Near the end of last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that 2015 was the company’s “most successful year ever” with $234 billion of revenue.
The numbers were impressive. About 48 million iPhones were sold in Q4 for a 36% increase in sales over the same quarter in 2014. The company’s solid financial position was underlined by its war chest of $205 billion in cash. Investors were delighted, and the stock ran to $120 per share, which is close to its all-time highs.
The only problem?
Apple’s robust iPhone sales are also the company’s biggest weakness:
An over-reliance on iPhone sales is okay if the smartphone category is booming – but financials from Q2 in 2016 provided a wake up call to investors on Apple’s future potential iPhone prospects. Sales for the company’s flagship product declined by 16% from the quarter a year ago, and revenue fell with it by 13%.
Despite this drop, iPhone sales still made up 65% of Apple’s entire revenue for the quarter.
It’s now clear to investors that perhaps there is a ceiling for iPhone sales in the future – and even if it isn’t here yet, it raises the urgent question of what Apple’s next big ticket product will be.
One area to look at may be the company’s “Other Products” category, which is growing fast with 29% in quarterly revenue growth year-over-year. Comprised of the Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats headphones, and other hardware products, could this hold the next golden goose?
Right now, it’s not looking like it, as this entire group of products amounted to only $2.2 billion of revenue in Q2, equal to a measly 4.3% of iPhone sales for the same time period. Even if the “Other Products” category continues to grow at a 30% clip, it will be over 10 years before it makes a significant dent on the income statement relative to the might of the iPhone.
If the next hit isn’t in Apple’s product offering today, then hopefully it is still behind closed curtains. After all, Tim Cook has hinted that there are plenty of innovative products in store.
The fact that Apple has been working on an electric car has been one of the tech giant’s worst-kept secrets. MacRumors even has an entire microsite dedicated to the potential project. However, not expected to launch until 2020, will the Apple car be early enough for investors to ward off the effect of plateauing iPhone sales?
Apple’s virtual reality game hasn’t been particularly impressive, either. While it has patented a VR headset to work with smartphones and there is mounting evidence that Apple is making a significant bet on VR, the company is still considered to be “behind” leaders such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift or HTC.
That’s because Apple does not have a VR/AR product or an articulated strategy in the sector – not yet, anyways.
Visualizing the Rise of Investment Tech
Visualizing the Rise of Investment Tech
For the high resolution version of this infographic, click here.
Investors and wealth managers are always looking to capitalize on their investments—and the latest innovations are arming them with more efficient tools to get there.
Fintech solutions are increasingly being adopted among the digitally active population, as 64% of surveyed wealth managers consider digitization essential in 2019.
Today’s graphic from Raconteur highlights the benefits of investment technology, and touches on shifting sentiments in human vs. digital interactions. Where do investors and wealth managers see the next epoch of investment fintech heading?
Fantastic Features: Top Benefits
According to a TD Ameritrade survey of 1,000 investors, a whopping 90% consider getting tailored investing advice to be the most important feature of any tech tool. In second place, 52% place value in easy access to their data.
Here are the other benefits at top of mind for investors when it comes to investment tech:
- 45% seek the best possible returns
- 44% look for customized, quick, and simple analysis
- 39% are interested in customized portfolios
- 39% want the benefit of personalized budgets
- 38% desire regular suggestions for optimizing financial health
But how well are these applications being adopted in everyday investment scenarios?
The Fintech Boom by the Numbers
Investment apps such as RobinHood have drastically risen in popularity, but still lag behind more mainstream segments in the fintech space:
Fintech Categories Ranked by Adoption Rate, 2015 to 2019
|Category||2015 Adoption Rate||2017 Adoption Rate||2019 Adoption Rate|
|Money transfer and payments||18%||50%||75%|
|Savings and investments||17%||20%||34%|
|Budgeting and financial planning||8%||10%||29%|
Borrowing apps have the lowest global usage rates—only 27% of the digitally active global population—whereas nearly 75% have adopted money transfer and payment apps.
Human vs Machine: The Customer Experience
Do humans or machines have the edge in managing your investments?
