Recently I blogged about the huge transformation underway in the financial services space and how the industry is being fueled by a wave of innovation and entrepreneurialism that mirrors that of the tech industry.Today, there are more alternative financial companies that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Whether its new forms of payment technology, emerging models for lending capital to business, or new devices that make financial transactions faster and more convenient, the fintech space is thriving.Houston, we have a branding problemSo how did these new entrants come into the fintech space to begin with? I’ll start the conversation by first stating that traditional financial services companies like banks and insurance organizations have a brand problem. To be perfectly candid, a lot of people don’t trust banks. You rarely see bankers portrayed in movies as sympathetic, likeable protagonists. I’m not saying that perception is fair, but banks are indeed struggling these days in terms of their brand and reputation.Disruptive companies are often borne out of branding problems. On-demand driving services like Lyft and Uber, for example, didn’t gain traction in the market because of their superior analytics, but rather than taxis had a brand problem. Airbnb, in another example, gained success because hotels have a brand problem with many non-business travelers.The lack of trust and feeling of disenfranchisement that many consumers feel about the banking, investment and insurance industries is at the core of this wave of innovation in fintech. As a result, the financial services market expanded to accommodate the demand from consumers looking for more flexible, convenient and easy ways to send, manage, save and invest their money.Do you not totally believe that premise? Then why have online Insurance quotes become more like one-click shopping experience on Amazon? Insurance fintech companies such as Esurance were one of the first innovators that drove change, only to be acquired by Allstate, an arguably more traditional insurance company. The effect of insurance fintech companies was not unnoticed by the industry.Redefining banks, lenders and everything in betweenAdditionally, it should be noted that at no point in time has the business relationship of companies to traditional banks ever been more disrupted.Let’s look at the historic way that businesses began. When I grew up, when you wanted to start a business, you went to the bank and you got a loan. Business owners today can launch a company without ever involving a bank, thanks to peer-to-peer platforms like Kickstarter where you can find investors within hours with a just a mouse click. I am not saying that having a bank account wouldn’t make it easier to engage in a business. The relationship has changed though.The way we pay for things has also radically evolved. With the emergence of Bitcoin, even the definition of currency has changed. These days “fintech” can encompass pretty much anything – it’s no longer limited to payment processors. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to define what makes a company a “lender” or a “bank.” For example, is Kickstarter a lending company now, if its members help to launch a business? Amazon now “lends” to small businesses anything they need based upon an algorithm.What about equipment manufacturers? Are they lending organizations? Increasingly, the answer is yes. When it comes to purchasing large equipment – say, a tractor from Caterpillar – you’re no longer tied to a traditional bank to process your loan. Many Fortune 500 companies (including Caterpillar, Allstate and State Farm) are entering the financial services space, allowing customers to bypass banks and self-finance directly through the manufacturer or insurer.Don’t lose sight of the dataAnd let’s not forget about the data security story here amid this financial services feeding frenzy. Financial organizations possess a massive, sprawling footprint of sensitive consumer and business data encompassing credit reports, credit histories, payroll information, tax information and more.The challenge comes when the industry evolves at such a rapid pace without ensuring that the protections, governance and controls associated with the traditional financial world remain in place. This presents an urgent and critical call to action for emerging fintech players to prioritize data security and governance and to educate themselves about the industry-specific regulations and requirements specific to the financial services sector. For example, Social Finance (SoFi) recently settled with authorities around their use of “soft pull” of consumer’s credit reports that were used in marketing campaigns.Many of the new entrants to the space are founded by teams that lack a formal financial or banking background – they may come from internet or tech companies, for example. As a result, they may not even know to ask the most basic, but very critical, questions about data storage and protection, as well as industry regulations and policies specific to financial organizations:Should I use encryption?Have I implemented solid security controls around storage?What regulations like GLBA, Dodd-Frank, Glass-Steagall, and FCRA impact a fintech startup and their usage and governance around consumer data? (with a small “trick” question in there)How can I avoid becoming the next security breach waiting to happen?Will banks become obsolete?Despite its rapid growth, remember that we’re still early in the game when it comes to fintech. It’s premature to say that traditional banking organizations will fade away entirely, the reality is that there has to be some bare minimum of a construct for businesses to make and sell goods and services. You might be buying supplies via some form of alternative lending versus writing an old-school paper check, but you’ll still, in some form or another, leverage a financial services organization. European banks are already starting to broker partnerships with fintech companies to better meet their customer’s needs. Insurance companies acquired most of the insurance fintech startups, so that route is possible as well. Disruption will inevitably change the current order of things a little bit, but I don’t foresee any major downfall of the industry.I’d like to close with a quote from Clayton Christiansen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma about the origins of disruption:“Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use”
