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Protagonist of this week's news, Alexander Nix is the executive at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook controversy surrounding political campaign influence, sly data based marketing and supposed behind-our-backs data harvesting through everyone's favourite social media platform.

In this video CEO Today delves in to the life of Alexander Nix, a very private individual, listing some hobbies, interests and much of what he's been up to to get where he is today.

Facebook, Google, and now also Twitter have all moved to ban cryptocurrency-based adverts on their sites. This means that any ads pertaining to ICO platforms, bitcoin wallets, token sales, crypto-trading etc. will be banned.

Much of this spouts from illicit ads and fraudulent activities. Therefore, there will be some exceptions and policies are still being put together. Analysts currently believe dips in market values and trading of crypto are being caused by the regulatory scrutiny and ban on ads.

This week Finance Monthly hears from BrokerNotes CEO Marcus Taylor on what this means for the crypto market as a whole: “The cryptocurrency market is taking a battering at the moment. It’s being viewed by consumers and big businesses as a wild west environment riddled with risk and instability. Google’s move to ban cryptocurrency ads, following Facebook’s decision last month, will light a fire under the industry to introduce the regulation needed to make the crypto market one consumers can trust in the long term.

“But what about the short-term impact? A recent report shows that 58% of online cryptocurrency traders are millennials and it seems logical that removing advertising from social media channels like YouTube and Facebook should have a major impact on their overall interest in the market. The reality will be different though.

“Although 18-30s represent a huge chunk of the market, 52% identify as experienced traders. The ban will simply serve to protect the ill-informed making bad decisions and bring market stability, rather than put a stranglehold on cryptocurrency trading.”

One might assume that Kodak, the American photography company best known for printing your beloved baby pictures from the high street, had faded into obscurity after its redundancy in the wake of the ever-changing digital age.

In the dawn of handheld devices such as cell phones, smart phones and tablets—all of which can take photographs themselves—Kodak underestimated the constant change in our technological society, whereas competitors took advantage of the market to remain up-to-date in a rapidly modernizing world. Its share worth paints a clear picture of this despite its financial peak in 1996, with the brief bankruptcy it filed for in 2012 and the subsequent steady slope downwards in worth from then onwards as solid proof of its growing irrelevance.

That is, until you reach January 2018, and a large spike in value ends its loss-making trend.

The cause? Eastman Kodak Co. announcing Kodakcoin, Kodakone and Kodak KashMiner, another entry in the list of growing cryptocurrencies and miners attempting to bank on Bitcoin’s success. The announcement prompted Kodak’s shares to surge from $3.13 per share to $12.75, slating 31st January 2018 as the date for the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for Kodakcoin to begin.

ICOs are used to raise funds in the development of a new cryptocurrency, often in exchange for fiat currency or other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The announcement was made at the CES2018 convention in Las Vegas. Kodakone, created in partnership with London-based WENN Digital, will be the platform for which Kodakcoin can be used, utilizing blockchain technology to help photographers keep track of how their photos are used online. They will allegedly benefit from being able to register their work, sell rights to images and receive payment through the new cryptocurrency.

Among these announcements was the plan to install rows of Bitcoin mining rigs at Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, New York—a power intensive process run by Spotlite branded as Kodak KashMiner, that will verify cryptocurrency transactions rapidly.

Kodak KashMiner computers can be leased by anyone for a two-year contract for over $3000, with alleged returns reaching over $9000 for the customer at $375 a month. Despite this, the overall worth of these machines is under scrutiny due to the fact that Bitcoins become harder to generate over time, signalling the potential that customers will earn far less than they anticipated. The scheme was also criticised over fears that a cryptocurrency bubble will form because of it.

Kodak’s move is among many others who have recently joined in the trend of creating unique digital currencies or taking advantage of Bitcoin’s success—including Mark Zuckerberg, who recently detailed plans to incorporate Bitcoin into Facebook in order to fix its underlying problem of centralism.

