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Tue, 08/11/2020 - 2:52pm  |  Clusterstock

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The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos founder whose federal fraud trial is delayed until 2021

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 2:14pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to start blood-testing startup Theranos, and grew the company to a valuation of $9 billion.
  • But it all came crashing down when the shortcomings and inaccuracies of the company's technology were exposed, and Theranos and Holmes were charged with "massive fraud." 
  • If convicted, Holmes could face up to 20 years in prison. A California judge initially set an August 2020 start date for the federal trial, but the case has been delayed until March 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In 2014, blood-testing startup Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, were on top of the world.

Back then, Theranos was a revolutionary idea thought up by a woman hailed as a genius who styled herself as a female Steve Jobs. Holmes was the world's youngest female self-made billionaire, and Theranos was one of Silicon Valley's unicorn startups, valued at an estimated $9 billion. 

But then it all came crashing down.

The shortcomings and inaccuracies of Theranos's technology were exposed, along with the role Holmes played in covering it all up. Holmes was ousted as CEO and charged with "massive fraud," and the company was forced to close its labs and testing centers, ultimately shuttering operations altogether.

If convicted, Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison. As she awaits trial, Holmes has reportedly found the time to get engaged — and married — to a hotel heir named Billy Evans.

Holmes' trial was initially scheduled to start in August, but the trial has been delayed until March 2021 at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it's likely the trial will continued to be delayed.

This is how Holmes went from precocious child, to ambitious Stanford dropout, to an embattled startup founder charged with fraud: 

SEE ALSO: 'Predatory' companies like Monat and Mary Kay are using memes and coronavirus anxiety to target millions of newly unemployed Americans

Elizabeth Holmes was born on February 3, 1984 in Washington, D.C. Her mom, Noel, was a Congressional committee staffer, and her dad, Christian Holmes, worked for Enron before moving to government agencies like USAID.

Source: Elizabeth Holmes/TwitterCNN, Vanity Fair

Holmes' family moved when she was young, from Washington, D.C. to Houston.

Source: Fortune

When she was 7, Holmes tried to invent her own time machine, filling up an entire notebook with detailed engineering drawings. At the age of 9, Holmes told relatives she wanted to be a billionaire when she grew up. Her relatives described her as saying it with the "utmost seriousness and determination."

Source: CBS News, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Holmes had an "intense competitive streak" from a young age. She often played Monopoly with her younger brother and cousin, and she would insist on playing until the end, collecting the houses and hotels until she won. If Holmes was losing, she would often storm off. More than once, she ran directly through a screen on the door.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

It was during high school that Holmes developed her work ethic, often staying up late to study. She quickly became a straight-A student, and even started her own business: she sold C++ compilers, a type of software that translates computer code, to Chinese schools.

Source: Fortune, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Holmes started taking Mandarin lessons, and part-way through high school, talked her way into being accepted by Stanford University’s summer program, which culminated in a trip to Beijing.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Inspired by her great-great-grandfather Christian Holmes, a surgeon, Holmes decided she wanted to go into medicine. But she discovered early on that she was terrified of needles. Later, she said this influenced her to start Theranos.

Source: San Francisco Business Times

Holmes went to Stanford to study chemical engineering. When she was a freshman, she became a "president's scholar," an honor which came with a $3,000 stipend to go toward a research project.

Source: Fortune

Holmes spent the summer after her freshman year interning at the Genome Institute in Singapore. She got the job partly because she spoke Mandarin.

Source: Fortune

As a sophomore, Holmes went to one of her professors, Channing Robertson, and said: "Let's start a company." With his blessing, she founded Real-Time Cures, later changing the company's name to Theranos. Thanks to a typo, early employees’ paychecks actually said "Real-Time Curses."

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Holmes soon filed a patent application for a "medical device for analyte monitoring and drug delivery," a wearable device that would administer medication, monitor patients' blood, and adjust the dosage as needed.

Source: Fortune, US Patent Office

By the next semester, Holmes had dropped out of Stanford altogether, and was working on Theranos in the basement of a college house.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Theranos's business model was based around the idea that it could run blood tests, using proprietary technology that required only a finger pinprick and a small amount of blood. Holmes said the tests would be able to detect medical conditions like cancer and high cholesterol.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Holmes started raising money for Theranos from prominent investors like Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, the father of a childhood friend and the founder of prominent VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Theranos raised more than $700 million, and Draper has continued to defend Holmes.

Source: SEC, Crunchbase

Holmes took investors' money on the condition that she wouldn't have to reveal how Theranos' technology worked. Plus, she would have final say over everything having to do with the company.

Source: Vanity Fair

That obsession with secrecy extended to every aspect of Theranos. For the first decade Holmes spent building her company, Theranos operated in stealth mode. She even took three former Theranos employees to court, claiming they had misused Theranos trade secrets.

Source: San Francisco Business Times

Holmes' attitude toward secrecy and running a company was borrowed from a Silicon Valley hero of hers: former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Holmes started dressing in black turtlenecks like Jobs, decorated her office with his favorite furniture, and like Jobs, never took vacations.

Source: Vanity Fair

Even Holmes's uncharacteristically deep voice may have been part of a carefully crafted image intended to help her fit in in the male-dominated business world. In ABC's podcast on Holmes called "The Dropout," former Theranos employees said the CEO sometimes "fell out of character," particularly after drinking, and would speak in a higher voice.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, The Cut

Holmes was a demanding boss, and wanted her employees to work as hard as she did. She had her assistants track when employees arrived and left each day. To encourage people to work longer hours, she started having dinner catered to the office around 8 p.m. each night.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

More behind-the-scenes footage of what life was like at Theranos was revealed in leaked videos obtained by the team behind the HBO documentary "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley." The more than 100 hours of footage showed Holmes walking around the office, scenes from company parties, speeches from Holmes and Balwani, and Holmes dancing to "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer.

Source: Business Insider

Shortly after Holmes dropped out of Stanford at age 19, she began dating Theranos president and COO Sunny Balwani, who was 20 years her senior. The two met during Holmes' third year in Stanford’s summer Mandarin program, the summer before she went to college. She was bullied by some of the other students, and Balwani had come to her aid.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Balwani became Holmes' No. 2 at Theranos despite having little experience. He was said to be a bully, and often tracked his employees' whereabouts. Holmes and Balwani eventually broke up in spring 2016 when Holmes pushed him out of the company.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

In 2008, the Theranos board decided to remove Holmes as CEO in favor of someone more experienced. But over the course of a two-hour meeting, Holmes convinced them to let her stay in charge of her company.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

As Theranos started to rake in millions of funding, Holmes became the subject of media attention and acclaim in the tech world. She graced the covers of Fortune and Forbes, gave a TED Talk, and spoke on panels with Bill Clinton and Alibaba's Jack Ma.

Source: Vanity Fair

Theranos quickly began securing outside partnerships. Capital Blue Cross and Cleveland Clinic signed on to offer Theranos tests to their patients, and Walgreens made a deal to open Theranos testing centers in their stores. Theranos also formed a secret partnership with Safeway worth $350 million.

Source: Wired, Business Insider

In 2011, Holmes hired her younger brother, Christian, to work at Theranos, although he didn’t have a medical or science background. Christian Holmes spent his early days at Theranos reading about sports online and recruiting his Duke University fraternity brothers to join the company. People dubbed Holmes and his crew the "Frat Pack" and "Therabros."

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

At one point, Holmes was the world's youngest self-made female billionaire with a net worth of around $4.5 billion.

Source: Forbes

Holmes was obsessed with security at Theranos. She asked anyone who visited the company’s headquarters to sign non-disclosure agreements before being allowed in the building, and had security guards escort visitors everywhere — even to the bathroom.


Holmes hired bodyguards to drive her around in a black Audi sedan. Her nickname was "Eagle One." The windows in her office had bulletproof glass.

Source: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Around the same time, questions were being raised about Theranos' technology. Ian Gibbons — chief scientist at Theranos and one of the company's first hires — warned Holmes that the tests weren't ready for the public to take, and that there were inaccuracies in the technology. Outside scientists began voicing their concerns about Theranos, too.

Source: Vanity Fair, Business Insider

By August 2015, the FDA began investigating Theranos, and regulators from the government body that oversees laboratories found "major inaccuracies" in the testing Theranos was doing on patients.

Source: Vanity Fair

By October 2015, Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou published his investigation into Theranos's struggles with its technology. Carreyrou's reporting sparked the beginning of the company's downward spiral.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Carreyrou found that Theranos' blood-testing machine, named Edison, couldn't give accurate results, so Theranos was running its samples through the same machines used by traditional blood-testing companies.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Holmes appeared on CNBC's "Mad Money" shortly after the WSJ published its story to defend herself and Theranos. "This is what happens when you work to change things, and first they think you're crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world," Holmes said.

Source: CNBC

By 2016, the FDA, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and SEC were all looking into Theranos.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Wired

In July 2016, Holmes was banned from the lab-testing industry for two years. By October, Theranos had shut down its lab operations and wellness centers.

Source: Business Insider

In March 2018, Theranos, Holmes, and Balwani were charged with "massive fraud" by the SEC. Holmes agreed to give up financial and voting control of the company, pay a $500,000 fine, and return 18.9 million shares of Theranos stock. She also isn't allowed to be the director or officer of a publicly traded company for 10 years.

Source: Business Insider

Despite the charges, Holmes was allowed to stay on as CEO of Theranos, since it's a private company. The company had been hanging on by a thread, and Holmes wrote to investors asking for more money to save Theranos. "In light of where we are, this is no easy ask," Holmes wrote.

Source: Business Insider

In Theranos' final days, Holmes reportedly got a Siberian husky puppy named Balto that she brought into the office. However, the dog wasn't potty trained, and would go to the bathroom inside the company's office and during meetings.

Source: Vanity Fair

In June 2018, Theranos announced that Holmes was stepping down as CEO. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury had charged Holmes, along with Balwani, with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Source: Business InsiderCNBC

Theranos sent an email to shareholders in September 2018 announcing that the company was shutting down. Theranos reportedly said it planned to spend the next few months repaying creditors with its remaining resources.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Around the time Theranos' time was coming to an end, Holmes made her first public appearance alongside William "Billy" Evans, a 27-year-old heir to a hospitality property management company in California. The two reportedly first met in 2017, and were seen together in 2018 at Burning Man, the art festival in the Nevada desert.

Source: Daily Mail

Holmes is said to wear Evans' MIT "signet ring" on a chain around her neck, and the couple reportedly posts photos "professing their love for each other" on a private Instagram account. Evans' parents are reportedly "flabbergasted" at their son's decision to marry Holmes.

Tweet Embed:
For everyone asking about Holmes's social media. It's private. But here are a few screenshots of her and her fiancé we found online. (I personally find it crazy that she's being charged with 11 felony counts, thousands of people's lives were harmed, and she's as happy as can be.)

Source: Vanity Fair, New York Post

It's unclear where Holmes and Evans currently reside, but they were previously living in a $5,000-a-month apartment in San Francisco until April 2019. The apartment was located just a few blocks from one of the city's top tourist attractions, the famously crooked block of Lombard Street.

Source: Business Insider

It was later reported that Holmes and Evans got engaged in early 2019, then married in June in a secretive wedding ceremony. Former Theranos employees were reportedly not invited to the wedding, according to Vanity Fair.

Source: Vanity Fair, New York Post

Holmes and Balwani are now awaiting federal trial, although their cases have since been separated. If convicted, Holmes and Balwani could each face up to 20 years in prison and a more than $2.7 million fine, the US government has said.

Source: Department of Justice, Business Insider

Besides the criminal case, Holmes is also involved in a number of civil lawsuits, including one in Arizona brought on by former Theranos patients over inaccurate blood tests. The lawyers representing her in the Arizona case said in late 2019 they hadn't been paid over a year, and asked to be removed from Holmes' legal team.

Source: Business Insider

Holmes' lawyers in the federal case have been trying to get the government's entire case thrown out. Holmes recently caught a break after some — but not all — of the charges were dropped, because a judge ruled that some patients didn't suffer financial loss.

Source: Business Insider

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Holmes' lawyers asked in April the federal judge to deem the case "essential" so the defense team could defy lockdown orders and continue to travel and meet face-to-face. The judge said he was "taken aback by the defense's pleas to violate lockdown.

Source: Business Insider


It soon become clear that the pandemic — and the health risks associated with assembling a trial — would make the July trial date unrealistic. Through hearings held on Zoom, the presiding judge initially pushed the trial back to October, and has since pushed it until March 2021 at the earliest.

Source: Business Insider

Maya Kosoff contributed to an earlier version of this story. 

We've been tracking big hires and exits across Wall Street. Here's a look at 2020's must-know people moves and recruiting trends.

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 2:07pm  |  Clusterstock

There's been a mad dash for talent as Wall Street firms quickly overhauled their 2020 playbooks.

Equity and debt trading have surged as a result of the financial turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Hedge fund managers are responding to investors' expectations to outperform amid the chaos by aggressively hiring experts to fine-tune their strategies. 

While many banks pledged not to cut jobs during the pandemic, it is expected those guarantees will wear off soon. While upper-middle-management roles might be at risk, firms are likely to want to hold on to senior executives and bankers in hopes of an eventual rebound in business. 

The upheaval of normal life due to the pandemic has also put a huge focus on digitalization, accelerating plans for firms across industries to upgrade or build out new tech. 

Here's a roundup of some of the biggest appointments, exits, and hiring initiatives across the world of finance:


Trader moves have been happening left and right. 


Banks have been busy hiring for different initiatives, from chief marketing officers to teams to build out tech projects. Dealmakers have also reshuffled to lean into hot coverage areas. 

