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Disruptive trading app nears $7 BILLION valuation with fresh funding

Robinhood Markets, the operator of a free mobile trading app, is close to garnering a valuation of $7 billion or more.

CNBC, citing two people familiar with the deal, reported Robinhood has raised a minimum of $200 million in a recent late-stage fundraising round that will give it a valuation of between $7 billion and $8 billion. The round, which includes mainly existing investors, hasn’t closed yet — which means it could raise more than $200 million. When Robinhood raised money via a Series D round it had a valuation of $5.6 billion, noted CNBC. Robinhood declined to comment on its valuation.

According to CNBC, Robinhood’s co-CEOs Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev have said an initial public offering is in the cards at some point — but that currently, it is focused on disrupting other areas of finance. This year it applied for a national bank charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. A spokesman told CNBC in April that getting the national bank charter will enable it to offer banking products. “Robinhood’s goal is to be able to offer its customers a full suite of financial products to serve their needs,” the spokesman said.

CNBC noted that Robinhood brought on the CEO of Wedbush Bank and Merchants Bank of California, Scott Racusin, to head up its banking efforts. Racusin was eventually named the president and CEO of the potential bank. Robinhood was forced to retreat from offering a bank account after announcing in late 2018 a checking and savings product with 3 percent interest. Backlash quickly surfaced as to how the money would be insured and if it would be protected like a bank account that has the backing of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Robinhood removed all its marketing material and now calls it a cash management feature offered within its brokerage accounts.

Robinhood has been enjoying fast-paced growth thanks in large part to the fact that its stock trading app is free. In 2018 its user base jumped from 4 million during the summer to 6 million by late 2018.

Networking Event PHOTO

3 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Networker

I’ve always been a natural extrovert in school and in business. I find it easy to socialise with others and connect with them personally and professionally. When I first embarked on my entrepreneurial journey and left the practice of law, I used to attend as many local networking events as possible. I deemed it important to get out there and connect with other business professionals to build both my brand and network for prospective clients, speaking engagements, and other business opportunities.

I realise that networking is not easy or simple for everyone. There are some who fear being in large crowds of people they do not know at networking events and being forced to strike up a conversation with someone they have little synergy with. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can build solid networking skills through these 3 simple steps:

Attend as Many Networking Events as Possible

I am sure you have heard many say, “You need to put yourself out there if you want to meet the right person.” Networking is a lot like dating. In order to find a date, you need to put yourself out there in the limelight, and practice makes perfect.

First, find out where the local networking events are in your community. A great place to start is your local chamber of commerce and other leadership organisations that are industry-specific. Many groups will offer the first event free to all guests. Some events may be as high £180 for a lunch. Either way, if you meet your next business contact or potential boss, suddenly that fee becomes pennies and the reward outweighs the risk. But don’t forget to dress professional to the networking event. Treat it like a series of mini interviews.

Bring Business Cards & Don’t Forget to Take Business Cards from Others

Every person you meet is an opportunity. A key step to networking is having your own professional image and brand. Don’t make the mistake of showing up to a networking event without a stack of professional business cards.

Make sure the business card has your name, professional title (i.e. Managing Director) or industry (i.e. Finance), phone number, email (keep it professional), and Linkedin URL. Before you put your Linkedin URL on your new personal business card, ensure that you have a customised URL.

When you go to networking events, take a business card from each person you meet and give them your business card. Easy and done, right? Not so fast.

Following-up is the most important part of networking. Always follow-up with each person you meet. Get on their contact list. Tell them you hope to see them at the next event (which may open the door to them inviting you to an event you didn’t know about!). Invite them to have lunch or coffee the next week. Being consistent and committed is key.

Connect on Linkedin & Beyond

If you are going to attend networking events and build connections on Linkedin with attendees from the events (which of course I highly recommend), make sure your Linkedin profile is fully optimised with a powerful headline, compelling summary, and details of your experience. It’s important that the image you put out at the networking events matches your digital footprint — i.e. your personal brand aligns. You never know where this connection may lead.

Develop a rapport with other professionals and connect on a greater level through Linkedin. Share and comment on each other’s content. Engage with one another beyond just being a connection. Join groups they are members of and possibly connect with their connections.

