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Is Big Tech In Another Bubble?

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Is Big Tech In Another Bubble?

Is Big Tech In Another Bubble?

“It’s different this time.”

Right now all the talk is about big tech IPOs – particularly with Alibaba completing the biggest IPO ever and companies like Uber moving towards $40 billion valuations.

Warren Buffett says that in business, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield. To this point, we would have to agree: even though it may feel like this time it is different, there may be something unexpected hidden that clouds our collective judgement. We may have another tech bubble on our hands.

Detractors will say that companies in the Dotcom bust spent too much money too fast, and that everything was speculative. That, in today’s market, companies are making real ground on revenue and earnings growth, and companies are more scalable than ever.

However, we would point out that it is many of the things that make startups scalable that also could lead to the demise of big tech. Technology moves so fast that all it takes is an idea to disrupt their business model. Yahoo! purchased Geocities in January 1999 for $3.57 billion and now Geocities does not exist. Why? Because the business model got outdated very fast – platforms such as WordPress allowed people to build sites without the embedded advertising and hosting got way cheaper. This all happened over the course of a few years, and it was a game changer.

Do we expect that companies like Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, Lyft, Amazon, and Alibaba to be around in the same capacity in 10 years? What will their maturity look like, especially as technology continues to change? How will this affect valuations for more speculative IPOs?

Original graphic from: WhoIsHostingThis.com

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Banks

The Making of a Mammoth Merger: Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade

A look at the histories of Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, what comes next after the merger, and the potential impacts on the financial services industry.

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Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade: A Mammoth Merger

In this era of fierce competition in the discount brokerage space, scale might be the best recipe for success.

Charles Schwab has once again sent shockwaves through the financial services industry, announcing its intent to acquire TD Ameritrade. The all-stock deal — valued at approximately $26 billion — will see the two biggest publicly-traded discount brokers combine into a giant entity with over $5 trillion in client assets.

Today we dive into the history of these two companies, and what effect recent events may have on the financial services industry.

The Evolution of Charles Schwab

1975 – U.S. Congress deregulated the stock brokerage industry by stripping the NYSE of the power to determine the commission rates charged by its members. Discount brokers, which focused primarily on buying and selling securities, seized the opportunity to court more seasoned investors who might not require the advice or research offered by established brokers. It was during this transitional period that Charles Schwab opened a small brokerage in San Francisco and bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

1980s – The company experienced rapid growth thanks to a healthy marketing budget and innovations, such as the industry’s first 24-hour quotation service.

This fast success proved to be a double-edged sword. Charles Schwab became the largest discount broker in the U.S. by 1980, but profits were erratic, and the company was forced to rescind an initial public offering. Eventually, the company sold to BankAmerica Corporation for $55 million in stock. A mere four years later, Charles Schwab would purchase his namesake company back for $280 million.

1987 – By the time the company went public, Charles Schwab had five times as many customers as its nearest competitor, and profit margin twice as high as the industry average.

1990s – In the late ’90s, Charles Schwab moved into the top five among all U.S. brokerages, after a decade of steady growth.

2000s – The company made a number of acquisitions, including U.S. Trust, which was one of the nation’s leading wealth management firms, and most recently, the USAA’s brokerage and wealth management business.

The Race to $0

For Charles Schwab, the elimination of fees is the culmination of its founder’s vision of making investing “accessible to all”.

charles schwab falling trade fees

The company’s fees were slowly declining for decades. In late 2019, it finally took the plunge and introduced free online trading for U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds, and options. The response was immediate and enthusiastic, with clients opening 142,000 new trading accounts in the first month alone.

Although Charles Schwab sent rivals scrambling to match its no-commission trade offer, fintech upstarts like Robinhood have offered free trading for years now. The “race to zero” reflects a broader generational shift, as millennials are simply more likely than earlier generations to expect services to be free.

The Evolution of TD Ameritrade

1975 – The origin of TD Ameritrade can be traced back to First Omaha Securities, a discount broker founded by Joe Ricketts. The company changed its name to TransTerra in 1987.

1988 – TransTerra’s subsidiary, Accutrade, was the first company to introduce touch-tone telephone trading, a major innovation at the time and one of the first early forays into automation.

Early 1990s – Ricketts’s willingness to integrate emerging technologies into the trading business helped his companies achieve impressive growth. In 1997 the company acquired K. Aufhauser & Co., the first company to run a trading website.

The Internet wasn’t a puzzle. We were crystal clear from the beginning that customers would migrate to this.

