easyJet and Travelport to target diversified traveller growth

UK, 29 January 2020: easyJet, Europe’s leading airline, has announced the renewal of its long-standing content partnership with Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel and tourism industry.

In partnering with Travelport, travel agencies around the world will continue to benefit from real-time access to easyJet’s range of fares through the company’s market-leading technology platform, Travelport Smartpoint.

easyJet will also benefit from access to the full suite of Travelport’s digital media merchandising solutions in line with the airline’s strategy to refine and diversify the way it targets business and leisure travellers.

Thomas Haagensen, Group Markets Director at easyJet, said: “easyJet offers an unrivalled network flying to more primary airports on the top 100 European routes than any other carrier which means we are ideally placed to meet the expectations of where our customers want to fly for business. Having been one of the first airlines in the low-cost sector to make its inventory available through global distributor, Travelport, we continue to deliver on our strategy to increase our appeal, especially to the business travel sector and are pleased to have renewed our partnership.

easyJet will remain among the 300 airlines that utilise Travelport’s innovative merchandising tool, Travelport Rich Content and Branding. Travelport Rich Content and Branding enables airlines to more effectively display their products in line with how they are sold on their own websites, with detailed product descriptions and imagery that enhances the experience for travel agents looking to search, sell and book branded fare families.

Mike Rock, Head of Europe, Air Partners at Travelport, said: “The way that business and leisure travellers make travel choices continues to evolve and diversify as new and emerging technologies, and industry standards improve the experience of buying and managing travel. Our longstanding relationship with easyJet has enabled the airline to develop a multi-channel global sales strategy and we’re looking forward to working with the team to support its ambition for growth in Europe and beyond.”

Crypto Gambling Grows In Popularity Despite Calls For More Regulation

A new crypto asset regulation drafted and passed by the House of Representatives in Japan is expected to have a serious effect on the way custodians and exchanges do business in the country. The Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and the Payment Services Act is set to keep a keener eye on players in the crypto industry at a time when the crypto gambling industry in Japan is fighting through already restrictive gaming regulations.

Crypto Gambling Grows In Popularity Despite Calls For More Regulation

Joseph D. Hugh is the CFO of Jukebucks, a platform that facilitates international cryptocurrency betting. Hugh says the strict regulations Japan has regarding gambling, in general, has been passed over to the crypto gambling industry. Hugh explains it is not an easy thing for the country to completely deny players access to the gambling industry, but Japan keeps tabs on players under the pretense of tax monitoring.

Despite the restrictions that exist in Japan, lawmakers in the country agreed a little more than a year ago to allow physical gambling locations in the country.

Hugh says Japan will begin allowing offline casino betting in the country following the 2020 Olympics. He says it is unclear at this time what business entities may be in line to receive casino licenses but these permits will be issued for casinos in Osaka, Tokyo, Hokkaido, and Okinawa. It is presumed by experts in the industry, Japan will lessen restrictions on online casino play in the country after the offline industry is established.

The “integrated resorts” stamp of approval was given by the Japanese government some time ago but the effects have yet to trickle down to the gambling industry.

Integrated resorts are entertainment complex that showcases a comprehensive set of entertainment venues. Casinos are often counted among the group of business establishments part of an integrated resort. Other attractions include shopping malls, movie theaters, theme parks, and hotels.

Japan and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have appeared to be more willing to introduce legislation to benefit casinos in recent times. However, this enthusiasm does not seem to translate to crypto gambling possibilities.

Japanese Crypto Gambling

One would think that crypto gambling is much more prevalent in Japan than it is once taking a look at the abundance of regulations the country has put together on the matter. Much of the regulation is seen as a response to the 2014 collapse of the crypto-exchange Mt. Gox that was headquartered in the country.

Tron is a blockchain network that reports it is working on the infrastructure that will facilitate a completely decentralized internet. In 2019, Tron disallowed gambling apps in its app store after being pressured by the government of Japan to do so.

The Chief Technology Officer for Tron at the time of the decision to block the gambling apps, Lucien Chen, was so upset by the decision he left the company. Chen said there was a breakdown between the company’s claim to be a decentralized entity and the actions it was taken against the gambling apps.

How It Works?

There are two ways that blockchain gambling can take place. The first is off-chain gambling while the other is on-chain.

