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First Internet Bancorp: Breaking The Shackles

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Traditional bank stocks have been pretty boring until recently.  Yes, that is changing.  The prospects of a steeper yield curve could make for better earnings in 2018.  But if it weren’t for some of the exciting things to come along in financial technology, the S&P 500 financial index would still be stuck in the rut of underperformance.

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So let’s take a look at one of the early innovators that draw their roots to the small town of Fisher Indiana in 1999.  That was era of landline telephones and dial up Internet.

The Original Internet Bank  

So what makes First Internet Bank (INBK: NASDAQ) different?  For starters, they are the first state-chartered, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) insured Internet bank.

INBK does not have a conventional brick and mortar branch system. It operates through a scalable Internet banking platform.  That may not sound like a big deal since every bank around has mobile banking.

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Everybody in fintech wants to tap into branchless online banking but getting and FDIC charter isn’t so easy. It takes a huge amount of paperwork and lots of time to get approval.

Many startups like Simple attempted to enter the game acting as a broker for FDIC insured banks.  However, under banking rules growing out of the 2008 financial crisis, this proved a tuff road.  

So little old plane vanilla First Internet Bancorp has the key benefit of being an FDIC chartered and insured bank just like the big boys like Citibank and JP Morgan Chase but without the bricks and mortar branches.

INBK’s structure gives them nationwide reach. The implications for costs and customer acquisition being a major benefit.  Until more recently, however, capital limitations put the brakes on major expansion opportunities.  But now, things have changed.

What To Do With $150 Million

On August 8, 2017 INBK filed a registration statement for a $150 million secondary offering with all proceeds going to the company for “general corporate purposes.” Considering the market cap of INBK at the time was about $250 million, the offering was huge.  It substantially bolstered Tier One Capital.  That means for the first time in a while since the financial crisis that INBK could expand its deposit and lending base.

These days INBK’s balance sheet looks darn attractive with cash and deposits more than tripling since 2015 to $656 million and long term investments more than doubling to $2.4 billion.  INBK is exceptionally lean.  They have no long term debt.  When you add up all the fixed overhead like offices, computers and employees, it amounts to just a little under $15 million.  That, as they say, is chump change.  

Full Service Banking

INBK offers the usual assortment of commercial, small business, consumer and municipal banking products and services. They conduct consumer and small business deposit operations primarily through online channels on a nationwide basis and have no traditional branch offices.

Residential mortgage products are offered nationwide primarily through an online direct-to-consumer platform and are supplemented with Central Indiana-based mortgage and construction lending.

Consumer lending products are originated nationwide over the Internet as well as through relationships with dealerships and financing partners.

Commercial banking products and services are delivered through a relationship banking model and include commercial real estate (“CRE”) banking, commercial and industrial (“C&I”) banking and public finance.

A public finance team was established in early 2017, provides a range of public and municipal lending and leasing products to government entities on a nationwide basis.

Free At Last

In 2017 customers shelled out about $45 billion in fees to the banking industry in account service fees, check return fees, overdraft fees and more.  All of this was needed to cover the overhead of the bazillion bank branches.

In 20 years it is possible that 80% of all branches will be replaced by mobile devices. Perhaps there will be none at all.

With no branch overhead to cover, First Internet and others like them can offer appealing perks like free checking, no overdraft or bounced check fees.  That is a big selling point.

Customer Turnover Is Low In Banking

Customers hate those annoying fees but it takes a lot to get them to move.  Costs are often measured on the amount of marketing dollars needed to attract new customers.  There are many ways of measuring these costs so there is no single guide to the true cost.

One bank, BBVA placed the cost at $100.  Other estimates run as high as $145.  Both numbers include the cost of branches.

A study that I participated in several years ago placed the cost for an online bank as low as $50 per new customer.  The difference in these two numbers is just one reason why you should get excited about pure online banks.  First Internet Bank looks well positioned.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 81 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Ford, BMW, GM, Renault – Connecting the Roads via Blockchain

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A collection of the world’s biggest car firms have launched an initiative looking into how blockchain will change the way we deal with transport.

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The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) aims to:

“…explore blockchain for use in a new digital mobility ecosystem that could make transportation safer, more affordable, and more widely accessible.”

This consortium of industry giants accounts for 70% of global vehicle production between them; the fact that they’re all pouring time and resources into blockchain could be a strong portent for the technology.

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Also joining the group are tech giants IBM and Bosch while the cryptocurrency industry is strongly represented with IOTA and VeChain offering their expertise to the venture.