Private equity  Hedge funds

There's been a shuffle of quant leadership in at big-name shops in recent months, as firms rethink their data plays while the markets are upside down. They're also hiring in hot areas like bond trading. 


Wells Fargo has been shaking up its wealth management leadership team, including finding a new head who previously oversaw JP Morgan's adviser unit. 

Cloud providers

Google and IMB  have been bringing on Wall Street talent in order to attract more clients from the finance sector to their cloud services.

SEE ALSO: Here's who's most at risk once Wall Street kicks off the tidal wave of layoffs many banks had put on pause

Join the conversation about this story »

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POWER PLAYERS: Meet 11 American Express execs leading the card giant's digital payments and small-business lending push

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 1:07pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The adoption of digital payments has taken off amid the coronavirus pandemic, as consumers look to avoid cash.
  • American Express, both a card network and credit issuer, is riding the digital wave with products like contactless cards, partnerships with players like Venmo, and QR codes to pay.
  • And now, the card giant is eyeing an acquisition of small business lender Kabbage, according to Bloomberg.
  • From fraud monitoring to credit decisioning to exploring new ways to pay, here are the 11 power players leading Amex's digital push.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

While the adoption of digital payments has been increasing for some time, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated consumers' move toward non-cash options when it comes time to pay. 

And this move away from cash is good news for card companies like American Express. 

In an effort to capture that non-cash spend, Amex is pushing more digital payments options, like contactless cards, mobile wallets, and QR codes to pay.

It's also moving beyond cards with partnerships to help facilitate more transactions. In 2019, Amex expanded its partnership with Paypal to offer its customers the ability to send Venmo requests when they want to split bills on the Amex app.

And whereas Mastercard and Visa offer payment rails, but partner with banks like Chase and Wells Fargo to issue consumer credit, Amex manages it all themselves.

Amex lends to both consumers and businesses. And now, it's eyeing an acquisition of small business lender Kabbage, according to Bloomberg. The deal would amplify Amex's ability to reach smaller, local retailers.

Read more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 PayPal execs shaping the payment giant's future as its stock rockets to record highs and e-commerce surges

Luke Gebb, head of Amex Digital Labs, told Business Insider it's an important distinction that separates the card giant from its rivals, especially when looking to collaborate with tech companies moving into the payments space.

"Having the end-to-end data set is really big and really important for a lot of the things that we do," he said. "It also gives us a different angle when we're working with a player like Apple or Amazon," Gebb said. 

"We hear that we're able to move faster, because Visa needs to show up with Chase, and we can show up with two parts of American Express," he added.

See more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 12 key execs driving Shopify, the breakout e-commerce star that's inking partnerships with Walmart and Facebook and seen its stock price triple since March

Having data on both the transaction side and the consumer behavior side is helpful, especially when thinking about targeted consumer offers like rewards, said Gebb.

From fraud prevention to credit decisions and building new ways to pay, here are the 11 execs driving every aspect of Amex's digital payments strategy.

SEE ALSO: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 PayPal execs shaping the payment giant's future as its stock rockets to record highs and e-commerce surges

SEE ALSO: Payments giants like PayPal and Amex are making hundreds of startup bets to transform how we shop and pay — and it's part of a $1 billion-plus wave of VC investment

SEE ALSO: One-click checkout startup Fast used this pitch deck to nab $20 million from investors like fintech giant Stripe. Here's a look at its vision for taking on Apple Pay.

Raff Breaks, senior vice president of enterprise digital member experiences

Breaks is responsible for card members' digital experiences at Amex, from managing the firm's mobile app, to raising awareness of merchants through digital offers and rewards for customers. Breaks oversees Amex's website and all customer communication channels like email and text.

"We're continuing to see significant growth in mobile-app adoption and a lot of that is coming from Millennials and Gen Z," Breaks said.

In its app, Amex has focused on personalization and push notifications to engage with users.

"We know from extensive customer research that our younger customers expect this proactive outreach," she added.

Breaks joined Amex in 2000, and has held several leadership roles across the firm in digital product development, design, and research.

Gina Taylor Cotter, senior vice president and general manager of global business financing

Taylor Cotter oversees the business lending side of Amex, which includes working capital and other financing solutions for small, medium, and large businesses. Taylor Cotter launched Amex's small-business lending product and its supply-chain financing product, Early Pay.

As a digital lender, Amex's business clients are able to apply for credit at any time, not needing to visit bank branches or fill out piles of paperwork.

"Our team focuses on serving small, mid, large and global customer's working capital and financing needs with a variety of short-term lending solutions that are digital and 'always-on,'" said Taylor Cotter.

Business financing continues to be one of Amex's fastest growing product lines, Taylor Cotter said.

Taylor Cotter joined Amex in 1997, holding several leadership roles, many of which centered around Amex's business clients.

Danielle Crop, senior vice president and chief data officer

As chief data officer, Crop oversees the use, management, and storage of Amex's data for all its consumer and business customers. Crop manages an internal platform called Customer 360°, which provides a global view into all of Amex's customer relationships and product usage.

"The range of opportunities for businesses to use data will continue to rapidly multiply, and I see two important trends as a result," said Crop.

The first is an increased importance of managing data with a focus on consumer trust, as well as evolving government regulations, she said. 

The second, Crop said, is "a race to unlock the potential of these data-powered growth opportunities through such things as open banking services for consumers and businesses."

Crop joined Amex in 2001, and became chief data officer in February.

Tina Eide, senior vice president of global fraud and credit bust out (CBO) risk management

Eide is responsible for Amex's fraud prevention strategy across its entire business. She's led machine-learning efforts that can detect fraud at the point of sale, and predict fraud before it happens. For over a decade, Amex has had the lowest fraud rates in the credit-card industry, according to a recent Nilson report.

And as more spending moves online, managing fraud becomes more complex. Fraudsters look to steal personal information at scale online, and their tactics have become more sophisticated with social engineering (like phishing) and bot technology.

"While the sophistication and scale to which organized criminals operate has steadily evolved over the years, we've been able to outpace them," Eide said.

There is a team of over 1,200 employees at Amex who manage and monitor these risks globally.

Eide joined Amex in 1998, working in international risk management.


Luke Gebb, senior vice president of Amex Digital Labs

As head of Amex Digital Labs, Gebb leads Amex's innovation efforts. From QR code payments to artificial intelligence and open banking, Amex Digital Labs' 150 employees work with different parts of Amex's business to deliver on innovation projects.

Gebb oversees initiatives around emerging payments, like contactless cards and QR codes, as well as different customer-experience projects, like enabling an Amazon Alexa integration where users can make payments and check their balances.

"We are meant to drive innovation on behalf of all business units," said Gebb.

Often that means partnering with other leadership to deliver on specific projects.

Gebb joined Amex in 1994, briefly leaving in 2000 to work with e-commerce startup Gebb rejoined Amex in 2002, starting Amex Digital Labs in 2017.

Priscilla Kam, senior vice president of global strategy & capabilities

Kam oversees the strategy and development of products and platforms at Amex. Focused on new forms of digital payments, Kam leads Amex's rollout of contactless payments and the industry-wide  Click to Pay product, launched in collaboration with Discover, Mastercard, and Visa.

The US has lagged other markets like the UK and Australia in adoption of contactless payments. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are increasingly looking for touch-free ways to pay, both online and in-store. 

"These new payment habits are likely to have sticking power – not only are more U.S. customers using contactless, but more are saying that it's becoming their preferred form of payment," said Kam. "Early signs are indicating that COVID-19 may be the accelerator for contactless adoption in the US."

Kam joined Amex in 2004, leading various marketing, operations, and business strategy efforts before moving into her current role in 2018.

Read more: Rivals Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover are partnering up for one-click checkouts to compete with the likes of Apple Pay and PayPal as e-commerce booms

Ben Leventhal, CEO of Resy, part of the American Express Global Dining Network

Leventhal is the CEO of Resy, which was acquired by Amex last year. In June, it launched Resy At Home, where restaurants can set up take-out offerings like multi-course meals and grocery boxes.

In late June, Amex announced a new small-business initiative where its customers can earn credits for shopping at small businesses, which extends to restaurants on Resy's platform. And Resy has launched products like mobile waitlists for restaurants.

"Innovation will be critical in rebuilding the restaurant industry," Leventhal said. "We are also exploring tools related to contactless menus, takeout, delivery and more."

Leventhal cofounded Resy in 2014, and is also the cofounder of food publication

Stacy Poritzky, vice president of partnership marketing and global consumer services group

Poritzky is responsible for Amex's co-branded programs, including Delta, Hilton, and Marriott. In addition to overseeing Amex's existing co-brand relationships, Poritzky is also responsible for acquiring prospective partners.

"When the pandemic hit, we saw a shift in how our card members were spending as they adapted to new ways of living and working from home," Poritzky said. 

With travel effectively halted, the typical rewards Amex offers on these co-branded cards, like frequent flier miles, became less relevant. So Amex introduced new rewards targeted toward things like restaurant take-out and grocery shopping.

Amex also has an API through which it can link partners' platforms with its own, ensuring consumers see consistent messaging, whether interacting with Amex's website or booking travel through an Amex partner like Delta.

Poritzky joined Amex in 2000, and currently leads various digital marketing efforts across its U.S. co-brand partners, like Delta, Hilton and Marriott.


Erich Ringewald, senior vice president and chief technology architect

As chief technology architect, Ringewald is responsible for Amex's internal tech and software strategy. Ringewald has been leading an initiative called "One Amex," an open-source approach uniting Amex's tech into a more standardized platform.

For many financial institutions, legacy and disjointed tech stacks can be a drag on efficiency and innovation.

"Prior to One Amex, our many digital experiences were created using unrelated tech stacks," said Ringewald. "Interoperability was almost non-existent; small changes in design were slow and expensive to implement; and customizing experiences for different markets was complex. With One Amex, that has changed."

Ringewald joined Amex in 2012, having previously spent time at tech giants Apple and Amazon.

Harshul Sanghi, senior vice president and global head of Amex Ventures

Sanghi leads Amex Ventures, the firm's venture investing arm. With over 60 portfolio companies, including, Instacart, and Stripe, Amex Ventures typically invests in early stage startups. And often, Amex will form business partnerships with its portfolio companies.

While some may see disruptive fintechs as a threat to institutions like Amex, Sanghi says that partnership is necessary as the future of payments evolve. Two-thirds of Amex Ventures' portfolio companies, like Stripe and, also have business relationships with Amex. 

"The success of Stripe, one of our Amex Ventures portfolio companies, has been due in part to its ability to process payments on networks such as American Express," Sanghi said. "In the same vein, Stripe has brought tremendous innovation to the merchant acquiring and payment processing sector, which is a mature industry."

Sanghi joined Amex Ventures in 2011, after leading corporate venture investing at Motorola.

Read more: Payments giants like PayPal and Amex are making hundreds of startup bets to transform how we shop and pay — and it's part of a $1 billion-plus wave of VC investment

Chao Yuan, senior vice president and head of decision science & data strategy

Yuan has global oversight of Amex's credit risk, fraud risk, and regulatory models. Yuan's team is responsible for building out the tech that Amex uses to make credit decisions and limit fraud on its network.

Traditional credit data, like FICO scores, are used by most lenders to make credit decisions. But alternative data, like looking at consumers' bank account activity, has come into the spotlight among lenders.

"Traditional credit data continues to be the most powerful source of data in credit decision making," said Yuan.

"Alternative data, such as a customer providing their bank balance and details about their financial assets, can provide a more complete view of consumer's financial behavior, which means we can make better underwriting and lending decisions."

Yuan joined Amex in 1996 working on the fraud-decision science team.

Have a tip? Contact this reporter via email at, encrypted messaging app Signal (801-824-5318), or direct message on Twitter @shannen_balogh.

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Airbnb reportedly plans to confidentially file for an IPO later this month

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 1:01pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Airbnb is reportedly planning to confidentially file its initial public offering paperwork later this month.
  • The company had previously planned to go public this year, but postponed the effort when the onset of the coronavirus crisis crushed its business.
  • Airbnb's business has started to rebound in recent months.
  • The company is under pressure to go public this year, because some of the stock options held by some of its earliest employees are set to expire later this year if they aren't exercised.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the course of a few months, Airbnb's initial public offering plans have gone from completely off the rails to apparently solidly back on track.

The online travel giant plans to confidentially file its IPO paperwork later this month, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The move could set in motion its long-awaited public markets debut with a potential IPO before the end of the year.

An Airbnb representative declined to comment on the report.

Airbnb had previously been preparing for an IPO this year, but halted the efforts this spring when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic crushed the stock market and shut down travel worldwide, cratering its business. Company CEO Brian Chesky warned that thanks to the epidemic, Airbnb expected its revenue for this year to be less than half what it was last year. To shore up its operations and its cash balance, the company laid off 25% of its staff and hundreds of contract workers, froze its marketing spending, and borrowed $2 billion.

As part of its debt financing, the company agreed to have its valuation slashed from $31 billion to $18 billion.

But Airbnb — along with the stock market — has rebounded in recent months as people have started to take vacations to traditional holiday spots near their homes. By late May, the number of vacation rental bookings — Airbnb's core market — had rebounded by 127% from the nadir the market hit in early April. Meanwhile, Airbnb reported its customers booked 1 million nights worth of reservations on July 8, which marked the first time the company had seen that volume of bookings since March 3. With that kind of wind at his back, Chesky told employees last month that the company had resumed its preparations for an IPO.

Still, it remains to be seen just how much of its business has returned and how public investors will value the company. Even before the pandemic, Airbnb was losing significant amounts of money. Last year, it reportedly lost $674 million on some $4.8 billion in sales.