While students and residence halls are competing to see who can save the most energy during the Office of Sustainability’s month-long Dorm Energy Competition, the University is doing its own part to conserve as well. Though the University itself is not doing a particular push for the month of November to save energy, there are various programs effective all year long, according to Rachel Novick, Education and Outreach Programs Manager for the Office of Sustainability. “The University recently started work on stage two of its energy conservation measures,” Novick said. This $6.5 million investment means contractors will be around campus evaluating how to make the University more energy efficient. The Office of Sustainability is also involved in a trial run with Eaton, an engineering company with which the University has partnered. “We have an electric car on loan from Eaton,” Novick said. “We’re just trying it out and lending it to people on campus in order to explore the possibility of getting electric vehicles on campus.” The Office of Sustainability is also concerned about excessive waste in the dining halls. “The energy impact of food is tremendous, and people aren’t always conscious of how much energy and water went into the dining hall food,” Novick said. Co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and GreeND, the eND Hunger campaign runs during Wednesdays in the dining halls. “The big focus is to raise donations for the food bank in northern Indiana, but it also includes a clean plate program at dinner on Wednesdays during November,” Novick said. Novick added that small-scale projects, such as turning off lights in unused classrooms was also “something we’ve been trying to work on.” “There is no reason for lights to be on at night in empty classrooms, and that’s definitely been something we are working on with the building staff,” she said. “We’re exploring ideas about how to involve students in some sort of ‘turn off the lights’ committee. If we can build a partnership with students and staff, we can be really successful.” There have been some improvements made to the process of reducing unnecessary lighting around campus, such as renovations that include lights with timers or motion sensors and emergency lighting that only turns on when a movement triggers it, rather than lights that stay on all night just for precaution. “Reducing our carbon footprint is our biggest focus,” Novick said. “Climate change is a global problem, and reducing our contribution to it will have an impact on the rest of the world.” On a local scale, Novick said saving energy results in the reduction of overall emissions and the result is cleaner air in our region. The grand total of both the monetary and energy savings from the Dorm Energy Competition won’t be announced until the end of the month, Novick said. “It always surprises people how much energy can be saved,” she said. “All the actions people do like turning off the light or unplugging unnecessary electronics are all really minor, but with a multiplication factor of 7,000 people on campus doing the same small actions, the numbers grow. Students as a community have a huge potential to save energy.”
Rooney was on Monday night understood to be “angry and confused” at comments made in an interview last week by new United boss David Moyes, who seemed to indicate the England striker would be back-up to Robin van Persie for the forthcoming season. The 27-year-old’s future with the Premier League champions became even more uncertain when it was revealed that rivals Chelsea had made a bid for him, which was rejected out of hand by United. Michael Owen would be “surprised” if former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney left Old Trafford this summer in spite of the apparent falling out between club and player. Press Association While Owen, who played for United for three years from 2009, can empathise that someone of Rooney’s calibre needs to be playing on a regular basis, especially in a World Cup year, he would be shocked if the Red Devils decided to part company with one of their prized assets. “At the height of my career, I wouldn’t have been too happy being on the bench a lot of the time, I would have wanted to be playing all the time,” Owen said on talkSPORT. “He’s still only 27, he’s still a world-class player and I’m sure he won’t want to be sitting on the bench. “That’s his decision and you’re options change as your fitness changes and your age changes or whatever it might be, but he’s in his prime, it’s a World Cup year, he won’t want to be sat waiting around on the bench so it remains to be seen whether that will be the case. “I would be surprised if he left Manchester United but I can understand him wanting to play every game at his age.” Owen believes the arrival of Van Persie from Arsenal for £24million last summer may have left Rooney feeling a little uneasy about his status at Old Trafford. And the fact he was dropped by previous boss Sir Alex Ferguson for key games towards the end of the season – including the pivotal Champions League last-16 second-leg clash with Real Madrid – would not have helped his growing unease. “I think this has been brewing for a little while,” he added. “When Robin van Persie first signed, maybe Wayne wasn’t feeling as if he was the top man anymore and when you’re a player of his calibre then you need to feel wanted to produce your best. “You need to be the one that everyone counts on to score the goals and when he was dropped by Sir Alex for the Real Madrid game last year that would have hurt his pride and everything else. I think we’re seeing a knock-on effect of that now.”