But is this move worth the risk?

Bitcoin itself has become common knowledge at this point, with headlines reporting its changes in worth on a daily basis—however, its worth plummeted by 14% in just 24 hours due to the continued discussion over South Korea’s potential ban of the cryptocurrency. With its future up to debate, it is unknown whether Kodak will reap the benefits that it undeniably needs. It has, at least, dragged itself out of the grave and back into the limelight for now.

Traditional banks are lagging behind when it comes to technology and we are increasingly seeing non-financial services companies, like Facebook and Orange moving in into the territory of traditional banks. Below Daniel Kjellén, Co-Founder and CEO of Swedish fintech unicorn Tink, looks at how Facebook is currently adding P2P payments to their services.

You would have to have your head in the sand not to notice that huge change is afoot across the banking and personal finance sectors. Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it was making its first foray into finance in the UK, with the launch of a new service which will allow users to transfer cash with just a message.

Facebook is not the only tech giant moving in on the territory of traditional banks, with Apple also set to launch its own virtual cash payments system and telecoms behemoth Orange recently announcing the launch of its online banking platform. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Fintech firms like Mint, Moneybox and Tink are taking this concept beyond payments, creating a sophisticated consumer led money management ecosystem.

So why is this happening? The launch of Facebook’s P2P payments service is evidence of the wave of technological and legislative driven disruption sweeping toward the retail banking market that change the shape of the sector beyond recognition. Consumers in 2017 are platform agnostic and don’t care whether they manage their money through their bank or their phone company or social media account.

Across the world, we are witnessing a move to the model of ‘open banking’ which will blow open the retail banking sector and create competition in the form of tech firms, who are already making a play for the territory traditionally held by banks. This hasn’t happened in a vacuum, it is just one symptom of the enormous transformation the industry is undergoing.

The fintech invasion

The current wave of tech companies offering in-app personal finance capabilities is just the beginning. The success of fintechs such as Monzo and Transferwise has demonstrated beyond doubt that today’s consumers are looking beyond their bank to manage their finances.

Until recently, banks have enjoyed a monopoly over their customers’ data and have operated in a market which by design, discourages competition and transparency. The result has been a mismatch between people and products, with consumers having to settle for high cost, low quality financial services. It’s not surprising that nimble tech companies are moving in on the space previously occupied by the banks. So long as their investments in fintech yield results, these ambitious and visionary companies will continue to pioneer new solutions that transform our relationship with money.

Banks who don’t innovate and create customer led products, will risk losing their customers who, through tech solutions will automatically be filtered towards a smorgoesboard of banking products which suit their needs. Third party platforms will become the main interface for money management, regardless of who the consumer actually banks with.

A nudge in the right direction

Facebook’s mobile payments feature will be supported by M Suggestions, a virtual assistant which monitors Messenger chats and nudges consumers to use the payments feature whenever the subject of sending money comes up in conversation, aiming for a seamless integration between social interaction and finance. The smart technology which underpins Facebook’s virtual assistant is a glimpse of the future of personal money management.

Today’s apps are nudging consumers in their day-to-day choices, encouraging them to save a little every month, offering tailored advice based on their economic habits, pointing them towards better deals and products, helping them to prepare for life’s big financial commitments - all with the aim of improving users’ financial happiness.

Money on autopilot

Facebook’s payments service aims to remove friction from the transaction - friction in this case being the need to leave Messenger. We are witnessing increasing numbers of tech companies offering these in app capabilities, the ultimate aim of which is to allow users to do everything in one place.

PSD2, which comes into force in January, will open the floodgates for third parties to build financial services apps which aggregate, enabling consumers to do everything in-app from paying their bills to comparing how much they are paying for access to financial products like credit and mortgages.

Technology is ushering in a new era where money management is frictionless and simple. Many people today have a difficult or distant relationship with their finances. There is often a mismatch between people’s needs and the product they are offered by their bank. This means money management can often feel like a chore rather than a choice.