Airbnb is under some pressure to go public this year. Some of its earliest employees hold stock options that will expire later this year if they are not exercised before then. Options generally can't be exercised unless there's a public market for a company's stock.

It's unclear what method Airbnb will use to go public. Prior to the pandemic, the company was widely reported to be considering going out with a direct listing, a method that is less costly but doesn't allow the company using it to raise money. It's possible Airbnb instead will use the traditional IPO path, which will allow the company itself to raise new cash by selling shares to the public.

Got a tip about Airbnb? Contact Troy Wolverton via email at, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: Airbnb might not get much of a bounce from the rebound in short-term rentals

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Meet 2019's Rising Stars of Wall Street from firms like Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, and Apollo shaking up investing, trading, and dealmaking

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 5:04pm  |  Clusterstock

Meet the 2019 class of Wall Street's rising stars.

From starting a hedge fund before age 30 to running their own alternative-data shops and helping lead $27 billion investments, this group of young finance leaders is in a league of its own.

It was harder than ever this year to select just 25 people. Our selection criteria: We asked that nominees be 35 or under, based in the US, and stand out from their peers. Editors made the final decisions.

Here's our list of the next crop of Wall Street leaders.

Additional reporting by Alex Morell, Bradley Saacks, and Dakin Campbell.

Click here to read the full list.Adam Parker, 34, Center Lake Capital

Adam Parker has been focused on running his own hedge fund as long as he can remember – and he's already running $350 million before the age of 35 with his fund, Center Lake Capital. 

Parker started investing in college after he sold a GrubHub-like company he and a couple friends started. From there, he interned at the Lehman Brothers real-estate group in summer 2007 and was choosing between returning for a full-time position or joining the now shuttered Force Capital. He chose Force. 

After working as an analyst, he eventually interviewed with billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, and worked for Duquesne Capital until Druckenmiller closed the fund. He then went to PointState Capital, which was started by Duquesne veterans, and became a portfolio manager after just a year, running $150 million to start out.

Center Lake launched in 2014 with multiyear commitments from a few critical investors, Parker said. Now he believes the firm has differentiated itself because of the concentrated investments and specific focus within the tech world. 

Click here to read the full list.

Evan Feinberg, 32, Tiger Global

Feinberg started at the University of Pennsylvania with plans to be a lawyer and had no idea what investment banking even was. It took only a year for him to transfer into the Wharton business program, and the rest is history.

Feinberg worked at Morgan Stanley during the summer of the financial crisis and joined Silver Lake Capital, a private-equity firm in New York, after he graduated. He joined Tiger Global six years ago as the hedge fund run by the billionaire Chase Coleman decided to expand more into the private markets. 

In that time, Feinberg estimates he has been a part of 40 to 50 different investments Tiger Global's private-investing team has made, including co-leading the firm's investments in the Brazilian financial-technology unicorn Nubank and the buzzy workout company Peloton. Both the investments were made earlier on in the companies' histories — series B for Nubank and series A for Peloton — a fact Feinberg is proud of.

Feinberg is looking for founders that are inspirational but also grounded, so they don't let their vision get the best of them, while also being able to get employees and investors to buy into the potential of the company. 

Click here to read the full list.

Want to meet the rest of Wall Street's rising stars?

BI Prime publishes dozens of exclusive stories like this every day that feature in-depth industry and market analysis. 

>> Get started by reading the full list

Dan Loeb lays out why $13 billion Third Point is loading up on Disney stock and calls the streaming business an opportunity of a lifetime

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 3:00pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Billionaire Dan Loeb's Third Point has changed with markets over its 25-year history, Loeb wrote in a letter to investors on Thursday.
  • The current environment requires quality to be an "essential" screen for any new investment, he wrote, as "this investment environment is characterized by breakneck technological innovation and sluggish growth."
  • Loeb describes Disney, Amazon, and Alibaba as such because they're growing on top of the core businesses — he specifically highlighted streaming and cloud computing as examples. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For novice investors looking to run a value strategy, billionaire Dan Loeb recommends Joel Greenblatt's book "You Can Be A Stock Market Genius." 

But Loeb himself has shifted away from his roots as an "event-drive, value-oriented" manager, he tells investors of $13.4 billion Third Point in his latest letter dated Thursday, taking activist positions as the investing environment continues to change.

Now, with an environment "characterized by breakneck technological innovation and sluggish growth," Loeb says there's an "essential" screen he needs for all new investments: quality. (For this, he recommends the book "Quality Investing: Owning the Best Companies for the Long Term" by Lawrence A. Cunningham, Torkell T. Eide, and Patrick Hargreaves) 

"It is essential to find companies with great leadership and unique products in growing end-markets in which they are gaining share and achieving high topline growth and strong margins. These factors drive robust earnings and free cash flow growth supported by high returns on existing invested capital," he writes.

"However, when investing in a quality or 'compounder' company, it is critical to find an entry point at which an investment is attractive since most of these businesses trade at relatively high multiples."

See more: The manager of a $135 million hedge fund is predicting a crash like the 2000 tech bubble and says unprofitable growth stocks are 'one step above a Ponzi scheme'

In the second quarter, Loeb —  who is now the sole CIO after Munib Islam and Loeb split the role for less than a year— added positions in Alibaba, Amazon, Disney, and because of the quality screen and the price point. He expects more opportunities to come. Third Point is down 6.5% for the year through June.

"Recent market dislocations have created several unique opportunities for us to acquire more of these kinds of companies at bargain prices," he writes.

"We anticipate selectively adding to this long-term portfolio when opportunities present themselves."

Read on to see why he's so bullish on Alibaba, Amazon, and Disney. 

SEE ALSO: Here are the 8 'long-lasting implications' of the pandemic hedge-fund billionaire Seth Klarman lays out to investors in a new letter

SEE ALSO: Big investors have been slashing valuations on stakes in private companies like Palantir and Airbnb. Here's why some 'mature unicorns' are in a tricky spot and could keep sinking.

Disney's big loss no concern

With movie theaters closed and theme park attendance low, Disney recently reported a loss of nearly $2 billion in an earnings release last week. 

None of that concerns Loeb, who bought into the stock last quarter. He said the biggest growth opportunity is the same one CEO Bob Chapek highlighted in the earnings release: streaming. 

"Streaming is Disney's biggest market opportunity ever with potentially $500 billion of revenue spread across over a growing market of 750 million current broadband homes globally ex-China, dwarfing the size of Disney's current addressable markets (roughly $100 billion between global box offices and theme parks)," he wrote. 

Disney+ has 60 million subscribers in less than a year, a figure that took streaming rival Netflix seven years to hit, Loeb writes. And the decision to stream a live-action version of classic "Mulan" as its release is a "defining moment," Loeb writes. 

"We encourage Disney to continue leveraging its new digital platforms to further connect fans with their iconic content and brands and, as Mr. Chapek said, 'take full advantage of the opportunity' available to Disney today."

Alibaba's potential cloud computing boost

Loeb writes that Third Point "took advantage of jitters about China's relationships with Hong Kong" and bought into Alibaba and fellow Chinese e-commerce player in the second quarter.

While both companies are expected to continue to grow their core businesses according to Loeb, cloud computing could be its path to even greater heights. Alibaba's Aliyun has nearly 50% market share in China, Loeb writes, and "resembles Amazon's AWS business five years ago."

"This is an encouraging comparison given that today, AWS' operating profits (and estimated enterprise value) exceed Alibaba's business in its entirety," Loeb writes.

Amazon's continued dominance

Loeb has admired Amazon from afar for a while, before taking a large position in the company in March. Amazon now represents 5% of Third Point's book.

The pandemic has ramped up Amazon profits in both cloud computing and ecommerce, and Loeb expects those gains to be "sticky" even in normal times. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic is also helping to accelerate the adoption of Amazon's cloud computing services because they are a critical enabler of remote work, a trend that will similarly outlast the virus," he writes.

One year later, Jeffrey Epstein's death in a federal detention cell remains shrouded in mystery. Here are 7 key unanswered questions.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 2:50pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a Manhattan prison cell one year ago today. 
  • Authorities ruled his death a suicide, but the idea that the nation's most notorious criminal could kill himself in the middle of one of the nation's most secure jails was difficult for many to accept.
  • Donald Trump, who partied with Epstein in the 1990s and 2000s, raised the prospect that his old friend had been murdered in a recent interview.
  • There is no account of Epstein's demise — murder, suicide, or otherwise — that adequately explains the mystery of how he could die unnoticed under constant surveillance.
  • Here are seven crucial unexplained discrepancies surrounding Epstein's death that remain unresolved a year later.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Last week, in a wide-ranging interview with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, President Donald Trump returned to a topic he controversially broached a year ago: The question of whether the financier Jeffrey Epstein actually committed suicide while imprisoned at the Metropolitan Correctional Complex in New York City on August 10, 2019. 

When Swan asked about his recent messages of support for Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested in July on charges connected to Epstein's alleged trafficking of minors, Trump expressed concerned for Maxwell's safety:

Trump: Her friend or boyfriend [Epstein] was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She's now in jail. Yeah, I wish you well, I'd wish you well, I'd wish a lot of people well. Good luck. Let them prove somebody was guilty.

Swan: So you're saying you hope she doesn't die in jail? Is that what you mean by 'wish her well'?

Trump: Well, her boyfriend died in jail and people are still trying to figure out, how did it happen? Was it suicide? Was he killed? And I do wish her well. I'm not looking for anything bad for her. I'm not looking bad for anybody. And they took that and made it such a big deal—

Swan: I mean, she's a alleged child sex trafficker.

Trump: But all it is is her boyfriend died. He died in jail. Was he killed? Was it suicide?

The case of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell has become a global cultural touchstone, so it isn't necessarily surprising that a large country's elected leader would publicly discuss it. But it is almost certainly unprecedented for an American president to openly speculate that an unknown party staged an infamous federal prisoner's suicide to conceal a murder. 

Trump's remarks should erase any doubt about the president's ambivalence toward the official story of Epstein's death. They also underscore the larger story's grip on the minds and imaginations of Americans. Who, at this point, hasn't heard about Jeffrey Epstein?

A year after prison guards discovered an unresponsive Epstein kneeling on the floor of his cell, his death remains fundamentally unsettled. There are too many inconsistencies, too many missing records, too many unclear details. At the same time, the growing collection of evidence and literature is difficult to fully comprehend. Amazon sells more than 200 books about Epstein; his case has grown to include at least 24 civil lawsuits and three criminal prosecutions. It is unlikely that a single person could master the entire record.

To that end, Business Insider examined a series of discrepancies that complicate, and sometimes contradict, the official narrative of Epstein's death. Some are well-known, and others obscure. In isolation, none of them definitively prove how Epstein actually died. Taken together, however, they depict a truly anomalous event, one that may never be fully understood.

Discrepancy 1: The prison guards

Epstein's relationship with the prison guards assigned to patrol his cell block in the Special Housing Unit, or SHU, immediately came under scrutiny—in part because of the guards' failure to inspect Epstein's block at the required intervals, and in part because of evidence of prior communication, some of it hostile, between the guards and Epstein.

Those prison guards, Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, joined the MCC in 2007 and 2016, respectively. Their careers prior to August 2019 appear to have been unblemished.

Thomas' interactions with Epstein seem to have been fairly limited. He was one of the guards who responded to Epstein on July 23, when Epstein was found semi-conscious in his cell with bruising around his neck. Epstein reportedly told prison supervisors that his cellmate at the time, Nicholas Tartaglione, had assaulted him. Tartaglione has denied assaulting Epstein.

There isn't clear evidence that Thomas and Epstein exchanged more than a few words at all. Noel's history with Epstein is similarly sparse. One of her duties, according to a handwritten note later found in Epstein's cell, was delivering his meals.

On the night Epstein died, Thomas and Noel repeatedly logged patrol rounds without actually performing them, leaving the financier with zero supervision for approximately 10 hours and 40 minutes, according to court records.

Their behavior has not been fully explained. According to the federal indictment against them, Thomas and Noel browsed websites and took naps instead of patrolling the SHU in general and Epstein in particular. This stands out as the most egregious behavior, but the broader pattern is equally alarming.

For example: After prison officials deemed the July 23 incident an apparent suicide attempt, and transferred him to the SHU, protocol dictated that Epstein have a cellmate. That was initially true, after Epstein was placed on suicide watch, but after that expired, the prison transferred his cellmate elsewhere without replacing him. But Epstein was never supposed to lose his cellmate upon exiting suicide watch. Neither Thomas nor Noel have addressed this lapse in protocol.

Another example: Epstein had obtained access to implements with which he could harm himself. The fact that Epstein committed suicide is reason enough to wonder about the objects and tools to which he had access. The clearest example is a CPAP machine, which Epstein apparently used to treat sleep apnea. The device had a long cord and several feet of tubing, either of which could have been fashioned as a noose. With some modification, the cord could electrocute someone, too. Neither guard has addressed this, either.

A third example: Thomas and Noel did not preserve the evidentiary integrity of Epstein's cell, allowing others to enter and exit it without keeping track of who they were. This, again, clearly defied standard prison protocol. Neither has addressed this lapse.

Status: Noel and Thomas's criminal trial remains ongoing, with court proceedings delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Neither has testified.

Discrepancy 2: The visitor list

According to numerous news reports, Epstein met with a team of lawyers at MCC so frequently that he effectively monopolized an entire meeting room. While the identities of Epstein's legal team are no mystery, it's not precisely clear which attorneys visited their client in person.

