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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.

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.

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 106 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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Bitcoin

BlockState Interview Part One: Institutional Investment Framework Story

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The mainstream media narrative has shown an uncompromisingly negative bias towards institutional crypto investment of late and it only seemed fair that we got in touch with some people who have professional expertise in the field.

BlockState is a platform that aims to deliver a modular blockchain-based legal and technological infrastructure for financial institutions which combats the low interest and return rates offered by traditional asset classes.

We spoke to the three co-founders: Paul Claudius, Michael Weber and Samuel Brack regarding the nature of the project. In addition to how they met and how it all started, their current status, and their plans for the future.

BlockState in Brief

On their website, the BlockChain team states that their intention is to provide “a technological and legal bridge between blockchain technology and financial markets.”.

It is an infrastructural platform upon which organisations within these sectors build or inform their own solutions – and is unashamedly focused towards providing products for the institutional investment crowd.

On the One Hand…

When asked about the ethics, technological approach and modus operandi of BlockState, Managing Director Paul Claudius was eager to provide a comprehensive, dichotomised summary.

“On the one hand we are creating the basis for institutional investors to access the digital assets markets.

“Investment banks can’t simply open a wallet on their phone and start buying crypto-assets. They need a range of services and processes in place to make sure that they abide by regulation and their internal requirements.”

The BlockState consensus is that there are insufficient frameworks in place to mitigate the obstacles faced by companies unfamiliar with the many intricacies of the crypto-space at present.

This is not to mention the prohibitive nature of the past progression of technological and regulatory standards, which are largely non-standardized.

… And On the Other

The ‘other hand’ to which Paul refers to is the lack of blockchain or cryptocurrency integration at product or service levels within the institutional market.

For this reason: BlockState posits the second half of its service as an offering to:

“help institutions leverage blockchain to improve their existing processes… helping them tokenize financial products and using smart contracts to govern their execution… [to] save massive amount of resources while making their systems more transparent and efficient.”

In theory all transactions will be immutably recorded on the blockchain, which will ensure that all parties involved can access this data and that all transactions will be processed quickly.

Performance can distinguish a winning cryptocurrency from a useless dud.

The Three Musketeers

In addition to Paul Claudius, we got the opportunity to speak to fellow founding members Michael Weber and Samuel Brack.

Paul specialises in Strategy and Business Development, whilst Michael’s role is to take the lead on Product Development and Project Management duties. Their specialisms are Strategy and Business Development, and Product Development / Project Management (respectively).

Samuel Brack is the cryptocurrency brains of the operation and performs something of a hands-on position, donning the title of Chief Technology Officer. He sits in a more hands-on position, acting as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for BlockState.

Before BlockState

Paul recalls that the executive leadership team had “all already knew each other” before the BlockState project even began.

Whilst he and Michael Weber had made acquaintance whilst studying together at the ESPC Europe business school, Michael had met up with Samuel Brack as they were co-founding partners on a prior blockchain based project entitled ‘Goodcoins’.

Whilst they have sold their stake in Goodcoins since, Samuel at least considers his time on the project to have equipped him a knowledge which has been brought forth to BlockState.

Beginners Luck?

On a more personal level: Paul Claudius described his first interaction with the world of cryptocurrency as being the moment in 2012 in which a friend had recommended Bitcoin to him as a potential investment.

He has not disclosed exactly how much Bitcoin he purchased in 2012 but if story is true, considering the token’s contemporary value of $13: Paul would have made a profit of a whopping 51614.53% on his investment. No matter the amount invested.

Products, Pains and Peers

Michael Weber (product lead and project management professional) broke down the trio of primary services / product lines that BlockChain focuses on as being “asset management, dept capital, and derivatives” – with a perceived overlap between the three.

This is as well as the ability for tailoring packages for clients from these tested specialisms.

If these products names appear distinctive yet simple, then you would be correct. Of course, this is one of the main objectives of marketing – however it does not help a company to distinguish itself from its peers.

“While most focus on very specific needs, our infrastructure integrates solutions at every level of the financial product lifecycle, from issuance to reporting always with a view to improving current products on the market.”

This isn’t an easy task however, with obstacles to full-automation rearing their heads alongside undesirably long payment clearance times,

“Some of the major pain points specific to the asset management and derivatives markets and resource consuming operations are settlement and clearing, which can take up to 30 days… with manual processes like getting signatures and manual transactions.”

With a Little Help From My Friends

The three musketeers of BlockState with whom we have already spoken are supposed to possess their own unique-yet-compatible inventories of skills and experience. If the team has any luck it will prove a winning combination.

Three men cannot rule an empire alone however and as the popular idiom goes: successful leaders fill the gaps in their expertise by surrounding themselves with knowledgeable advisors. Following this, BlockState boast a roster of advisors who may just fit the bill for now.

They include (according to Paul):

  • “Patrick Storchenegger, co-founder of the Ethereum Foundation in Zug, is our advisor on legal questions. He brings years of experience from blockchain, capital market law and international tax and business consultancy…
  • “Andrea Voinea, who helped to structure the first Gold Exchange Traded Fund, is a seasoned professional from the asset management market…
  • “Ludwig Schrittenloher, who spent nearly six years at Credit Suisse, offers a breadth of knowledge in DCM and structuring…
  • “[and] Martin Schröder, currently a Director in an investment firm, is an expert in derivatives and also very knowledgeable in capital markets and structuring.”

