting their clients to access some Canadian cannabis stocks, Business Insider has learned. In some cases across these firms, the client has to come to their adviser to ask about an investment, or the adviser has to seek approval from the firm before making a recommendation.

The changes have come in recent months. Wells Fargo Advisors in August changed the way it responded to client queries about cannabis investments, while Merrill Lynch started allowing recommendations of cannabis shares with "buy" ratings after Bank of America launched research coverage on a group of cannabis companies in April.


The CEO of the exchange backed by Bank of America and Morgan Stanley sees 2 ways it can succeed where others have failed in disrupting an industry dominated by NYSE and Nasdaq

The CEO of an upstart stock exchange vying for regulatory approval believes the low costs offered by the venue will help to break the tight grip of big players on the market — and he wants the firm to be an advocate for its members and their investors in Washington.

Jonathan Kellner, the CEO of the Members Exchange, told Business Insider the startup's selling point to the market was that its success would encourage incumbents to reconsider their approach to market-data fees and regulatory market-structure issues.

The entire market, Kellner said, could stand to benefit from additional competition. That includes MemX's backers, which are some of the biggest names in banking and high-speed trading and would certainly appreciate seeing a drop in fees for trading and data. 


The business of offering transparent hedge-fund-like strategies is booming, even as the hedge-fund industry itself struggles

A receding tide is not sinking all ships for hedge-fund-like strategies.

The $3.2 trillion subset of the asset-management space has had six straight quarters of investor outflows, according to the latest data from the industry tracker eVestment, with $77 billion more assets leaving hedge funds this year than going into them. Underwhelming returns compared with the market coupled with high fees have soured investors on the space they once clamored to get into. 

But some structures offering hedge-fund-like strategies are booming. Managed-account platforms, which let investors set up an individualized account with a manager, continue to grow, with BNY Mellon's HedgeMark platform, on which a hedge-fund manager runs a pool from a third-party investor who gets to customize the strategy, growing assets by nearly a third in the first half of this year to $21 billion. 



Fintech and proptech news

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People say life insurance should cover 10 times your income, but as a financial adviser I can tell you that isn't always enough

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 3:05pm

I've had life insurance coverage in place since my wife and I had our first child, but I've added to our coverage several times as our family has grown. These days, I have around $2.5 million in term life insurance coverage for my wife and kids, which is probably more than they could ever need if I should suddenly pass away.

Then again, there's a lot to think about and make sure life insurance covers, and there's really no "perfect" formula to determine how much life insurance coverage you should buy anyway. I also know for a fact my family would never think I had "too much" coverage for their needs.

I'm also 100% certain the common wisdom to purchase 10 times your income in life insurance coverage is leaving families at risk. There are a myriad of reasons 10 times your income — or $100,000 in coverage for every $10,000 in salary you earn each year — may not even be close to enough.

Here's everything you should think about as you decide whether or not to follow this popular advice.

Your income matters, but so do your expenses

While term life insurance is mostly intended to replace your income once you're gone, there's a lot more to think about other than the size of your paycheck. You also need to consider how much debt your family has, including how they might pay it off if you were to pass away before your time.

If your family has a large mortgage, several car loans, credit card debt, and even student loans, for example, it's highly possible having just 10 times your income in coverage won't be enough. Even if you earn six figures and buy $1 million in term life insurance coverage as a result, this amount could disappear in a hurry once you start thinking over all the liabilities it needs to cover.

Your spouse may need to stop working

Another reason to buy more life insurance than you probably need is the simple fact that life may change once you're gone. If your spouse has a job they love that brings in a nice income now, that doesn't mean this situation will stay the same if you passed away.

It's highly possible your spouse will need to take some time off to grieve, and it's also possible they'll want to cut down on work hours or even stop working all together once they face life alone — especially if you have kids.

Life insurance should replace your income for sure, but don't forget that it may need to fill in the gaps if your spouse or partner faces a drop in income for any reason. They may desperately want to stay home, but how much life insurance you have may make that decision for them.

Policygenius can help you compare life insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Have kids? Make sure to plan for college

It's easy to think you don't need a ton of life insurance when your kids are young, but you have to remember that kids don't stay little forever! Daycare bills will eventually be replaced with huge bills for sports and after-school activities.