Even less clear is whether Epstein met with anyone else. A week after Epstein died, several media outlets reported that he had repeatedly met, alone, with a young woman in one of the prison's visiting rooms. An attorney representing a different prisoner told Forbes he directly witnessed the pair enter one of the rooms on July 30, and speculated that she may worked for one of the firms representing Epstein.

This woman's identity, and the contents of her meetings with Epstein, remain a mystery. Epstein's former attorneys, and the prison itself, have repeatedly declined to answer questions about his visitors and other details of his prison stay. 

Status: Unknown. Efforts to identify who exactly Epstein saw at the MCC have been fruitless, in part because the Bureau of Prisons has deflected questions about its protocol and because Epstein's attorneys do not respond to reporters' questions at all.

Discrepancy 3: The cell

At the time of his death, Epstein was housed in a prison cell in the wing known as 9 South, which contained one of the prison's two Special Housing Units. Photographs of the cell taken after prison officials removed Epstein's body depict an L-shaped room with slotted windows, accessed by a narrow hatch.

The conditions inside Epstein's cell at the time of his death are likely unknowable. The prison guards transported Epstein's body from the cell to a nearby hospital, and allowed other staffers to walk through and disturb the remaining objects within it. It is impossible to say, then, whether anything was removed from Epstein's cell or added after the fact.  

The cell itself is still significant to the wider case, because it constrains the range of possible explanations. Despite the anomalous deletion of some security footage from the night of Epstein's death, it seems clear that nobody physically traversed the only door that accessed Epstein's block. Nor is there any evidence that someone accessed Epstein's cell via some other method, such as the cell's window.

This permits a handful of imaginable possibilities. The first, of course, is that Epstein did in fact commit suicide. A second possibility is that someone inside Epstein's cell block — e.g., another prisoner — escaped their own cell, infiltrated Epstein's, killed him, staged his remains to resemble a suicide, and returned to their cell, all without detection.

And then there's the third possibility: That Epstein was killed by an unknown third party, in a manner that investigators haven't determined or do not yet understand. This may sound outlandish, but the alternative was supposed to be impossible. The entire prison, and especially the SHU — from the layout of its cells to the construction of its beds to the fabric of its inmates' clothing — is designed in part to prevent self-harm in general and suicide in particular. Under those conditions, a suicide becomes definitionally suspicious.

Status: Unclear. The scene of Epstein's death was immediately disturbed by the prison guards and other responding personnel, and has almost certainly been cleaned up and reused for another prisoner. We may never know what Epstein's cell looked like at the time of his death.

Discrepancy 4: The handwritten note

Last year, 60 Minutes published several photos of Epstein's cell, including a close-up photograph of what appears to be a handwritten note composed by Epstein. The note reads:

[BLURRED OUT] kept me in a locked shower stall for 1 hr

Noel sent me burnt food.

Giant bugs crawling over my hands


The exact provenance and context of this letter is unclear, mainly because its presumed author is no longer living. 60 Minutes obtained a copy from an unnamed source, but it's unlikely that source knew much, either.

The contents of the letter are a different story. There are two key details worth discussing. The first is the blurred first word of the first line. 60 Minutes did not explain why this word, which appears to be the name of a prison staffer, is blurred out. Their source may have added the blurring before providing it to the program, or perhaps the program did so after the fact to protect the staffer's identity. The identity of this source has never been confirmed.

The second detail is the third line: "Giant bugs crawling over my hands." There are at least two ways to interpret these words. The first is the most straightforward: Epstein was complaining about large insects crawling over his hands. It is entirely plausible that this happened. The MCC, and especially 9 South, are notoriously infested with rodents and cockroaches, the latter of which are famous for their girth in New York City.

The second way is less straightforward, but still worth considering. The experience of giant bugs crawling over parts of one's body is commonly observed by people who consume certain mind-altering substances. Known as a "tactile hallucination," the particular effect of bugs crawling on (or under) one's skin is most frequently associated with methamphetamine and its variants, but can be induced by other hallucinogens, too.

The letter doesn't prove whether or not insects really crawled Epstein's hands. But it belongs to a larger pattern of inconsistent or unexplained behavior, beginning with the July 23 incident. 

Remember that Epstein met with attorneys on a near-daily basis, and that he repeatedly expressed optimism about his chances in court. He never indicated, at least to his legal team, that he was inclined to injure himself. Remember, too, that Epstein apparently devised an ad-hoc system for paying other prisoners through the facility's commissary.

Epstein's apparent ability to bend the prison to his will is at least somewhat inconsistent with the syntax of the handwritten note, whose simplistic grammar and abbreviated vocabulary suggest its author wrote it under some kind of duress.

Status: Unclear. No official source, such Epstein's attorneys or federal prosecutors, have commented on the handwritten note, leaving its true meaning open to interpretation. 

Discrepancy 5: The hyoid bone

Former New York City Medical Examiner Michael Baden, who was hired by Epstein's brother, has repeatedly alleged that the fracture pattern of Epstein's hyoid bone is more suggestive of strangulation than suicide.

The hyoid is a U-shaped bone situated below and behind the human chin. It is forensically significant because its fracture is much more commonly associated with being strangled that it is with committing suicide by hanging. Still, it is not unheard-of for victims of suicide to exhibit fractured hyoids, which limits the bone's explanatory power.

Epstein's hyoid bone has come to represent a collection of apparent inconsistencies with Epstein's physical remains. Skeptics have pointed out, for example, that the fabric noose Epstein purportedly used to hang himself had no apparent blood stains, despite his neck showing visible lacerations where the noose cut into his skin. They have also pointed out that Epstein had access to more efficient means of self-strangulation, such as the cord of his CPAP machine.

What the hyoid bone doesn't explain, though, is how a hypothetical killer would have accessed Epstein's cell in the first place. 

Status: Unknown. The hyoid bone is significant only if someone actually entered Epstein's cell. Because there is no evidence for such an intrusion, its significance is minimal.

Discrepancy 6: The missing security footage

One of the strangest and most unexplainable aspects of Epstein's death is the apparent malfunctioning of two security cameras that were positioned outside of his cell, which meant that hours of footage from August 9-10 were somehow deleted.

This facet of the Epstein case is somewhat confusing, because prison officials actually lost two sets of footage: Footage from the day of his apparent suicide attempt on July 23, and footage from the night of his death on August 10. Federal officials eventually recovered the first set of footage, but never recovered the second set. 

What's also confusing is the method of failure. Precise explanations for the surveillance system's deletion of Epstein-related footage are difficult to come by. It remains unclear, for instance, whether the footage could have been intentionally deleted, and if so, who had the access to do so. It is equally unclear whether other footage from the same night went missing, too.

Status: The second tranche of footage appears to be gone forever. More details may emerge, though, in the criminal trial of the prison guards.

Discrepancy 7: The motive

Journalists have theorized about likely suspects, focusing on his famous acquaintances, rumored clients, and people he had allegedly blackmailed. The idea, it seems, is that some of these individuals must have feared that Epstein would offer them up to prosecutors in order to mitigate his own punishment.

But we can constrain the potential list of subjects in other ways, too. If Epstein was murdered, the responsible party must have had the motive, the willingness, and the ability to do so. Very few people have all three. The motive is simple enough: It's not hard to think of people who may have wanted him dead because they feared Epstein would divulge sensitive or damaging information to prosecutors.

Willingness is relatively straightforward, too. Of those known to have some relationship with Epstein, who would be willing to kill someone, either with their own hands or by hiring a professional assassin? The list of people tied to Epstein who have ordered assassinations, or personally participated in assassinate plots, is surprisingly deep. It includes Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Ehud Barak.

While it's certainly possible that Trump, Clinton, or Barak secretly wished Epstein would disappear, they are constrained by the third and final criteria: the ability to actually carry out an assassination.

Penetrating the security defenses of a federal correctional facility in New York City, without leaving any literal or metaphorical fingerprints, would likely require the logistical and financial resources of a sovereign government. And that government would need to be comfortable with both the act of killing and the risk of getting caught.

There is one person who has been connected to Epstein who has the resources of a state at his disposal and has a history of ordering assassinations. His name doesn't appear in Epstein's little black book or show up on his flight flogs, nor has he been photographed with him or Ghislaine Maxwell. In fact, there is very little documentary evidence of his relationship with Epstein beyond the retellings of a handful of journalists.

That individual is Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He allegedly had an open line of communication with Epstein. In August 2018, a New York Times reporter encountered a portrait of M.B.S., as the prince is commonly known, hanging on a wall in Epstein's Upper East Side mansion: "The crown prince had visited him many times, and they spoke often, Mr. Epstein said." Another journalist later described seeing "photos of Epstein with Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirate prince Mohammed bin Zayed, some in beachwear and with snorkel gear," at the same mansion.

As Insider has reported, Epstein's private jet travelled to Riyadh on the eve of Donald Trump's election in 2016, at a time when M.B.S. was also in the city. According to prosecutors, a forged Austrian passport found in Epstein's safe indicated a residence in Saudi Arabia and had been used to travel to the country in the past.

While certain specifics remain disputed, the Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly concluded that M.B.S. ordered the gruesome assassination of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in November 2018, when Saudi agents lured him to the country's consulate in Istanbul, detained him, carved his body up with a bone saw, and dissolved his remains in a bath of acid.

Khashoggi's murder drew global outrage, and seriously damaged the Saudi kingdom's standing on the international stage, where the country's royal family has long sought a higher profile. While we can never know what lessons M.B.S. drew from the Khashoggi case, it seems reasonable to assume that it did not deter him from the practice of assassination altogether. But it may have deterred him from conducting future murders in such a public, obvious way.

The precise nature of M.B.S.'s relationship with Epstein — friends? business partners? something else? — remains unkown. The Saudi government declined opportunities to clarify the record.

Status: Unknown. Saudi Arabia has so far declined to comment on M.B.S.'s relationship with Epstein, which Epstein clearly characterized as a warm and close one.

When the Epstein case finally concludes, and new revelations and connections come to an end, it will be possible to write something comprehensive about its proceedings. At the moment, however, trying to report on Epstein can feel like trying to navigate a choppy sea with a drinking cup. If this article achieves anything, it will be to activate the memories and imaginations of its readers, for the purpose of solving a seemingly unsolvable case.

Did we miss anything? Do you have a theory about the Epstein case? A detail you're fixated on? Email me at

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Founded by Silas Adekunle (@silas_adekunle) | Awarri - Africa's Robotics Enabler

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 2:29pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Awarri is derived from “Awari”, which means ‘seek and find’ in Yoruba (one of Africa's popular languages). Our mission is to enable the development and adoption of advanced AI & Robotics technology on the African continent...[more]

Warren Buffett may have dumped his entire Wells Fargo stake last quarter, finance professor David Kass says

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 2:20pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway may have sold its whole stake in Wells Fargo, David Kass, a finance professor at the University of Maryland, told Business Insider.
  • The billionaire investor's company held a $9.3 billion position in the banking titan at the last count, making it the fifth-biggest holding in its stock portfolio.
  • Berkshire's stock sales, its list of top holdings, Wells Fargo's fake-accounts scandal and balance-sheet restrictions, and Buffett's $2 billion spending spree on Bank of America stock all support a disposal, Kass said.
  • "The bottom line appears to be that Buffett views Bank of America and JPMorgan as being better-managed banks with many fewer problems than Wells Fargo," Kass said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway may have dumped its entire stake in Wells Fargo, according to David Kass, a finance professor at the University of Maryland who has closely followed the famed investor and his company for more than three decades.

Kass pointed to several elements of Berkshire's second-quarter earnings, published on Saturday, as evidence that it slashed or completely sold the fifth-biggest position in its stock portfolio. He highlighted them in an email to Business Insider.

Here are the 4 pieces of evidence:

Firstly, Berkshire sold a total of $13.6 billion of stock in the second quarter and bought $800 million worth, meaning its net stock sales were about $12.8 billion.

Berkshire netted about $6.1 billion when it sold the "big four" airline stocks in April, leaving roughly $6.7 billion in net proceeds unexplained.

The company owned 323 million Wells Fargo shares valued at $9.3 billion at the end of March, the last time it disclosed its stock portfolio — it is expected to reveal its holdings as of June 30 later this week.

Berkshire may have sold those shares for $7.3 billion to $10.8 billion, based on the bank's stock-price range last quarter. That would account for the $6.7 billion in unexplained sale proceeds, Kass said.

Secondly, Berkshire listed Wells Fargo as one of its five largest holdings in the first quarter but named only its top four holdings in its latest earnings with no mention of the bank, Kass added. The implication, he said, is that Wells Fargo is no longer one of its top five positions.

Thirdly, Berkshire has pared its Wells Fargo stake in recent years. It may have been preparing to eliminate it entirely, Kass added.

Fourthly, Berkshire reported a roughly $9.3 billion decline in the value of its banks, insurance, and finance stocks on a cost basis last quarter, suggesting the sales were mostly in that part of its portfolio. Wells Fargo fits the bill there too.

Scandals and restrictions

There are several reasons that Buffett may have soured on Wells Fargo's prospects and decided to sell his stake, Kass told Business Insider.

The bank's reputation took a big hit when news broke that its employees opened about 1.5 million bank accounts and 565,000 credit cards without customers' permission between 2011 and 2015.

Buffett has criticized the bank's bosses for their slowness in acknowledging and addressing the scandal, Kass said.

The professor also highlighted the cap on Wells Fargo's balance sheet of $1.95 trillion, which federal regulators imposed in 2018 as punishment for the fake-account scandal. The limit continues to restrict the bank's growth.

The alternatives — it may have sold JPMorgan ...

It's possible that Berkshire sold some or all of its 57.7 million JPMorgan shares instead of dumping Wells Fargo, Kass said.