In-app personal finance services such as those offered by Facebook, Tink and Apple, will offer consumers the ability to effortlessly manage their personal finances while going about their daily business. People’s relationship with their money will become a lifestyle choice, with financial decisions being akin to the choices they make about their health or their hobbies. Eventually, money will be on autopilot.

A bank by any other name

Today it is rare to find an individual who is loyal to their bank. With the ties between consumers and their bank becoming increasingly weak, smartphones will become the interface between people and their money. The entity sitting behind this engagement will become little more than an afterthought.

Tech companies who have built a strong consumer facing brand - underpinned by best in class technology - are waking up to the opportunity and are planting their roots in the fertile ground left wide open by the traditional banks. As the line between banks, fintech, social media and telecoms becomes blurred, the banking market as we know it will soon be unrecognisable. The banks who will survive and thrive are those who embrace the disruption and invest in the power to innovate through technology.

Against the backdrop of transformative technologies and the latest regulations, Graham Lloyd, Director and Industry Principal of Financial Services at Pegasystems, identifies for Finance Monthly what types of challenges financial services will have to navigate in their journey through 2018.

Successful social mediaThe growing discrediting of social media content and its practices comes at an awkward time for banks. The last thing they need is association with anything that could contribute more mistrust to their profile, but they cannot afford to ignore a powerful channel with such reach and strong links to here-and-now impact. It will be interesting to see how banks learn to handle social media with success.

Evolving customer engagementSocial media is just one element of customer engagement and there are far bigger issues on the horizon – digestibility, cost and effectiveness. Data mining is now so huge and its outputs so great that we should perhaps be referring to ‘big insights’ as there are so many of them. For most players, the problem is how to work out which insights to leverage within whatever time and budget constraints prevail.

Time to tackle trade financeWith trade finance risk-weighting kicking in properly in March 2019, we are entering the home straight for finalising the necessary business changes. Most players will presumably look to offset some of the costs of introducing capital requirements in this hitherto largely unweighted portfolio by seeking greater productivity/process efficiencies.

The truth is out about challengers! – Thus far, challengers and Fintechs have been portrayed as somewhere between a benediction and a panacea. The great generic USP – “we’re not a traditional bank” – has helped them weather all sorts of issues from low take-up to sub-optimal IT to almost-but-not-quite products, with scarcely a hard question asked. But the honeymoon period may be drawing to a close, and even in combination, they have still to take any serious market share away from big/traditional banks.

Possibilities of PSD2 – In the final run up to PSD2, there are sizeable revenue opportunities for a bank positioning itself as the ‘destination of choice’ for PISPs (Payment Initiation Service Providers). These new players will gravitate towards the banks offering a higher service standard and the least hassle, as the effects will flow through to the PISPs’ own customers and their expectations of security, certainty and convenience. Banks stand to recapture not only some of their own lost transactions, but also some which have flowed out of their competitors.

Richard Meirion-Williams, Head of Financial Services at BJSS discusses how banks can counteract the threat provided by Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA).

It wasn’t long ago that bank branches used to hold personal, trusted relationships with their local customers. However, since the rise of digital banking and the decline of the branch, relationships between bank provider and customer have weakened. While the financial institutions are under pressure to keep up with digital transformation, at the same time demand for a personalised customer experience is high on the banking agenda.

Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the major technology power players, known as GAFA, are transforming the digital banking landscape as we know it. With a huge pool of customer data at their fingertips, GAFA’s move into financial services is simply a natural extension of their current offering. When you consider the vast amount of data that these tech giants can leverage across social media, mobile, customer purchase information and mapping data, GAFA has the ability to provide a highly personalised financial service experience.

For banks to remain central in the lives of consumers, they must provide consistent and fulfilling customer experiences across the digital and physical environment. It’s not just about having access to customers credit or debit accounts, but also a greater/wider insight into their individual customers.

