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The Payment Industry Ecosystem: The trend towards digital payments and key players moving markets

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 3:03pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence. Current subscribers can read the report here.

The digitization of daily life is making phones and connected devices the preferred payment tools for consumers — preferences that are causing digital payment volume to blossom worldwide.

As noncash payment volume accelerates, the power dynamics of the payments industry are shifting further in favor of digital and omnichannel providers, attracting a wide swath of providers to the space and forcing firms to diversify, collaborate, or consolidate in order to capitalize on a growing revenue opportunity.

More and more, consumers want fast and simple payments — that's opening up opportunities for providers. Rising e- and m-commerce, surges in mobile P2P, and increasing willingness among customers in developed countries to try new transaction channels, like mobile in-store payments, voice and chatbot payments, or connected device payments are all increasing transaction touchpoints for providers.

This growing access is helping payments become seamless, in turn allowing firms to boost adoption, build and strengthen relationships, offer more services, and increase usage.

But payment ubiquity and invisibility also comes with challenges. Gains in volume come with increases in per-transaction fee payouts, which is pushing consumer and merchant clients alike to seek out inexpensive solutions — a shift that limits revenue that providers use to fund critical programs and squeezes margins.

Regulatory changes and geopolitical tensions are forcing players to reevaluate their approach to scale. And fraudsters are more aggressively exploiting vulnerabilities, making data breaches feel almost inevitable and pushing providers to improve their defenses and crisis response capabilities alike.

In the latest annual edition of The Payments Ecosystem Report, Business Insider Intelligence unpacks the current digital payments ecosystem, and explores how changes will impact the industry in both the short- and long-term. The report begins by tracing the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement to clarify the role of key stakeholders and assess how the landscape has shifted.

It also uses forecasts, case studies, and product developments from the past year to explain how digital transformation is impacting major industry segments and evaluate the pace of change. Finally, it highlights five trends that should shape payments in the year ahead, looking at how regulatory shifts, emerging technologies, and competition could impact the payments ecosystem.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Behind the scenes, payment processes and stakeholders remain similar. But providers are forced to make payments as frictionless as possible as online shopping surges: E-commerce is poised to exceed $1 trillion — nearly a fifth of total US retail — by 2023.
  • The channels and front-end methods that consumers use to make payments are evolving. Mobile in-store payments are huge in developing markets, but approaching an inflection point in developed regions where adoption has been laggy. And the ubiquity of mobile P2P services like Venmo and Square Cash will propel digital P2P to $574 billion by 2023.
  • The competitive landscape will shift as companies pursue joint ventures to grow abroad in response to geopolitical tensions, or consolidate to achieve rapid scale amid digitization.
  • Fees, bans, steering, or regulation could impact the way consumers pay, pushing them toward emerging methods that bypass card rails, and limit key revenue sources that providers use to fund rewards and marketing initiatives.
  • Tokenization will continue to mainstream as a key way providers are preventing and responding to the omnipresent data breach threat.

The companies mentioned in the report are: CCEL, Adyen, Affirm, Afterpay, Amazon, American Express, Ant Financial, Apple, AribaPay, Authorize.Net, Bank of America, Barclays, Beem It, Billtrust, Braintree, Capital One, Cardtronics, Chase Paymentech, Citi, Discover, First Data, Flywire, Fraedom, Gemalto, GM, Google, Green Dot, Huifu, Hyundai, Ingenico, Jaguar, JPMorgan Chase, Klarna, Kroger, LianLian, Lydia, Macy’s, Mastercard, MICROS, MoneyGram, Monzo, NCR, Netflix, P97, PayPal, Paytm, Poynt, QuickBooks, Sainsbury’s, Samsung, Santander, Shell, Square, Starbucks, Stripe, Synchrony Financial, Target, TransferWise, TSYS, UnionPay, Venmo, Verifone, Visa, Vocalink, Walmart, WeChat/Tencent, Weebly, Wells Fargo, Western Union, Worldpay, WorldRemit, Xevo, Zelle, Zesty, and ZipRecruiter, among others

In full, the report:

  • Explains the factors contributing to a swell in global noncash payments
  • Examines shifts in the roles of major industry stakeholders, including issuers, card networks, acquirer-processors, POS terminal vendors, and gateways
  • Presents forecasts and highlights major trends and industry events driving digital payments growth
  • Identifies five trends that will shape the payments ecosystem in the year ahead

SEE ALSO: These are the four transformations payments providers must undergo to survive digitization

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Michelle Kathryn Essomé: Local investors key to closing Africa’s financing gap - @Mkessome

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:00am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Michelle Kathryn Essomé of AVCA writes:
African investors are gradually turning to private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) but greater momentum could turbocharge the PE and VC ecosystems, supporting entrepreneurs and creating jobs at scale...[more]

Trump is squirming under pressure from Bernie Sanders and Democrats on all things taxes

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 1:45am  |  Clusterstock

  • Taxes. They're an inevitable reality for working Americans; one of the two certainties in life, an often-repeated quote attributed to the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin tells us.
  • And they're a subject that President Donald Trump cannot shake: He famously never released his tax returns prior to being elected to the nation's highest office, breaking a 46-year-old tradition, and he along with a Republican-controlled Congress passed a major tax bill in 2017 — one of his campaign promises.
  • The all-things-taxes scrutiny is also ratcheting up now that the 2020 election season has begun. Democratic candidates vying for the nomination are doing what Trump has not: making their tax returns available to the public.
  • Candidates are also offering a different system, where the wealthiest people and corporations would pay higher taxes in order to fund other programs. Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of those candidates and he offered his ideas to Fox News viewers on Monday night.
  • On Tuesday, Trump tweeted his response.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Taxes. They're an inevitable reality for working Americans; one of the two certainties in life, an often-repeated quote attributed to the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin tells us.

And they're a subject that President Donald Trump cannot shake: He famously never released his tax returns prior to being elected to the nation's highest office (breaking a 46-year-old tradition), and he along with a Republican-controlled Congress passed a major tax bill in 2017.

Questions about Trump's taxes have only intensified since his election. Democratic lawmakers, who now control the House of Representatives, have issued subpoenas for documents related to several ongoing investigations, including asking for Trump's financial information.

On Monday, the Financial Services Committee requested records from Deutsche Bank, and last week the House Ways and Means committee extended its deadline for the IRS to turn Trump's tax returns over to the committee (after the Treasury said it would miss the initial April 10 deadline).

And given that tax day just passed this week — the first one with Trump's new tax law in place — the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is still being scrutinized. (And according to Politico, they are "deeply unpopular.")

The tax scrutiny is also ratcheting up now that the 2020 election season has begun. Democratic candidates vying for the nomination are doing what Trump has not. They are making their own tax returns public.

Sen. Kamala Harris released 15 years of returns over the weekend, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke published 10-year's worth on Monday, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders, after not releasing his tax returns during the 2016 election.