The JPMorgan shares would have fetched between $4.8 billion and $6.5 billion based on their trading range last quarter, and Berkshire also trimmed its stake in the bank in the first quarter.

However, Kass said Wells Fargo was the more likely target.

He highlighted the contrast between Buffett's negative comments about Wells Fargo's management and his frequent praise of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Buffett also partnered with Dimon on a healthcare venture, Haven, in 2018.

Or swapped Wells Fargo for Bank of America

Buffett's recent $2 billion splurge on Bank of America stock is notable, Kass said.

The investor may have decided to concentrate his portfolio by selling Wells Fargo and using some of the proceeds to bolster Berkshire's second-biggest holding after Apple, he added.

"The bottom line appears to be that Buffett views Bank of America and JPMorgan as being better-managed banks with many fewer problems than Wells Fargo," Kass said.

Join the conversation about this story »

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A visit to Amangani last summer — one of the top luxury resorts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming — quickly showed me why it's such a hotspot for wealthy travelers

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:16pm  |  Clusterstock

Tucked away in the mountains with sweeping views of the Tetons, luxury resort Amangani includes 40 suites that start at $975 per night and go up to $2,100 per night.

The resort hosts corporate retreats for hedge funds, oil and gas companies, and auto companies. According to general manager Stuart Lang, Rolls Royce bought out the entire hotel for three weeks in October 2018 for the launch of its first SUV. Getting married at Amangani costs well over $100,000.

The Jackson Hole, Wyoming, resort is part of global luxury chain Aman Resorts, which is beloved by celebrities and ultra-wealthy. Amangani is just one of just two Aman hotels in the US.

Last summer, I visited Jackson Hole, which has become a ritzy resort town, and got an exclusive tour of Amangani. Here's what it looks like.

SEE ALSO: One of the best hotels in the US is a 147-year-old inn on a secluded island 3 hours from NYC. I visited and found a glaring difference from most other luxury hotels — and that's exactly its appeal.

DON'T MISS: 24 American hotels every luxury traveler should visit in 2019

Amangani is a five-star luxury hotel and resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It's one of two US locations of Aman Resorts, a chain of global luxury resorts beloved by celebrities and the ultra-wealthy.

On a trip to Jackson Hole in July 2019, I drove up to Amangani for an exclusive tour with the hotel's general manager, Stuart Lang.

On a trip to Jackson Hole in July 2019, I drove up to Amangani for an exclusive tour with the hotel's general manager, Stuart Lang.

The hotel is tucked away in the mountains on a private road, about a 15-minute drive from the center of town. Parking is valet only.

Amangani offers a private driver and car service to guests at an additional charge, but many guests opt for taking Ubers and Lyfts, according to Lang.

The hotel's hilltop location offers panoramic views of Jackson Hole and the Teton mountain range.

The name Amangani means "peaceful home" in a mashup of Sanskrit and Shoshone, Lang told me, and the scenic, secluded location certainly seemed to fit that bill.

Almost 90% of Amangani's guests come from around the US.

They come from both coasts, mostly New York and California, as well as Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta. Amangani has deals with certain airlines to keep direct flights from major hubs to Jackson. 

International guests usually come from the United Kingdom or China, Lang said.

Amangani doesn't have a traditional check-in desk like most hotels.

Instead, guests are led immediately to their suites and the check-in process happens there.

Lang told me this is because they don't want Amangani to feel like a regular hotel. 

The main lounge's high ceilings and expansive windows let in sunlight and views of the surrounding mountains.

The hotel's design is rustic and relatively minimal in order to keep the focus on the natural beauty of its setting, Lang told me.

The lounge features live music on the weekends and roaring fires in the winter. Unlike some other Aman hotels, Amangani's lounge is open to outside guests, which results in many locals coming in for a drink and for the music, Lang said. 

Sustainable meats, fresh fish, and seasonal farm-to-table produce are served are served in the 68-seat dining room.

In the wintertime, Amangani can be bought out for weddings at a price of "well over $100,000" for a couple of days, Lang said. 

The hotel also hosts corporate retreats for hedge funds, oil and gas companies, and auto companies. In October 2018, Lang said, Rolls Royce bought out the entire hotel for three weeks for the launch of its first SUV.

Outside the main lounge is a spacious terrace, but Amangani's standout feature is its heated, 377-square-foot outdoor infinity pool.

Aman Resorts are known for their wellness programs, and Amangani is no exception.

The spa area includes four treatment rooms, two exercise studios, and his-and-her steam rooms.

The hotel's redwood-lined exercise studio is open 24 hours a day.

It comes with weightlifting and cardio equipment, including a Peloton bike. 

In the bathrooms, guests can find a steam room, showers, and lockers.

Spa treatments range from deep tissue massages to Himalayan salt scrubs.

Amangani has its own gift shop selling vegan leather bags, apparel, jewelry, and artwork.

Products for sale in the shop include a $95 faux ostrich bag and a $3,700 bison painting.

Amangani's accommodations comprise 40 suites, 29 of which are superior suites. The other 11 suites include end units and units with more spacious rooms, better views, or additional half-bathrooms.

Rates can fluctuate depending on season and availability, but a night in a superior suite (pictured above) costs an average of $975. The other suites range from $1,100 to $2,100 a night on average.

The guest rooms are designed with natural materials like wood and stone, as well as sumptuous textures like faux fur.

The bathroom comes with a deep soaking tub, a separate shower, and a dressing room.

Each suite at Amangani comes with a private patio or balcony.

The room also has its own fireplace.

In addition to its 40 suites, Amangani owns 19 nearby homes, some of which can be rented out for between $6,500 and $9,500 a night.

Some of the homes are inhabited for most or all of the year, Lang told me. Others are second homes that aren't in the rental program, but Amangani maintains them. 

Rapper Kanye West reportedly stayed in one of these homes in 2018, according to The New York Times.

Amangani partners with local businesses to give guests access to a range of outdoor activities.

Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and riding in horse-drawn carriages.

In the summertime, Amangani can organize excursions for guests to go hiking and mountain biking, ride horses, take scenic helicopter and plane rides, and float over the Tetons in hot air balloons.

Amangani also has in-house naturalists who lead private tours of the nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Amangani is closed in April and November, but the winter holidays are among the busiest times for the resort, according to Lang.

In the winter months, guests can take free Amangani shuttles to the world-class skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, about a 20-minute drive away.

Amangani offers a private ski lounge at the ski resort with a ski concierge, equipment storage, and snacks and beverages.

After my tour of Amangani, it was clear that the luxury resort delivers on two major preferences of affluent travelers today: experience and privacy.

As Business Insider's Lina Batarags previously reported, wealthy travelers are increasingly interested in unique, tailored experiences, as well as wellness amenities, which dovetails perfectly with Amangani's numerous adventure offerings and spa treatments.

And Amangani's secluded location on a private mountain road in the least populated state in America certainly gives well-off travelers the privacy they crave. 

Future of Fintech: Funding's New Guard

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:00pm  |  Clusterstock

Over the last decade, fintech has established itself as a fundamental part of the world’s financial services ecosystem.

Today, fintech financing is surging across the globe, despite major banks remaining cautious about acquisitions.

Instead, three emerging trends are fueling the current fintech boom: new geographical fintech centers, more late-stage mega-rounds, and the rise of fintech-focused venture firms.

In the Future of Fintech: Funding’s New Guard slide deck, Business Insider Intelligence explores how these three key trends are driving a surge in funding.

This exclusive slide deck can be yours for FREE today.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here's what it's like to travel during the coronavirus outbreak

Real-estate developers are building costly cold storage space before they even have tenants lined up. They're betting the risky move could be a winning investment as grocery deliveries surge.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 12:49pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The country's once obscure cold-storage property sector is beginning to garner attention from investors who see big demand for temperature-controlled spaces. 
  • The coronavirus pandemic prompted millions of Americans to shop for groceries online, creating demand for a new category of cold warehouses close to population centers.
  • Developers are building cold storage spaces on speculation, a leap of faith many have been wary to take in the past given the high costs of developing the projects. 
  • To deal with the financial risks of building on spec, builders are adopting new design techniques that allow them flexibly reconfigure spaces based on the needs of users.   
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

What's hot but can dip as low as -20 degrees?

The country's cold-storage sector, long overlooked by real-estate investors, is getting fresh interest as the coronavirus pandemic has boosted online grocery shopping and millions of square feet of decades-old spaces reach the end of their useful life.

The Dallas-based industrial real-estate developer Hunt Southwest, finished a 300,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse it built on speculation in Fort Worth a little over a year ago and then recently leased to a large chilled-goods logistics tenant.

Another investor, Bridge Development Partners, headquartered in Chicago, announced late last year a $150 million partnership with PGIM Real Estate, the real estate investing arm of Prudential Financial, that will seek to build cold storage spaces nationally. The venture, which plans over $400 million of projects, recently broke ground on a new cold warehouse just outside of Miami that it is raising on spec.

Read more: Cold storage is 2020's red-hot real estate play. Here's how the private-equity backed industry leader is spending $500 million to tighten its grip on the market.

In southern New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, real-estate investor Scout Capital Partners purchased a 330,000 square foot warehouse last month that is under construction and that it says it will convert to cold storage. The company's chief executive, Vincent Signorello, told Business Insider that the firm has already leased a portion of the roughly $50 million project to a large food tenant.

Signorello said the company, which presently owns about 1 million square feet of cold-storage space, plans to dramatically grow its portfolio to 5 million square feet within the next 3 years.

"The cold storage industry is at a bit of a tipping point," Signorello said. "It's the shift to e-commerce and also the fact that the average age of the existing cold storage warehouse is 30 or more years."

Cold storage has long been dominated by specialized players

Cold storage has long occupied an obscure corner of the real-estate market dominated by specialized industry giants such as Americold and Lineage Logistics.

Increasingly, investors see an opportunity to crowd in as demand for new space picks up.

Matt Walaszek, an industrial and logistics research analyst at CBRE who has studied the cold-storage market, projected there could be the need for 100 million square feet of new space in the next 5 years, a roughly 50% increase over the present inventory of about 220 million square feet across the country.

A report by Savills said the cold-storage sector, presently valued at $98.11 billion globally, will expand 12.1% annually through 2025. The report pointed out that shares in 10 of the largest third-party logistics providers with cold-storage spaces in their portfolios outperformed peers without cold space by 12.1% from the end of 2019 to April 15 of this year.

Interest in cold storage spaces from both tenants and investors could be accelerated by the pandemic, which prompted millions of Americans to try online grocery shopping during recent lockdowns and supply shortages at local food stores.

Read More: 20% of WeWork's New York space is sitting empty. Here's a look at key vacancies the city's biggest office tenant is trying to fill.

Just as e-commerce touched off interest in warehouse spaces across the country, a shift to online food ordering, along with healthier eating habits that prioritize fresh produce and meats, could create the need for new cold warehouses, especially those close to or within major metropolitan centers.

"It's all about access to the consumer and servicing that last mile," said Tony Pricco, president of Bridge Development Partners, which is building the Miami project and is considering further development in places such as New Jersey, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago.

Pricco noted that many online grocery services were overwhelmed by recent demand during the pandemic and are now eager to build out a better logistics network, including more cold storage sites.

"We have had inquires from Amazon recently where they have told us 'if you have any available freezer spaces, we want to know about them,'" Pricco said.

Read More: Co-living is the real-estate industry's big bet on dorm-like housing for young professionals. Here's why players like Nuveen and Cushman & Wakefield remain bullish even during the pandemic.

A look inside cold-storage spaces

Chilled by industrial-sized refrigeration units, encased with heavy insulation, and outfitted with other special features, such as temperature regulated floors that resist cracking from the extreme temperatures, cold-storage buildings cost about three times more to build than a conventional warehouse.

Those hefty expenses, along with what are often very specific user requirements, have made developers wary in the past to undertake cold-storage projects without a tenant in hand first.

"For value-add real estate funds there's still money sitting there and they're looking to invest in it, but they're unsure of the returns," said Adam Petrillo, who heads Savills' industrial services group, speaking about the hesitation among some real-estate investors to undertake spec cold-storage projects. 

That too is changing as the benefits of new space have become increasingly glaring. New cooling technology is more efficient and newly built spaces often feature soaring ceilings of up to 50 feet that allow for modern vertical storage systems that maximize efficiency. 

"The third-party logistics companies that lease a lot of cold storage spaces are looking at how many pallets of goods they can stack and store," Pricco said. "These news spaces can get you so many more pallets per square foot."

Some design experts have begun to devise ways to build spec spaces that can then be flexibly customized depending on the needs of the user. Jay Todisco, president of the Irvine-based architecture firm Ware Malcomb, has recently focused part of his practice on cold storage design to address this need for modification.

Todisco said he designs spaces modularly, using a network of smaller cooling units rather than a large central refrigeration plant so that developers can select which spaces within a warehouse will be cooled and to what degree.

Fresh produce and flowers need cool temperatures that remain above freezing, while other products such as ice cream and meat need a deeper chill to stay fresh. Temperatures in the warehouses can range from the 50s down to an arctic-like minus 20 degrees.

Todisco said he is talks right now to design projects for four builders.

"The demand for cold storage is exploding," Todisco said. "The barrier was the costs of building, but we're figuring out a way around that."

Have a tip? Contact Daniel Geiger at or via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 352-2884, or Twitter DM at @dangeiger79. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: A surge in grocery deliveries is creating a huge opportunity for industrial real-estate developers. Here's how the coronavirus is transforming retail and warehousing.

SEE ALSO: Amazon just signed its largest-ever warehouse lease in NYC. Here's how it's been making deals left and right to grow its massive storage and distribution network.