And the bills don't stop once they reach college. Considering the high costs of higher education, you may want to consider whether you want enough life insurance to pay for all or part of your children's higher education.

Your kids could always borrow the money for school, but giving them a tuition-free degree is something you would never regret. Fortunately, having enough life insurance can make this dream a reality.

There are some things you just can't plan for

Also remember that there are some life circumstances that nobody sees coming. Maybe your entire family is healthy and happy now, but who knows what could happen five or ten years from now.

Having plenty of life insurance can help your family out if your spouse or partner gets sick and cannot work, or even if one of your kids winds up requiring expensive surgery or pricey long-term care.

You can plan for a lot, but you just can't plan for everything. Life insurance can be there to cover any surprise expenses your family might face, no matter what they are.

Life insurance is affordable, so there's no excuse

Buying 10 times your income in life insurance may be common wisdom, but I tend to believe this advice is outdated. Term life insurance is so affordable that it hardly makes sense to go without enough coverage to replace your income and pay off all your debts — all while accounting for life's many "what ifs."

Since term life insurance is so affordable, there's really no excuse to avoid buying enough coverage to help you sleep great at night. Remember that your family will never wish you had less coverage if you pass away — they will either be happy with what they have or desperately wish you would have bought more coverage while you had the chance.

You have the opportunity to leave a legacy behind, but you also have the opportunity to leave your family broke and struggling to get by. This is one decision where you won't get a second chance, so make sure to choose wisely.

Policygenius can help you compare life insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Jeff Rose is an entrepreneur disguised as a financial adviser, author, and blogger. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran having served in the Army National Guard for nine years, including a 17-month deployment to Iraq in 2005. He's best known for his award-winning blog and book, "Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future." He's also the founder of Wealth Hacker Labs, a movement to teach accelerated wealth-building strategies to future generations.  

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Trump plan to save Syria's oil is shaping up to be a public-relations dumpster fire

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 2:10pm

  • President Donald Trump's decision in October to commit US troops and armored vehicles to guard Syrian oil fields took congressional leaders and military officials by surprise, perhaps even more so than his abrupt withdrawal of US forces from the region in the weeks prior.
  • In his reasoning, the president publicly acknowledged the primary purpose of deploying additional troops was to protect the Syrian oil reserves — which compounds the already complicated problems in the region, according to White House advisers, lawmakers, and law professors.
  • "Telegraphing to the world that your only interest in the Middle East is protecting oil is bulletin-board recruiting material for the groups that we are trying to hurt, that we are trying to counteract," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said at a Thursday panel.
  • "Being candid, it seems like a totally screwed-up state of affairs, in which the messaging on stuff like that is being driven not by any audience abroad," Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump's decision in October to commit US troops and armored vehicles to guard Syrian oil fields took congressional leaders and military officials by surprise, perhaps even more than his abrupt withdrawal of US forces from the region in the weeks prior.

In his reasoning, the president publicly acknowledged that the primary purpose of deploying additional troops was to protect the Syrian oil reserves — which compounds the already complicated problems in the region, according to White House advisers, lawmakers, and law professors.

Trump and his congressional allies in recent weeks have publicly announced their interest in securing the oil fields in Syria: "What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly," Trump said on October 27, adding that he wanted to "spread out the wealth."

"The oil is so valuable for many reasons," Trump said.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an ardent Trump supporter who vehemently opposed the president's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, told him that roughly three-quarters of the oil fields that were in US- and Kurdish-occupied territories could be compromised by the Iranians once US forces left the country, according to NBC News.

It's all about ISIS

Defense Department officials attempted to placate concerns over the US's seemingly newfound duties in Syria.

US Navy Rear Adm. William Byrne Jr., the Joint Staff vice director, pushed back against the notion that the military's increased presence in Syria was predicated on "securing the oil" and said the US's role was correlated with its longtime mission to defeat ISIS.

"I would be cautious with saying that 'the mission to secure the oil fields ... the mission is the defeat of ISIS," Byrne said to reporters on Thursday. "The securing of the oil fields is a subordinate task to that mission, and the purpose of that task is to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure."

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the majority-Kurdish forces that led the ground assault against ISIS with US assistance, have operated the oil fields after seizing them from the terrorist group in 2017. Two years earlier, the oil fields were producing 45,000 barrels a day, or $1.5 million worth, the Pentagon said.