Several Democratic candidates are also proposing a different tax system, one where the wealthiest 1% or corporations pay more so that programs like Medicare for All can be funded. For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts proposed a wealth tax that would impose a fee on one's cumulative net worth, in addition to the tax on regular income they earned for the year, according to The New York Times.

Sen. Sanders offered his vision for a new taxation system during a Fox News town hall on Monday. He also discussed his newly-released returns and called out Trump on both the tax law and his still-unreleased tax returns.

"I pay the taxes that I owe." Sanders said. "And by the way, why don't you get Donald Trump up here and ask him how much he pays in taxes."

Sanders' returns revealed that he and his wife made more than $1 million in 2017 and in 2016, and therefore plopping him in the IRS's top 1% bracket, The New York Times reported, meaning he pays 26%. Sanders made waves in 2016 for railing against "millionaires and billionaires." He has explained his increase in revenue by pointing to his best-selling book.

During the town hall, Sanders called the tax system "absurd" and criticized major corporations that don't pay federal taxes.

"We have an absurd tax system, and while millions of people today are paying actually more in taxes than anticipated, Amazon, Netflix, and dozens of major corporations, as a result of Trump's tax bill, paid nothing in federal taxes," Sanders said. "I think that's a disgrace."

On Tuesday night, a day after the Fox News town hall, Trump tweeted his response.

"Bernie Sanders and wife should pay the Pre-Trump Taxes on their almost $600,000 in income. He is always complaining about these big TAX CUTS, except when it benefits him," he said. "They made a fortune off of Trump, but so did everyone else - and that's a good thing, not a bad thing!"

"I believe it will be Crazy Bernie Sanders vs. Sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against maybe the best Economy in the history of our Country (and MANY other great things)!" he continued. "I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God Rest Their Soul!"

Trump also tweeted frustration with Fox News, a network he usually reserves for praise, apparently for having hosted Sanders, saying in part, "What's with @FoxNews?"

Sanders quipped back over social media: "Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be."

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NOW WATCH: Paul Manafort faces over 7 years in prison for conspiracy and obstruction. Here's what you need to know about Trump's former campaign chairman.

How tech giants are using their reach and digital prowess to take on traditional banks (GOOG, GOOGL, AAPL, FB, MSFT, AMZN)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 11:01pm  |  Clusterstock

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

As headlines like "Amazon Is Secretly Becoming a Bank" and "Google Wants to Be a Bank Now" increasingly crop up in the news, tech giants are coming into the spotlight as the next potential payments disruptors.

And with these firms' broad reach and hefty resources, the possibility that they'll descend on financial services is a hard narrative to shy away from. To mitigate potential losses under this scenario, traditional players will have to grasp not only the level of the threat, but also which segments of the financial industry are most at risk of disruption.

Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, collectively known as GAFAM, are already active investors in the payments industry, and they're slowly encroaching on legacy providers' core offerings. Each of these five companies has introduced features and offerings that have the potential to disrupt specific parts of the banking system. And we expect a plethora of additional offerings to hit the market as these companies look to build out their ecosystems.

However, it remains unlikely that any of these firms will become full-blown banks or entirely upend incumbents, due to regulatory barriers and the entrenched positions of big banks. Moreover, consumers still trust traditional firms first and foremost with their financial data. That means these companies are far more likely to rattle the cages of incumbents than they are to cause their total demise. That said, these companies have a proven capacity to revolutionize industries, making their entry into payments critical to watch for legacy players, especially as their moves demonstrate an intent to be a disruptive force in the industry.

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence analyzes the current impact GAFAM is having on the financial services industry, and the strengths and weaknesses of each firm's position in payments. We also discuss the barriers these companies face as they push deeper into financial services, as well as which aspects of a bank’s core business provide the biggest opportunities for the new players. Lastly, we assess these companies' future potential in payments and the broader financial services industry, and examine ways incumbents can manage the threat.

Here are some of the key takeaways: 

  • GAFAM has been actively encroaching on the payments space. This includes offering mobile wallets for in-store and online payments, peer-to-peer money transfer services, and even loans for small- and medium-sized businesses. 
  • These firms' broad reach and hefty resources have put them in a strong position to take on legacy players. GAFAM has products that have been adopted by millions of users, and in some cases, billions. They also have access to a tremendous amount of capital — Apple, Microsoft, and Google had over $400 billion combined in cash at the end of 2016.
  • However, these firms have to overcome major barriers to compete against legacy players, which includes regulation and trust. For example, 60% of respondents to a Business Insider Intelligence survey stated that they trust their bank most to provide them financial services.
  •  As a result of these barriers, it's more likely that GAFAM will make a dent in very specific segments of the financial services industry rather than completely disrupt it. 

In full, the report:

  • Explains what GAFAM's done to place themselves in a position to be the next potential payments disruptors.
  • Breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each company as it relates to their ability to build out an extensive financial ecosystem. 
  • Looks at the potential barriers that could limit GAFAM's ability to capture a significant share of the payments industry from traditional players. 
  • Identifies what strategies legacy players will have to deploy to mitigate the threat by these tech giants.
Get The Tech Companies in Payments Report

 

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Reed Hastings says Netflix has 'no big appetite, no big need' for mergers (NFLX)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 8:11pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Netflix hasn't made many acquisitions to date, and doesn't plan to go on a shopping spree now, CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday.
  • The company still has plenty of room to grow by just focusing on developing new shows and movies and improving its service, he said.
  • Hastings' comments follow some major Hollywood mergers, and come amid pressure on new player Apple to get in the game.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Don't expect Netflix to make any big acquisitions anytime soon.

That was the word from CEO Reed Hastings Tuesday on a webcast following the streaming media giant's first-quarter earnings report. In its more than 20 years of existence, Netflix has only made a few minor acquisitions, he noted. It's not planning on changing its ways now and getting more active in the mergers-and-acquisition market, he said.

"I don't think investors have too much to worry about there," Hastings said. Netflix, he continued, has "no big appetite, no big need."

Hollywood has seen some big mergers of late. On Monday, Hulu announced that it had bought AT&T's shares in the streaming company. Last month, Disney completed its purchase of 21st Century Fox. Last year, AT&T snapped up Time Warner.

Meanwhile, some analysts have been urging Apple, which is due to launch its own streaming media service later this yearto buy some studios or content producers to bulk up its library of movies and TV shows.

Read this: The 'clock has struck midnight' for Apple: It needs to buy a major Hollywood studio this year or lose the streaming war to Netflix and Amazon

But Hastings doesn't think Netflix needs to play in that market. Despite being the largest streaming video service with 149 million paid subscribers worldwide, it has plenty of room to get bigger, he said.

"We've got clear sailing ahead," Hastings said. "If we can produce the world's best content, if we can deliver it with the best user interface, then we can grow for many, many years ahead. So that's what we're focused on."

Netflix's first-quarter results beat Wall Street expectations, but it warned that its second-quarter subscriber growth would be slower than analysts expected. It also said it expected its operations and investments to burn through $3.5 billion in cash this year, about $500 million more than it previously projected. 

