Human Advisors War On Robo-Advisors

human-vs-robot-09 blog update profiles human advisors trying to combat the recent rise in the use of robo-advisors orver human advisors. Robo advisors are a class of financial adviser that provides portfolio management online by using algorithms and use minimal human intervention.  Robo-advisors are typically low-cost, have low account minimums, and attract younger investors who are more comfortable doing things online. With all these things working in robo-advisors’ favor, human advisors have been struggling to compete with the robo-advisors. CNBC’s Sarah O’Brien highlights recent tactics human advisors are using in her article, “Robo wars: How advisors are taking on cybercompetitors“, with an excerpt of the article below.

The growth of low-cost robo-advisors has made one thing clear to financial industry analysts: Human advisors who provide little more than investment advice have their work cut out for them.

“Advisors need to be more strategic about what they can offer clients,” said Will Trout, a senior analyst for research and consulting firm Celent. “Stock picking is a waste of time, and allocating has become a commodity because it can be executed by algorithms. So advisors have to operate at a much higher level and [address] a client’s unique situation,” he said, adding, “Otherwise, what are clients paying for?”

So-called robo-advisors are automated online investment advisory services. Along with providing automated, algorithm-based portfolio management advice, some of them offer automatic portfolio rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting.

Robo-advisors also charge less than the industry standard of 1 percent of assets managed for financial advisory services. And that, say analysts, is going to put pressure both on industry fees and on advisors themselves to justify fees that are higher than a robo’s.

To continue reading CNBC’s article on human advisors combatting robo-advisors, click here.

Laureate Education Inc. Planning $1 Billion IPO

about_laureate_690 blog update profiles Laureate Education Inc., the world’s largest for-profit college chain, is planning to launch a $1 billion initial public offering in the United States. Laureate Education was founded in 1998 by Douglas L. Becker as part of Sylvan Learning Systems. In 2007, an investment group lead by Becker bought the Laureate Education section of the company. The company now owns and operates more than 80 institutions, both campus-based and online, in 30 countries, with more than 800,000 students enrolled. 

This blog update profiling Laureate Education’s plans for an IPO is courtesy of BloombergBusiness‘s article, “World’s Biggest For-Profit College Chain Plans $1 Billion IPO”, with an excerpt below:

Laureate Education Inc., the largest for-profit college network in the world, is interviewing banks for a $1 billion initial public offering in the U.S., people with knowledge of the matter said.

The company, whose honorary chancellor is former President Bill Clinton, has been meeting with potential underwriters for an IPO that could value the education juggernaut at about $5 billion, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private information. The company, based in Baltimore, owns 84 universities, mostly in emerging markets.

Laureate was taken private in a management-led $3.8 billion buyout in 2007, backed by an investor group including KKR & Co. and Citigroup Inc. The company pursued an IPO three years ago, people familiar with the situation said then, which never materialized. It would be the the biggest school chain to go public, edging out Nord Anglia Education Inc., the second-biggest, which raised $350 million last year.

The market climate surrounding for-profit education could be better. The For-Profit Education Index of 13 companies, including DeVry Education Group Inc. and Apollo Education Group Inc., has plunged 55 percent through Wednesday since its peak five years ago. Enrollment has slowed amid recruiting abuses and student debt concerns, leading to a regulatory crackdown.

To continue reading this article on the world’s largest for-profit college chain’s quest for an IPO, click here. To find a brokerdealer to help you get in on this IPO and others like it, click here.

China BrokerDealers Baffled By Exchange Snafu

shanghai exchange update is courtesy of extract from coverage from consequent to Monday snafu at the Shanghai Stock Exchange , when China’s stock trading was so abundant that the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s software was unable to properly display the turnover data – apparently there were too many zeros to factor in.

Turnover on the Shanghai Stock Exchange exceeded 1trn yuan ($161.28bn) for the first time on the 20th April, but the country’s trading fever hit the news for a different reason – the exchange’s software was not designed to report volumes that high and, as a consequence, the data couldn’t be displayed properly.

A statement released by the Shanghai Stock Exchange confirmed that “this is software configuration issue, not a technical glitch.” It continued to explain that current software package, called SHOW2003, would need to be replaced in order to handle the higher volumes of reporting. Trading and price quotes for individual stocks were not affected, however.