The SDF has been since been selling the crude oil to the Syrian regime through a sanctioned broker, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing sources familiar with the situation. The Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that by supporting the SDF's revenue stream, the US was continuing to wage war against ISIS and thereby finding the legal footing for the increased troop presence.

"The legal basis for this comes under the commander in chief's authority for us to be conducting counterterrorism efforts against [the Defeat-ISIS mission]," Hoffman said on Thursday. "And I get your point when you're trying to decouple the ISIS issue from the Syria issue, but it is not a decoupled issue. Our efforts in the area are focused on our ... mission, and we'll continue with that."

'A totally screwed-up state of affairs'

Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council and a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, likened the reasoning to a public-relations dumpster fire.

"Being candid, it seems like a totally screwed-up state of affairs, in which the messaging on stuff like that is being driven not by any audience abroad," Geltzer said at Defense One's Outlook 2020 panel on Thursday.

"So the messaging has to tie that presence to the oil field because of what I gather is the president's own view of what's in US national-security interest there," Geltzer said. "That then runs headlong into the messaging problem that creates globally but also questions about law and propriety that, if it's sincere, it raises."

"From the outside, you have to look at it and say this is not a rational way to either formulate policy or to message policy," Geltzer added.

Critics have long tied the US's foreign policy in the Middle East to oil production. Following the US's military invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country's nationalistic "Arab oil for the Arabs" campaign was transformed and opened up to foreign oil firms, including BP, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.

With the help of foreign investment, Iraq's oil production, the second-largest in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), increased to about 4.88 million barrels per day in August, up from 2.5 million during the Iraq War.

'Toxic Middle Eastern conspiracy theories'

Foreign interests in Iraq's oil fields spurred the political divide of the Iraq War and have since been prominently featured in numerous movies, books, opinion columns, and documentaries. According to Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the continued perception of the US's interest in oil exacerbates the political divide, and leads to serious consequences.

"Telegraphing to the world that your only interest in the Middle East is protecting oil is bulletin-board recruiting material for the groups that we are trying to hurt, that we are trying to counteract," Murphy said at Defense One's panel.

Murphy also echoed the confusion brought by Trump's mission to protect Syria's oil fields, which some military officials said were left open to interpretation, according to CNN. Some military commanders deployed to Eastern Syria were still waiting to receive their directives to guard oil fields in the region, according to CNN, and lacked guidance for the basic rules of engagement.

"No one has defined what the mission is for us yet, and I've had administration officials inside our office and to the committee and no one seems to be able to present us with the task that they've been given," Murphy said. "I literally think they're making it up as they go along."

In an October internal memo from the special envoy for the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria, US Ambassador Bill Roebuck said the president's decision to commit more troops to protect the oil fields was "a good one" but added it may "play into toxic Middle Eastern conspiracy theories."

"I do not say there were easy choices here in Syria and that we failed to make them because of ignorance or bad intentions or lack of resolve," Roebuck wrote in the memo obtained by The New York Times. "US policy makers, coalition diplomats and their leaders, have done their best to contain the maelstrom that Syria has become."

SEE ALSO: Here's what we know about Delta Force, the super secretive troops who went after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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A former WeWork employee is suing over Adam Neumann's $1.7 billion golden parachute

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 12:57pm

  • A former employee is taking WeWork to court over cofounder Adam Neumann's reported $1.7 billion golden parachute.
  • Natalie Sojka's lawsuit accuses Neumann and other WeWork directors of benefiting themselves at the expense of minority shareholders as their actions have "eviscerated" the value of WeWork stock and stock options.
  • "It is beyond comprehension why Neumann would be paid $185 million to provide strategic guidance to the company when his 'guidance' resulted in the virtual destruction of the company," the lawsuit alleges, referring to the consultancy fees that are reportedly part of Neumann's leaving package.
  • Read more of Business Insider's WeWork coverage here.

A former employee is taking WeWork to court over cofounder Adam Neumann's reported $1.7 billion golden parachute.

Natalie Sojka's lawsuit accuses Neumann and other WeWork directors of benefiting themselves at the expense of minority shareholders, breaching their fiduciary duty, creating corporate waste, unjustly enriching themselves, abusing control, among other failures. The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court this week, also names SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son as a defendant.

