Monthly Archives: June 2014

Taking Another Look At The College Finance Curriculum

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Over the past year, I’ve had exposure to four different ways of learning about the world of finance:

  • In my most recent semester at Iowa, I completed classes including Investment Management, Corporate Finance, and Corporate & Financial Risk Management
    • Mostly full of lectures on theories that, for the most part, aren’t actually applied (CAPM, EMH) and heavily weighted on multiple exams
  • I sat for Level I of the CFA Program in early June after five months and 400+ hours of studying
    • Exam oriented (obviously) with a broad “foot deep and a mile wide” sense of learning about everything from ethics to dividend discount models
  • I’ve read articles and books on finance and investing in my own personal time
    • Often brings a more historical approach often citing previous examples in economic history at my own speed
  • I’ve learned about credit research analysis and the debt markets since starting my internship in January
    • Fast-paced environment approach to how analysis and bond trading is really done in the real world 

Each way of learning has its own pros and cons, but the various curriculums and methods have brought me a larger knowledge base nonetheless.

I recently read a blog post called “Rethinking The Finance Curriculum” by Tim Johnson and have found it to really hit the nail on the head. At the end of his great post that looks at typical business class requirements and the curriculum of the CFA Program, he comes to an interesting conclusion as to what should actually be emphasized:

In summary, my syllabus structure would be

1. The nature of money (macroeconomics and more)

2. The purpose of finance (history and ethics)

3. The practice of finance (behavioural, risk and asset management

4. Tools and techniques (optimisation, statistics)

While I do agree with most of his thoughts, here are three items that I think should be added to and/or most emphasized in the typical business curriculum regarding finance:

  1. Personal Finance & Financial Literacy – It’s a shame that this isn’t a required class or group of classes taught at every high school and again at a more in-depth level at colleges. No matter what career path you decide to venture into, you’ll need to at least understand the basic concepts of personal finance and financial literacy. Hell, even before you decide to venture into a career, you need to have a good grip as you’ll most likely be making a choice that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars: what college to attend. From understanding the banking system, loans, mortgages, savings and investing methods, products, and tools is increasingly important in today’s ever-changing financial world. Financial literacy is a huge key to success and it’s frighteningly shocking how few people can even calculate a monthly car payment anymore.
  2. An Emphasis On Economic History – Interning and listening to conversations between analysts (especially sovereign), portfolio managers, and traders has made me realize that I haven’t learned much about the history of finance or the financial system while at school. Frequently, I will read about or hear past economic events brought up, from the 1997 Asian financial crisis to the OPEC oil price shock, and I find myself not knowing nearly enough to participate in a discussion on the subjects. I’ve also found it increasingly important to learn how everything in the financial markets move when other parts and pieces move up and down. Hearing discussions about what will happen to Country X’s economic demand and currency strength if Event Y happens in Country Z is a very important side of finance that I have yet to learn much about in my classes.
  3. A Comprehensive Look At Major Industries, Sectors – While at my internship, creating models and analyzing companies in various industries and sectors has opened my eyes up to how little we actually learn about them in our current classes. Understanding how companies in the technology sector operate and how analysts valuate them versus other sectors would be great base information to know coming out of college. I would be willing to bet that most graduating finance students couldn’t name half of the sectors that make up the S&P 500.

I’m interested to hear the thoughts of others in the finance community. 

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Yo, Raising $1.2 Million Is That Simple

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If you haven’t noticed yet, Yo is one of the hottest new apps and has made quite the headlines over the past week, from Business Insider to The Colbert Report. It has rocketed into the Top 10 in the Apple App Store and passed Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook along the way. The app took a measly eight hours to create and is so ridiculously simple that it actually made me laugh the first time I used it, but it’s founders Moshe Hogeg and Or Arbel aren’t laughing after raising $1.2 million in funding and looking for additional engineering talent in San Francisco. (Side note, their job application shouldn’t surprise you https://medium.com/p/76e18a2c686c)

In the last year we’ve seen WhatsApp take the world by storm and get acquired by Facebook for $19 billion and we’ve seen Snapchat make various tweaks to its original creation while turning down $3 billion and $4 billion offers from Facebook and Google along the way. King Digital also created the addictive Candy Crush game and was valued at $7 billion at its IPO. After seeing the giant hype and valuations of these three, you cant help but think back to 2000 Tech Bubble when we saw ridiculous valuations for any company that promised an Internet presence. Could the possible future IPO or acquisition of Yo be the “Pets.com” of a 2014-2015 tech bubble burst stemming from smartphone apps as David Einhorn has been predicting?

Personally, I believe Yo will be a phenomenon for a few weeks and eventually die out like Draw Something, but I’m excited to see what the future holds for this app and to see the strategy of the founders going forward. How long will Hoegeg and Arbel run with the app before being pressured into finding a way to create revenue? What metrics and forms of user analysis will be used to find the potential monetary value of the company? Only time will tell if it just replaces the typical “You up?” text at bar close for a few weeks or if it will evolve and eventually replace the basic text message.