The group’s many projects will include, but are not limited to: research related to autonomous payments between smart vehicles; secure vehicle and data tracking; car sharing using both human and driverless vehicles, and live data markets which track fuel prices, congestion levels and pollution output.

In short, the major car and tech firms are now getting in on something that crypto firms have been working on for years. It’s probably a wise business decision by the car industry, as fossil fuel reserves dwindle and electric vehicles slowly start to take over.

But this isn’t the first we’ve heard of such moves by the motor industry. Renault launched their own initiative into blockchain tech in the recent past, while Toyota instigated their own investigations into blockchain tech just last year.

Recently, Ford announced plans to use blockchain technology to allow drivers to communicate and transact on the roads, and the MOBI initiative follows strongly in that vein.

Buy Your Way Into the Fast Lane

A patent was filed by Ford on March 27th, 2018 which details their plans to implement vehicle-to-vehicle cooperation and automated adaptive cruise control. The patent was titled: ‘Vehicle-to-vehicle cooperation to marshal traffic’, and sets out Ford’s plans to connect the roads under one network.

All of this would be helped along by blockchain technology; specifically when it comes to vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Under Ford’s plans, drivers connected on the network would be able to transact with each other instantly using their proposed CMMP tokens.

If driver A needs to get to work in five minutes, but driver B isn’t in any particular hurry, then driver A can pay driver B to allow him access onto a faster lane.

The patent states:

“The CMMP system operates with individual token-based transactions, where the merchant vehicles and the consumers’ vehicles agree to trade units of cryptocurrency (sometimes referred to as ‘CMMP tokens’). The CMMP tokens are used to validate and authorize a transaction in which, at consumer vehicles’ request, the merchant vehicles either occupy slower lanes of traffic themselves, or allow the consumer vehicle to merge into their own lane and pass as necessary.”

The process could be as broad or specific as required, with specified amounts of tokens being paid for specific amounts of time. The patent goes on to state:

In some examples, the time allotted to the request of the consumer vehicle is based on the number of CMMP tokens chosen by the consumer vehicle to be spent at that particular time. For example, a driver of a consumer vehicle who is running late for an appointment may request to pass any participating merchant vehicles for a duration of 10 minutes on a particular road or highway for 60 CMMP tokens, at a rate of 10 seconds preferential access per token.”

In what the patent refers to as ‘herding’, cars would essentially be able to negotiate with each other and sort themselves out according to their immediate priorities.

The system would be helped by constant data tracking via blockchain, where cars are constantly fed with up to date real world data such as congestion levels, locations of closed roads and roadblocks, traffic light patterns, and even nearby fuel and amenity prices.

Interestingly, the MOBI initiative press-release mentions many of the same topics outlined in the Ford patent from just a few months ago.

Roads on a Blockchain

The entry of blockchain into disparate and unusual industries is becoming a weekly event; everybody can point to at least one industry and say: ‘They’re using blockchain for that too!?’

In that regard, the future is already before us, and now we’re just watching them iron out the kinks.

Rich Strader of the Ford Motor Company seems decided that blockchain is the way things are going to go. He said, as part of the MOBI press release:

We believe blockchain will transform the way people and businesses interact, creating new opportunities in mobility. We look forward to working together with our industry colleagues as part of MOBI to set the standards for the mobility ecosystem of tomorrow.”

The global director of Advanced Engineering at the Groupe Renault, Sophie Schmidtlin, was similarly convinced of the need to investigate blockchain’s possibilities on the road. She said:

Blockchain technology is by essence decentralized, and its full potential needs to be assessed by working in an open ecosystem. That is why it is natural for Groupe Renault to take part in the MOBI consortium. This consortium will be a great opportunity to share and learn about the possibilities that can be opened by the Distributed Ledger Technology, applied to the automotive ecosystem. Ultimately, we aim to work together to define future standards and use cases that will make an easier everyday life for our customers.”

The rapid acceleration of blockchain technology into our everyday lives is as novel as it is scary; as exciting as it is ominous. At this point, nobody knows for sure what the world will look like in years to come.

Patents come and go, and some highly promising patents get forgotten about completely – likewise for industry consortiums.

But while nothing has been set in stone just yet, all the signals are pointing towards blockchain technology being a big part of our future – on the roads and on the exchange.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 10 rated postsGreg Thomson is a full-time crypto writer and digital nomad. He eats ICOs for breakfast and bleeds altcoins. Wherever he lays his public key is his home.