SEE ALSO: Warehouse properties are suddenly red-hot, with Amazon snapping up space while ailing companies sell. Here's a look at key deals and market forecasts that lay out a huge opportunity for industrial real-estate.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: July 15 is Tax Day — here's what it's like to do your own taxes for the very first time

How US banks will adapt tech spend to rising digital users

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 12:15pm  |  Clusterstock
  •  US banks will focus tech spending over the next few years on improvements geared toward bolstering their digital channels to retain the influx of new digital users.
  • And we believes that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to accelerate a years-long consumer exodus from traditional banking channels to digital ones.
  • Insider Intelligence publishes hundreds of research reports, charts, and forecasts on the Banking industry with the Banking Briefing. You can learn more about subscribing here.

In our recent US Banking Tech Spend Forecast report, Insider Intelligence showed that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to accelerate a years-long consumer exodus from traditional banking channels (such as branches and call centers) to digital ones.

As we move past the period of banks' initial adjustment to pandemic-related restrictions, we expect they will increasingly focus on investments in digital to sustain the larger volumes of digital banking users, alongside continued investment in essentials like cybersecurity and systems maintenance.

Here are three key areas of technology in which banks will invest in the coming years to retain the influx of new digital users:

  • Digitizing remaining branch networks. Before the pandemic, banks were already leveraging third-party solutions to make it easier for consumers to handle transactions within branch lobbies, drive-thrus, or other locations without a teller, as well as introducing mobile and IoT devices at branches to facilitate self-service. Now, banks will seek ways to digitize even more aspects of in-branch services, so as to future-proof branches against crises down the line and ensure the safety of in-branch employees.
  • Investing in conversational banking. We expect banks to ramp up investment in interactive voice response tech, digital assistants, and chatbots, in order to meet higher demand for touch-free banking among customers following the pandemic, as well as to ease pressure on call centers. To date, conversational banking through channels like smart speakers has seen slow growth due in part to consumers' concerns over security, but health concerns will likely begin to outweigh these. Consequently, we expect banks to invest more heavily in conversational capabilities such as Alexa skills.
  • Streamlining digital user experience to retain customers. As more customers are forced to adopt digital banking during the pandemic, banks will begin to invest even more heavily in streamlining, simplifying, and reducing the chances for user or system errors in their digital banking channels in an effort to keep reluctant converts satisfied. As such, we expect particular areas of investment to be those where customers frequently experience pain points — per our Banking Digital Trust study (Enterprise only) — such as accelerating loading speeds, improved navigation, enlarging text size, customizing displayed content based on usage, decluttering pages, and minimizing the steps needed to complete a transaction.

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28 books by billionaires that will teach you how to build a fortune and run the world

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:35am  |  Clusterstock

  • Take a page from the super-wealthy and successful by reading the books they wrote.
  • Business Insider compiled a list of 28 books for you to learn how these recognizable people achieved the seemingly impossible. 
  • Some books on this list includes "Shoe Dog" by Nike creator Phil Knight and "Behind the Cloud" by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Whether you want to launch an empire or become the best in your field, there's no better consult than with leaders who have achieved the peak of professional and financial success. 

Business Insider has rounded up 28 books by billionaires. From the business insights of Bill Gates to the leadership lessons of Richard Branson, the wisdom collected in these pages extends far beyond the classroom.

Learn how these masters of industry achieved the impossible, in their own words.

SEE ALSO: 25 books C-suite leaders and billionaire investors say all entrepreneurs should read to become better leaders

"What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence" by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Schwarzman is, on the surface, a man who took $400,000 and built Blackstone, an investment firm that has more than $500 billion assets under management as of January 2019.

The real story goes deeper, into Schwarzman's drive to achieve that carried him from attending Yale to managing Blackstone. This book narrates his story, and the lessons he's learned along the path of success.

Schwarzman gives readers insights on deal-making, investing, leadership, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy.

Find it here »

"The Virgin Way" by Richard Branson

Although Branson confesses he's never read a book on leadership, his nearly 50-year entrepreneurial career has taught him a thing or two about building a business.

In "The Virgin Way," the billionaire founder of Virgin Group offers lessons on management and entrepreneurialism, including the importance of listening to others and hiring the right people. Branson is honest about his successes as well as his failures, such as underestimating Coke's influence when he tried to launch Virgin Cola in the 1990s.

Overall, the book is a compelling glimpse into the life of someone who's never shied away from a challenge.

Find it here »

"The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers" by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz fills in the gaps business school can't teach you by offering practical advice on launching, scaling and running a startup. 

He has plenty of experience with this as co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a VC firm with an investment portfolio that includes Airbnb, Facebook, GitHub, and Twitter. Horowitz is a rap fan, which plays out through the lyrics he includes in this book to reinforce business lessons.  Of course, there's an honest discussion of Horowitz's own journey.

Overall, this is an inside look on leading and growing a business, from someone who's been through it. 

Find it here »

"Start Small Finish Big: Fifteen Key Lessons to Start – and Run – Your Own Successful Business" by Fred DeLuca with John P. Hayes

At 17, Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from a family friend and went on to build one of the most prominent fast food chains in America: Subway. At the time of his death in 2015, DeLuca was worth an estimated $3.5 billion, with a global business and franchises across over 100 countries. The young entrepreneur had never even made a submarine sandwich before the opening day of his first shop. 

"Start Small Finish Big" is a compilation of DeLuca's best advice for running a successful business from start to finish. Some of his key advice? Believe in your people – and never run out of money. The book also draws on the advice of other successful entrepreneurs, such as the founder of Little Caesar's. This book is a must read for young people looking to start their own business. 

Find it here »

"Onward" by Howard Schultz

After resigning as Starbucks CEO in 2000, Schultz returned to the post in 2008, just as the company was struggling through a financial crisis. "Onward" details how the billionaire brought the global coffee chain back to life.

Readers will learn how Schultz made tough decisions — like temporarily shutting down more than 7,000 US stores — in order to help Starbucks grow without neglecting its core values.

They'll learn, too, about Schultz as a person, as he weaves together his unique business strategy with anecdotes about growing up in Brooklyn, New York. It's an honest and passionate recounting that will inspire entrepreneurs and everyone else to be brave in the face of adversity.

Find it here »

"How to Win at the Sport of Business" by Mark Cuban

In "How to Win at the Sport of Business," Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" investor Cuban fleshes out his best insights on entrepreneurialism from his personal blog.

He writes candidly about how he progressed from sleeping on his friends' couches in his 20s to owning his own company and becoming a multibillionaire. It's a story of commitment and perseverance — Cuban writes that even though he didn't know much about computers, he beat his competition because he spent so much time learning about the software his company sold. 

Find it here »

"The Essays of Warren Buffett" by Warren Buffett

The 86-year-old chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is considered one of the greatest investors in history.

This book is a collection of Buffett's letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Each one explains a different facet of his business and investment philosophies. While the topics might seem complex, the billionaire's writing is easy to read, and he often explains concepts through personal anecdotes.

Find it here »

"Business @ the Speed of Thought" by Bill Gates

With a net worth of $75 billion, Forbes estimates the Microsoft founder is the richest person in the world. In "Business @ the Speed of Thought," Gates explains how business and technology are inextricably linked.

Using examples from companies like Microsoft and GM, Gates suggests that businesses see technology as a way to enhance their operations. While the book was initially published in 1999, many of Gates' insights remain accurate and relevant today.

Find it here »

"Zero to One" by Peter Thiel

"Zero to One" starts from the controversial premise that "competition is for losers" and that entrepreneurs should instead aim to create monopolies.

Thiel, a founder of PayPal and the data-analytics firm Palantir, highlights the importance of building something new and taking over the market, as opposed to simply adding to what's already out there. Regardless of whether you agree with Thiel's philosophy, the book is a clear read with tons of ideas worth discussing.

Find it here »

"Call Me Ted" by Ted Turner

While Turner has led multiple entrepreneurial ventures, he's perhaps best known as the founder of the first 24-hour cable-news channel, CNN, and as the former owner of the Atlanta Braves.

In his autobiography, he outlines his unconventional path to success, from getting expelled from Brown University to running his father's billboard company to turning a small news station into a media empire.

The book also features personal stories about Turner's relationship with his father and the actress Jane Fonda, all of which paint a full picture of the dynamic billionaire.

Find it here »

"Think Like a Champion" by Donald Trump with Meredith McLiver

"Think Like a Champion" is a collection of the president's essays on personal and professional success.

Each one combines anecdotes from his own experience with inspirational advice on everything from learning from your mistakes to confronting your fears. Acknowledging his own tendency toward self-promotion, he tells readers to "toot your own horn" when you deserve it.

Find it here »

"The First Billion Is the Hardest" by T. Boone Pickens

"The First Billion Is the Hardest" tells the story of how the now 87-year-old chairman of BP Capital Management overcame personal and professional challenges to achieve tremendous success.

The narrative takes readers all the way from Pickens' experience as a "corporate raider" in the 1980s to his late-life rebranding as an advocate for America's energy independence. Each chapter starts with a "Booneism," or a few words of wisdom on winning in life and business. Example: "I learned early on that you play by the rules. It's no fun if you cheat to win."

Find it here »

"Soros on Soros" by George Soros

That Soros survived the Holocaust to become one of the world's most brilliant investors is no small miracle. Readers learn about his career path in "Soros on Soros," which is technically two extended interviews that combine personal anecdotes with theories on finance and politics. 

Soros is honest about his successes and failures as founder and chairman of Soros Fund Management, and is hardly shy about submitting controversial opinions. It's a compelling read, whether you're interested in learning more about Soros himself or global finance and policy.

Find it here »

"Direct from Dell" by Michael Dell

Dell dropped out of college at 19 to found PC Limited, the business that is now Dell Computer Corp. At 27, he became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

In "Direct from Dell," the billionaire entrepreneur explains how he grew his business and the theory behind his unique management style. It's an inspiring rags-to-riches story that also offers valuable leadership lessons.

Find it here »

"Built from Scratch" by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

In "Built from Scratch," Marcus and Blank chronicle how they changed their fate and turned their dreams into reality. After the two were fired from a home-improvement chain called Handy Dan in 1978, they decided to pursue their idea of creating a discount store. It was called The Home Depot.

The book details the company's founding and growth, and the authors draw on their own experience to provide meaningful lessons for any business leader, including the importance of knowing your customer and giving back to the community.

Find it here »

"What I Know for Sure" by Oprah Winfrey

Few people have a better understanding of passion and dedication than Winfrey. Born into poverty, she launched a career as a talk-show host, actress, and media mogul.

"What I Know for Sure" is a collection of her columns in O, the Oprah Magazine. Each one offers a different life lesson on topics including joy, gratitude, and power, often based on her personal experience.

Find it here »

"Ralph Lauren" by Ralph Lauren

Fashion designer Ralph Lauren grew up as Ralph Lipschitz, the son of Jewish immigrant parents living in the Bronx. The idea for Polo Ralph Lauren was born when he attended a polo match as a young man and was captivated by "high society" style.

In his autobiography, he shares his personal history, the inspiration behind his work, and beautiful photographs.

Find it here »

"Steering Clear" by Peter G. Peterson

At 89, Peterson has had a long and storied career, which includes stints as US secretary of commerce, chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, and cofounder of private-equity firm Blackstone Group.

He's also the founder and chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which focuses on raising awareness about fiscal challenges that the US faces.

In "Steering Clear," published in 2015, Peterson makes the case that we need to take immediate action to reduce long-term debt in the US, projected to hit record highs in the near future. He juxtaposes prose with charts and graphs that illustrate the issue, and offers potential solutions to the problem, including closing loopholes in the tax code.

In the book's introduction, Peterson explains why addressing this issue isn't just economic good sense: "This country has given my family and me — and millions of others — unequaled opportunities to dream and to prosper. And together we have a profound obligation to try to pass on the same opportunity to future generations."

Find it here »

"Simply Rich" by Richard DeVos

DeVos' rags-to-riches autobiography details his transition from Depression-era Michigan schoolboy to multibillionaire cofounder of direct-selling company Amway.

The book weaves together stories about DeVos' personal and professional lives, focusing in particular on the way his Christian upbringing and values paved the way for his success.

Impressions of Amway as a company are mixed — it's been the subject of investigation for having a pyramid-like structure, although the Federal Trade Commission has ruled that the company's activities are legal. But as one fan of the book says, "Whether you like the company or not, you can't argue DeVos' inspiring story."

Find it here »

"How Did You Do It, Truett?" by S. Truett Cathy

To many Americans, Cathy's invention of the chicken sandwich and founding of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A make him a modern hero.

In "How Did You Do It, Truett?" Cathy, who died in 2014, describes his rise to success, starting from the days when he worked behind the counter at the Dwarf Grill in Georgia.

At 95 pages, it's a relatively short read, and the book includes a number of inspirational business and leadership lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Find it here »

"Charles Schwab's New Guide to Financial Independence" by Charles Schwab

According to Schwab, founder of Charles Schwab Corp., anyone can be a wise investor. All you need to do is learn the basics and apply them in an investing strategy.

In "New Guide to Financial Independence," a revised edition of a book published in 2007, Schwab teaches readers how to set investment goals, monitor their performance, and plan for retirement. His main argument is that, when it comes to investing, doing nothing is the worst thing you can do.

While the lessons in it are applicable to anyone, the book is a helpful road map for beginning investors, breaking down complicated concepts into simpler pieces.

Find it here »

"Fooling Some of the People All of the Time" by David Einhorn

In this book, Einhorn tells his side of a six-year financial saga.