But time is of the essence. Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal have already formed a coalition called Financial Innovation Now to enhance innovation in the financial industry to satisfy the customer need for convenience. The key for traditional financial providers is to act quickly and respond to emerging digital disruptors like GAFA. Banks need to focus on evolving their business models and developing new revenue streams.

4 steps to challenge the GAFA force

Client on-boarding: Banks need to maintain their competitive differentiation and make products available immediately. Recently banks have focused on improving the front-end process. But what about the back-end? By digitising the full spectrum banks can reap the rewards of full end-to-end capabilities. This will mean customers opening an account can get started up in minutes after completing an online application. Making changes to the digital process will also help improve the processes which co-exist in physical branches.

Personalised services and partnering for suppliers and customers: Customer centricity should be at the heart of every business. Banks need to create personalised services to deliver their products using an agile approach. This can be achieved either through the bank or a third-party.

To meet consumer demand for convenience and choice, banks should also look to offer customers “lifestyle” services that can adapt in real-time to fulfil the everyday needs of the banking user. Not only will this help multiply customer interactions but will also help generate new revenue streams.

Leverage Consumers data: Extrapolate customer insights from the vast amount of structured and unstructured customer data using Artificial Intelligence, NLP and cognitive computing. The customer financial information can be leveraged to create market intelligence and to generate new revenue streams.

Create an ecosystem: Banks should take advantage of open environments and create new ecosystems. This could be offering external or white-labelling banking services through open APIs and new partnership models with innovative fintechs or working alongside GAFA. Banks need to develop new products and services on distributed ledgers for transactional access on a continual basis and receive data and events from third parties like Amazon or Apple who can distribute and integrate their products in a broader business environment.

This approach will help counter the GAFA threat and create greater cross and upselling opportunities, along with building customer acquisition, retention and cost optimisation, transforming the cost-to-income ratio from the current average of 63% to hopefully less than 50%*. It is critical for banks to think innovatively and act quickly, otherwise they will become a victim of the GAFA dominance which has already infiltrated other industries.

*Calculation made based on reviewing the published accounts of a number of banks.

Interactive Investor, the online investment platform, has recently released its clients’ most traded investments, by number of trades, in September 2017.

Commenting on the results, Lee Wild, Head of Equity Strategy at Interactive Investor, said: “It was all about inflation, interest rates and tapering during September, so little wonder central banks dominated proceedings. US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, who’ll begin slowly winding down the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet this month, prepped markets for a rate hike in December then another three in 2018.  Not to be left out, Bank of England governor Mark Carney turned hawk as inflation hit 2.9%, confirming that a first increase in UK borrowing costs for over a decade just got a whole lot closer.

“The obvious benefits of higher interest rates had the British pound up as much as 5% against the dollar and at a post-EU referendum high. Rate rises are typically good news for the banking sector, with lenders quicker to raise borrowing costs than they are to offer better deals to savers. It may not be great for consumers, but an improvement in bank margins should feed through to shareholders by way of bigger profits and dividends.

“It’s why investors’ favourite Lloyds Banking Group rallied 6% in September and remained the most popular blue-chip stock on the Interactive Investor platform last month. Vodafone blasted back into the Top Five. Apple’s launch of the iPhone 8 should get the tills ringing, and the fastest growing broadband operator in Europe offers an irresistible dividend yield of over 6%.

“As one would expect, there was plenty of excitement on AIM. Online fashion retailer is a member of AIM’s exclusive ten-bagger club, but the shares are hardly cheap, so tweaking margin guidance lower in its half-year results gave traders a scare. So did joint-CEO Carol Kane’s decision to sell £10.7 million of Boohoo shares in the aftermath.

“However, a 25% plunge in the share price always looked harsh given aggressive growth forecasts. It’s why trading volume more than tripled in September and buyers outnumbered sellers two-to-one.