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VanEck Reignites Debate Over Bitcoin ETFs With Recent SEC Filing

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New York-based investment firm VanEck has filed a formal request to list a bitcoin ETF, according to a June 5 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Bitcoin ETF Filing

VanEck has partnered with blockchain company SolidX to develop a new bitcoin-linked ETP that will provide investors with direct exposure to the volatile cryptocurrency. The new fund will be physically backed by bitcoin, which means it will hold actual units of the cryptocurrency instead of merely tracking its price through the derivatives market.

SolidX chief executive officer Daniel Gallancy told Bloomberg that “regulators are concerned right now about having an ETF that is available to retail investors,” but that the mood “will change over time.” In his view, now is the best time to push the conversation forward.

Jan van Eck referred to bitcoin as the new “digital gold” in a press release that circulated on Business Wire. The CEO of VanEck said the new bid goes above and beyond previous attempts to get bitcoin-based products approved by the SEC, which remains hesitant about exposing retail investors to the highly volatile asset class.

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“A properly constructed physically-backed bitcoin ETF will be designed to provide exposure to the price of bitcoin, and an insurance component will help protect shareholders against the operational risks of sourcing and holding bitcoin,” he said.

Striking Out with the SEC

Since January, about a dozen applications to list bitcoin-based funds have been rejected by the SEC, with federal regulators appealing to investor protection and issues related to market manipulation, liquidity and the impact of forks on market prices. VanEck was among the several firms turned away by SEC regulators earlier this year.

The SEC maintains it is open to engaging sponsors in the development of these funds provided that the underlying issues are resolved. However, it’s not entirely clear what will convince regulators to grant the first bitcoin exchange-traded fund.

ETFs are viewed as the next frontier for digital currencies because of their low management fees, ease of access and broad diversification benefits.

While pure-play bitcoin ETFs may be off limits for now, the development of blockchain-based funds is growing at a rapid pace. Several blockchain funds have launched recently, including Amplify Transformational Data Sharing (BLOK), Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy (BLCN), First Trust Indxx Innovative Transaction & Process (LEGR) and Innovation Shares NextGen Protocol (KOIN).

There’s a growing belief on Wall Street and around the world that it is only a matter of time before we see the first bitcoin-backed ETF. The launch of bitcoin futures last December paved the way for mass innovation targeting institutional investors. The half-year slowdown in the cryptocurrency market has sparked a debate over whether institutional money will spark the next wave of adoption.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 452 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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ICOs Netting Investors Huge Profit, According to Boston College Study

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Initial coin offerings (ICOs) may be getting a bad rap these days, but investors who participate in them are generating huge gains, according to new research funded by Boston College.

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ICO Returns

In a 54-page report titled “Digital Tulips: Returns to Investors in Initial Coin Offerings,” researchers Hugo Benedetti and Leonard Kostovetsky examined 4,003 planned and executed ICOs to determine average returns across multiple time frames. These projects, which collectively raised $12 billion in funding, encompass virtually every ICO since January 2017.

The study concluded that the average ICO price surged 179% between the token sale and the first day it listed on a cryptocurrency exchange, an average period of just 16 days. Tokens that failed to achieve exchange listings after 60 days still managed a net return to investors of 82% profit, measured in U.S. dollars.

After trading begins, tokens continue to surge in value, with average buy-and-hold returns of 48% in the first 30 trading days.

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The researchers said the findings point to “significant ICO underpricing,” which is likely a reflection of the oversized risks investors assume for buying unproven assets.

“Our paper shows that ICOs investors are compensated handsomely for investing in new unproven platforms through unregulated offerings,” Benedetti and  Kostovetsky wrote. “It suggests that scams, while plentiful in number, are not as important in terms of stolen capital because investors are shrewd enough to spot (and underfund) them.”

Market Slowdown

Spooked by regulatory uncertainty and the growing number of scams, investors have poured less money into ICOs in recent months. This trend was identified by the Boston College researchers, who concluded that regulators need to be careful not to associate the new funding class with fraudulent activity.

“Regulatory uncertainty in the United States and around the world has recently slowed the explosive growth in ICOs, but our findings suggest that while regulators should continue to deter fraudulent activities, they need to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater,” they said.

ICOs have raised more than $5 billion this year, though funding has fallen significantly since January, when token startups brought in nearly $1.5 billion. The market appears to have bottomed in April, when only $561 million was raised. May is shaping up to be a stronger month with token sales exceeding $715 million.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is planning to classify all ICOs as securities, which may limit their adoption domestically. Many ICOs have steered clear of the U.S. market over fears of being labelled securities.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 452 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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