Here's the short version:. In 2002, Einhorn, founder of Greenlight Capital, thought he'd uncovered flawed accounting practices at Allied Capital and started short selling Allied's stock. That didn't work, as the stock climbed. Einhorn tried to expose Allied's unethical behavior, even approaching the US Securities and Exchange Commission, but the SEC ended up investigating him as well. Ultimately, Allied settled with the SEC in 2008 and the accusations were never substantiated.

The book is heavy on detail, and one critic says that some parts read like Einhorn's angry rant. But it nonetheless offers some compelling insights into the general drama that often unfolds on Wall Street.

Find it here »

"Margin of Safety" by Seth Klarman


Instead of succumbing to the latest trends, Klarman, CEO and president of the Baupost Group, encourages readers to understand the rules and logic behind investing.

Specifically, he advocates and explains the rationale behind value investing, a method developed by Benjamin Graham that involves investing in securities trading at a price lower than their intrinsic value. The book takes its title from Benjamin Graham's advice to always invest with a margin of safety.

"Margin of Safety," no longer in print, now sells for as much as $1,000 on Amazon.

Find it here »

"Made in America" by Sam Walton

"Made in America," by the founder of Walmart, is one of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' favorite books.

Readers get a glimpse into both Walton's personality and the effort it took for him to build what is now the largest retailer in the world.

One reader calls the book "wonderfully folksy" — others say it's solid inspiration for those looking to start their own business.

Find it here »

"Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight

Nike cofounder Knight retired as the chairman of Nike in June 2016. In "Shoe Dog," published April 2016, he tells the fascinating story of how he built the world's biggest athletic company.

Knight takes readers along on his personal journey to success, starting from his pivotal decision at age 24 to go the entrepreneurial route instead of joining the corporate world.

Longtime venture capitalist Brad Feld calls the book the "best memoir I've ever read by a business person" and a "must read" for any founder.

Find it here »

"Behind the Cloud" by Marc Benioff

This 2009 book details how Salesforce's founder, chairman, and CEO launched the cloud software company, now worth roughly $50 billion, in 1999.

Woven throughout the story are some 111 of Benioff's management tips, from "integrate philanthropy from the beginning" to "have the courage to pursue your innovation — before it is obvious to the market."

In January 2016, Benioff suggested in a Tweet that he might be working on a sequel: "Beyond the Cloud."

Find it here »

"How Google Works" by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

In 2014, Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman and former CEO, and Jonathan Rosenberg, former senior vice president of products, published this compilation of insights from their experience building the company.

Readers learn the meaning and importance of "smart creatives," and some anecdotes from Google's previously untold history.

Business Insider published a slide presentation that Schmidt and Rosenberg put together highlighting the book's key takeaways. Those include: "We quickly learned that almost everything we know about managing businesses was dead wrong," and "Never forget that hiring is the most important thing you do."

Find it here »

"Principles" by Ray Dalio

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio is known for his "principles" on everything from power dynamics to calling for "reform capitalism" in America.

His best-selling book, "Principles: Life and Work," elaborates on the core philosophies and the lessons throughout a more than 40-year career — from building the world's largest hedge fund to now passing on what he's learned.

Find it here >> 

Sherin Shibu contributed to an earlier version of this post. 

9 top financial adviser recruiters to know right now who have moved wealth teams managing billions

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:13am  |  Clusterstock

  • Amid a wave of activity across the industry, Business Insider has identified nine prolific and well-connected US-based recruiters focused on financial advisers. 
  • Advisers' moves in the wealth management industry haven't slowed since the coronavirus pandemic spurred mass remote work and market volatility; recruiters and consultants say it's just the opposite. 
  • "When you look at the numbers, it's really during tougher times that we see the most movement," one San Diego, California-based recruiter told us. 
  • The list includes recruiters that have helped adviser teams managing hundreds of millions in client assets move from wirehouses like UBS and Wells Fargo as well as big moves across independent shops.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Within the wealth management industry, tracking the many financial advisers zig-zagging across the industry from firm to firm comes with the territory. 

After all, the largest wealth managers have thousands of wealth managers with longtime clients, and the force of so-called independent advisers unattached to big banks and launching their own practices is growing. 

The pace of advisers uprooting their practices hasn't slowed during the pandemic and the mass remote work it's introduced. Recruiters tell Business Insider they've seen a huge uptick in activity this year. 

"When you look at the numbers, it's really during tougher times that we see the most movement," said Jodie Papike, the president of Cross-Search, a San Diego, California-based adviser recruitment and executive search firm. 

"When things are great, you don't notice it as much," she said. "Any kind of change or shake-up creates situations where financial advisers want to know what their options are." 

According to a recent TD Ameritrade survey of 120 brokers, 40% said they were more likely to breakaway than they would have been six months ago before the pandemic hit. 

With the flurry of adviser movement, Business Insider has identified nine well-connected financial adviser recruiters and consultants who are active in the industry and have worked with advisers through the pandemic.

Over the last few months, recruiters on this list have moved an ex-UBS team overseeing $1.2 billion in client assets to launch their own firm; a $540 million team to independent broker-dealer LPL Financial; and a team overseeing $700 million in assets who left for Wells Fargo Advisors in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Read more: Wealth managers could save millions in costs from a snappier recruitment process. An analyst lays out the 3 firms that could benefit most.

Our first-ever list highlighting adviser-focused recruiters does not include in-house recruiters at wealth management firms, but rather outside executives who work with multiple firms at once. Recruiters were recommended to Business Insider by industry sources across the wirehouse and independent wealth channels.

Here are the financial US-based adviser recruiters we've identified. 

SEE ALSO: Wealth managers could save millions in costs from a snappier recruitment process. An analyst lays out the 3 firms that could benefit most.

Casey Knight, ESP Financial Search at Encore Search Partners

Casey Knight cut his teeth in the adviser recruitment space as so many do: making cold calls to hundreds of wealth managers in the hope someone felt the urge to uproot and switch firms — and entrust Knight with making the move happen for them and their clients. 

At the time, it felt like a means to an end, he said in a recent phone interview. But Knight was motivated, facilitated some large adviser moves around the country, and got into a groove of his own by the time he landed at Encore Search Partners in spring 2016. 

He formed ESP Financial Search, the financial services-focused unit inside the Houston, Texas-based recruiting firm, about four years ago.

At the time, he ran a one-man show inside the division. Today he heads up the 10-person practice as executive vice president and managing director. 

"I always try to think outside the box and be a consultant to the adviser," he told Business Insider. 

Knight's team works with advisers generating at least $200,000 per year in revenue, and focuses on working with firms that are not traditional wirehouses. 

"I got away from recruiting for the wirehouse advisers because I felt that space was crowded, and not enough was being done on the independent side," he said, acknowledging competition across the independent wealth management space is rising. 

A selection of the firms he engages with most often include LPL Financial, Raymond James, Ameriprise, and Cetera.

Recently he facilitated moving a Seattle, Washington-area adviser's practice from Warburg Pincus-backed Kestra to the nation's largest independent broker-dealer, LPL Financial; the team produced $2.8 million in revenue on assets under management of $540 million. 

And late last year, he moved one financial adviser's practice from Bank of America's Merrill Lynch arm to Rockefeller Capital Management, the fast-growing New York-headquartered investment firm headed up by industry veteran Greg Fleming.

Read more: Greg Fleming's $43 billion Rockefeller Capital has hired 19 adviser teams from top-tier wealth firms in 7 months. Execs lay out where it's focused next.

The team's gross production was some $4 million on assets under management of $600 million.

"I want to have the reputation that earns the respect of advisers," Knight said.  

Mike and Kimberly Papedis, Fusion Financial Partners

Mike Papedis describes what Fusion Financial Partners does for independent financial advisers as a sort of "air-traffic control," guiding them through major decisions.

Or the firm can be like an all-encompassing "custom homebuilder," building up advisers' unique new practices from scratch if they choose to leave a wirehouse or other firm. 

"We are there for the negotiations, there at every major decision," he said.

He and his wife Kimberly Papedis cofounded and together own Fusion, a San Diego, California-based consultancy for the wealth management industry and recruitment firm focused purely on independent advisers.

They both previously served in executive roles at the wealth management firm and RIA giant, Hightower. Fusion, whose average clients oversees $1 billion in assets, was formed in 2017. 

Today, the firm has field offices in the tiny Connecticut suburb of Darien; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mike Papedis told Business Insider it has also been helping advisers looking to go independent with what he called a glaring "knowledge gap" as they are met with an endless menu of technology providers and other options available to them.

Fusion Financial Partners has moved advisers from Wells Fargo's independent wealth management division, called FiNet, to launch their own registered investment advisers (RIAs). 

Like other recruiters Business Insider spoke with, Fusion has seen a flurry of recent activity and interest from advisers who are thinking differently about their work. 

"Advisers are pushed to think during the pandemic: how optimized is their business?" Mike Papedis said. "People are thinking with a critical eye about the current state."

Fusion is also growing its team. On Monday, Fusion said it was adding two employees to its technology solutions unit — Brad Frey, who held roles with the wealth management software company AdvisorEngine and Fidelity's eMoney Advisor, will join as the national director of technology solutions.  

Maxwell Alles will also join as director of expert IT services and procurement.

Jeff Feldman, Financial Recruitment Partners

Jeffrey Feldman landed in the financial adviser recruitment space by way of the late 1990s internet boom and bust. He'd moved from his hometown on Long Island, New York to Chicago to work for a start-up that went belly-up.

Feldman had to switch gears, found a niche in the wealth management recruitment space, and launched Financial Recruitment Partners in 2002. 

Back then, his first client was Smith Barney, the brokerage Morgan Stanley acquired in 2012 after three years as a joint venture with the investment bank and Citigroup.

Feldman has kept up a recruitment relationship with Morgan Stanley, now among the largest wealth managers in the world, since the firms merged. 

His roster also includes Raymond James, and he has placed advisers with JPMorgan Securities in the past. He's also placed financial advisers with Rockefeller Capital Management, which launched in early 2018. 

"I really try to be a resource for the adviser," he said. 

Feldman, who is based in the Chicago area, also works with Dynasty Financial Partners, the firm that provides wealth management and technology platforms for independent advisers. On average, advisers Feldman works with oversee more than $200 million in client assets.  

For the sorts of large placements Feldman facilitates, he typically sees between eight and 12 transitions during a busy year — and he's on track for that kind of activity in 2020.

With all the time advisers are spending working from home, he is seeing far more larger teams "at least evaluate life as independent" as some reassess their work within a larger organization.

Read more: Wealth managers could save millions in costs from a snappier recruitment process. An analyst lays out the 3 firms that could benefit most.

Rick Rummage, The Rummage Group

Sports agents for financial advisers: it's one way the Rummage Group, headed up by Rick Rummage, pitches themselves to the wealth management industry. 

After all, recruiters act in many ways like agents for big-time athletes.

They assist with navigating through the industry, finding them the perfect fit, fighting for a deal that makes sense, and looking out for their interests. He puts forward more than 100 questions to new advisers he is looking to work with to understand their goals and practice, he said. 

Rummage founded his Washington, DC-based firm in 2007, and works to place advisers at firms across the wirehouse and independent arenas; two of his primary clients are Wells Fargo and Raymond James. 

Like other consultants to advisers in transition, he's had a busy year.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the 10-person firm has facilitated moves for more than a dozen advisers. One team producing $2.8 million in revenue on a book of $340 million in client assets left a wirehouse to go independent, according to Rummage. 

There was another adviser he recently moved producing $1 million in revenue and overseeing $110 million in client assets to a large independent firm.

His client's motivation was recently dealing with a death amid the pandemic — he thought, "life is too short," Rummage recalled — that made him want to uproot and move to a large independent shop. 

When he founded Rummage more than a decade ago, he wasn't so aware of advisers moving to the independent channel, but it's been a growing space for his business. 

"Within the space, you've got these big personalities who were sports players, risk-takers, and they are attracted to the industry because they eat what they kill," he said, adding it's what attracted him to the business, too.

Jodie Papike, Cross-Search

Jodie Papike, the president of San Diego, California-based Cross-Search, joined the family business in 1998. 

Her father, Larry, founded the firm nine years earlier as what they call the first third-party independent broker-dealer adviser and executive placement firm.  

"People say independent, and that can mean so many different things for so many different people," she said, noting the growth of the independent adviser space. 

Cross-Search — with Papike, her father Larry, brother Jesse, and husband Justin Sladavic, who heads up the executive search arm — works with advisers who are either going from a traditional wirehouse to an independent firm, or are already an independent adviser.  

The firm has contracts with about 65 independent broker-dealers, and about 100 firms when you consider RIAs. One instance of work Cross-Search may do for a client is helping an adviser evaluate which custodian is right for them if they are setting out to form a RIA. 

The clients Cross-Search has on its roster fill a wide range. For instance, a client could be one adviser producing $200,000 to a multi-person team with several million dollars in production. 

During upheaval in the industry like a shock to the market or a public health crisis like the pandemic, advisers may feel the pressure of firms carrying out measures like cost-cutting or consolidation, Papike said. 

"When you look at the numbers, it's really during tougher times that we see the most movement," she said.

"When things are great, you don't notice it as much," she added. "Any kind of change or shake-up creates situations where financial advisers want to know what their options are." 

Louis and Mindy Diamond, Diamond Consultants

Among the most visible financial adviser recruiters in the industry today — and the most-recommended by industry sources to Business Insider for this list — are Mindy Diamond and her son, Louis, who run Diamond Consultants with Mindy's husband, Howard. 

Mindy Diamond founded the Morristown, New Jersey-headquartered firm in 1998, and is today president and chief executive. Louis is executive vice president and senior consultant, and Howard is chief operating officer and general counsel.