SEE ALSO: Apple needs to get serious about video. Here are 3 Hollywood studios it could buy to boost its new streaming service.

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Intel dropped a bombshell and said it's giving up on the 5G smartphone business: 'There is no clear path to profitability and positive returns' (INTC, AAPL, QCOM)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 8:09pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Intel will abandon the market for smartphone 5G modem chips, the company said on Tuesday.
  • The news came on the same day that Apple, Intel's customer for 5G modem chips, settled a lawsuit with Qualcomm relating to the technology.
  • The move marks the first big strategy change by new Intel CEO Bob Swan, who took the reins in January, and it represents a remarkable turn of events for the company that once provided the silicon in the majority of consumers' computing devices.
  • Shares of Intel were up 4% in after hours trading following the announcement. 

Chipmaker Intel said on Tuesday that it is exiting the 5G modem business, effectively ceding the market for smartphones on the eve of what's expected to be the biggest wireless market technology transition in years. 

The company said it will focus its 5G wireless efforts on network infrastructure. But, when it comes to the smartphone modem business, CEO Bob Swan said in a statement, "it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns."

Shares of Intel was up as high as 4% in after hours trading following the announcement.

The news came on the same day thatiPhone maker Apple and Qualcomm settled litigation involving 5G modems.

Apple had previously selected Intel to supply the modem chips for its future 5G smartphones. But Intel said in its announcement on Tuesday that it "does not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space."

The timing of the Apple settlement and the Intel announcement did not appear to be a coincidence and was quickly remarked upon by industry observers. 

"We just don't know which one came first," said Patrick Moorhead, the president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy. 

"Did Apple say 'Intel is too much risk, I need to go back with Qualcomm' or was this Intel saying 'This business isn't great and I don't want to pour more resources into it'?" Moorhead said. 

Intel chips were once inside 8 out of 10 PCs. Now it's giving up completely on being inside smartphones.

5G, or fifth generation, is the next major evolution in wireless technology. Compared to today's 4G wireless networks, 5G networks are expected to provide blazing fast data speeds for consumers. But smartphones will require new chips to take advantage of the forthcoming 5G networks, setting the stage for an upgrade cycle that could boost revenues for chipmakers and device companies.

Intel appeared to be having trouble with its schedule for producing the 5G chips, Moorhead said. As a result, Apple was putting its iPhone business at risk if by relying on Intel for the modem chips.

"Qualcomm's core business is modems and modem IP," he said. "It's their core business, it's what they do."

The news represents the first major strategy change by Swan sincetaking the reins as permanent CEO in January, after Brian Krzanich resigned following a company investigation into a past relationship with an employee.

Intel's decision to pull the plug on modem chips means the company is effectively abandoning the market for smartphones, the most popular platform used by consumers for computing today. It's a remarkable turn of events for a company that once provided the microprocessors at the heart of roughly 80% of the world's PCs and was synonymous with consumer computing devices. 

Intel was famously slow to adapt its business from PCs to smartphones, and had been fighting an uphill battle trying to claw back market share in the mobile market for years. The change announced on Tuesday is a recognition that fighting for modems was not worth the effort, given the massive, hundreds of billions of dollar opportunity on the datacenter side, where Intel is much stronger, said Moorhead.

Here is Intel's full announcement:

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 16, 2019 – Intel Corporation today announced its intention to exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices. Intel will also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business.

The company will continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but does not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020.

"We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the 'cloudification' of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns," said Intel CEO Bob Swan. "5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realize the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world."

Intel expects to provide additional details in its upcoming first-quarter 2019 earnings release and conference call, scheduled for April 25.

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These are the top 15 US banks ranked by the mobile banking features consumers value most

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 8:02pm  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. This report is exclusively available to enterprise subscribers. To learn more about getting access to this report, email Senior Account Executive Chris Roth at croth@businessinsider.com, or check to see if your company already has access

New data shows that mobile features have become a key factor that customers weigh when choosing a bank. 

In Business Insider Intelligence's second annual Mobile Banking Competitive Edge study, 64% of mobile banking users said that they would research a bank's mobile banking capabilities before opening an account with them. And 61% said that they would switch banks if their bank offered a poor mobile banking experience.

For channel strategists, the challenge in attracting mobile-minded customers is knowing when to bet budgets and political capital on developing emerging features. It's complicated by most flashy features — such as voice assistants, smartwatch banking, and bank-offered mobile wallets — being deemed a "must" by analysts, media, and rival banking executives. 

The Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Report uses data to inform channel investment decisions by highlighting which mobile banking features are most valuable to customers. Our study has data on consumer demand for 33 in-demand mobile capabilities across six key categories. 

Using that consumer data, the study benchmarks the largest 20 banks and credit unions in the US by whether they offer the cutting-edge mobile features that customers say they care about most. What sets our benchmark apart is that it weights every feature according to customer demand data — not subjective analyst opinion.  

Channel strategists within financial institutions use our report to see which innovative features they should prioritize in development pipelines and to find out how they compare with rival banks and credit unions in offering those features.

Business Insider Intelligence fielded the Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Study to members of its proprietary panel in August 2018, reaching over 1,200 US consumers — primarily handpicked digital professionals and early-adopters, making our sample a sensitive indicator of emerging features. 

Here are a few key takeaways from the report:

  • Citi snagged first overall. The bank led the account access section, tied for first in account management, and ranked highly in all the other categories of the study. Wells Fargo took second place, leading in security and control and transfers. USAA came in third, NFCU was fourth, and Bank of America rounded out the top five.
  • Demand for security features is sizzling. Following a year of huge breaches being announced at companies like Facebook and Google, consumers' security concerns jumped to become the most important category. The category included the No. 1 feature overall: the ability to turn a payment card on or off. 
  • Digital money management features are also highly demanded. Chase and Wells Fargo may be onto something with their millennial-focused banking apps, Finn and Greenhouse, as the generation had sky-high demand for the six features in the category. The most popular feature in the category was the ability to separate recurring payments, such as Netflix and gym memberships.

 In full, the report:

  • Shows how 33 mobile features stack up according to how valuable customers say they are.
  • Ranks the top 20 US banks and credit unions on whether they offer each of those features.
  • Analyzes how demographics effect demand for different mobile features.
  • Provides strategies for banks to best attract and retain customers with mobile features.
  • Contains 63 pages and 30 figures.

The full report is available to Business Insider Intelligence enterprise clients. To learn more about this report, email Senior Account Executive Chris Roth (croth@businessinsider.com).  

Business Insider Intelligence's Mobile Banking Competitive Edge study includes: Ally, Bank of America, BB&T, BBVA Compass, BMO Harris, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Fifth Third, HSBC, KeyBank, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions, SunTrust, TD, Union Bank, US Bank, USAA, and Wells Fargo.