The aforementioned survey by TD Ameritrade also asked investors which of the following are performed better by each group, with mixed results:
|👨 Humans perceived as better||🤖 Robots perceived as better|
|• Ability to chat about questions or investment concerns||• Info in one place that can be accessed at any time to inform best solutions
|• Investment experience||• Best returns|
|• Affordable investment solutions or advice||• Ability to optimize returns and minimize taxes
|• Regular suggestions on how to optimize financial life||• Quick, simple analysis tailored to unique financial situation
|• Personalized budget development||• Custom portfolio with regular updates|
When it comes to managing tasks such as calculations, updates, and portfolio optimization, the majority of investors consider a computer to be better suited to the tasks at hand. However, when they are discussing investment concerns, personalization, or financial advice, the majority of customers prefer a human opinion.
Interestingly, 81% of U.S. investors believe that investment technology could never replace the “human touch”, compared to 70% of European investors or 64% in Asia.
Wealth Managers are Going Digital
Over time, wealth managers have grown to embrace the digitization of their industry.
The proportion of surveyed high-level executives who see digitization as essential to the industry jumped from just 25% in 2016 to 64% in 2019.
In another recent survey about views on most impactful types of fintech apps, more than 68% of wealth managers agreed that robo-advisors are among the most important developments, with AI-based investing apps following closely behind at 45%.
Towards a More Personalized Future
At the end of the day, investors want better, more personalized advice at their disposal—and for that advice to generate more profitable returns. Along with their wealth managers, investors are increasingly interested in solutions that can simplify portfolio management.
Digitization and automation of manual processes have been a welcome change for many industry professionals. While investment technology is still in early stages, wealth managers can personalize investor experiences through the adoption of tech─and increase their chances of future success by maintaining a seamless customer experience.
The People’s Republic of China: 70 Years of Economic History
How did China go from agrarian economy to global superpower? This timeline covers the key events and policies that shaped the PRC over its 70-year history.
Chart: 70 Years of China’s Economic Growth
View a high-resolution version of this graphic here.
From agrarian economy to global superpower in half a century—China’s transformation has been an economic success story unlike any other.
Today, China is the world’s second largest economy, making up 16% of $86 trillion global GDP in nominal terms. If you adjust numbers for purchasing power parity (PPP), the Chinese economy has already been the world’s largest since 2014.
The upward trajectory over the last 70 years has been filled with watershed moments, strategic directives, and shocking tragedies — and all of this can be traced back to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1st, 1949.
How the PRC Came to Be
The Chinese Civil War (1927–1949) between the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) caused a fractal split in the nation’s leadership. The CPC emerged victorious, and mainland China was established as the PRC.
Communist leader Mao Zedong set out a few chief goals for the PRC: to overhaul land ownership, to reduce social inequality, and to restore the economy after decades of war. The first State Planning Commission and China’s first 5-year plan were introduced to achieve these goals.
Today’s timely chart looks back on seven decades of notable events and policies that helped shape the country China has become. The base data draws from a graphic by Bert Hofman, the World Bank’s Country Director for China and other Asia-Pacific regions.
The Mao Era: 1949–1977
Mao Zedong’s tenure as Chairman of the PRC triggered sweeping changes for the country.
1953–1957: First 5-Year Plan
The program’s aim was to boost China’s industrialization. Steel production grew four-fold in four years, from 1.3 million tonnes to 5.2 million tonnes. Agricultural output also rose, but it couldn’t keep pace with industrial production.
1958–1962: Great Leap Forward
The campaign emphasized China’s agrarian-to-industrial transformation, via a communal farming system. However, the plan failed—causing an economic breakdown and the deaths of tens of millions in the Great Chinese Famine.
1959–1962: Lushan Conference and 7,000 Cadres meeting
Top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) met to create detailed policy frameworks for the PRC’s future.
1966–1976: Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Mao Zedong attempted to regain power and support after the failures of the Great Leap Forward. However, this was another plan that backfired, causing millions more deaths by violence and again crippling the Chinese economy.
1971: Joined the United Nations
The PRC replaced the ROC (Taiwan) as a permanent member of the United Nations. This addition also made it one of only five members of the UN Security Council—including the UK, the U.S., France, and Russia.
