Millennials Replacing the Money Phone with Mobile Payments

Millennials Replacing the Money Phone with Mobile Payments
  • 32% of black people made a mobile payment in 2016

  • In 2016, mobile payments in the U.S. totaled $112 billion

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The money phone is soon to be a relic of the past as more millennials look to their smartphones as the primary means of making financial transactions. What are banks and financial technology companies going to have to do to respond to the needs of this coveted group of consumers?

Why This Matters: Mobile payments are the future of commerce in the U.S. as they are set to exceed $312 billion by 2020, according to data from eMarketer. Survey data from WPP (WPP -0.53%) subsidiary J. Walter Thompson Intelligence shows 63% of millennials in the U.S. rarely use cash. Further, 75% of U.S. millennials say they want a broader range of products that align with their lifestyles and needs.

Black people are more likely to make mobile payments than any other ethnic group in the U.S. In 2014, 32% of Black people made mobile payments, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve.  African American black teens are the biggest users of mobile phones and they tend to set the tone for consumer choices. Payment providers, retailers, and banks have an incentive to provide products that seamlessly facilitate the consumption choices black consumers are guiding the rest of U.S. consumers to make.  

To date, companies like Apple (AAPL -0.23%) have struggled to get traction with consumers on their payment applications. The number of iPhone users who have tried Apple Pay at least once is stuck around 19%, according to analysis by venture capital firm Loup Ventures.

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Amazon Refuses to Awaken its Board for Diverse Candidates

Amazon Refuses to Awaken its Board for Diverse Candidates
  • Shareholders proposed to adopt the “Rooney Rule” for board member selection

  • 5 companies in Q1 2018 added black executives to their boards

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Employees at Amazon (AMZN -0.09%) are in their feelings after the company opposed a shareholder board diversity proposal. This would have required its directors to formally consider women and minority candidates when selecting new board members. Where does the true value lie for companies willing to to bring diversity of thought onto their boards?

Why This Matters: The business case for diversity has been made at nauseam with very little real change. Currently, all 10 directors on Amazon’s board are white, seven are men and three are women. Shareholders wanted the board to adopt the “Rooney Rule,” which calls for the initial list of candidates chosen to include qualified women and minorities, according to Recode. “The Board believes that adoption of the policy requested by the proposal would not be an effective and prudent use of the Company’s time and resources,” Amazon said in a proxy statement.

Amazon has proven it can dramatically reshape whole, seemingly disconnected industries, so board diversity should be easy to figure out. Research from McKinsey and MSCI shows companies with higher levels of diversity at the board level, are more likely to have strong financial performance and fewer instances of poor corporate governance. There are companies heeding this research because in Q1 of this year J.P. Morgan (JPM +0.04%), AirBnB, Uber, Netflix (NFLX +0.63%), and Etsy (ETSY -1.97%) all added African-American executives to their boards.

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Tidal’s Ego Inflates Beyoncé and Kanye West’s Album Streams

Tidal’s Ego Inflates Beyoncé and Kanye West’s Album Streams
  • Tidal claims to have 3 million subscribers

  • There are more than 100 million music streaming industry subscribers

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Streaming platform Tidal is under fire for allegedly exaggerating album plays for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.” Is the company out of its league when it comes to fending off major streaming competitors?

Why This Matters: Tidal markets itself as a “more equitable [business] model for artists” to make money while streaming their music. If the reports are proven to be true, this would mean it overpaid royalties to the Grammy Award-winners at the expense of others on the platform. Tidal denied the allegations and in a note to Variety said that the claims were no more than “a smear campaign.”

Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reportedly helmed the year long investigation after Tidal announced it reached 3 million subscribers. The artist-owned platform simultaneously stated that West’s TLOP was played 250 million times during its first ten days. The company also made similar claims with Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” saying it was streamed 306 million in its first 15 days. The streams to subscribers ratio didn’t add up to Dagens Næringsliv. Also, industry firm Midia Research also challenged Tidal’s three million subscribers claim, estimating the company actually had closer to one million members.

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Voice Assistants Get Lifted with John Legend

Voice Assistants Get Lifted with John Legend
  • John Legend is the 1st black male voice assistant

  • 46% of Americans use voice assistants

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Amazon’s (AMZN -0.09%) Alexa has some new competition in the smart voice assistant race. Grammy Award-winner John Legend joins Google (GOOGL +0.29%) as one of its latest six voice assistants. Will this move empower more black people to start using this feature?