– Joe Ricketts (2000)

Late 1990s – The Ameritrade brand was solidified after the company changed its name from TransTerra to Ameritrade Holding Corporation in 1996. The newly named company completed an IPO the following year, and established its new brand Ameritrade, Inc., which amalgamated K. Aufhauser, eBroker, and other businesses into a unified entity.

2000s – Ameritrade entered the new millennium as the fifth largest online investment broker in the United States, fueled in part by marketing deals with AOL and MSN.

The modern incarnation of TD Ameritrade took shape in 2006, when TD Bank sold its TD Waterhouse USA brokerage unit to the Ameritrade Holding Corporation in a stock-and-cash deal valued at about $3.3 billion. At the time of the deal the new company ranked first in the U.S. by the number of daily trades.

2016 – TD Ameritrade acquired the discount brokerage Scottrade for about $4 billion. The deal brought 3 million client accounts and $170 billion in assets under management into the company, and quadrupled the size of its branch network.

What Comes Next?

Naturally, the announcement that these massive discount brokers plan to merge has generated a lot of speculation as to what this means for the two companies, and the broader brokerage industry as a whole.

Here are some of the consensus key predictions we’ve seen on the deal, from both media and industry publications:

  • After the deal is approved, the integration process will take 12 to 18 months. The combined company’s headquarters will relocate to a new office park in Westlake, Texas.
  • Charles Schwab’s average revenue per trade has dropped nearly 30% since Q1 2017, so the company will likely use scale to its advantage and monetize other products.
  • The merged company will continue to adopt features from fintech upstarts, such as the option to trade in fractional shares.
  • E*Trade, which was widely considered to be an acquisition target of Schwab or TD Ameritrade, may now face pressure to hunt for a deal elsewhere.

Even though these longtime rivals are now linking up, stiff competition in the financial services market is bound to keep everyone on their toes.

I think Joe Ricketts and I agree that our fierce competitiveness nearly 30 years ago is proof that market competition can be a source of miraculous innovation.

– Charles Schwab

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Demographics

How Different Generations Think About Investing

Each generation was shaped by unique circumstances, and these differences translate directly to the investing world as well.

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How Different Generations Think About Investing

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

Every generation thinks about investing a little differently.

This is partially due to the fact that each cohort finds itself on a distinct leg of life’s journey. While boomers focus on retirement, Gen Zers are thinking about education and careers. As a result, it’s not surprising to find that investment objectives can differ by age group.

However, there are other major reasons that contribute to each unique generational view. For example, what major world events shaped the mindset of each generation? Also, what role did culture play, and how do things like economic cycles factor in?

Finding Generational Discrepancies

Today’s infographic comes to us from Raconteur, and it showcases some of the most significant differences in how generations think about investing.

Let’s dive into some of the most interesting data:

1. Investment Outlook

The majority of millennials (66%) are confident about investment opportunities in the next 12 months. This drops down to 49% when boomers are asked the same question.

2. Volatility

How did different generations of investors react to recent bouts of volatility in the market?

  • 82% of millennials made changes to their portfolios
  • 69% of Gen X made changes
  • 47% of boomers made changes
  • 32% of the Silent Generation made changes

3. Knowledge and Ability

In terms of investment knowledge, 42% of millennials considered themselves to be experts in the field. On the same question, only 23% of boomers could say the same.

4. Financial Goals

Back when they were 27 years old, 45% of Gen Xers said their primary goal was to buy a home. Compare this to just 23% of millennials that consider a home to be their primary investment objective today.

5. Managing Investments

The majority of millennials (66%) saw the ability to manage all aspects of personal finance, including investments, in the same app as being important. Only 35% of boomers agreed.

Similarly, 67% of millennials saw recommendations made by artificial intelligence as being a basic part of any investment platform. Both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were more hesitant, with 30% seeing computer-based recommendations as being integral.

6. Impact Investing

Millennials are twice as interested in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing, compared to their boomer counterparts. In fact, the majority of millennials (66%) choose funds according to ESG considerations.

Reasons for Not Investing

While generations may have varying investment philosophies, they seem a little more in sync when it comes to having reasons not to invest.

StatementMillennialsGen XBoomers
Recognize future outlook would be better if they start investing72%73%57%
Want to try out investing with a low money commitment35%31%25%
Afraid of losing everything42%29%28%
Too worried about current financial situation to think about future49%46%32%
Find information about investing difficult to understand63%59%55%
Don't have enough money to start investing55%59%56%

There are some similarities in the data here – for example, non-investors of all generations seem to have an equally tough time learning about investing, and similar proportions do not believe they have the funds to start investing.

On the flipside, it seems that millennials are more worried about their financial future, while simultaneously seeing a risk of “losing everything” stemming from investing.

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