As part of SoftBank's takeover of the coworking startup following its scrapped public listing, Neumann is set to receive nearly $1 billion for his WeWork shares, $500 million in credit to pay off personal loans, and $185 million in consulting fees, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Despite breaching his fiduciary duties by engaging in self-dealing and mismanaging WeWork so badly that its IPO had to be withdrawn, Neumann is being offered a staggering $185 million consulting fee despite the fact that SoftBank seems to concede Neumann ruined the Company," the lawsuit alleges. 

"It is beyond comprehension why Neumann would be paid $185 million to provide strategic guidance to the Company when his 'guidance' resulted in the virtual destruction of the company," the lawsuit claims. "The fee simply represents self-dealing and improper personal payment to Neumann," it alleges.

WeWork, SoftBank, and the law firm representing Natalie Sojka didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

"WeWork believes this lawsuit is meritless," a spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.

Sojka worked as an executive assistant then a team lead at WeWork over a 17-month period, according to her LinkedIn profile. She received stock and stock options during her time there, and when she voluntarily resigned she exercised the options to buy more stock after being told she would lose them otherwise, according to the lawsuit.

Neumann's reported leaving package is "substantially unfair" and would cause "significant damage" to minority shareholders as the value of their stock and stock options has been "eviscerated due to Neumann's wrongdoing," the lawsuit claims.

Sojka is seeking an injunction to prevent Neumann's departure deal from going through, and proposed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of her and other minority shareholders.

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Bill Gates says that savvy strategic partnerships drove Microsoft's early success — here's what you can learn from it

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 12:00pm

  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and noted philanthropist, talked about how he successfully led Microsoft's growth on an episode of the podcast "Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman."
  • Part of Microsoft's success was its strategic partnership with IBM in its early days.
  • Gates advises leaders to pick partners "that are highly visible and tough." 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

One of the earliest high-impact decisions Bill Gates made was figuring out how to work with IBM.

It was 1980 and IBM wanted Microsoft to quickly provide the operating system for the 16-bit IBM PC, what would become, in Gates's estimation, a model for personal computing.

Even though the project was viewed as an experiment, Gates jumped at the opportunity. 

"We put so much energy into this thing," he said on the podcast "Masters of Scale," hosted by LinkedIn founder, venture capitalist, and startup philosopher Reid Hoffman.

Capitalizing on partnership

Gates was able to move Microsoft into the next generation of personal computing because of that strategic partnership with IBM — Big Blue, an enterprise tech firm before anyone really knew to call it as such. But with the partnership,  Microsoft now had an operating system that they were able to market as a separate product.

They had leverage in the dawn of home computing, one that extended beyond the machine and into the software itself that IBM's competitors were eager to buy. One recent computing historian referred to the partnership, which was formalized nearly 39 years ago to the day, as the date "IBM Signs A Deal With The Devil."

That devil, of course, was the soon-to-be-gigantic Microsoft. 

Learning from one partner in particular: IBM Japan

Beyond being positioned for the latest turn in the industry, Microsoft as a company learned from IBM's strengths in sales and quality products.

IBM Japan in particular was picky about quality, Gates said. It was difficult at first to get acclimated to their standard, but Gates eventually realized that they weren't crazy, they were just disciplined— and he himself would have to learn how to do that.

"We spent two years just in total pain, where the Japanese guys were flying in, and they would sit there day and night even though they didn't even know how to fix the thing," Gates said.

Gates's first victories began in Japan, the Wall Street Journal reported in 1986, snowballing into the larger international success of Microsoft's products. 

Gates's experience with IBM Japan led to the advice he told Hoffman that applies anyone who wants to scale their company fast: Pick the toughest customers and meet their needs. 

Tough doesn't equal dislike, or hard to work with. It means selecting customers with high standards, who, in turn, elevate the standards of your company. You have to pick customers that are both highly visible and tough, says Gates. And he thinks this is critical to growth. 

"Partnerships really are so understated in terms of their key role," he said.