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Resolving the software issue will be of upmost importance given the rapid growth of China’s stock market, which has nearly doubled over the past six months. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is now the world’s biggest in terms of turnover, totalling $1.85trn in March this year – surpassing the New York Stock Exchange which had a turnover of $1.53trn for the same month.

The last time this kind of software story was in the news, it was under very different circumstances: namely when the US national debt clock went past the $10trn mark in 2008. The upgrade to fix that glitch saw two extra digits added to the clock in anticipation of the country’s burgeoning debt.

BrokerDealer-Backed Symphony Is Singing Happy Tune

symphony blog update is courtesy of coverage from Tech Talk and profiles the latest from Symphony, the brokerdealer-backed financial communications program that is looking to make the Bloomberg terminals (or at least their most-used messaging application) mute.

This David v. Goliath type battle pitting well-backed upstarts against the ubiquitous Bloomberg LP could become a trend among other aspiring fintech, trading system and specialty financial data providers and terminals  when considering last week’s snafu that, for a few hours, rendered the Bloomberg LP terminal farm “tradus interruptus” across the globe (albeit, the fix was made prior to the opening bell of US markets.)

Tom Glocer
Tom Glocer

As spotted first by of all places, the NY Post, “Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters and a managing partner of Angelic Ventures, is joining Symphony’s board of directors, according to a person directly familiar with the company’s plans (according to the NY Post).”

Symphony, which received a $66 million investment last year from 15 financial companies has been seen as a viable alternative to the $24,000-a-year Bloomberg terminal.

The company’s backers include a who’s who of Wall Street financial companies: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNY Mellon, BlackRock, Citadel, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Jefferies, JPMorgan, Maverick, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and Wells Fargo.

Last fall, these companies contributed $66M to finance Symphony, and using that money, purchased Perzo, a company that was building a secure communications platform. After the purchase, they named Perzo founder David Gurle as Symphony CEO.

In addition to providing encrypted chat services, Symphony doesn’t store any communications as a third party, and allows a bank’s compliance officers to stop chats from leaving the company — an increasingly important factor for banks who are seeing chat records in court papers.

The addition of Glocer is only the latest of alum of the news and financial data company to join Symphony.

David Gurle, Symphony’s founder and CEO, was global head of collaborative services at Thomson Reuters, and worked on the company’s chat tool, according to the company’s Web site.

In addition to Gurle, there’s Eran Barak, Symphony’s global head of business operations, and Koray Oztekin and Ann Demirtjis, who do product management, according to the company’s Web site.
At least four other Symphony employees in business development have formerly worked at Thomson Reuters, according to LinkedIn.

Symphony is already in wide use at Goldman Sachs, which led the round of funding last year. The service is expected to be broadly rolled out to Wall Street by July.

This is Best Time To Raise Money, Ever blog update is courtesy of curating various stories with special credit to NYT reporter Farhad Manjoo, profiling Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of start-up Slack, an enterprise messaging company.  Manjoo’s article “Is Slack Really Worth $2.8 Billion? A Conversation With Stewart Butterfield” is extracted below.

Stewart Butterfield, chief executive of Slack, in the company's office in San Francisco.

Stewart Butterfield, chief executive of Slack, in the company’s office in San Francisco.Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

When I recently wrote about Slack, a corporate messaging app that has aspirations to replace email, investors valued the company at $1 billion. That was a month ago. Today, the start-up announced that it has raised $160 million from a half dozen investors, and that it is now worth $2.8 billion.

Slack, which is just a year old, has more than 750,000 daily active users, 200,000 of whom are paying customers. By many estimates, it is the fastest-growing business application of all time.

Still, Slack’s escalating valuation in such a short time seems destined to spark questions about the rising possibility of a tech bubble. I asked Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s co-founder and chief executive, about the company, its growth and the bubble in a wide-ranging conversation this morning.

Q. I’m surprised that you’re raising money, because last time we talked you said that you had enough money.
A. Do you have enough money?
Q.No. But it’s not free money, right?
A. It’s pretty straightforward. I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. This is the best time to raise money ever. It might be the best time for any kind of business in any industry to raise money for all of history, like since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It’s certainly the best time for late-stage start-ups to raise money from venture capitalists since this dynamic has been around.