Off-chain gambling takes place whenever physical gambling locations like casinos agree to accept cryptocurrency as a form of gambling currency used to deposit into a casino account. A third-party custodian is then used by these establishments to convert cryptocurrencies into fiat money. However, casinos do exist that operate completely on Bitcoin and do not make use of fiat currency.

Smart contracts are utilized on a blockchain to facilitate on-chain gambling. A decentralized application is also needed that makes use of backend code that runs on a network for blockchain and not a traditional server.

Off-chain casinos are much easier targets for governments who wish to either regulate or eliminate crypto gambling. Websites that allow crypto gambling will often ban IP addresses that originate in certain countries. For example, users in America will find they are unable to access gaming sites that accept Bitcoin from their home location.

It is important to understand that on-chain gambling sites are not completely immune from government regulations. A good example of this is Tron’s refusal to share access to its gambling apps to users with Japanese addresses. However, the same users can access the apps if they use a VPN.

Global Crypto Gambling Regulations

The regulations most countries have in place to govern gambling that takes place online have been in place for quite a few years now. However, only a few countries have so far specifically addressed the issue of crypto gambling. Countries that have established crypto gambling regulations include the Netherlands, the United States, Poland, Greece, Belgium, and Italy.

In countries that do not consider Bitcoin a legal method of pay it is not acceptable to fund gambling efforts with the currency. However, lawmakers in these countries will need to make the regulations regarding this matter clearer for gamblers, casinos, and themselves.

Japan, a nation whose gambling revenue slightly outpaces the revenue produced by Nevada in the United States, is one of these countries in need of better clarity.

A number of online gambling platforms exist in the United Kingdom that will allow players to fund their accounts with Bitcoin. These providers of gambling services are subject to the same laws that govern the operations of other establishments in the gambling industry. Sportsbetting is popular in the United Kingdom and this is reflected by the number of sports betting websites available that allow users to place wagers using cryptocurrencies.

The U.K. Gambling Commission urges citizens to use caution when using Bitcoin to fund gambling accounts. The commission explains there are inherent risks with using Bitcoin that is not present with the use of fiat currencies.

Gamblers are quick to point out the benefits afforded to them by the use of bitcoin. The first is privacy. Users are not required to reveal personal information when they use Bitcoin to facilitate a transaction. Bitcoin does not allow for total anonymity, however. Most countries make it necessary for individuals to share their identity before converting their Bitcoin to the fiat currency of their choice.

Coins like Zcash and Monero are not as popular as Bitcoin but offer users more protection to their identity. These coins are known to thwart attempts by regulators to gain access to personal information regarding coin holders and many supporters of regulations believe tighter controls should be exercised on these coins.

It may not be obvious to some who abhor the many regulations in place but the global gambling industry is slowly becoming more accepting of cryptocurrency. The effect can even be seen in Las Vegas, a place many believe to be the gambling capital of the world, where Bitcoin is being accepted in a few major establishments. The trend of increased acceptance for cryptocurrencies is expected to increase with time.

First Head of Fintech Strategy & Commercialisation Named at Shawbrook Bank

UK fintech market veteran, Stuart Doignie, has been appointed as Shawbrook looks to scale-up and evolve its specialist SME lending proposition

Stuart Doignie Head of Fintech Strategy & Commercialisation

Specialist SME lender, Shawbrook Bank, has started the new decade by appointing its first Head of Fintech Strategy and Commercialisation.

Stuart Doignie, who is well known within the fintech industry, joins Shawbrook’s Business Finance Division as the Bank aims to become the UK’s SME lender of choice.

Mr. Doignie has held several senior roles within the fintech space and his appointment signals Shawbrook’s intent to adopt new technologies as it looks to evolve its specialist SME lending proposition.

As Head of Fintech Strategy & Commercialisation, his primary focus will be on the adoption of technology to advance the specialist SME lender’s own infrastructure but also to support the development of new products and to leverage wider initiatives such as Open Banking.

He said: “I’ve witnessed first-hand how technology is disrupting the SME finance landscape, particularly in the un-secured space.

“The really interesting challenge now is to see how technology can help business owners’ access more sophisticated forms of funding.

“With such a diverse range of specialist SME lending products, I believe Shawbrook is perfectly placed to become one of the first institutions to demonstrate how fintech can be deployed to transform not just distribution but funding solutions too.”

Well known across the fintech industry after holding senior roles including Head of SME at Starling Bank, Chief Risk Officer at ezbob and most recently Chief Commercial Officer at OpenPayd – a leader in the Banking-as-a-Service market – Mr. Doignie has helped pioneer the use of smart technology to provide new finance solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises throughout his career.

