Web site lets consumers compare financial products

A new Web site, LikeMoney.co.za hopes to empower South Africans to make informed financial purchasing decisions with its concept of comparing financial products based on what social media users like and recommend.

According to the company, it is a social comparison engine that allows consumers to compare financial products, insurance products, loans, credit cards, cellphones, broadband, investments and more.

Alibaba financial arm strikes deal in Thailand

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings financial arm Ant Financial Services Group on Tuesday signed a strategic partnership agreement with Thai financial technology firm Ascend Money, as the former aims to expand its mobile payment platform and other financial products to overseas markets.

Under the partnership, Ant Financial will make strategic investments in Ascend Money and bring its inclusive financial model of online and offline payment platforms to Thailand by providing technical and experience support, the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times.

Our goal is to replicate the Alipay model to Thailand, said Douglas Feagin, senior vice president of Ant Financial. He said he hopes Ant Financials services and products will reach 50 percent of the Internet users in Thailand within five years.

Details as to the amount of investment Ant Financial will make in Ascend Money were not disclosed in the company statement, but earlier media reports suggested Ant Financial would take a 20 percent stake in Ascend Money and seek an option to increase the stake to 30 percent.

The deal on Tuesday is another step in Ant Financials drive to reach more users in overseas markets with its online and off-line payment platforms.

Ant Financial has made similar moves in India and South Korea. In 2015, Ant made two rounds of investments in Indian financial technology firm Paytm, which is now said to have 150 million users. In South Korea, it has gained preliminary approval to establish an Internet bank.

Ant Financial, said to be worlds largest financial technology company, is valued at $60 billion after raising $4.5 billion in record funding in April.

The company said it had more than 200 million users globally at the end of October and aims to increase that number to 2 billion users within the next 10 years, with 60 percent of them coming from overseas markets.

Global Times

Canadians not afraid to venture outside the big banks for financial products, EY survey finds

Nearly one-third of Canadians have gone outside their banks in the past year for a financial services product or service, according to a new survey from EY.

Add those who plan to “in the near future” and the figure climbs to more than 50 per cent, signaling the potential threat of rivals including upstart financial technology firms to key business lines within Canada’s banks.

“To stay relevant, especially as financial technology companies, or fintechs, are taking a piece of the market, traditional banks need to build on their strengths — including brand, trust and community presence,” said Paul Battista, financial services advisory leader at EY, the global consultancy formerly known as Ernst amp; Young.

He also urged Canada’s big banks to make investments that will allow them to offer “a superior customer experience,” an attribute the research suggests is a key driver inthe move to alternative providers.

Goldman Sachs is Testing out Apple’s App Store Business Model to Sell Competing Financial Products

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is taking a page from Apple Inc.s playbook. For the first time, it is allowing rivals to sell their own investment products through a Goldman web application, according to several clients and the bank.

With the move, Goldman aims to do more than sell just its own products. It is looking to create an online platform used by others–even competitors–to reach customers.

Just as iPhone users can choose Google Maps or Spotifys music-streaming service instead of Apples own applications, retail brokers across the country can choose a Wells Fargo amp; Co. debt instrument for their clients portfolio, using the Goldman web tool.

It is a fresh example of investment banks seeking new ways to make money as superlow interest rates and tougher regulation crimp profits. In some cases, banks like Goldman are transitioning from swashbuckling traders to toll-taking middlemen, taking less risk to earn smaller fees.

For Goldman, there is urgency behind the shift: Its debt-trading desks earned $5.6 billion through September. That is the smallest haul at this point in the year since 2003 and a fraction of the roughly $20 billion the debt-trading desks generated in that period of 2009.

The Goldman Sachs business model is being disrupted by regulatory changes, said Guy Moszkowski, an analyst at Autonomous Research. They need to replace lost revenue with other things. For more on this see the full Wall Street Journal report here.

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Reliance Industries faces $1.2-billion penalty in row with ONGC over migrated gas

With flight bookings, shopping and buying movie tickets all moving online, it was only a matter of time before purchasing financial products followed suit. In fact, with greater safety, better user interfaces, simpler processes and of course, busier lives, many Indians are opting to buy financial products like insurance and bank deposits online and on-the-go rather than at a bank branch.

We conducted a survey among 150 consumers in 4 metro cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad) and 2 tier-II cities (Indore and Bhopal) to understand the financial products Indians are buying online and their needs.

The market for financial products still has huge potential for growth with 29% respondents reporting that they owned no financial instruments. Insurance is without a doubt the most widely owned financial instrument for Indians. Nearly half the sample45% of the respondentsreported investing in insurance. Apart from that, around 27% invested in bank deposits like Fixed and Recurring Deposits and only 13% opted for mutual funds, 13% bought stocks, and just 10% took home loans. While many people still consume financial products only at their bank branches, a large number have started seeking financial information and buying financial instruments online.