SEE ALSO: These are the trends creating new winners and losers in the card-processing ecosystem

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This pitch deck helped raise $43 million for a startup with a new twist on the biggest trend in software development

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 7:21pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Kong offers a service that helps companies manage their application programming interfaces, which are the snippets of code that are used to build apps.
  • Kong's service can limit API requests, allow access to only specific developers, and monitor who's connecting with the APIs.
  • The company just raised $43 million in series C funding to build out its service.
  • Below is the pitch deck it used to secure the new funds.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Augusto Marietti thinks his company is in the right position to benefit from one of the biggest trends in software development.

At the heart of most contemporary software development are application programming interfaces, which are the bits of code that programmers use to build features into their apps or services. Though created by specific developers or platform makers, they're frequently shared with other app and service makers. For example, developers use Facebook's APIs to allow users to log in to their apps with Facebook credentials.

Marietti's startup, Kong, offers a service that allows companies to control the use of their APIs. Its service acts as a kind of gatekeeper; it can restrict access to particular developers, limit the number of times particular APIs are accessed, and keep track of how often particular ones are being used.

In recent years, there's been an explosion in APIs, "which creates the need for an API broker like Kong to exist," he said.

Kong has actually been around for about a decade, albeit not in its present form. In 2009, Marietti launched Mashape, which was intended to be a marketplace for APIs. But he and his team soon found that they needed a way to manage all the requests for those APIs. They called the technology they built — a kind of firewall or proxy for APIs — Kong.

Two years ago, Marietti and his team shifted their focus to building on the API proxy technology. They sold off the marketplace and renamed their startup Kong.

"It was a 10-year journey," he said. "But in reality, Kong is a two-year's baby."

Marietti wants Kong to do more than just manage APIs

The basic Kong proxy service is available free as open-source software. But the startup sells on a subscription basis a more advanced version that offers additional features, including a graphical interface, enhanced security, and the ability to analyze incoming requests.

Customers basically redirect incoming API requests to Kong. The company's paid service can monitor incoming requests and alert customers to potentially harmful ones. It can also process incoming requests to filter out sensitive information, such as credit-card numbers, or to format them so customers' computers can process them more easily.

Investors have been enthusiastic about Kong's revised business model. The San Francisco company raised $18 million in a series B funding round around the time it switched gears two years ago. And last month, it announced it had raised another $43 million in a series C round that was led by Index Ventures.

Read more: This CEO was so broke he had to crash on Travis Kalanick's couch — now he's raised $18 million from Andreessen Horowitz

Marietti plans to invest about 80% of the new funds in two areas — research and development and sales and marketing — with the rest going to operations. The company's 10- to 20-year vision is to build what he calls a service-control platform, which would allow customers to manage all of their services from creation to testing to implementation.

That envisioned offering is "much bigger than a load balancer, API management, or integration market," he said.

Here's the pitch deck Marietti and his team used to raise their $43 million in new funding:

SEE ALSO: This serial founder thinks pitch decks are passé. Here's what his startup used instead to raise $45 million in new funding.







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Beyond Bitcoin: Here are some of the new use cases for distributed ledger technology

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 7:06pm  |  Clusterstock

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

Of the many technologies reshaping the world economy, distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) are among the most hyped. DLTs are most often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but such coverage sidelines the broader use cases of DLTs, even though they stand to make a far bigger impact on the broader the financial services (FS) industry.

DLT's value lies in its ability to centralize record-keeping, while cutting out the need for authorization by an overseeing party, instead allowing a record to be confirmed by multiple parties with access to the database. This means DLTs have the potential to streamline financial institutions' (FIs) operations, boost data security, improve customer relationships, and drastically cut costs. But many FIs have struggled to implement DLTs and reap the rewards, because of organizational obstacles, but also because of issues rooted in the technology itself. There are a few players working to make the technology more usable for FIs, and progress is now being made.

In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence takes a look at what DLTs are and why they hold so much promise for FS, the sectors in which DLTs are gaining the most traction and why, and the efforts underway to remove the obstacles preventing wider DLT adoption in finance. It also examines the few FIs close to unleashing their DLT projects, and how DLTs might transform the nature of FS if adoption truly takes off. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • DLTs are proving attractive to FIs because of their ability to act as a single source of truth, distribute information securely, cut out middlemen, improve transaction times, and cut redundancy and costs.
  • DLTs like blockchain and smart contracts stand to save the FS industry up to $50 billion a year through improved operational efficiencies, reduced human error, and better regulatory compliance. 
  • The technology is being explored actively across FS, with trade finance, insurance, and capital markets proving especially active. Overall adoption is still low because of organizational and technical hurdles, but these are now being eliminated, promising to boost implementation.
  • A few FIs have pulled ahead of the curve and are very close to taking their DLT projects live, if they haven't already. These players can serve as useful case studies for other institutions in getting their DLT solutions live.

In full, the report:

  • Looks at what DLTs are, and why the FS industry is working hard to make use of them. 
  • Gives an overview of the financial segments which are seeing the most DLT activity, and what they stand to gain.
  • Outlines efforts being made to make DLT more approachable and usable for the FS industry.
  • Examines use cases in which FIs have managed to take their pilots live, and what they can teach their peers. 
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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Uber has dangled $100 million at Dara Khosrowshahi if he can convince investors, or a buyer, that the company is worth $120 billion

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 6:40pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Dara Khosrowshahi has a huge potential payout riding on Uber's IPO valuation hitting $120 billion and staying there for 90 consecutive days.
  • He'd also get that payout for selling the company for $120 billion. 
  • A source tell us his incentive is worth $100 million or more.

Dara Khosrowshahi could get a huge payday — totaling more than $100 million according to a source — if Uber's IPO valuation hits $120 billion and stays at that level for 90 consecutive days.

The Uber CEO will also get the payout for selling the company for $120 billion, according to a disclosure the company's  its S-1 documents.

Read: Here's who's getting rich on Uber's massive IPO

Although we know that Khosrowshahi is seeking the $120 billion valuation, Uber publicly confirmed the figure in the S-1's footnotes about Khosrowshahi's compensation and financial incentives, as first spotted by Axios's Dan Primack. 

The CEO will be granted 1.75 million in stock options that he can buy for $33.65 a share that vest over four years, should the company's market capitalization reach $120 billion for 90 consecutive days, the company said. Plus the CEO will be instantly awarded 185,735 shares that are otherwise earmarked to be doled out over time as part of his performance-dependent shares.

This is in addition to other batches of options and performance-based grants. Because Uber hasn't yet released key details about its IPO, we don't know how much money Khosrowshahi stands to gain from buying 1.75 million shares at that $33.64 strike price, but all told, it's a package worth at least $100 million, a source tells us.

This is backed up by our own back-of-the-envelope math based on when Softbank bought its 16% stake in Uber at about $33 a share. That share price valued the company at $48 billion. So if Uber can more than double that valuation, and the stock price doubles, those 1.75 shares would be worth over $117 million. 