His first task at Shawbrook will be to source and deploy a leading cloud-based commercial lending platform. This platform will enable the Bank to develop and scale-up both established and recently launched products including Commercial Loan, Development Finance, Growth Capital and Unitranche.

Neil Rudge, Managing Director of Shawbrook’s Business Finance division, said: “As a specialist lender, focused entirely on UK SMEs, we’ve built a suite of funding products over recent years to address a breadth of needs.

“We’ll be making a number of investments in technology during 2020 to help us rapidly evolve and develop these products, reduce friction in their delivery, and reach more SMEs through slicker distribution.”

He added: “With Stuart’s experience and knowledge across the fintech sector, we’re well placed to create a truly scalable and unique tech infrastructure.”

Coronavirus: investors should avoid knee-jerk reactions

Coronavirus is the number one threat to financial markets currently – but most investors should avoid knee-jerk reactions, affirms the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organizations.

Nigel Green, deVere Group chief executive and founder, is speaking out as global stock markets are rattled on fears of the potentially deadly Sars-like virus triggering major sell-offs.

The death toll has now risen to 81 and almost 3,000 people have been confirmed as infected, with 44 cases having been detected outside China, where it originated.

On Monday, the composite European Stoxx 600 fell 1.7% at the open, London’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.6%, while Germany’s Dax was 1.7% lower.  The slump followed a similarly dramatic decline in Asia overnight. The Shanghai Composite fell 2.7%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng lost 1.1%, and Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2%.

Mr Green says: “The Coronavirus is the number one threat to financial markets currently as global investors are becoming jittery on the uncertainty.

“But whilst this health crisis will inevitably hit some sectors, such as travel and retail, most investors who have a properly diversified portfolio should avoid knee-jerk reactions.  History teaches us that most issues of this kind have a short-term impact on stock markets.”

He continues: “Most investors should monitor the situation with their financial adviser and sit tight at present. But if it is still escalating next week, with much higher casualty rates, a more defensive approach might be necessary. 

“However, the cost and effort of making such a switch means you do not do it lightly, and more evidence is needed that the virus does pose a medium to long term risk to China and the global economy.”

Mr Green goes on to say: “But that said, this should serve as a wake-up call to all investors to ensure their portfolio is well-diversified across asset classes, regions, sectors, even currencies. 

“This is the best way to mitigate risks and the best way to be well-placed to take advantage of the opportunities when they occur.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Stock markets tend to bottom with the peak in new cases during a public health issue of this kind, before rebounding.

Coronavirus is the number one threat to financial markets currently – but most investors should avoid knee-jerk reactions, affirms the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organizations.

Nigel Green, deVere Group chief executive and founder, is speaking out as global stock markets are rattled on fears of the potentially deadly Sars-like virus triggering major sell-offs.

The death toll has now risen to 81 and almost 3,000 people have been confirmed as infected, with 44 cases having been detected outside China, where it originated.

On Monday, the composite European Stoxx 600 fell 1.7% at the open, London’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.6%, while Germany’s Dax was 1.7% lower.  The slump followed a similarly dramatic decline in Asia overnight. The Shanghai Composite fell 2.7%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng lost 1.1%, and Japan’s Nikkei dropped 2%.

Mr Green says: “The Coronavirus is the number one threat to financial markets currently as global investors are becoming jittery on the uncertainty.

“But whilst this health crisis will inevitably hit some sectors, such as travel and retail, most investors who have a properly diversified portfolio should avoid knee-jerk reactions.  History teaches us that most issues of this kind have a short-term impact on stock markets.”

He continues: “Most investors should monitor the situation with their financial adviser and sit tight at present. But if it is still escalating next week, with much higher casualty rates, a more defensive approach might be necessary. 

“However, the cost and effort of making such a switch means you do not do it lightly, and more evidence is needed that the virus does pose a medium to long term risk to China and the global economy.”

Mr Green goes on to say: “But that said, this should serve as a wake-up call to all investors to ensure their portfolio is well-diversified across asset classes, regions, sectors, even currencies. 

“This is the best way to mitigate risks and the best way to be well-placed to take advantage of the opportunities when they occur.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Stock markets tend to bottom with the peak in new cases during a public health issue of this kind, before rebounding.