The shifting tide

We found that 45% of the survey respondents bought financial products online, indicating that a large chunk of Indians is trusting the internet to manage something as sensitive as their financial investments. It is clear that Indians value the distinct advantages of transacting online. Convenience is an integral part of the experience60% of those who bought financial products online felt that convenience played an important role in choosing to purchase online. Multiple aspects of convenience resonate with buyersover 40% felt that the availability of 24/7 services and the ease of comparing different products from drove them to buy online.

However, findings also reveal some concerns that even tech-savvy Indians have with the online medium.

Security is king

Understandably, security is a key factor for buyers of financial products. Even among the 45% who purchased financial products online, almost half felt that the lack of security prevented them from buying more financial products online. Tellingly, the most commonly bought financial product online is general insurance. It has to be bought (in the case of travel) or renewed (in the case of car insurance) regularly and quickly, which is easier done online. It also doesnt require the submission of too many personal documentsanother factor reported by many as a barrier to online purchase of financial products.

To overcome these security concerns, many companies are taking concrete steps to improve the online security of their portals. They are setting up SSL security systems that encrypt and protect the users data and payments and are educating customers on how to recognize online payment scams. Thus, people are slowly moving towards buying high involvement financial items like life insurance as well online.

The human factor

Research is a crucial part of the buying process, and most buyers seek information from multiple sources. While research for several consumer products like electronics and furniture has moved online even if purchase is offline, financial products have been slower to move, especially due to the need for expertise. From the sample, 55% rated talking to financial consultants and advisors as very important. Similarly, 55% rated advice from friends and family as very important.

As is evident, while the world is going online, there is something to be said for the familiarity and comfort of human interaction. Even online buyers value non-digital channels of communication. Of those who bought financial products online, 25% felt that visiting bank branches was important, 30% felt that recommendations from friends and family was important, and 33% felt that discussing it with financial advisors was important.

However, we find that online forums and aggregators are also gaining in terms of people using them to research products. According to a BCG report, search queries on life and health insurance have grown 4.5 times from 2008 to 2013, showing that digital is certainly influencing the research part of the buying cycle. Many life insurance companies and banks have caught on to this trend and are finding ways of making customer service executives available online through chat facilities on their portals. Additionally, companies are also investing in a better online user experience by designing their websites to be simple, attractive and easy-to-understand, so that the process of purchase becomes easier for customers.

When it comes to buying insurance, finding an appropriate plan is not an easy process. Life insurance companies are using technology and algorithms to overcome these human biases with innovative products like life insurance calculators. An example of this is the HDFC Life insurance profiler which simplifies the process of choosing an insurance plan. A person can enter five to six parameters and get an objective opinion on the best insurance plan suited to his or her time and status in life.

HDFC Life Insurance has also taken detailed note of its customers requirements as they move towards the digital age. Its product website has been designed to ensure consumers feel secure and well attended to when transacting online. All payment gateways have SSL security and are ISO 27001 certified to ensure optimum security. Additionally, to facilitate easy query resolution, it offers an online chat function along with co-browsing where a user can give control of her or her system to the chat executive so that details can be filled in for them. To solve for the barrier of document submission, HDFC Life even allows users to submit documents through e-mail or upload files on Google drive in place of hard copies. Easy e-KYC facilities allow for the Aadhar card and address proof to be uploaded online to quickly verify identity. To find the right insurance plan for yourself and experience the innovative services that the organization has to proffer head to their insurance profiler to start your journey towards buying a life insurance plan.

Chattanooga’s second annual Money School teaches financial literacy

Tennessee leads the nation when it comes to personal bankruptcies.

And things are tough all over: US households racked up more the $57 billion of new credit card debt last year, Americans owe more than $1.2 trillion on student loans and 40 percent of Americans tell pollsters they would have trouble coming up with $2,000 in an emergency.

But you can buck the trend of being broke, according to the leader of a local organization that will participate Saturday in Chattanoogas second annual Money School, a free financial education day open to the public at Brainerd Crossroads.

Any person can save money, regardless of their income, said June Puett, who runs the Chattanooga Chapter of Tennessee Saves, the local offshoot of America Saves, a Consumer Federation of America campaign to help individuals save money, reduce debt and build wealth.

Cooking at home instead of eating out is one way a family can save thousands of dollars a year, said Puett, who works at the University of Tennessee Extension Service office in Chattanooga, which offers a free cast-iron cooking class so would-be savers can rediscover grandmas cooking secrets.