Khosrowshahi currently holds 200,000 shares and was paid a $1 million salary last year, plus a $2 million cash bonus. Uber also covers a number of his expenses such as help with his tax bill ($98,357 in 2018 for that).

Then again he gave up over $180 million of stock options when he left Expedia to take the Uber job, Primack notes. 

The question is: how does Khosrowshahi convince investors that Uber is worth $120 billion today? Especially when looking at the financials: $11.3 billion in revenue in 2018, a $3 billion loss on operations (although it logged $987 million in net income, mostly from $5 billion worth of divestitures, it said, such as selling its Southeast Asia business to Grab). On top of that, Uber has $6.9 billion in long-term debt.

Answer: It needs to show Wall Street a big, huge growth story. 

This growth story rests on a couple of pillars: 1) the rideshare business, in which Uber is already the dominant player. Uber is telling investors that this is a "$5.7 trillion market opportunity" in its prospectus.

2) Its meal delivery business, Uber Eats, which Uber says is a $795 billion opportunity.

3) The Uber Freight business, in which Uber's software matches carriers with shippers — a $700 billion market opportunity, Uber says.

And, last but far from least, investment in "advanced technologies, including autonomous vehicle technologies," it says.

Uber describes a world where its fleet of robot taxis work arm-in-arm with human Uber drivers. It has not put a market value on self-driving cars. But one person tells us that Uber's self-driving car unit could be valued internally by investors at $10 billion minimum.

For comparison, GM's Cruise (backed by Honda) was valued at about $15 billion in 2018, according to Pitchbook while one Wall Street analysts pegged Google spinoff Waymo at roughly $75 billion in 2018.

SEE ALSO: The amazing life of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi — from refugee to tech superstar and a huge IPO

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NOW WATCH: We tried Louis Vuitton's wireless earbuds to find out if they're worth the $995

One of America's biggest trucking companies is getting squeezed by Trump's trade war (JBHT)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 6:08pm  |  Clusterstock

  • JB Hunt missed revenue and profit expectations for the first quarter, sending shares down more than 4%
  • The company cited the Trump administration's tariffs as a factor behind the weak results.
  • Watch JB Hunt trade live.

The effect of President Donald Trump's trade war are beginning to show up in corporate results. The trucking company JB Hunt mentioned the tariffs as a factor when discussing its weak first-quarter results on its earnings call Monday. Shares were down more than 4% following the results.

While an array of concerns were cited, the trucking company highlighted particular weakness in the major West Coast market. On the call, management said the supply of Chinese goods has slowed due to the threat of tariffs. The additional tariffs, which were supposed to go into effect March 1, would have raised prices on Chinese imports, decreasing US demand. 

"West Coast was down versus what we anticipated," said JB Hunt Executive Vice President Terrence Matthews. "I think the data that we've seen is that China in February, not only between — because of Chinese New Year but because of the potential tariffs that were supposed to go in in March 1st. Goods shipped, I think, is down 20%-plus now to see that land into a much slower West Coast volume."

As part of its trade strategy, the Trump administration placed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods coming to the US. China has responded with tariffs on $120 billion of US goods, which are focused on agricultural, and politically sensitive, states such as Ohio

The Trump administration has also threatened to place tariffs on the remaining $255 billion of Chinese goods, amounting to more than $500 billion annually. The implementation of those additional tariffs has been extended several times as negotiations continue.

The trade war is costing US consumers over $1 billion per month, according to a study by economists at the Federal Reserve, Princeton, and Columbia University.

The weakness cited by JB Hunt is a clear indication that the tariffs are starting to show real affects on a wide variety of sectors, including agriculture and trucking. JB Hunt is based in Arkansas, but operates throughout the country. 

In an additional sign of a cooling economy, JB Hunt cited an overall softening of demand for truck drivers.

"There is still some tight markets out there, Northern Cal, the PNW, Chicago, Ohio, through to the Northeast, where we still have some extra incentives zone to hire drivers," Matthews said. "But in the rest of the areas, it softened up. We're not taken wage reductions with drivers, but it's eased up some."

Recently, there has been some debate as to whether the US has been suffering from a "truck-driver shortage." The industry research group The American Transportation Research Institute has been sounding the alarm on a driver shortage, which it ranked as the top industry concern for the second year in a row. 

However, a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found evidence opposing that view.

JB Hunt was up 9% year to date. 

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NOW WATCH: The founder and CIO of $12 billion Ariel Investments breaks down how his top-ranked flagship fund has crushed its peers over the past 10 years

Netflix now expects to burn through $3.5 billion in cash this year. That's about $500 million more than it previously forecast. (NFLX)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 6:07pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Netflix now expects its operations and investments to consume $3.5 billion in cash this year.
  • It previously projected it would burn through about $3 billion in cash this year.
  • The company's operations and investments have consistently burned through cash since 2011, leaving it with a large and growing amount of debt.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Netflix's cash-burn problem is going to get even worse before it gets better, the company said on Tuesday.

The streaming-video service provider now expects its operations and investments to burn up $3.5 billion in cash this year, company officials said in a letter to shareholders. That's about $500 million more than its operations and investments consumed last year — and about $500 million more than the company projected in January.

Netflix made a change to its corporate structure that will increase its taxes this year, the company said in the letter, which it released as part of its first-quarter earnings report. The company also plans to invest more than it previously expected in real estate and other infrastructure, it said.

Read more: Netflix slides after beating Q1 subscriber growth estimates but giving weak guidance for the months ahead

But Netflix promised the company's free cash flow, which represents the net amount of money a company generates from or consumes in its operations less the amount it invests in property, equipment, and other long-term assets, would start to turn around next year.

"We're still expecting free cash flow to improve in 2020 and each year thereafter, driven by our growing member base, revenues, and operating margins," the letter said.

Despite recording regular profits, Netflix has posted negative free cash flow every year since 2011. The difference between its reported bottom line and its cash outflow is largely because of an accounting issue that's a result of its huge and ongoing investments in original shows and movies. The company typically makes those investments — and spends real cash — on such content years before it has to recognize their cost on its income statement.

In order to finance its cash deficits, the company has repeatedly gone to the bond market to sell debt. The company's long-term debt now stands at $10.3 billion, up from $6.5 billion at the end of the first quarter last year.

SEE ALSO: The 'clock has struck midnight' for Apple: It needs to buy a major Hollywood studio this year or lose the streaming war to Netflix and Amazon

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NOW WATCH: The US won't let Huawei, China's biggest smartphone maker, enter the US market

Insurtech Research Report: The trends & technologies allowing insurance startups to compete

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 6:05pm  |  Clusterstock

Tech-driven disruption in the insurance industry continues at pace, and we're now entering a new phase — the adaptation of underlying business models. 

That's leading to ongoing changes in the distribution segment of the industry, but more excitingly, we are starting to see movement in the fundamentals of insurance — policy creation, underwriting, and claims management. 