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The Millennial Generation: Quick Facts On Financial Standing, Tech Trends & Consumer Behavior

ImageWho Are Millennials?

Millennials (Generation Y) are the youngest adult generation and are roughly defined as those born between 1980 and 2000 (Generation X: Born 1965-1980 and the Baby Boomers Generation: Born 1946-1964).  They’ve been given a lot of other names like ”Generation All About Me”, “The Complaining Generation”, “Generation Everyone Gets A Trophy”, but to describe them in one long line: 

They are America’s most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever and are classified as being political and social liberals, tech savvy, healthier, highly educated, less religious, slower to get married, and saddled with debt and lousy, underpaying jobs.


Why Is This Important?

The Millennial generation is huge; 7% larger than the baby-boomer generation and consists of 86 million people. The annual spending of this generation is going to be $2.45 trillion in 2015 and that number will grow to $3.39 trillion by 2018 so the trends and preferences of this generation are going to have a powerful effect on the businesses we see growing and created in the future.


Demographics:

86 Million is the size of the Millennial generation as of 2014, 7% larger than baby-boomer generation. (Barrons)

59.2% are white, 19.9% are Hispanic, 13.5% are black, 5.1% are Asian (Millennials Civic Health Index)

70% are affiliated with any type religion compared to 78% of Gen X and 83% of Boomers. (Pew Research)

50% classify themselves at politically independent, 27% Democratic, and 17% Republican (Pew Research)

60% voted for Barack Obama in 2012, 66% in 2008. (Pew Research)

 

Tech Trends:

90% used social networking sites in 2013, compared to 78% of Gen X, and 65% of Boomers (Pew Research)

1.8 hours spent per day on social media sites by the average Millennial (US Chamber Foundation)

55% have shared a “selfie” on a social networking site compared to 24% of Gen X and 9% of Boomers (Pew Research)

2.5x more likely than older generations to be an early adopter of technology (Barkley)

60% have uploaded content to the web vs. 29% of non-Millennials (Barkley)

27 times per nonworking hour that consumers in their 20s switch between communication platforms and devices (Advertising Age)

85% of those 18-29 use their phone to go online, compared to 73% for those aged 30-49, and 51% for ages 50-64. (Barkley)

65% of Millennials say losing their phone or computer would have a greater negative impact on their daily routine than losing their car. (Zipcar)

41% have only a cell phone and no landline, compared to 24% of Gen X, and 13% of Baby Boomers. (Pew Research)

75% of Millennials with TVs use it to watch “Over-The-Top” content (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) while 68% use their connected TV to watch programming from cable or satellite. (NPD Group)

 

Lifestyle:

36% of 18-31 year olds are living at home with their parents as of March 2012, up from 32% in 2007. (Pew Research)

20% of 27 year olds own or pay a mortgage. (The Atlantic)

21% of Millennials are married; 42% of Baby Boomers were married at this age. (Pew Research)

38% have 1-6 tattoos and 23% have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe. (US Chamber Foundation)

63% of Millennial workers have a Bachelor’s Degree (Millennial Branding)

45% of 18-24 year olds were currently enrolled in college in 2011 compared to 31% in 1990. (NY Times)

38% were bilingual as of 2013, up from 22% in 2003. (Nielsen)

32% believe America is the greatest country in the world compared to 48% of older generations. (Pew Research)

52% believe personal success is the most important thing in life compared to just 31% of older generations. (Barkley)

Austin, Texas is the city with the highest concentration of Millennials, followed by Salt Lake City, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver. (Nielsen)

33% regularly eat organic foods compared to 18% of older generations. (Barkley)

58% say that are willing to pay more for all natural and organic food products (Alix)

60% work out on a regular basis compared to 43% of non-Millennials. (Barkley)

81% of 20-24 year olds had a driver’s license in 2010, down from 92% in 1983. (CNW Marketing Research)

 

As Consumers:

$2.45 Trillion will be the annual spending of the Millennial generation in 2015. It will be 3.39 Trillion in 2018. (Oracle)

Google – Favoritebrand among Millennials in 2013 followed by YouTube , Amazon, Nintendo, and Oreo (Vision Research)

BMW – Top prestige brand for Millennial men. Chanel was the most prestigious for women. (L2 Prestige Brand Study 2010)

4 – Number of banks in the Top-10 brands hated most by Millennials (Scratch)

45% will go out of their way to shop at stores offering rewards programs. (Barkley)

47% of Millennial females and 38% of males reported shopping for clothes more than twice a month. (Boston Consulting Group)

38% are willing to leave brands they perceive to have bad ethics (Adroit Digital)