Such money-saving skills, strategies and advice will be front and center Saturday, when 20 organizations take part in Money School, an event put on by the nonprofit organization Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE). Speakers and exhibitors will offer hands-on learning opportunities regarding money management, debt elimination, increased savings, as well as retirement and estate planning.

I absolutely believe that people can climb out of a financial mess, said Jennifer Harper, a Chattanooga certified financial planner who founded Common Cents Financial Literacy, a nonprofit education program for 16- to 22-year-olds that will have a booth at Money School. The city of Chattanooga has a higher poverty rate than the national average. But income isnt the only thing that causes people to make bad financial decisions.

Parking lot attendant saves $500,000

Part of Common Cents curriculum is a video of a Baltimore man who never made more than $12 an hour while working 44 years as a parking lot attendant yet was able to pay off his home, send his three children to Catholic school and parlay the dollars he saved here and there into an investment portfolio worth $500,000.

Ive worked in the private wealth management world for a while now, and Ive had clients that made a lot of money but were always broke because they didnt make good financial decisions, said Harper, who also will have a booth Saturday for her business, Bridge Financial Planning.

The Money Schools workshops will focus on four crucial financial areas: Making informed financial choices, financing your future, managing financial products and money skills for teens and tweens.

Five panel discussions will target financial issues facing baby boomers, gen Xers, millennials, homeowners and entrepreneurs. Attendees may register in advance to obtain free tax preparation, credit report analysis, mortgage assessments and one-on-one personal finance advice.

People can change their finances, said Jennifer Holder, communications and special projects manager for CNE. They just need the tools and resources to do so.

About 150 people came to last years Money School, Holder said, and a survey found 95 percent of respondents said they were more knowledgeable about financial products and felt more confident in knowing the steps to achieve financial security. In addition, 75 percent of respondents set new financial goals, she said, such as paying off their credit cards, school or other debts, diversifying investments and making plans for retirement, their estate and long-term care.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises mission is to create economically diverse neighborhoods filled with financially empowered citizens and housing for all. CNE was organized by US Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. three decades ago. CNEs programs include homebuyer education and counseling, home improvement loans, affordable mortgage products, foreclosure prevention services and affordable homes for sale and rent.

Since its inception, CNE says it has invested in more than 14,000 families, individuals and small businesses.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsFor Business or twitter.com/meetfor business or 423-757-6651.

Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) Upgraded by Vetr Inc. to "Buy"

COF has been the topic of several other research reports. Sterne Agee CRT started coverage on shares of Capital One Financial Corp. in a report on Wednesday, December 9th. They issued a neutral rating and a $86.00 target price on the stock. Credit Suisse began coverage on shares of Capital One Financial Corp. in a research report on Monday, December 21st. They issued a neutral rating and a $90.00 price target on the stock. Evercore ISI began coverage on shares of Capital One Financial Corp. in a research note on Tuesday, December 22nd. They set a hold rating and a $78.00 price objective on the stock. Oppenheimer lowered shares of Capital One Financial Corp. from an outperform rating to a market perform rating in a report on Tuesday, January 5th. Finally, Deutsche Bank cut shares of Capital One Financial Corp. from a buy rating to a hold rating and cut their target price for the company from $92.00 to $81.00 in a research note on Thursday, January 7th. Fifteen research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fifteen have given a buy rating to the stock. The company currently has an average rating of Buy and a consensus price target of $84.49.

Several hedge funds have bought and sold shares of the stock. Norges Bank acquired a new stake in Capital One Financial Corp. during the fourth quarter worth about $340,684,000. Reliance Trust Co. of Delaware increased its position in Capital One Financial Corp. by 19.6% in the fourth quarter. Reliance Trust Co. of Delaware now owns 21,591 shares of the financial services providers stock worth $1,559,000 after buying an additional 3,539 shares during the period. Stifel Financial Corp increased its position in Capital One Financial Corp. by 70.8% in the fourth quarter. Stifel Financial Corp now owns 39,856 shares of the financial services providers stock worth $2,877,000 after buying an additional 16,521 shares during the period. Compagnie Odier SCA increased its position in Capital One Financial Corp. by 7.3% in the fourth quarter. Compagnie Odier SCA now owns 43,310 shares of the financial services providers stock worth $3,119,000 after buying an additional 2,935 shares during the period. Finally, Kentucky Retirement Systems Insurance Trust Fund acquired a new position in Capital One Financial Corp. during the fourth quarter worth $1,438,000.

Capital One Financial Corp is a diversified financial services holding company. The Company and its subsidiaries offer a range of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through branches, the Internet and other distribution channels. In addition to bank lending, treasury management and depository services, the Company offers credit and debit card products, auto loans and mortgage banking in markets across the United States.