“This is a worrying and serious situation and investors must be vigilant. They should remain properly diversified and remain in the market.”

“This is a worrying and serious situation and investors must be vigilant. They should remain properly diversified and remain in the market.”

Markets DISMISS Trump impeachment – but monitor China trade relations and Coronavirus

The bullish financial markets are indifferent to the Trump impeachment trial – more concerning is the U.S.-China trade deal and the Coronavirus, says the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial services and advisory organisations.

The comments from deVere Group chief executive, Nigel Green, come as U.S. President Donald Trump’s historic impeachment trial got underway on Tuesday in the Senate, with Democrats calling for his removal from office and Republicans determined to have him acquitted.

Mr Green says: “A major geopolitical event such as the impeachment trial of a U.S. President would, typically, send shock waves through financial markets.

“This has not been the case here. The seemingly relentlessly bullish markets have largely shown indifference to the impeachment process. 

“This is because investors see the likelihood of Trump being removed from the White House following a Senate trial as almost zero.”

He continues: “However, what is far more likely to cause market jitters in the coming weeks are vulnerable trade relations between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies.

“U.S.-China phase one deal has stopped additional tariffs being imposed on each other’s goods.  However, it does not address serious structural issues of trade between two vastly different economies, one which has enormous state capacity. In addition, the sheer number of goods – amounting to $200bn –that China will need to buy from the U.S. could, ultimately, make the deal unworkable.

“The hard part is negotiations yet to come.”

Mr Green goes on to add: “Markets will also be weighing concerns regarding the spread of the Coronavirus that has afflicted hundreds in China so far – as hundreds of millions prepare to travel during the Lunar New Year period. It’s the largest annual human migration on Earth.

“The World Health Organisation is meeting on Wednesday to discuss the situation.  An upscaling of the threat could depress markets and hit consumer sentiment and spending.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “This bull market isn’t bothered about Trump’s impeachment trial. It will be closely monitoring other major issues, including the U.S.-China trade dispute – the far-reaching impact of which is likely to outlive Trump’s presidency.”

How to Get Ahead Financially: 7 Tips for Success

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and can’t get ahead, you’re in the company of 78% of workers.

It’s frustrating to constantly feel like you’re playing financial catch-up. The stress of being short on money or not being able to reach your financial goals can make you want to give up.

But taking small financial steps in the right direction gets the ball rolling. Those actions eventually help you gain traction and improve your financial standing.

Instead of ignoring your financial situation or accepting your money problems, put these seven tips into action.

1. Start With a Budget

Taking charge of your financial situation requires a plan. That comes in the form of a budget.

You need to know your exact income, expenses, and spending habits to make better use of your money.

Budgeting apps can help you, but you can also create your own simple budget on paper or using a spreadsheet program. 

Start by adding up all the money that comes in each month. That could include wages from your job, child support, interest, and other investments. 

Next, write down each individual bill or recurring expense you have. This includes things such as utilities, insurance, car payments, loans, and credit card payments.

Subtract those expenses from your income to see what you have left. This is the amount you can divide up between the rest of your expenses, such as groceries, clothing, and dining out.

Once you have your budget set, you need to follow up and make sure you stick to your spending limits. If you spend twice as much as you allocate for eating out, it’ll throw off the rest of the budget. 

Monitoring your spending compared to your budget can help you spot the trouble areas. You might notice you go overboard on clothing every month. Look at those areas to see how you can control your spending better.

You may need to adjust some categories while you figure out your budget. You might spend less in some areas than the amount you allocated, so you can lower those limits while raising others.

2. Set Up Multiple Bank Accounts

Do you use a single account for everything? Having multiple bank accounts can help you better manage your money.

If you have trouble sticking to your budget, consider creating different bank accounts for individual areas of your budget. You might have one for your mortgage and other loans, another for other recurring expenses, and a third for your discretionary spending.

When you pay your bills, you know you’ll have the necessary money in those accounts. Pulling from one account for your discretionary spending gives you a hard limit on those expenses. 

If you have all of your money lumped into one account, it’s easier to overspend on extras. You convince yourself that you can splurge on that leather jacket, but you end up using money that should go to the mortgage or your credit card payments. That can cause you to fall behind financially.

3. Create Financial Goals

Why do you want to get your finances under control? Setting specific goals can keep you motivated to handle your money better. You know cutting back on spending or increasing your savings is for something you really want.

Think in terms of short-term and long-term financial goals.