Why This Matters: This legendary move makes him the first male and black voice assistant in an industry that’s overwhelmingly female and white. Google will introduce the feature to all of its devices later this year. The tech giant is inching towards creating a more natural voice assistant that better emulates human speech.

We live in a world where popular media tends to depict black men as threatening, and or aggressive. Providing exposure to a black male voice, who actively provides intelligent information, could have a positive impact on the 46% of Americans using voice assistants. In addition to wider audience representation, 63% of consumers expect to use the technology more frequently in the future.

There are still some critics who argue people tend to use female voice assistants more than male, even when given the option. This only enforces a sexist agenda that conveys women as subservient, thus linking potential problematic outcomes with giving orders to a black man.

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Amazon Helps Black Entrepreneurs Secure the Bag

Amazon Helps Black Entrepreneurs Secure the Bag
  • More than 1 million U.S. small businesses sell products on Amazon

  • Half of all products sold on Amazon’s platform in 2017 were by small businesses

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Amazon (AMZN -0.09%) released its Small Business Impact Report revealing 1 million U.S. small businesses sell products on its platform. The ecommerce giant has touted its support of small business as it faces increased scrutiny for the amount it pays in taxes and the impact it has on physical retailers. To what extent have black small businesses benefited from the platform?

Why This Matters: Some of the fastest growing black-owned businesses sell their products on Amazon’s platform. These include Mobile Defenders, a provider of cell phone repair parts that recorded $35 million in sales in 2016. Another company leveraging the Amazon platform is Active Faith Sports, a sports apparel business that booked $7.5 million in sales in 2016.

Other black-owned brands that have developed cult followings on Instagram sell their products on Amazon as well, including Brother Vellies, Bfyne, and Nubian Skin. Amazon earned 44% of the $450 billion in ecommerce sales recorded in 2017. The company makes it easy for independent retailers to sell on its platform. As a result, half of the items purchased on Amazon.com in 2017 were from small businesses and independent retailers.

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Will South Africa’s Drought Trigger a Global Wine-pocalypse?

Will South Africa’s Drought Trigger a Global Wine-pocalypse?
  • South Africa’s may see a production shortfall of 170 million liters of wine

  • Wine prices set to rise as much as 11% in 2018

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South Africa, the world’s eighth largest wine producer has been hit by the worst drought on record. The government has declared the drought a disaster in the Western Cape. Is the global consumer demand going to be strong enough to offset increased wine prices?

Why This Matters: Consumers around the world enjoy 20 million glasses of South African wine daily. The latest report from Vinpro states South Africa’s wine-grape production was down 15% from last year, and would lead to a production shortfall of 170 million liters of wine. Wines produced in the region are expected to have prices rise as much as 11% in 2018. It’s not just grapes that have been hit hard by the drought in South Africa, wheat crops have been decimated  as well. Also, pear, apple and grape exports have all been cut with more than a third of vineyards operating at a loss, according to Vinpro.

The problems in South Africa mirror those in other wine-growing countries and are likely to fuel concerns about changes in weather patterns as a result of global warming. Wildfires destroyed several wineries in California in 2017 though the level of production remains higher in the U.S. than other countries facing severe weather issues.

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Unstretched Canvas Helps to Shrink Illinois Debt

Unstretched Canvas Helps to Shrink Illinois Debt
  • “Past Times” painting could sell anywhere from $8 - $12 million

  • S&P projects Illinois budget deficit likely to eclipse $7 billion in fiscal 2018

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The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) of Illinois plans to sell a painting by Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall to help out a municipal authority in the state. Marshall’s painting was acquired in 1997 for $25,000 and could sell at auction for $8 - $12 million. Is black art a new play for states to get out of debt?

Why This Matters: If Marshall’s “Past Times” painting sells for $12 million, it would represent an increase of nearly 48,000% over its initial purchase price. The painting was a centerpiece of Marshall’s acclaimed traveling retrospective. It was bought by the MPEA for the South Building of its McCormick Square campus, which was completed in 1996, according to Sotheby’s. Cynthia McCafferty, a spokeswoman for the authority told Bloomberg, they used public money raised through project-expansion bonds to buy the art.

Illinois is the fifth most populous U.S. state and is saddled with debt. Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings rank Illinois one level above junk at BBB-, the worst rating of any state. S&P projected the state’s budget deficit was likely to eclipse $7bn in its fiscal 2018 year. While this may only make a small dent in the states debt problem, Illinois needs all the help it can get.