NEW YORK — Hope is a dangerous thing.If that reads familiar, it’s because it’s an iconic quote muttered by Ellis “Red” Redding in the classic 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption.” The line isn’t dripping with optimism or gusto. Morgan Freeman’s velvety baritone delivery doesn’t give the scene warm-hug-from-grandpa feels. Rather, it’s a warning — hope is delightful and comforting, but it’s also precarious. Hope can carry you great distances and propel people and teams to accomplish things previously thought unattainable — but it can also pull the chair out from underneath you.When we think of hope, it’s often in the positive, and we don’t attach danger to it. In 2019, the Rays embody the best of the concept: They’re en route to another 90-win season and they’re thinking October, not spoiler. They reinforced the rotation in the offseason and have fully embraced new-age pitching ideas. The organization is being rewarded for banking on hope.MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNThis year’s club is also loaded with talent — the roster is the deepest it has been in years. That’s not to say the roster isn’t flawed. The Rays have had bullpen issues. Starting pitching is wearing a bit thin. They don’t have true power in the lineup. And for all of the organization’s faults — we know them; the payroll restrictions, the stadium, the lame two-city idea — Rays players praise scouts and front-office executives for putting the team in a position to succeed. So, what’s it like being on a Rays team when the stars are arriving and aligning?”I’ve been trying my best not to look at public opinion. We’ve just got to show up and play,” rookie first baseman Nate Lowe told Sporting News.Then he made an interesting admission: “It’s nice to get a little recognition.”That recognition is coming in several forms. First, Lowe, in just his third week in the majors, was announced as the American League Player of the Week after hitting .471 with three home runs and a 1.059 slugging percentage in four games. Second, the Rays will be playing a nationally televised game Wednesday night vs. the Yankees, something that’s foreign to a franchise viewed as a perennial underdog.Needless to say, it means a lot to players in the Rays’ clubhouse.”The less attention that gets paid to you, you stay hungry,” outfielder Austin Meadows said. “You’re not always in the spotlight. You continue to play hard. You don’t get noticed a lot, but I feel like that’s kind of a good thing when you’re wanting to win, and wanting to beat really, really good teams. “The teams that get the stardom — the Yankees and Red Sox that get the stardom as they do — for us, it just keeps us hungry and more motivated to go out there and play.”Meadows, who was acquired from the Pirates last July in the Chris Archer trade, knows he’s part of the Rays’ future. Along with Nate Lowe, Brandon Lowe (no relation in bloodline or pronunciation), Blake Snell, Willy Adames and others, he’s a key piece in a new core that’s solidifying.GATTO: Incredible bulk: Why the Rays’ pitching strategy actually makes senseThe last time a Rays core ascended, the team made the World Series under Joe Maddon in 2008. Back then, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist played vital roles in the run and James Shields headed up a solid rotation. Since that World Series berth, Tampa Bay has finished last in the AL East once, won the division once and registered 90 or more wins in five of those seasons, most recently in 2018.Last season is proving not to be a one-off. Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Ray and the team’s “elder” statesman, sees something different with this year’s squad.”The camaraderie that this team has had since Day 1 is unlike any other team that I’ve ever been a part of,” Kiermaier said. “We all get along, we all like each other. That’s been different in that aspect. But I also think we just have more talent in the room than I’ve ever been part of.”The talent is obvious. Brandon Lowe is a Rookie of the Year candidate. Tyler Glasnow, who came over with Meadows last year, was in the midst of a Cy Young campaign before suffering a forearm injury. Oh, and the Rays also have a top-three farm system filled with major league-ready prospects.Considering how many jokes are flung in the Rays’ direction, the amount of success they’ve had in a division that features Brinks-truck organizations in New York and Boston should earn them more praise and recognition.”We have a chip on our shoulder, honestly,” Meadows said. “We go out there, we play every single day hard for each other. We realize where we’re at. We realize who we have to compete with: the Yankees, the Red Sox, all those guys. For us, we’re hungry, each and every day. … We’re all young, and we all play for each other, and that’s a recipe for winning.”MORE: Austin Meadows talks rhinos, trades and more”Definitely, the youth movement has taken over the clubhouse,” Kiermaier, 29, said, echoing Meadows’ words. “This is an absolute joy to be a part of. It’s fun being the older guy, ’cause I can sit here and try to give guys a lot of words of advice or drop wisdom on them here or there. “People helping people is what makes the world go ’round, and the baseball world. I learned from other guys, and now I’m sitting here, giving back, teaching the younger guys. And hopefully in four or five years, they can do the same with guys being called up, as well.”And what will happen in four or five years? Should the Rays finally secure that elusive World Series victory, it’ll be the equivalent of Andy Dufresne wading through hundreds of yards of foulness you can’t even imagine. Say what you will about Tropicana Field, which bears a slight resemblance to Shawshank Prison (not in function, but in form) — the young men playing underneath that dome are playing well.The Rays enter Wednesday night’s matchup with the Yankees 1-1 in their four-game set and 5-10 vs. New York overall this season. But the head-to-head record since 2010 has been much closer than some care to admit: The Yankees have won 95 games against the Rays, while the Rays have notched 88 Ws of their own. They have an 87-90 record against Boston over the same stretch. This is a team that’s on the verge of changing the narrative. It’s time to start paying attention.Will the Rays win it all in 2019? Who’s to say? We still have to get past the trade deadline — the Rays’ front office may have to sacrifice some of that young talent to add to the bullpen and the offense. We also have to get through the late summer, when young teams have been know to hit a wall. For now, though, a few things are apparent: They have the talent. They have a window. And Monday night’s hero, Travis d’Arnaud, believes they have something else.”There’s a lot of hope.”And that’s a dangerous thing.