Short-term goals can keep you motivated because you can reach them quickly. They’re also building blocks for your larger goals and can help you gradually improve your finances. This could be things such as building an emergency cash fund, cutting your expenses by a set amount or paying off one credit card.

The long-term goals help you improve your financial standing over time. They’re the bigger goals that keep you going and get you to the place you want to be. Examples include paying off all debt, saving for a house, or reaching a larger number in your savings account.

If you’re not sure where to focus your attention, a financial planner can help. A financial pro can look at your current situation and make recommendations for short-term and long-term financial goals.

4. Pay Off Debt

In the UK, the average debt is £15,385. Deciding whether or not to go into debt is a personal decision, but carrying high levels of debt makes it difficult to get ahead financially. The interest and fees you pay eat up money that could go toward your financial goals.

Plan to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, especially if it’s holding you back financially. Put extra money toward your debt to get rid of it faster.

5. Create a Savings Plan

No matter how financially behind you feel, setting aside money in your savings account is a smart decision. Set up your bank account to transfer money to savings automatically on your paydays. That way you ensure you set aside the money before you spend it on other things.

Include retirement savings in your plan. Starting now helps you build your retirement savings faster, so you’re financially stable when you reach retirement age.

6. Increase Your Income

Having more money in your bank account gives you more financial stability and helps you reach your goals. You can either make more money or cut your spending to increase your usable income.

Asking for a raise at your current job or looking for a new job can help you increase your income. Another option is a temporary part-time job or side gig for extra money. Think of it as a temporary sacrifice of your time to accelerate your financial goals.

7. Change Your Mindset

Many people think of cutting back on spending or saving more as a negative thing. It feels restrictive, so you don’t want to do it.

Flip how you think about financial changes. Focus on what you get from the changes instead of what you’re losing.

When you’re tempted to make an impulse buy, as yourself if the item will get you closer to your financial goals. Having meaningful goals and keeping them in your mind can help you change your thinking.

How to Get Ahead Financially

When you’re struggling with money, it can be difficult to figure out how to get ahead financially. Confronting your situation directly and tackling it a little at a time helps you improve your finances. Visit our archives for more financial information.

UNCTAD’s Global Investment Trends Monitor

It is my pleasure to share with you the latest issue of UNCTAD’s Global Investment Trends Monitor with the first full-year estimates for 2019.

Global foreign direct investment (FDI) remained flat in 2019, at $1.39 trillion, a 1% decline from a revised $1.41 trillion in 2018. This is against the backdrop of weaker macroeconomic performance and policy uncertainty for investors, including trade tensions.

FDI flows to developed countries remained at a historically low level, decreasing by a further 6% to an estimated $643 billion. Flows to developing economies were unchanged at $695 billion. Flows to transition economies rose by two thirds to $57 billion.

Trends in selected economies:

– FDI in the United Kingdom down 6% as Brexit unfolds.

– Hong Kong, China divestments cause a 48% FDI decline in turbulent times.

– Singapore up 42% in a buoyant ASEAN region.

– Zero-growth of flows to both the United States and China.

– Brazil up 26% at the start of a privatization programme.

– German inflows triple as MNEs extend loans to foreign affiliates in a year of slow growth.

Looking ahead, UNCTAD expects FDI flows to rise marginally in 2020 on the back of further modest growth of the world economy.

For the latest issue of the Global Investment Trends Monitor and the UNCTAD Investment Policy Monitor, please click here. An in-depth analysis of FDI trends will feature in the forthcoming World Investment Report 2020, to be published in June 2020.

By James X Zhan

Director, Investment and Enterprise
Lead, World Investment Report
United Nations Conference on Trade & Development
Palais des Nations, Geneva
http://www.unctad.org/wir
http://www.worldinvestmentforum.org
http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org

Stock Market 101: Investment Advice for Beginners

For most that do not invest in stocks, the idea of the stock market seems very risky and scary. For them, the risk appears to outweigh any potential upside. However, this is not the case!

Investment in stocks can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. This investment advice will help you start improving your investing skills today.

Stock Market 101: Investment Advice for Beginners

You may be wondering if investing is a good idea for you. Of course, it is! Every person needs to invest in order to grow their financial accounts.

Having your money tied up in traditional savings accounts alone will not do it. Not only will it provide it a low rate of return, but it probably will not even keep up with inflation.