Estimated Time of ETN

Looking not to the past or present, but forward to what the future may hold for BlockState (or at least, what they plan to happen), we asked Paul Claudius some closing questions in an attempt to reach some conclusions on what may come next…

“At the end of September, we will launch the CTF15 Exchange Traded Note, and it will also be listed on a major European Stock Exchange – to be announced soon…”

An Exchange Traded Note (or ETN) is “a type of unsecured, unsubordinated debt security”

Final Words

Perhaps more exciting even is the fact that the team are currently in the process of preparing the launch of an ‘Equity Token Sale’, issued as part of the company’s equity in a public sale.

According to Paul, it will be “one of the first companies ever to tokenize their equity in a fully regulated and compliant manner, driving the adoption of security tokenization in the financial space.”

Paul, Simon and Michael parted our discussion by asking to remind readers of a forthcoming event at which all three will be attending: the Delta Summit in Malta, which takes place from October 3rd to the 5th.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview coming soon: in which the team will deliver their commentary on recent news, the present situation; and future predictions on the market and industry.

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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Altcoins

Stellar Acquires Blockchain Startup Chain to Form Interstellar

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The commercial arm of the Stellar Development Corporation has acquired a promising blockchain startup by the name of Chain, paving the way for possibly higher enterprise adoption of distributed ledger technology. The deal adds to Stellar’s credibility as one of the world’s leading blockchain companies.

Chain Acquired

Chain, a San Francisco-based startup pursuing enterprise grade adoption of blockchain technology in finance, has sold to Lightyear in an undisclosed cash agreement. Lightyear, the subsidiary of the Stellar Development Corporation, will be re-named Interstellar, according to official reports. Jed McCaleb, Stellar’s founder, will be the chief technology officer of the newly formed company, which he said should help companies build on the Stellar network. He adds:

“Chain’s team has led the market for enterprise adoption of blockchain technology, which is a critical component of building a future where money and digital assets move over open protocols.”

Interstellar’s new CEO Adam Ludwin explained how the newly merged company will work together:

“Chain has worked from inside the enterprise while Stellar has focused on the network between organizations. As a single team we will have a complete view and set of capabilities to make value-over-IP a reality.”

Chain is said to be a leader in the world of fin-tech, having built enterprise-grade blockchain solutions for Visa, Citigroup and Nasdaq, among others. With the merger, Interstellar will have access to Sequence, Chain’s powerful cloud solution that enables companies to monitor assets moving between private ledgers and the Stellar network.

Previously, Chain had raised more than $43 million across multiple deals. Financiers included Capital One, Citigroup, Pantera Capital and Blockchain Capital.

XLM Price Update

Although the merger between Chain and Lightyear has not had a demonstrably positive effect on XLM’s price, the cryptocurrency continues to outperform leading assets such as Ethereum and bitcoin cash. The XLM price was down 4.4% on Tuesday but has gained 3.2% over the past seven days. By comparison, bitcoin has declined nearly 1% over that period while Cardano has lost more than 10%. Ethereum is trading in positive territory over seven days as prices recovered from 16-month lows.

XLM, which is currently valued at $0.197, has declined roughly 12% over the past month. At current values, it has a market capitalization of $3.7 billion, placing it sixth among active cryptocurrencies. Bitbox is the most active market for XLM traders, accounting for more than 54% of daily transactions.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 612 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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Grayscale’s $6 Million Dollar Bet

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Grayscale Investments, the company behind the Bitcoin Investment Trust, has announced plans to back a little-known privacy coin by the name of Zen. The news came mere months after Grayscale put Zen on its “conviction list” of potentially high-impact cryptocurrencies.

Zen Investment Trust

On Thursday, Grayscale announced the creation of the Zen Investment Trust, which gives accredited investors direct access to the cryptocurrency. It is the eighth such fund mandated to hold just one currency, joining a list of products that include bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP and Ethereum Classic.

Although the announcement came as a surprise to some crypto observers, Grayscale said the decision was based on intensive research and due diligence.

“Grayscale conducts unparalleled research and due diligence on their investment products, striving to offer regulated and professionally managed exposure to the digital currency market for institutional and accredited investors worldwide,” said Rob Viglione, Grayscale’s founder and president.

According to Fortune, Grayscale has already purchased $6.3 million worth of Zen tokens and plans to increase its holdings in the future.

Grayscale appears to be increasing its exposure to privacy-focused coins, having recently added Zcash to its list of single-currency investment funds. These assets align with Viglione’s vision of financial privacy, which he believes will be a dominant theme in the future.

Zen Token: An Introduction

Horizen, the company behind Zen token, launched in May 2017 as ZenCash before rebranding this past summer. The company has designed a platform that provides users with complete control of their digital footprint, including private chat and development features. Once scaled to full capacity, Horizen’s side-chain technology will allow anyone to develop privacy-focused applications and generate income from them. Sidechains ensure that Horizon has the bandwidth to process large volumes of transactions without running into scalability issues plaguing other cryptocurrencies.

For users, Horizen’s platform is intended to provide end-to-end encryption of their online activity. The company employs zk-SNARKs, a protocol that can prove possession of certain information without revealing that information and without any interaction between the prover and verifier. This protocol is also employed by zCash.

Valued at $82 million, Zen is currently ranked no. 72 by market capitalization, according to latest available data. Zen was down only 1% on Thursday compared with double-digit losses for the broader market. At press time, Zen was valued at $17.16, according to CoinMarketCap. Trade volumes amounted to $1.8 million, with Binance accounting for more than half the daily turnover.

There are currently less than 4.7 million ZEN tokens in circulation out of a total supply of 21 million.

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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4.6 stars on average, based on 612 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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