48% say word-of-mouth influences their product purchases more than TV ads. Only 17% said a TV ad prompted them to buy (Intrepid Study 2010)

77% participate in loyalty reward programs (Aimia)

41% have made a purchase using their smartphone (Edelman Digital)

51% use smartphones to research products and services when shopping compared to 22% of older generations (Barkley)

11% of US auto sales went to 18-34 year old buyers in 2012, down from 17% in 2007 (CNW Marketing Research)

 

Financial Standing:

$27,547 is the average outstanding balance for a borrower with student debt. One in eight has more than $50,000 in student debt. (USA Today)

538% – How much the cost of college has risen since 1985. (Labor Department)

94% would like cash in place of gifts for Christmas (Upromis)

38% have difficulty affording groceries compared to just 21% of those 55 and older (Information Resources, In.)

$39,700 is the median salary across Millennials (Pay Scale)

21% is the amount the average net worth of 29 year olds has fallen since 1983. (Urban Institute)

42% of Millennials when asked, “If you were given additional money, what would you do with it?” said “Pay off debt.” (UBS)

$2,241.20 is the average checking account balance of a Millennial compared to Gen X that maintained an average of $2,081.80. (TD Bank)

6% believe they’ll receive full benefits from Social Security. More than half believe they’ll receive no benefit. (Pew Research)

 

Investing:

52% of a Millennial’s overall asset allocation is held in cash and 28% is held in equities. Non-Millennials hold only 23% of their overall asset allocation in cash and have 48% of their assets in equities. (UBS)

43% describe themselves as “conservative investors” compared to 31% of Boomers. (Accenture)

28% believe long-term investing is a key to achieving success, compared to 52% of Non-Millennials that believe long-term investing is a key to achieving success. (Pew Research)

83% of Millennials who work for companies offering a 401(k) plan enroll in the program. (T. Rowe Price)

84% are seeking investing advice (Merrill Lynch)

61% would be interested in having video meetings with financial advisors. (WealthManagement.com)

 

In The Workforce:

75% of the US Workforce will be made up by Millennials in the US Workforce by 2030. (BPW)

16.3% of Millennials are classified as unemployed in the US (US Labor Dept)

48% of employed college graduates work in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree (The Center For College Affordability and Productivity

284,000 college graduates working minimum-wage jobs in 2012 (Wall Street Journal)

5.36x is how many times more likely a Millennial is to hold the position of a “Merchandise Displayer” compared to older US generations. Other notables include Clothing Sales Representative (4.63x) and Cell Phone Sales Representative (4.03x) (Nielsen)

27% are self-employed (US Chamber of Commerce) and 46% wanted to start a business in the next five years (Employers Insurance)

4% of employers reported parents attending their children’s job interviews. (College Employment Research Institute)

23% of companies reported having heavy contact with parents of Millennial employees. (College Employment Research Institute)

2 years is the average job tenure for Millennials, compared to 5 years for Gen X, 7 years for Baby Boomers, and 10 years for the Silent Generation. (Pay Scale)

47% work for companies smaller than 100 employees, 30% work for companies of size between 100-1500 employees, and 23% work for companies with 1,500+ employees. (Pay Scale)

69% believe office attendance in unnecessary on a regular basis. (Cisco)

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Bezos’s Baby

Photo: CNN

Bezos shows off the Fire Phone

Jeff Bezos looked excited to show of the new Amazon Fire Phone on Wednesday, however I can’t say that I feel the same way about the new product.

Here are my quick thoughts:

  • With the initial price rolling in at $650 (without contract), it’s just below the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S at $700 and $750, respectively. I’m a little disappointed as I thought Amazon would stick to its traditional ways and go real low, igniting a price competition much to the consumer’s delight.
  • The Fire Phone will have five times less apps than both iOS and Android – a big negative.
  • Using AT&T as the sole carrier for a few years (similar to what Apple did with the launch of the iPhone) is a great way to cut costs rather than creating phones for each large carrier. Good thinking there.
  • Four front-facing cameras that analyze your eye movements is not only sort of freaky, it also seems as though it will be a huge drain on battery.
  • I do like the Firefly feature that allows users to essentially “scan everything” and find (buy) it on the Amazon website. If I was a retailer, I would be terrified of this, although people already have been going into brick-and-mortar stores to see what they like and then walking out to buy it online for cheaper.
  • If Bezos thinks that 3D is the big differentiator that will take out Apple and Android, he’ll have to try again.
  • I believe the money invested in this product could’ve been used as research and development for a more promising idea.

I think we’ll see a small percentage of people switch to Amazon as their contracts expire, but nothing crazy. If they rolled out a cheaper phone that was targeted to a larger audience, I think they could’ve had a game changer. Without a game changer, good luck taking on Android’s killer ~80% worldwide smartphone market share and Apple’s cult-like following that won’t switch brands.

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