Investment Platforms

Before we talk about the stock market in more detail, let’s talk about how you can purchase them. There are three main outlets in managing stock investments- online brokers, investment advisors, and robo-advisors.

While they are all different, one will be perfect for your personal situation and needs.

Online Brokers 

It is no surprise that many people turn to online brokers when looking to invest in the stock market. The most significant upside to online brokers is that you can handle everything entirely online. Also, you can invest in a wide variety of items.

However, online brokers are not always beginner-friendly. While they offer some investment advice, most online brokers are geared towards those with more experience and comfortable in managing their own investment portfolios.

Investment Advisors

Investment advisors are dedicated professionals that can give you personalized investment advice. These advisors work with people one-on-one and can give you direct investment advice based on your goals, timeline, and how much risk you want to take.

After discussing this with a potential investor, the investment advisor will create a diverse portfolio that is appropriate for their needs and wants. The portfolio is filled with a wide range of products.

For most beginners, it can be challenging to find an investment advisor to work with. Many advisors only work with those with an extensive portfolio or significant amount of money (starting around $250,000) available to invest.

Robo-Advisors

Robo-advisors are recent additions to the scene but have quickly become a popular way to invest in the stock market. Offering similar services as investment advisors, they do not require a high investment, making them within reach for all investors.

Just like traditional investment advisors, robo-advisors will evaluate your goals, needs, and tolerance to risk. They will create a personalized portfolio that will be filled with lower-cost products. This helps you save money as the fees will not be as high as other avenues.

Robo-advisors are available to investors, both new and established. No matter your income available for investing, a robo-advisor can create a portfolio for you!

Stocks

Stocks are a popular product to use when investing in the stock market. Usually, stocks highly outperform other investments and outpace inflation.

Many investors make stocks the primary investment in their portfolio. While they tend to diversify for lower risk tolerance, investors keep coming back to stocks for their high return.

So, how much of your portfolio should be stocks? For a conservative portfolio, a common rule is that the percentage of a portfolio that should be stocks is 120 minus your age. For example, if you are 40, 80% of your portfolio should be stocks. Then, when you turn 50, that number lowers to 70%.

Stocks to Invest In 

So what stocks should you invest in? As a new investor, you should focus on categories, not individual stocks. We will go over some of the standard and best stock categories to invest in as a beginning investor.

Value Stocks 

Value stocks trade at lower prices. These are usually companies that are recovering from some difficulty or had faced some legal issues. Because of this, their prices are lower than other stocks.

However, the benefit can be yours once the company recovers. Your investment in value stocks will likely outperform the stock market in general over the long term.

High Dividend Stocks 

High dividend stocks are just what their name suggests, a stock that pays out a higher dividend than the average. Since around half of the return on stocks comes from dividends, it just makes sense to invest in high dividend stocks.

These are also a great way to give a bit of protection to your portfolio. Having high dividend stocks can provide some level of protection during a downturn in the stock market.

Growth Stocks

Growth stocks are from those businesses that are growing faster than their competitors and other companies that are listed on the general stock market. Even though they traditionally do not pay dividends, the return comes from the rising stock price when help on to long-term.

Just a piece of investment advice on growth stocks: these are considered high risk. While the potential is strong for growth, they may also take significant hits when there is a downturn in the market. Just remember that these are a long-term return stock, and you should be OK.

Start Investing in Stocks 

Now that you know a little more about stocks and investing, you may wonder if you should get started. There are some steps you should take beforehand to ensure that you are ready!

First, you need to get a solid financial base. Some basics to follow includes having sufficient and stable income, an emergency fund that covers three to six months of expenses, and a track record of saving. This will help set you up for a solid beginning to your investment portfolio.

Second, you should further educate yourself about the different types of investments and products available in the stock market. Just remember to never invest in something you don’t understand. When purchasing a stock, you are actually investing in a specific business.

When investing in a business, you should educate yourself on that business and its industry as must as you possibly can.

Investment Advice

While all of this may seem overwhelming, there are many advisors and sites ready to help you with any investment advice that you need. Don’t let the fear of the stock market stop you from realizing your financial goals.

Check out our blog for more information on how to guide your investment and enhance your ROI.

Combating Insurance Fraud With Machine Learning

By Georgios Kapetanvasileiou, Analytical Consultant at SAS

Most insurance companies depend on human expertise and business rules-based software to protect themselves from fraud. However, people move on. And the drive for digital transformation and process automation means data and scenarios change faster than you can update the rules.