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The Wall Street Journal Reports Barron’s 2019 Top Adviser List

Greg Miller, CPA, CEO, Portfolio Manager and Co-Founder of Wellesley Asset Management, Inc., has been ranked #1 in Massachusetts for the fifth consecutive year on Barrons list of Americas Top 1,200 Financial Advisers. Featured in the March 14, 2019 edition of The Wall Street Journal, the Top 1,200 ranking is Barrons most comprehensive list of advisers which is published annually.

Following the ranking announcement, Greg Miller, a nationally recognised convertible bond expert with over 25 years of convertible bond experience, said, I am honored to have been ranked the top financial adviser in Massachusetts once again by Barrons. I believe this is a testament to our convertible bond investing strategy with the goal of principal protection, while at the same time, outperforming equities and fixed income over complete market cycles.

President, Portfolio Manager and Co-Founder of Wellesley Asset Management, Darlene Murphy, CPA, CFP, commented, It is truly an honor to be recognised again by Barrons as the top adviser in our home state of Massachusetts. This is a tribute not only to Greg Miller, but also to our team of professionals and to our loyal clients nationwide who inspire us to strive for excellence.

Michael Miller, CFIP, Chief Investment Officer added, We believe our success is directly related to investors concerns about possible upcoming market corrections and a desire for relative safety for their investments, while still pursuing equity-like capital appreciation. We believe properly selected convertible bonds offer this opportunity. In addition, convertible bonds are one of the few fixed income vehicles that have historically performed well during periods of rising interest rates.

To be nominated for Barrons Top 1,200 Financial Adviser listing, advisers must complete an extensive survey about their practice. Barrons also examines regulatory records, internal company documents, and 100-plus points of data provided by the firm. The criteria for inclusion are total assets under management and revenue generated, as well as the overall quality of the practice. Investment performance is not an explicit criterion, because it can be skewed by each clients appetite for risk. In many cases, the objective is preservation of wealth, rather than extraordinary returns.

About Wellesley Asset Management, Inc.

Wellesley Asset Management (Wellesley) is an SEC registered investment advisory firm located in Wellesley, Massachusetts specialising in the management of convertible bonds through separately managed accounts, mutual funds and a private fund. Wellesley is a trusted adviser to a diverse client base serving high and ultra-high net-worth individuals, registered investment advisers, institutions, pensions, and other investment professionals. Founded in 1991, by Greg Miller, CPA and Darlene Murphy, CPA, CFP, Wellesley invests in convertible bonds deploying absolute return-seeking strategies. Additional information about the firm is available at https://www.wellesleyassetmanagement.com/

About The Wall Street Journal & Barrons

The Wall Street Journal has been a trusted name since 1889 for unparalleled analysis and unique reporting of informing decisions that drive the world forward. Winner of 37 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism, the Journal includes coverage of U.S. and world news, politics, arts, culture, lifestyle and more. Barrons, published by Dow Jones since 1921, is Americas premier financial magazine. It is the trusted financial publishing brand that people active in the market turn to for information, ideas and insights they can use to increase their professional success and enhance their personal, financial well-being. The Wall Street Journal and Barrons are registered trademarks of Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclosures:

Past Performance is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk, including the risk of loss. There is no assurance that any investment will meet its performance objectives or that losses will be avoided.

Rankings should not be viewed as representative of any one clients experience and should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of performance by Wellesley Asset Management and any of its clients. Rankings published by magazines generally base their selections exclusively on information prepared and/or submitted by the recognised adviser. Working with a highly ranked adviser does not ensure that a client will experience a higher level of performance or guarantee results.

Crypto AE PHOTO

Cryptocurrency in 2019: Things to Expect

Cryptocurrencies continue to surprise us with their behavior through the years. Amidst all the instability and unpredictability in terms of performance, trading, litigation, regulation, and taxation, miners and investors brave the odds and explore what these cryptocurrencies have to offer. Pessimists and optimists alike have much to say about the future of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin – such as bitcoin’s supposed nearing end because of the consistent drop in bitcoin price after reaching its peak. But it’s more viable to focus on observable trends in order to have an idea on what to expect as far as these cryptocurrencies are concerned. Here are some of them.

The Market

The word “bubble” is thrown around in the finance world, and if you’re wondering what it means, it is simply the cycle created by the fast escalation of asset prices followed by a contraction. The bubble deflates when investors cease to buy at elevated prices and massive sell-offs occur. As for bitcoin, yes it is a bubble, and it indeed popped. The market is expected to calm down a bit after the Crypto bubble and cryptocurrency trading will remain profitable.