1972: President Nixon’s visit
After 25 years of radio silence, Richard Nixon was the first sitting U.S. President to step foot into the PRC. This helped re-establish diplomatic relations between the two nations.
1976–1977: Mao Zedong Death, and “Two Whatevers”
After Mao Zedong’s passing, the interim government promised to “resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.”
1979: “One-Child Policy”
The government enacted an aggressive birth-planning program to control the size of the country’s population, which it viewed as growing too fast.
A Wave of Socio-Economic Reforms: 1980-1999
From 1980 onward, China worked on opening up its markets to the outside world, and closing the inequality gap.
1980–1984: Special Economic Zones (SEZs) established
Several cities were designated SEZs, and provided with measures such as tax incentives to attract foreign investment. Today, the economies of cities like Shenzhen have grown to rival the GDPs of entire countries.
1981: National Household Responsibility System implemented
In the Mao era, quotas were set on how many goods farmers could produce, shifting the responsibility of profits to local managers instead. This rapidly increased the standard of living, and the quota system spread from agriculture into other sectors.
1989: Coastal Development Strategy
Post-Mao leadership saw the coastal region as the potential “catalyst” for the entire country’s modernization.
1989–1991: Post-Tiananmen retrenchment
Early 1980s economic reforms had mixed results, and the growing anxiety eventually culminated in a series of protests. After tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in 1989, the government “retrenched” itself by initially attempting to roll back economic reforms and liberalization. The country’s annual growth plunged from 8.6% between 1979-1989 to 6.5% between 1989-1991.
1990–1991: Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges open
Combined, the Shanghai (SSE) and Shenzhen (SZSE) stock exchanges are worth over $8.5 trillion in total market capitalization today.
1994: Shandong Huaneng lists on the NYSE
The power company was the first PRC enterprise to list on the NYSE. This added a new N-shares group to the existing Chinese capital market options of A-shares, B-shares, and H-shares.
1994–1996: National “8-7” Poverty Reduction Plan
China successfully lifted over 400 million poor people out of poverty between 1981 and 2002 through this endeavor.
1996: “Grasp the Large, Let Go of the Small”
Efforts were made to downsize the state sector. Policy makers were urged to maintain control over state-owned enterprises to “grasp the large”. Meanwhile, the central government was encouraged to relinquish control over smaller SOEs, or “let go of the small”.
1997: Urban Dibao (低保)
China’s social safety net went through restructuring from 1993, and became a nationwide program after strong success in Shanghai.
1997-1999: Hong Kong and Macao handover, Asian Financial Crisis
China was largely unscathed by the regional financial crisis, thanks to the RMB (¥) currency’s non-convertibility. Meanwhile, the PRC regained sovereignty of Hong Kong and Macau back from the UK and Portugal, respectively.
1999: Western Development Strategy
The “Open Up the West” program built out 6 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 1 municipality—each becoming integral to the Chinese economy.
Turn of the Century: 2000-present
China’s entry to the World Trade Organization, and the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) program – which let foreign investors participate in the PRC’s stock exchanges – contributed to the country’s economic growth.
2006: Medium-term Plan for Scientific Development
The PRC State Council’s 15-year plan outlines that 2.5% or more of national GDP should be devoted to research and development by 2020.
2008-2009: Global Financial Crisis
The PRC experienced only a mild economic slowdown during the crisis. The country’s GDP growth in 2007 was a staggering 14.2%, but this dropped to 9.7% and 9.5% respectively in the two years following.
2013: Belt and Road Initiative
China’s ambitious plans to develop road, rail, and sea routes across 152 countries is scheduled for completion by 2049—in time for the PRC’s 100th anniversary. More than $900 billion is budgeted for these infrastructure projects.
2015: Made in China 2025
The PRC refuses to be the world’s “factory” any longer. In response, it will invest nearly $300 billion to boost its manufacturing capabilities in high-tech fields like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and robotics.
Despite the recent ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. and an increasingly aging population, the Chinese growth story seems destined to continue on.
China Paving the Way?
The 70th anniversary of the PRC offers a moment to reflect on the country’s journey from humble beginnings to a powerhouse on the world stage.
Because of China’s economic success, more and more countries see China as an example to emulate, a model of development that could mean moving from rags to riches within a generation.
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