This report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, will briefly review major changes in the insurtech segment over the past year. It will then examine how startups and legacy players across the insurance value chain are using technology to develop new business models that cut costs or boost revenue, and, in some cases, both. Additionally, we will provide our take on the future of insurance as insurtech continues to proliferate. 

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Funding is flowing into startups and helping them scale, while legacy players have moved beyond initial experiments and are starting to implement new technology throughout their businesses. 
  • Distribution, the area of the insurance value chain that was first to be disrupted, continues to evolve. 
  • The fundamentals of insurance — policy creation, underwriting, and claims management — are starting to experience true disruption, while innovation in reinsurance has also continued at pace.
  • Insurtechs are using new business models that are enabled by a variety of technologies. In particular, they're using automation, data analytics, connected devices, and machine learning to build holistic policies for consumers that can be switched on and off on-demand.
  • Legacy insurers, as opposed to brokers, now have the most to lose — but those that move swiftly still have time to ensure they stay in the game.

 In full, the report:

  • Reviews major changes in the insurtech segment over the past year.
  • Examines how startups and legacy players across distribution, insurance, and reinsurance are using technology to develop new business models.
  • Provides our view on what the future of the insurance industry looks like, which Business Insider Intelligence calls Insurtech 2.0.
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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The CEO of billion-dollar startup Airtable explains why its founders decided on a corporate culture before they even had a product

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 5:58pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Howie Liu and his cofounders at Airtable intentionally took a different path in starting the company than many other entrepreneurs, he said.
  • They started by trying to establish the values and principles of the company they wanted to build, rather than first creating a product or developing a business plan.
  • They thought that focusing on values would help create a sustainable business and give them long-term guidance, he said.
  • The company is now one of the hottest startups around, and raised $160 million in venture capital last year, most recently at a valuation of $1.1 billion. 
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Many startups are born out of an idea for a new product or an insight into a potential business opportunity.

But not Airtable.

Before its founders figured out the service it would offer or how it would make money, they talked through the principles that would guide the company they were creating, CEO Howie Liu told Business Insider in a recent interview. He and his cofounders believed that a company's culture and values were more important to its longterm success than its initial product or business model. Indeed, they felt like those values could help guide the development of its business model and products.

"We were very ... intentional on day one in terms of talking through what is going to be the guiding principle set for our company many years down the road," Liu said.

Airtable offers something that, at first glance, looks a lot like a simple spreadsheet. So you might think that Liu and his cofounders were focusing on upending the the market for Excel or Google Sheets.

But in reality, they had much broader ambitions, Liu said. And those aims were ones they talked about right from the beginning, even before they launched their service. They wanted to focus on disrupting the traditional method of writing software and make it more accessible to everyday people, he said.

"In the same way that Apple democratized personal computing, we wanted to democratize the act of software creation," Liu said in a follow-up email.

The bet on values seems to be paying off

The bet Liu and and cofounders made to focus on values seems to be paying off. Airtable is one of the hottest enterprise software startups around. It raised $160 million in venture funding last year — most recently at a $1.1 billion valuation, and has some 80,000 customers, including half of the Fortune 1,000. It's generating enough revenue and cash flow now that Liu says it can continue to run its business without any more outside financing.

Read this: The CEO of hot startup Airtable says that the company's financials are strong enough to go public, even though he doesn't want to

The decision of Liu and his partners to initially focus on values came out of years of conversations with his cofounders and from their collective experiences in the tech industry. The three met in college at Duke, where they bonded while brainstorming startup ideas.

After college, Liu founded a startup that was eventually acquired by Salesforce. Andrew Ofstad, his cofounder and Airtable's chief product officer, worked for giant consulting firm Accenture, helping clients develop products before joining Google product team. Liu's other cofounder, Emmett Nicholas, Airtable's chief technology officer, worked as an engineer at Stack Overflow, the mega-popular Q&A site for developers. 

Through their various experiences in the tech industry, three continued to talk about startup ideas, both about products and the kinds of companies they wanted to build. While they officially launched Airtable's product in 2015, the discussions that led to the company started more than two years before that, Liu said.

"In Airtable's case, [the launch of the product] was very organic," he said. The idea for the company, he continued, "developed slowly over the course of years."

Airtable is increasingly resembling its founders' vision

As Airtable's service has evolved, its founders' vision has become more apparent. Its service has evolved into a kind of advanced database program that allows users to input not just text and numbers, but digital objects ranging from photos to documents.

And customers can now use its service to create bespoke applications. Hollywood studios are using it to help manage the post-production process with their films, major festivals are using it to track lost-and-found items, and people are using it to help plan their weddings.

Focusing on values and principles before products and business models may seem a bit odd, almost like putting the cart before the horse, Liu acknowledged. But he and his team wanted to avoid the mistakes other entrepreneurs had made, he said. 

Founders who start with a product often end up with something that becomes an accidental business, something that's more of a feature than the foundation of a real company. By starting out with guiding principles, Liu and his founders felt they could focus instead on building a sustainable and influential business.

"In some sense, it's a little bit contrived to talk about [values and principles] before you actually have anything — like, you haven't even gotten to basic product-market fit, you have zero employees, you have, like, nothing," Liu said in the interview. "But at the same time ... it's almost especially important to talk about it then, because otherwise once you get moving and into the thick of things, if you don't have that clear set of values ... it becomes really hard to retrofit that."

In Airtable's case, the company's initial values have helped steer Liu and his team ever since, helping them to focus on their longterm vision.

"We knew from day one that we had to value excellence over expedience, craft over convenience," he said. "We weren't just replicating existing products," he continued, "but creating something new and truly original. That required us to value open-ended, imaginative thinking."

Got a tip about a startup or other tech company? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: Here's the pitch deck corporate travel service Lola.com used to raise $37 million in new funds

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The 100,000-point bonus for Marriott's new luxury card is a no-brainer if you book at least a couple stays a year — but you only have until April 24 to get it

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 5:23pm  |  Clusterstock

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • This is the last chance to earn a 100,000-point welcome bonus on the new Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
  • The offer ends on Wednesday, April 24: If you apply before then, you'll earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
  • The card has a high annual fee, but the value of its benefits and rewards negate the fee — and then some.
  • Marriott's small business credit card — the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card — is offering the same bonus, but it also ends on April 24.

In January, Marriott wrapped up a major rebranding of its loyalty program, combining it with the Starwood Preferred Guest program to create a single entity: Marriott Bonvoy.

Despite some bumps, there's excellent value to be had from the program, and from its rewards credit cards.

As part of the rebrand, Marriott revamped its co-brand rewards credit cards, and launched introductory welcome bonuses on the new products — but only for a limited time.

There are two personal cards, but one of them — the Bonvoy Brilliant AmEx, which is the premium card — will lower its bonus after Wednesday, April 24.

Until April 24, new cardholders who open the  Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, formerly called the SPG Luxury Card, can earn 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when they spend $5,000 on the card in the first three months.