Cryptocurrency as Payment

Retailers are starting to accept cryptocurrency as payment. At this point in time, including cryptocurrency in the list of payment methods can potentially boost income, in the same way that establishments that accept credit cards do have a wider reach than those who do not. Now you can book flights, purchase household goods, get web domains, buy computer products, and so much more with bitcoin. As of December 2018, more travel services, web services, food, and general merchandise have started to accept bitcoin payments. Those with a Microsoft account, for example, have the “Redeem Bitcoin” option upon checkout and can add up to $100 at a time via Bitpay.

Cybersecurity

In the recent years, crypto traders and holders have seen security threats such as phishing and mining malware. Cryptocurrencies, in theory, are secure; however, we expect that new crypto exchanges and platforms will bring about new cybersecurity threats and challenges.

Blockchain

The blockchain industry has always been associated with cryptocurrency, and in 2019, it is expected to work on its image as an industry that has a lot more to offer. If the industry wants to operate on a larger scale, it needs to be communicated that the blockchain technology has a lot of uses that are unrelated to cryptocurrency.

Taxation and Regulation

2019 is set to be the year of more widespread, formal, and international crypto regulation. In cryptocurrency news this year, Malta became the first country to have a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. Countries such as Russia and India have also begun to draft national legislation for cryptocurrencies; and we expect other countries to follow suit – giving way for cryptocurrency to become more legitimate. Preventing money laundering, fraud, and terrorist funding is a prime motivation in putting these regulations in place. If cryptocurrencies are safely policed, more and more people will be confident to use and adopt them.

Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on https://www.hoganinjury.com/ is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

England Rugby - Old Mutual Wealth

Old Mutual plans to grow Financial Adviser School

Old Mutual Wealth intends to scale up its Financial Adviser School (FAS) to help close the advice gap.

Richard Freeman, chief distribution officer at Old Mutual Wealth, who presented eight graduates with their graduation certificates at a ceremony explained he would like to see hundreds of students coming through the school eventually.

He added the school, which was originally set up by Sesame Bankhall, should appeal to people from “right across the board” as it recruited more students, including those who had left the armed services and others from outside the financial services industry.

The Financial Adviser School received 319 enquiries and 90 applications by the end of the first quarter of 2017, and currently has 37 students, the average age of which is 27.

Mr Freeman said: “I think at the moment it is a tiny part [of closing the advice gap] but we can scale this up.”

Darren Smith, head of the Financial Adviser School, said attracting more women and introducing financial services to them as a career option was a key focus for him.

According to Old Mutual Wealth, 29 per cent of the Financial Adviser School students are women.

Eleanor Armson was among the eight who graduated earlier this week and one of two female graduates.

When asked why she chose to study at the school, she said she was not just looking for a job when she applied but a career in financial advice.

“We knew where we were going, and there was a clear path. That is kind of what appealed to me about it,” she added.

Ms Armson, who studied for a degree in English and Film before going on to work in recruitment for a while, also acknowledged the school’s focus on attracting more women into the industry.

“I think it’s a great industry for women and it’s a great opportunity to get into finance as well,” she suggested.

“I think it’s one of those industries that is really suited to women as well because it plays to their strengths.”

Having completed the course, Ms Armson said she is going to be working for Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers, which is a sponsor of the school.

Mr Smith said: “The great thing about that is we have a friendly sponsor who we continue to get feedback from on how we adapt the programme.”

From May 2017, the course offered by the school will run in line with the government’s apprenticeship model, which will see the course extended from 47 to 58 weeks.

Mr Freeman believed the apprenticeship model was a “great initiative” from government.

He said the school could also expand by offering a chartered course and a paraplanner course.

“So people can come in at different levels, different costs, different courses,” he added. “We’re not just teaching financial advice. I think that’s probably next year.”

Old Mutual Wealth-backed network Intrinsic completed the acquisition of Sesame’s Financial Adviser School in February 2016.

Intrinsic reached a provisional agreement in late 2015 to acquire the school, which was founded by Sesame Bankhall Group in 2011, after the latter opted to wind down the training academy as part of a strategic review.

It was also announced this week Cara Gilbert had become the youngest person in the country to complete the diploma in financial planning from the Personal Finance Society.