More spectacular, however, was the explosion in activity at Frontera Resources. There are 13.4 billion shares in issue worth less than a penny each, but the £100 million company is no tiddler. Frontera’s liquidity, typified by tight spreads, volatility and an intriguing story make it a firm favourite among small-cap investors. At the beginning of September, the shares were worth just 0.1125p, but before the month was out it was 0.782p, an increase of 595%.

“There’s real excitement around Frontera’s Ud-2 well in Georgia because it sits in the Mtsare Khevi gas complex, where experts estimate a potential recoverable resource of 5.8 trillion cubic feet of gas. Following a series of progress reports, the number of trades on the Interactive Investor platform swelled twelvefold in September versus the previous month.”

Rebecca O’Keeffe, Head of Investment at Interactive Investor, adds: “Yet again, the big active funds of Fundsmith Equity, Woodford Income and Lindsell Train Global occupy the top three spots, with our investors continuing to prefer active management in the current environment. With currencies driving markets and sector moves more pronounced, there is greater potential for active managers to add value.

“Although the top three are all active, passive funds remain relatively popular and Vanguard 100 muscled its way back into the Top Five, knocking out Jupiter India in the process. Vanguard have taken over as the preferred option for many clients, with 15 Vanguard funds in the Top 100 most bought funds year-to-date. The compound effect of lower fees is significant and over the long term this can add tens of thousands to your portfolio value, making low-cost tracker funds highly attractive for investors.”

(Source: Interactive Investor)

Big technology brands are proving irresistible to today’s investors, data from award-winning investment game app Invstr has shown.

Experts from the innovative fintech company extracted investment game data from their users in more than 170 countries, and found that, in the six months up to July 31st, outside of silver and gold, familiar consumer-facing brands such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Samsung were the most traded instruments.

Looking further into the data, Invstr found that keeping hold of those big brands could prove a lucrative exercise; the top 10 instruments from the last six months have gone up in value by almost 15% on average.

Plus, the tech companies have been core to that group success. Facebook (27.04% increase), Samsung (23.21%), Amazon (18.67%) and Apple (15.52%) have all experienced hefty growth since February 1, 2017.

Invstr also looked at statistics for the last month (July 3-31) and three months (May 1-July 31), and found that Invstr users were still going strong on the markets with group growth of 8.72% and 4.17% across the top 10 instruments respectively. Tech stocks continued to feature strongly.

Kerim Derhalli, founder and CEO of Invstr, said: “It’s evident from the Invstr data that investors find comfort with the big brands they know and love. Whether it’s the last month, three months or six months, they’ve tended to dominate our top 10 most traded instruments – and it seems to be paying off over longer periods.

“However, everything can change and investors should make sure they are up to speed on the latest price changes and news. Even with growth over the last six months going well, the likes of Apple and Facebook dropped heavily in June before bouncing back in July.

“What we know for sure is that, by gaining more knowledge and understanding of the financial markets, investors can make much more informed decisions which will see their chances of investment success increase.”

Invstr’s top traded instruments

Instrument Performance (%)
Silver +4.03
Gold +4.05
Apple +3.64
Bitcoin > US Dollar +13.15
Facebook +14.03
Amazon +3.58
Netflix +24.28
Brent Crude Oil +5.98
Microsoft +6.65
Bitcoin > Euro +7.77


Instrument Performance (%)
Silver -0.18
Samsung Life Insurance +15.38
Agricultural Bank of China +2.53
Gold +1.04
Hyundai -3.97
Apple +1.47
Samsung +8.02
Facebook +11.01
Amazon +4.17
Brent Crude Oil +2.19


INVSTR MOST TRADED TOP 10 - 6 MONTHS (February-July 2017)
Instrument Performance (%)
Silver -4.17
Samsung Life Insurance +16.97
Agricultural Bank of China +11.28
Gold +4.44
Hyundai +3.94
Apple +15.52
Samsung +23.21
Facebook +27.04
Amazon +18.67
Netflix +29.04

(Source: Investr)

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