Take care of partners and they'll take care of you 

In the case of IBM, there were years in which Steve Ballmer would take the red-eye down to IBM's former campus in Boca Raton, Florida, spend a day there, and then fly back. Gates describes this as "the right thing to do to get things done." Ballmer's frequent flights helped the partnership between Microsoft and IBM thrive, uniquely positioning Microsoft to grow in the following decades. 

More recently, Nadella has announced strategic partnerships with companies, like Novartis, Accenture, and Avanade, to build new technology.

Microsoft's history illustrates the importance of acting on changes within an industry, with the right partners, for massive scale.

SEE ALSO: How Satya Nadella's leadership style catapulted Microsoft to a trillion-dollar valuation — and what you can learn from it

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The Amex Green card earns valuable bonus points on travel and dining, but it faces stiff competition from Chase's Sapphire cards

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 11:58am

  • The American Express® Green Card was recently re-launched with a bunch of new benefits, including 3x bonus points on travel purchases and spending at restaurants worldwide.
  • It's a much improved card for earning valuable Amex points, but it faces some strong competition from cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
  • If you spend a lot on travel and dining out, the Amex Green could be a good choice for you — and it has a more moderate annual fee than some other top rewards cards.
  • However, make sure to take a close look at its statement credits and travel coverage benefits — in some cases, other cards offer superior coverage and easier-to-use perks.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

American Express just relaunched its Green from Amex card with a whole new set of benefits, taking it from a pretty lackluster product to a solid option for earning Membership Rewards points. Now that the breathless hot takes have died down, it's time to take a deep dive.

Is this card for you? The answer is very much "it depends." If you frequently spend money on travel and dining out, you'll find value in the card — but may also find more value with other options. Let's dive in and examine the benefits. We'll also compare this card to two of its closest competitors: the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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. 

American Express Green Card details

Annual fee: $150

Welcome bonus: 30,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Plus, if you apply by January 15, 2020, you can get up to $100 in statement credits toward any eligible purchase made with Away luggage in the first three months.

Points earning: 3x points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants worldwide, 1 point per dollar on everything else

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome bonus

The Amex Green card has a public welcome bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 within the first three months from opening the account.

As far as credit card welcome bonuses go, this one is a bit on the low side. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a welcome bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (with the same minimum spending requirement of $4,000 in the first three months).

Amex states in the terms and conditions that it reserves the right to withdraw the welcome bonus if you cancel or downgrade the account within the first 12 months — meaning that you effectively need to pay the annual fee in the second year in order to guarantee keeping your bonus.

Points earning on the Amex Green card

Solidly aimed at the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is loved by many award travelers for offering 3x points on dining and travel, the Amex Green provides 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants worldwide, and 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases. 

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to a wide array of airline partners — from British Airways to Hawaiian Airlines to Virgin Atlantic — and three hotel partners (Choice Privileges, Hilton, and Marriott) to book travel. You can also use points to book travel directly through American Express.

Annual credits that offset the Amex Green card's annual fee

The Amex Green card has a $150 annual fee, compared to a $450 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and a $95 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While paying a large annual fee can sting, the Amex Green card does offer some annual statement credits that can offset the cost. Here are the details on those credits, and a comparison with other cards' annual credits and how they reduce their annual fees.

Amex Green card
  • Up to $100 in credit toward eligible purchases at the luggage retailer Away —This is a one-time benefit, so it only applies for the first year of card membership. You have to apply by January 15, 2020, to be eligible for this statement credit.
  • Up to $100 in credit toward CLEAR membership each year — CLEAR is an expedited security program similar to TSA PreCheck, and you can use it at more than 30 US airports as well as select sports and concert venues. An annual CLEAR membership costs $179, so you'll pay $79 out of pocket with the annual statement credit factored in.
  • Up to $100 credit towards LoungeBuddy purchased airport lounge access each year — Access to lounges through LoungeBuddy ranges from $25 to $50, so you can get at least two visits per year through this credit.

In theory, if you use all of the credits on the Amex Green card, you'll get back double the annual fee in value. That being said, it's hard to spend exactly $100 with Away. CLEAR memberships aren't available for $100, so you'll be out of pocket for anything over $100. And LoungeBuddy lounge access costs vary, so you may not be able to use the exact amount of the credit here either.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card doesn't offer any statement credits to offset the annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The card offers up to $300 in offsetting credit for travel purchases — and any travel purchase counts, even including bus passes, parking, or tolls (along with more conventional travel purchase such as airlines and hotels). In addition, the Chase Sapphire Reserve provides up to a $100 fee credit once every five years toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership. This makes the effective annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve just $150.