Machine learning has the potential to allow insurers to move from the current state of “detect and react” to “predict and prevent.” It excels at automating the process of taking large volumes of data, analysing multiple fraud indicators in parallel – which taken individually may often be quite normal – and finding potential fraud. Generally, there are two ways to teach or train a machine learning algorithm, which depend on the available data: supervised and unsupervised learning.

Predictive modelling

In predictive modelling or supervised learning, algorithms make predictions based on a set of examples from historical data. You can present an algorithm with historical claims information and associated outcomes often called labelled data. It will attempt to identify the underlying patterns in fraudulent cases. Once the algorithm has been trained on past examples, you can use it to infer the probability of a new claim being fraudulent. AKSigorta Insurance is using advanced predictive modelling as part of its investigation process. The company has managed to increase its fraud detection rate by 66% and prevent fraud in real time.

There is a wide variety of predictive modelling algorithms to choose from, so users should take into account issues such as accuracy, interpretability, training time and ease of use. There is no single approach that works universally. Even experienced data scientists have to try different methods to find the right algorithm for a specific problem. It is, therefore, best to start simple and explore more advanced machine learning methodologies later. Decision trees, for example, are an excellent way to start exploring complex relationships within data. They are relatively easy to implement and fast to train on large volumes of data. More importantly, they are very easy to understand or interpret, and can be a good starting point for new business rules.

Other options for more accuracy

Decision trees can, however, become unstable over time. When accuracy becomes a priority, practitioners should look at other options. Support vector machines (SVMs) and neural networks are capable of learning complex class boundaries and generalise well to unseen cases. They have been extensively used for fraud detection. Tree-based algorithms, such as gradient boosting and random forests, have also become more popular in recent years. Ideally, analysts should try multiple approaches in parallel before deciding what works best.

Supervised learning is effective in identifying familiar cases of fraudulent activity but cannot uncover new patterns. Another challenge is the limited numbers of fraud examples with which to train the algorithm. Fraud is a relatively rare event, after all. The ratio between fraud and nonfraud cases can sometimes be as much as 1 to 10,000. This means that predictive algorithms tend to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of nonfraud cases, and may miss the fraudulent ones. Labelling new data for training a model can also be time consuming and expensive.

Unsupervised learning

Unsupervised learning algorithms are trained against data with no historical labels. In other words, the algorithm is not given the answer or outcome beforehand. It is merely asked to explore the data and uncover any “interesting” structures within them. For example, given certain behavioural information, unsupervised learning algorithms can identify groups (or clusters) of customer transactions that appear similar. Anything that appears different or rare could be flagged as an anomaly (or an outlier) for further investigation.

Unsupervised learning methods can, therefore, identify both existing and new types of fraud. They are not restricted to predefined labels, so can quickly adapt to new and emerging patterns of dishonest behaviour. For example, a New Zealand health insurer used unsupervised learning methods to identify cases where practitioners were deliberately overcharging patients for a particular procedure or providing unnecessary treatment for certain diagnoses.

Unsupervised anomaly detection methods include univariate outlier analysis or clustering-based methods such as k-means. However, the recent move towards digitalisation means more data, at higher volumes, from a wider range of data sources. New algorithms, such as Support Vector Data Description, Isolation Forest or Autoencoders, have been introduced to address this. These may be a more efficient way of detecting anomalies and allow for faster reaction to new fraud.

Social network analysis

These methods are useful for identifying opportunistic fraud. However, many fraudsters today operate as part of professional, organised rings. Activity may include staged motor accidents to collect on premiums, ghost brokering, or collusion between patients and health practitioners to inflate claim amounts. These career fraudsters can repeatedly disguise their identities and evolve their way of operating over time.

Social network analysis is a tool for analysing and visually representing relationships between known entities. Examples of shared entities could be different applicants using the same telephone number or IP address, or a motor accident involving multiple people. Social network methods can automate the process of drawing connections from disparate data sources and visually representing them as a network. This significantly reduces the investigation time – in one case, from 10 days to just two hours. In the UK, a large P&C insurer made £7 million savings per annum by uncovering groups of collaborating fraudsters using network analytics.

A hybrid approach

No single technique, however, is capable of systematically identifying all complex fraud schemes. Instead, insurers need to combine sophisticated business rules and advanced machine learning approaches. This will allow them to cast the net wide, but improve accuracy and reduce false positives, making fraud detection more efficient.