Read more: 8 of the best credit card offers this month — including 2 huge hotel bonuses that end soon

While the card has a high $450 annual fee, it's easy to get much more value from it than you pay for that fee, especially if you stay at Marriott hotels semi-frequently.

Right off the bat, the card offers up to $300 each year in statement credits for purchases at participating Marriott hotels, which can apply to room charges. That effectively brings the fee down to just $150.

It also offers a free night award each year on your card-member anniversary, which can be redeemed at any hotel that costs 50,000 points per night or less. Depending on how you redeem the free night, when you consider it with the annual statement credits, that should completely negate the fee — and potentially turn a profit.

Plus, last month, Marriott and AmEx added an additional benefit to the card: an up-to-$100, on-property credit during any eligible stay at a Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis hotel or resort. Any time you stay for two or more nights at an eligible property, you'll get up to a $100 credit on your bill for things like food, drinks, or spa services. Just make sure to select the "Luxury Credit Card Rate" when you search for hotels. It's generally the same as the regular Marriott Bonvoy member-discount rates, but opts you in to receive the credit.

The card also offers complimentary Gold elite status, and comes with a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership.

The card earns 6x points at participating Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything else.

The non-premium Marriott credit card — the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is issued by Chase — is also offering a limited-time 100,000 point bonus after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, but that one doesn't end until May 2.

Additionally, Marriott's small business credit card — the Marriott Bonvoy Business AmEx — is offering 100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, but like the Bonvoy Brilliant, it ends on April 24.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card from Insider Picks' partner, The Points Guy.

SEE ALSO: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and benefits of 2019

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I've had all three of Chase's main Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards — here's how I rank them from best to worst

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:52pm  |  Clusterstock

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

Whether you're new to travel rewards or an avid points-collector, Chase's Ultimate Rewards program offers valuable points that are quick to earn and a breeze to redeem and transfer. Getting the right Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card (or two) will help you travel more for less this year.

What are Chase Ultimate Rewards?

Ultimate Rewards is Chase's ultra-flexible, high-value travel rewards program. If you have a Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you can use them to make travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

This portal allows you to redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, rental cars, tours, cruises, and more. You can even book once-in-a-lifetime experiences using your Ultimate Rewards points. Each point has a flat-rate value of 1¢ each, but holding any of the three cards below will bump each point's value up to 1.25¢ to 1.5¢ for travel purchases.

However, arguably the best feature of Chase's Ultimate Rewards program is that your points can be transferred to a list of partner airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. This can squeeze upwards of 4¢ out of each point if you're lucky enough to spot a high-value redemption opportunity.

Airline transfer partners include Aer Lingus, British Airways, Air France KLM, Iberia Plus, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United, and Virgin Atlantic. You can also transfer your points to hotel partners, which include IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Hyatt.

Altogether, this makes Chase's Ultimate Rewards one of the most beloved programs in the credit card rewards game. I've been able to use my points to book travel experiences I never could have afforded otherwise, including stays in the Park Hyatt New York, a five-star hotel near Central Park that goes for $1,000/night, and the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, a resort on Costa Rica's Pacific coast that goes for $600/night.

I've accumulated over 250,000 Ultimate Rewards points by opening all of Chase's main Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards, which is worth at least $3,750 in travel expenses. Here's how I would rank all three cards.

Read more: 10 lucrative credit card deals new cardholders can get in January 2019 — including the best Southwest offer we've ever seen

Least favorite: Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining
  • 25% bonus on travel redemptions made through the Ultimate Rewards portal
  • $95 annual fee

Don't get me wrong, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent rewards credit card. If the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the worst of Chase's main Ultimate Rewards credit cards, that only speaks to the quality of Chase's Ultimate Rewards program.

You'll get a generous sign-up bonus that's worth at least $750 in travel if you can hit the minimum spend requirements. This is probably the best feature of the card, although getting 2 points for every $1 you spend on eating out or traveling and a 25% bonus on travel redemptions are also lucrative perks for frequent travelers.

But ultimately, the sign-up bonus is this card's most exciting feature. I held onto this credit card for a year before realizing I could get a lot more value by upgrading to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Read more: 5 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a powerhouse within the increasingly competitive credit card space

Runner-up: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining
  • 50% bonus on travel redemptions made through the Ultimate Rewards portal
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, up to $100 every four years
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • $450 annual fee

The list of premium perks and lucrative credits on the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes this one of the most valuable credit cards on the market, so don't let the annual fee scare you away.

The easy-to-use $300 annual travel credit alone knocks the annual fee down to $150, which is very easy to make up for with the rest of the card's benefits. The 50,000-point sign-up bonus ends up being worth the same as the 60,000-point one offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred since the 50% redemption bonus makes it worth $750 toward travel. Add the extra points you'll earn on travel and dining and the free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, and the card has paid for itself.

My favorite Chase Sapphire Reserve feature, though, is easily the free Priority Pass Select membership, which will get you free access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. This pass will make you actually want to book flights with long layovers just so you can take advantages of fancy lounges with free booze and hors d'oeuvres. Priority Pass has even added a number of airport restaurants to its program where you'll get a $28 dining credit each visit, which has saved me hundreds on airport dining.

Favorite: Chase Ink Business Preferred

  • 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and select advertising purchases
  • Unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 25% bonus on travel redemptions made through the Ultimate Rewards portal
  • $95 annual fee

Given that the Sapphire cards tend to get the most attention, this might be Chase's most underrated credit card.

There are a lot of reasons to love the Chase Ink Business Preferred, not least of which is the fact that it offers the most valuable sign-up bonus of any Chase credit card. In fact, I signed up during a limited-time promotion and earned 120,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the sign-up bonus alone — worth at least $1,500 in travel.

You'll also earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel, just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, instead of earning 3 points per $1 on dining as well, you'll earn a bonus on purchases like shipping, utilities, and advertising. This can be a huge bonus for the self-employed and small business owners who have a lot of business-related expenses.

You won't get the luxury perks and travel credits associated with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and you'll only get a 25% bonus on travel booked through Chase's portal rather than 50%. In exchange, though, you'll only have to pay a low annual fee of $95.

This is a business credit card, which means you have to have a valid business in order to apply. That doesn't mean you need to be operating a brick-and-mortar with 12 employees or even have a registered business, though. A valid business can be anything from the freelance work you do to side gigs like coaching and tutoring to selling items on Etsy and eBay.

One major perk of applying for a business rewards credit card is that the application and credit card activity won't show up on your credit report. Instead, it will appear on a separate business credit report, which in turn will help you build your business credit score.

Pairing up Chase credit cards for maximum rewards

It's wise to try out one of Chase's Ultimate Rewards credit cards to make sure you enjoy the program before going all in. If, like me, you get a lot of value out of Ultimate Rewards points, the best way to earn a lot of points quickly is by pairing up multiple Chase credit cards.