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Rolls Royce Gives Hip Hop the Truck It’s Been Waiting On

Rolls Royce Gives Hip Hop the Truck It’s Been Waiting On
  • The Rolls Royce Cullinan will retail for $325,000

  • Production for Rolls Royce’s first SUV is projected to reach 4,000 units annually

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Rolls Royce (RR -1.24%) released the 2019 Cullinan, its response to the luxury SUV released by Bentley (VLKAY -0.59%) in 2016. With a hefty price tag of $325,000 the truck is sure to make a statement with luxury vehicle purchasers. What's the future for SUVs in the U.S auto market?

Why This Matters: Rappers have been calling for a Rolls Royce truck for years with artists like Juicy J mentioning the SUV as early as 2010. This isn’t the first time rappers have kept the pressure on automakers to release the vehicles of their dreams. Prior to the announcement of Bentley’s Bentayga truck, Future and Rick Ross were some of the most vocal advocates for the automaker to manufacture a SUV. Rappers have handsomely rewarded Bentley for delivering the truck by producing ample free marketing including more than 200 rap lyrics mentioning the vehicle and posting countless pictures on social media.

Truck sales made up 64% of total vehicle sales in 2017, according to AutoNation (AN +1.26%). This trend is leading some automakers to move away from producing sedans. Earlier this year, Ford (F-0.09%) announced it would discontinue production of most of its North American sedans. The Rolls Royce Cullinan and Bentley Bentayga are responses to this trend. Lamborghini also has a truck called the Urus coming out later in 2018, much to the delight of artists like Future. Other luxury automakers like Aston Martin and Ferrari have plans as well for trucks in the works.

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Cheers to Zimbabwe Beer For Spurring Consumer Confidence

Cheers to Zimbabwe Beer For Spurring Consumer Confidence
  • AB InBev-affiliated Delta Corp revenue increased to $572 million in the last year

  • Zimbabwe’s economy shrunk 50% from 2000 -2017

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A new tasty measurement tool for consumer confidence is pointing up for Zimbabwe. The largest brewer in the country Delta Corporation reported a 27% jump in full-year profit to $89 million. What makes the consumption of lager beer an accurate assessment of consumer confidence in Zimbabwe?

Why This Matters: Zimbabweans are still in a celebratory mode after the ascension to power of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. In November he replaced Robert Mugabe, who saw the economy shrink 50% from 2000 until he was ousted. When consumers are drained politically, economically and emotionally they tend to drink liquor. On the other hand, when people are in jubilation the drink of choice is more likely to be wine, beer and champagne.

Delta, which is 40% owned by Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD+0.44%), said revenue increased to $572 million during the year that ended in March. Lager beer sales, which accounted for the most revenue, were at their strongest since 2014. The company was able to increase its final dividend payment by 32%, its highest since Zimbabwe dumped its own currency for the U.S. dollar in 2009. AB InBev-affiliated Delta Corp has noted before that the consumption of lager beer is tied to consumer confidence.

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Daimler Scrambles to Fix Child Labor Issues in Search for Cobalt

Daimler Scrambles to Fix Child Labor Issues in Search for Cobalt
  • Daimler plans to spend $11B to expand its fleet of electric vehicles

  • The company is working with suppliers to increase its sustainability standards

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The maker of Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz said it would ramp up its efforts to ensure child labor is nowhere to be found in its supply chain. This announcement came after CNN published a report showing Daimler’s dealers were buying cobalt without verifying where it came from. What will it take for the auto industry to clean up its supply chain?

Why This Matters: A war is brewing among automakers for dominance in the electric vehicle industry and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is at the center of it. Multiple brands have announced aggressive production plans for their lithium-ion powered vehicles. Volkswagen (VLKAY -0.59%) has plans to produce 1,500 electric vehicles daily. Daimler has pledged to spend $11 billion expanding its electric vehicle passenger fleet over the next few years.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries which car makers need for their electric vehicles. Prices for the rare earth mineral have surpassed $90,000 and are sure to continue climbing as demand for cobalt increases.

As many as 40,000 children are estimated to be mining the rare earth mineral in crude mines across the DRC. Daimler said it would raise its sustainability standards in partnership with its 1,500 suppliers around the world to ensure human rights abuses like child labor are not taking place in its supply chain.

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