Ms Gilbert, who is 19 years old, completed the qualification while working full-time at Standard Life’s Edinburgh office for the past two years.

She said: “I knew that I wanted to work in the financial sector when I was at school. I enjoyed maths, business management and accounting subjects.”

For more information about Old Mutual Wealth, please visit https://www.oldmutualwealth.co.uk/

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The case for regulatory-driven diversification in Ship Finance

A decade ago, we all knew of at least one shipping company that felt safe receiving its debt financing from a single source (a behaviour that was, unfortunately, encouraged by some bankers), and eventually experienced immense pain when some key-lenders abruptly withdrew from ship financing.

Back at that time, sourcing finance from a handful of different – typically European – banks (as opposed to, from a single one), was considered a sound approach to funding diversification, since the key driver for a Bank’s approach to lending was its own business policies and individual circumstances.

That was then. Next, the banking crisis happened. And then the shipping one followed… Both led to (a) an increased regulatory attention to bank-lending towards the shipping industry; and (b) the regulatory framework being the dominant parameter shaping each Bank’s business activity.

One unsurprising consequence of the above was that (European) bank lending, when it came to shipping, became much less abundant. A second, and initially less anticipated, change was that the approach of lenders, regulated by the same regulator, became significantly more homogeneous. A shipowner friend recently confided to me – half-seriously, half-jokingly – that “if I remove the bank logos from the term sheets I receive, I cannot really tell which-one sent me which.” This is mostly the result of the tighter regulatory framework under which European banks are operating and, jokes aside, highlights the need for regulatory diversification.

Given the importance that debt capital has for an industry as capital-intensive as shipping is, no shipping company can afford all of its lenders to operate under the same regulatory framework. Were it to do so, the result might be that next time something important happened, its lenders would be highly likely to change their views about their shipping exposure at the same time and in the same way. It is like operating a VLCC in high-seas, with no internal bulkheads limiting cargo shifting around: you don’t want to be on it when the wind starts blowing hard…

Thankfully, the alternative financiers, who flocked-in during the last few years, are a crowd made-up by highly different animals. We can hence observe “blocks” of lenders, each defined by the main regulator they operate under, with their respective members behaving in a correlated way. European banks are such a block, with a couple of sub-blocks, defined by the risk-rating model each bank uses to rate its obligors.

Another block are the Chinese financial institutions, another are the Japanese, each having different local regulatory frameworks and/or adopting global ones (like Basel IV) at a different speed than their European counterparts. An additional regulatory diversification bonus comes from the different local central banks’ monetary policies and the impact these have on respective lenders’ balance sheets and capacity to lend.

There is, of course, the block of lenders that are completely untouched by lending regulatory frameworks, such as the various credit funds: their activity is, of course, also contingent on market realities, views, models and limitations but – and this is the key issue here – these are different from the ones traditional financiers have.

The optimal mix of funding sources is a moving target, given the constantly changing finance scene, and also it differs from company to company, depending on parameters such as fleet size, corporate structure, or employment profile (but also some more nuanced ones like specific industrial relationships). A ship-finance specialist, whether internal or external to the company, can be the key for keeping this mix as-close-as-possible to optimal at all times.

Some might argue that the above approach is an expensive one: “I have a financier who provides me with a very competitively priced product, and I feel comfortable with him” or “Why start a new relationship with a geographically/culturally distant and/or more expensive lender?” are comments sometimes made.

In a nutshell, the answer is that diversification, even at some cost, works like an insurance policy. For an industry that has grown up having insurance at its heart (who can imagine shipping without it…) the concept of paying what could appear to be a ‘premium’ to hedge against a known and accepted risk (that of lack of financing), but which could pay-off in multiples later on, should not be that strange.

The ship financing scene is trying to find again its balance, while overall volatility in the finance world is increasing. Seeking regulatory diversification of funding sources might prove to be an efficient way to avoid “déjà vu all over again” as dear old Yogi Berra would have put it…

Dimitri G. Vassilacos is a Partner at Ship Finance Solutions (SFS), a boutique financial consulting firm specializing in the shipping sector. Prior to that he had assumed a variety of positions during a 20-year-long career in the banking sector, including Head of Greek Shipping at Citibank and Manager of the Shipping Division at National Bank of Greece.