I pair the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which I use for travel and dining purchases, with my Chase Ink Preferred, which I use for business purchases. This allows me to double-dip two of Chase's most lucrative sign-up bonuses and earn 3 points per $1 on a wide range of purchases, all while being able to redeem my Ultimate Rewards points at the 50% bonus rate.

The most popular way to pair up Chase cards, though, is to pair one of the three cards mentioned above with one of their cash-back credit cards — the Chase Freedom or the Chase Freedom Unlimited — which earn bonuses on other spending categories. As long as you hold an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, you can convert your cash back to Ultimate Rewards points for increased value.

Finally, if you're saving up points or miles for a hotel chain or airline that happens to be on Chase's list of transfer partners, you can get a hotel or airline credit card as well to boost your points balance. Chase offers co-branded credit cards with Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, United, British Airways, Southwest, and more.

Read more: Southwest just announced an unheard-of deal for its credit cards — you'll get the coveted Companion Pass simply by opening one

The bottom line

Don't let annual fees or "business" designations scare you away from a rewards credit card. While the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the easiest choice, I've earned far more value from my Chase Ink Business Preferred and my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Luckily, whether you're looking to travel in style or want a basic rewards credit card, Chase offers a wealth of ways to both earn and redeem Ultimate Rewards points.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy Click here to learn more about the Chase Ink Business Preferred from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy

SEE ALSO: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and perks of 2019

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Lexus just introduced a luxury minivan, but it's probably off limits to Americans

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:27pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Lexus introduced the brand's first minivan on Tuesday at the 2019 Shanghai Motor Show.
  • The Lexus LM will soon be available for sale in China and is designed to only be a posh family van, but it can also be optioned as a luxurious executive limo.
  • It's unlikely that Toyota, Lexus's parent company, will ever offer the LM for sale in the US.
  • The Lexus LM will be offered with either a traditional V6 engine or a four-cylinder hybrid. 
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

On Tuesday, Lexus unveiled its first minivan at the 2019 Shanghai Motor Show. Dubbed the Lexus LM, the luxury minivan will soon be available for sale in China and a few other select markets in Asia. 

Toyota, Lexus's parent company, is unlikely to ever bring the LM stateside as its US minivan strategy is focused on the Kentucky-built Sienna. 

Read more: Volkswagen is a showing off a new pickup-truck concept that could give America the cheap truck it has been waiting for.

The LM will be available in both four and seven-seat configurations. The seven-seat LM will feature second-row captain's chairs with a third-row bench, perfect for use as a plush family hauler. The four-seat LM is more suited for executive limousine duties. 

In four-seat limo guise, the LM will come available with reclining captain's chairs, a 26-inch entertainment screen, a 19-speaker sound system, noise reducing glass, and an in-car refrigerator. 

The LM is based on Toyota's Japanese market Alphard passenger van. However, the prominent spindle grille and chrome-accented body make this van unmistakably Lexus.

Power for the LM 350 will come a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 while the LM300h will be powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine paired with a hybrid drive system. 

The LM will be offered with both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. 

The 2019 Shanghai Auto Show will be open to the public from April 8 to April 25. 

SEE ALSO: Check out the hottest cars and concepts coming to the 2019 Shanghai motor show

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Qualcomm soars after agreeing with Apple to drop all litigation (QCOM, AAPL)

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:12pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Qualcomm shares surged late Tuesday after the company and Apple reached an agreement to dismiss all litigation related to their royalty dispute.
  • The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, though a press release did not specify its terms.
  • Watch Qualcomm and Apple trade live.

Shares of the chipmaker Qualcomm surged 23% on Tuesday, its largest one-day gain since December 29, 1999, after the company and Apple agreed to drop all litigation related to their royalty dispute. 

The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, though a press release did not specify its terms. The agreement ends all ongoing litigation, including with Apple's contract manufacturers.

Read more: Apple settled a smartphone modem chips patent case with Qualcomm amid opening arguments and Qualcomm's stock is surging

The two tech giants reached a six-year license agreement effective on April 1, 2019, including a two-year option to extend.

The settlement also includes a chipset-supply agreement, which according to CNBC suggests Apple will buy Qualcomm chips again for future iPhones.

The litigation between the companies dates back more than two years, when Apple sued Qualcomm in January 2017.

Apple shares were little changed following the announcement. 

 

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THE IDENTITY VERIFICATION IN BANKING REPORT: How banks should use new authentication methods to boost conversions and keep their customers loyal

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 4:03pm  |  Clusterstock

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

The way incumbent banks onboard and verify the identities of their customers online is inconvenient and insecure, resulting in lowered customer satisfaction and loyalty, and security breaches leading to compensation payouts and legal costs.

It’s a lose-lose situation, as consumers become disgruntled and banks lose business. The problem stems from the very strict verification standards and high noncompliance fines that banks are subject to, which have led them to prioritize stringency over user experience in verification. At the same time, this approach doesn't gain banks much, since the verification methods they use to remain compliant can actually end up compromising customers' personal data.

But banks can't afford to prioritize stringent verification at the cost of user experience anymore. Onboarding and verification standards are increasingly being set by more tech-savvy players within and outside their industry, like fintechs and e-retailers. If banks want to keep customers loyal, they have to start innovating in this area. The trick is to streamline verification for clients without compromising accuracy. If banks manage to do this, the result will be happier and more loyal customers; higher client retention and revenue; and less spending on redundant checks, compensation for breaches, and regulatory fines.

The long-term opportunity such innovation presents is even bigger. Banks are already experts in vouching for people’s identities, and because they’re held to such tight verification standards, their testimonies are universally trusted. So, if banks figure out how to successfully digitize customer identification, this could help them not only boost revenue and cut costs, but secure a place for themselves in an emerging platform economy, where online identities will be key to carrying out transactions. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The strict verification standards that banks are held to have led them to create onboarding and login processes that are painful for clients. Plus, the verification methods they use to remain compliant can actually end up putting customers' personal data at risk. This leaves banks with dented customer satisfaction, as well as security breaches and legal costs.
  • Several factors are now pushing banks to attempt to remedy the situation, including a tougher regulatory environment and increasing competition from agile startups and tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, where speedy onboarding and intuitive service is a given.
  • The trick is to streamline verification for clients without compromising accuracy, something several emerging technologies promise to deliver, including biometrics, optical character recognition (OCR) technology, cryptography, secure video links, and blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT). 
  • The long-term opportunity such innovation presents is even bigger. Banks are already experts in vouching for people’s identities, so if they were to figure out how to successfully digitize customer identification, this could help them secure a valued place, and relevance, in a modernizing economy.

In full, the report:

  • Looks at why identity verification is so integral to banking, and why it's becoming a problem for banks.
  • Outlines the biggest drivers pushing banks to revamp their verification methods.
  • Gives an overview of the technologies, both new and established but repurposed, that are enabling banks to bring their verification methods into the digital age.
  • Discusses what next steps have to happen to bring about meaningful change in the identity verification space, and how banks can capitalize on their existing strengths to make such shifts happen.
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