American Express® Gold Card

The Amex Gold card isn't necessarily an obvious card to compare to the Amex Green card, because its benefits and bonus categories are squarely focused on dining. The Gold card has a $250 annual fee, and it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide (as well as 4x on the first $25,000 spent at US supermarkets each year; then 1x). However, it's worth mentioning here due to its annual statement credits.

  • Up to $100 in credit toward airline incidental fees each year — This applies when you use your card for checked baggage, airline lounge access, ticketing fees, inflight purchases, and other non-airfare, non-airline gift card purchases.
  • Up to $120 in credit toward qualifying dining purchases each year — This breaks down as up to $10 in statement credits each month, for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations

If you take full advantage of the Amex Gold card's annual statement credits, you'll get $220 in value each year, reducing the effective annual fee to just $30.

How the Amex Green compares to other cards

Two of the most obvious competitors to the Amex Green are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred, due to the fact that they all earn bonus points on dining and travel. 

While the cards have different annual fees, none of them charge foreign transaction fees. This is a change since the relaunch of the Amex Green card, which previously charged foreign transaction fees.

Points earning and redeeming

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers seemingly identical earning rates to the Amex Green: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases.

Chase is known for having the broadest, most generous definition of what counts as "travel" for the purposes of earning bonus points and for redeeming the Sapphire Reserve's annual travel credit. However, the Amex Green offers 3x points on many of the more "niche" travel purchases that the Chase also codes as travel, including parking, bus passes, and highway tolls. So if you make lots of travel purchases, you shouldn't have trouble racking up rewards quickly with the Amex Green, the Sapphire Reserve, or the Sapphire Preferred.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can spend Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece toward essentially anything Expedia sells when you book through Chase Travel. You can also transfer Chase points to airline and hotel partners, although there are fewer airline partners in Chase's program than in the Amex Membership Rewards program.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a lower Ultimate Rewards earning rate: 2x points on travel and dining and 1x on everything else. These points can be spent at 1.25 cents per point on the Expedia-powered Chase Travel portal and can also be transferred to partners.

Credit vs. charge cards

While nobody should carry a card balance, Chase gives you the option of doing so. The Amex Green card does not; you must pay off the card in full every month.

I have a $60,000 credit limit across my Chase cards (and have never cracked using even 10% of it). There is no preset spending limit with Amex (though Amex does have internal spending limits).

Travel coverage 

Chase provides richer travel-related coverage benefits for both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve than Amex provides for the Green from Amex.

For example, Chase provides primary rental car coverage on both cards, which means its insurance kicks in before your own personal coverage in the case of a rental car getting lost or damaged (and you can decline car rental insurance).

Amex provides only secondary car rental coverage, and it's more limited than Visa provides. With the Sapphire Reserve, Chase provides roadside assistance with a $50 credit per incident. Amex provides roadside dispatch, which means it will call a tow truck for you and you will pay for all the services. Other benefits stack up similarly; the recurring theme is that Chase covers more, and pays for more.

Lounge Access

For the frequent traveler, Chase provides a Priority Pass Select membership with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and, well, nothing for the Sapphire Preferred). This allows unlimited entries to Priority Pass lounges along with unlimited visits to Priority Pass restaurants, with up to two guests allowed per visit.

Amex provides up to a $100 LoungeBuddy credit each year. This is an interesting innovation because LoungeBuddy has contracts with many lounges that don't participate in Priority Pass. Given the crowding problem at many Priority Pass lounges, and the fact that some airports lack Priority Pass coverage, some people may prefer the LoungeBuddy option, especially infrequent travelers who can't justify the Chase Sapphire Reserve's high annual fee.

Bottom line

Should you pick up the Amex Green card? If you're a frequent traveler, it's worth a look thanks to the bonus points you'll earn and the CLEAR and LoungeBuddy benefits. I'm considering apply for this card because Membership Rewards points are valuable, and I like to diversify my points earnings. I'm not giving up my Chase cards, though, and will continue to use these extensively.

Click here to learn more about the Amex Green card.

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