The firm calls itself "firm-agnostic," working with traditional brokerages, boutique, and regional firms, along with firms across the independent broker-dealer and RIA landscape.

Among the recent moves Diamond Consultants have facilitated include three separate teams who have left UBS.

There was a team in June overseeing $1.2 billion in client assets who moved over to Dynasty's network in St. Petersburg, Florida; a team managing $500 million in client assets who left for Rockefeller Capital Management in Houston, Texas; and a team overseeing $700 million in assets who left for Wells Fargo Advisors in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. 

Diamond Consultants has also facilitated advisers' moves to firms including Sanctuary Wealth, Raymond James, and First Republic. 

Rob Blevins, Rowlette Executive Search Consultants

Rowlette Executive Search Consultants, based in Dublin, Ohio, is another example of a true family affair. 

Rob Blevins' mother, Patti Rowlette, founded the firm in 1995. Blevins joined Rowlette five years later, and in 2007 he and his brother Ryan bought the firm together. 

"We grew up in the business," said Blevins, who is now the president. 

With a rolodex going back more than two decades, Rowlette works with advisers in nearly every segment: wirehouses, banks, regional firms, and independent RIAs. Many of the firm's clients are independent advisers. 

The six-person firm's primary practice is working with advisers or teams of advisers with north of $1 million in production. Many advisers Blevins works with are going from one independent firm to another, or looking for merger and acquisition opportunities for their practices. 

Over the years, he's seen clients focus more on the aging nature of the business, a critical dynamic many firms are trying to tackle head-on with massive in-house training programs and succession planning. 

Read more: A financial-adviser retirement wave that could put trillions of assets in play is kicking into high gear thanks to the pandemic. Here's how firms are tackling the handover crisis.

Private-equity giants like Carlyle are inking more deals in Asia to get in early on an economic recovery — and that's offering a preview of the next hot investment themes

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:05am  |  Clusterstock

  • Some of the biggest private-equity firms are pointing to Asia as a bright spot in their investment portfolios throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The region, including China, Korea, India, Japan and Australia, has recovered more quickly than the U.S. and PE execs are striking deals there to put capital to work. 
  • Some of the biggest deals this year include Jio, an Indian telecom company, and, a Chinese classified ad website. 
  • Executives told Business Insider about where they see opportunities in Asia, as PE firms set out to spend some of their $2.7 trillion of dry powder.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As Asian economies experience a relatively quicker recovery from pandemic-induced recession than the United States, private-equity giants are taking the opportunity to strike mega-deals throughout the region. 

The capital is coming from a mountain of money PE shops have raised from investors, as executives see growth in Asian countries after companies gain their footing following the earliest wave of the coronavirus, experts told Business Insider.

"China took the early hit and because of the drastic action taken by the government, it really had a tough first quarter in terms of impact — both health and economic impact," Xiang-Dong "X.D." Yang, who leads Carlyle's corporate private-equity investments in Asia, told Business Insider.

"But we have over 20 portfolio companies in China and they have all recovered quite well," he said.  "Most companies are at 2019 levels; some are higher. The portfolio [companies] as a whole, if you look at July or moving into August, are running at year-over-year growth."

Now, data from Bain & Co illustrates an uptick in private-equity deal volume in the second half of 2020 and more deals are being struck in other parts of Asia, like India.

The outlook in Asia was a big talking point during recent earnings calls for private-equity firms, as execs from KKR and Carlyle Group pointed to Asia as a position of strength in their investments.

Scott Nuttall, co-president of KKR, told analysts that about 25% of the firm's portfolio was in technology, media, and telecom, with investments in data and e-commerce performing well, and that KKR has a "heavier weighting toward Asia" consisting of about 30% of its private-equity portfolio.

"So when you put all that together, we've actually been quite encouraged by the data we're seeing," he said. 

And Carlyle's co-CEO, Kewsong Lee, acknowledged on his own firm's earnings call that "Asia is out ahead" compared with other regions in its economic recovery, and that, by Carlyle's estimates, "China probably won't even enter into a recession this year."

Asia, with deal activity scattered throughout countries including China, India, Australia, Japan, and Korea, saw $71 billion in private-equity investment throughout the first half of 2020, up from $64 billion during the same period in 2019, according to data from Bain & Co.

The total number of deals struck declined, however, meaning some multi-billion-dollar deals involving PE behemoths pushed up the volume.

"People are putting a lot of money to work here," said Kiki Yang, a Hong Kong-based partner with Bain & Co.

Of the large U.S. investors active in Asia, KKR, Carlyle, Blackstone, and Warburg Pincus are among the most prominent, staffing deal teams with local investment professionals. And their buyout funds keep getting bigger, with KKR reportedly amassing $10 billion for its largest Asia buyout fund in June.

Deals are pervasive in online businesses and healthcare

Yang, who studies private-equity activity in Asia, was one of several experts who identified sectors in Asian economies that are bringing attractive deals to private-equity firms. These sectors include companies in healthcare services, grocery sales, and communications that are converting or expanding their businesses online.

India, of all Asian countries, is proving to be a growth market, she said. 

One Indian-based digital services company, Jio Platforms, received commitments of $9.5 billion this summer, from investors including KKR, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, Vista Equity Partners, Silver Lake Partners, and Mubadala Investment. 

Read more: 40 insiders reveal the meteoric rise of Silver Lake's Egon Durban, the tech-focused PE firm's No. 1 dealmaker

"And, if you looked at some of the other deals, there are still quite a lot of healthcare technology themes in the market," said Yang.

"A lot of this got accelerated because of the pandemic and people began thinking of the sector trends that could be benefiting the near term and longer term."

On the healthcare front, Carlyle Group has been active, announcing it would acquire the India-based animal healthcare company SeQuent Scientific, and then agreeing to sink a 20% stake into the pharmaceutical unit of Indian conglomerate Piramal Enterprises for $490 million. 

It also announced that it would acquire about a 25% stake in the data center arm of Indian telecom firm, Bharti Airtel, for $235 million.

India dealmaking is expanding 

Xiang-Dong "X.D." Yang, the Carlyle executive, told Business Insider that part of the reason we're seeing more deal activity in India is that there isn't as much access to capital there. 

"PE can play a much bigger role," he said. 

"In China, there is a lot of money from domestic insurance companies, funds, and local governments. In India, that source of capital is small."

Bain & Co data showed that India's deal market share throughout the first half ticked up to 23% of all Asia deals, compared to hovering around 16% the past five years.

China was the most active country, as it usually has been, representing 52% of Asian deal activity, including the announcement that investors, such as Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic, would take Chinese classified ads website private for $8.7 billion.

Yet even though the first half was marked by a few mega-deals, observers noted that much of the deal activity in Asia consists of minority investments in established companies. 

Tom Lin, a private-equity attorney at Clifford Chance, said that minority deals are so prevalent throughout Asia because of certain jurisdictions' restrictions on foreign investment. Discussions over these deals have picked back up in recent months, he said. 

"The ability to execute a minority investment without the publicity of an auction running has allowed [deal activity] to continue throughout the pandemic while everyone is working virtually," said Lin.

Possible headwinds for China deals ahead

There may be some challenges ahead, though. 

Last week US President Donald Trump issued two executive orders that would bar — starting in 45 days — any U.S. transactions done with two Chinese social media networks, WeChat and TikTok, citing national security concerns. 

It's unclear what the overall effect will be, but at least one lawyer contacted by Business Insider said that it's not a good sign for future deal activity.

"It's going to be a negative development, for sure," said Brian Hamilton, a private-equity lawyer with Sullivan & Cromwell.

"The extent of the damage is going to take a while to assess."

[Disclosure: KKR is a major shareholder of Axel Springer, which owns Business Insider]

SEE ALSO: Meet Kewsong Lee, the private-equity exec who's now running the show solo at Carlyle. 20 insiders lay out why the move signals a big transformation at the $221 billion firm.

SEE ALSO: KKR is making a big push into the $30 trillion insurance industry — here's why private equity is starting to look more and more like Berkshire Hathaway

SEE ALSO: 40 insiders reveal the meteoric rise of Silver Lake's Egon Durban, the tech-focused PE firm's No. 1 dealmaker who strong-armed his way to the top and is about to get $18 billion more to invest

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence

TD Ameritrade's growth accelerator just launched an app for college debt as its first startup. Execs at the brokerage giant explain why it's a key tool to build entirely new businesses.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 10:43am  |  Clusterstock

  • TD Ameritrade recently launched the first startup out of its growth incubator, Discotech.
  • Nimbly focuses on helping young people better manage and pay off their student debt.
  • The service is a freemium model that offers a basic version at no cost and a premium version for $6.99 a month that includes personalized, step-by-step plans on handling student debt. 
  • Vijay Sankaran, chief information officer at TD Ameritrade, and John Hart, president of Discotech, told Business Insider the goal of Discotech is to launch revenue-generating companies that sit independent of the brokerage. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

TD Ameritrade has plenty on its plate with the surge in retail trading in recent months and a pending acquisition by Charles Schwab, but the brokerage already has plans for businesses separate from its investing roots.

Nimbly, the first offering out of TD Ameritrade's wholly-owned growth incubator, Discotech, is focused on helping young people better manage and pay down student debt. 

John Hart, president of Discotech, cited the fact the average amount of student debt carried by millennials is $31,370, according to a 2019 survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the brokerage. 

"They weren't able to actually take control of their finances because they were just completely crippled. They didn't have the tools to be able to manage that," he said. 

"Nimbly came out of the research that actually said, 'Hey, how do we actually create the tools necessary and give them a playbook in order to get their finances under control, and then build an actual financial future," he added.

Read more: Meet the Schwab exec in charge of carrying out a $26 billion TD Ameritrade deal that's an aggressive play for size and cost-cuts

It might seem odd that TD Ameritrade, a company with no formal experience in the traditional lending space, is focusing on student debt. But that's the entire point of startups coming out of Discotech. 

The incubator, founded in late 2018, is meant to foster ideas for businesses that could operate entirely independent of TD Ameritrade.

"We wanted to contemplate different ideas that weren't necessarily part of the core part of the business at TD Ameritrade, but really explore some areas that were adjacencies that could be independent, revenue-generating opportunities that would grow over time," Vijay Sankaran, chief information officer at TD Ameritrade, told Business Insider. 

Nimbly gives users a step-by-step plan to get out of debt

Nimbly, which officially launched in July, operates on a freemium business model. Under the free tier, users can load their various accounts, keep track of their balances, and see where their money is going. 

The premium model, which costs $6.99 a month, helps users reduce their debt by creating a series of personalized plans for them to follow, with the option to interact with humans to better tweak the models, which are created using machine-learning techniques, Hart said. 

See more: TD Ameritrade is exploring ways to tap into the red-hot world of sports gambling after it slashed stock-trading commissions to zero

While Hart said eventually Nimbly could help users renegotiate or refinance their debt — with the help of some partners — it's not a focus of the app. 

Nimbly also isn't being viewed as a way to source new clients for TD Ameritrade. While the startup is wholly owned by the brokerage, Hart said it doesn't currently share data with its parent company. 

He also highlighted that point as a major differentiator for Nimbly. 

"If you look at the competitors in this space, they have a massive trust issue," Hart said. "Everybody knows that Mint is free because they are selling all your data. Almost all of us have a Mint account, and all they do is send you deals to get more debt or deals to move your insurance. It really is more about how they can sell the ad space, and not actually help you understand your finances better."

Discotech is about building 'a portfolio of base hits'

While Nimbly is the first startup to come out of Discotech, there has been no shortage of ideas. Hart said the incubator has already said no to well over 70 different ideas.

Discotech takes a top-down approach, first identifying interesting areas the incubator should be investing in without targeting specific solutions. For example, a group might look into using blockchain technology without having an exact business plan in mind. 

From there, research is done to identify actual use cases or user problems that exist in the space. For topics that can be addressed by one of TD Ameritrade's internal teams, the information compiled is passed over to the respective group.

However, if it's not something the brokerage is already involved in, it has the chance to get the greenlight, Hart said. The idea is pitched to Discotech's advisory board, which includes Hart and Sankaran, among others, to see if more resources can be devoted to creating a business. 

"What we want to do is build out a portfolio of base hits and have standalone revenue-generating opportunities that makes TD Ameritrade not just a leader from an investing and trading type of orientation, but also a leader in terms of other potential problem spaces that consumers have around investment and wealth management and other financial-services types of opportunities," Sankaran said. 

Read more: 

E-Trade just unveiled its plan of attack to nab advisers and investors 'lost in the shuffle' in the Schwab-TD Ameritrade deal — it includes a hiring push and marketing blitz in an industry that's under huge cost pressures

Crypto exec Michael Novogratz says the Schwab-TD Ameritrade deal may have derailed wider adoption of financial advisers trading bitcoin

TD Ameritrade's CEO explains how it's moving towards the public cloud, and why tech spend is 'the golden dollar'

SEE ALSO: The head of innovation for TD Ameritrade's 7,000 adviser clients thinks virtual assistants and holograms will be must-have wealth tech by 2030

SEE ALSO: Charles Schwab's $26 billion deal for TD Ameritrade is an aggressive play for size that was set in motion before brokers started slashing commissions

SEE ALSO: Albert, a fintech that's raised $50 million from Alphabet, is going all-in on pay-what-you-choose subscriptions. Here's how it's looking to shake up the business of financial advice.

Join the conversation about this story »

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

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 7:59pm  |  Clusterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Micro Angel Investors Are the Future of Startup Funding by Dawn Dickson @THEDawnDickson

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 5:09pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Dawn Dickson writes: How leveraging the power of small checks can make a big impact to build companies and create generational wealth...[more]

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