Finance

Square, a popular payments system, has recently launched its new product, Square KDS, a display system for restaurants that focus on delivery and don’t necessarily have a front-of-house or even a POS system. Square’s Kitchen Display System helps restaurants streamline their processes, connecting the front-of-house to the back-of-house and order fulfillment. Likewise, orders from delivery apps and the Square Online site are all sent directly to the kitchen via Square KDS. It has already replaced post-it notes in many restaurants due to its ease of use. Restaurant owners can also benefit from additional features, such as ticket timers, performance reports, and notifications that can be customized to meet the restaurants’ specific needs. It seems that Square has jumped to cater and adapt to the pandemic-related trend of delivery-only restaurants. These ghost kitchens and other businesses that don’t have a front-of-house can take advantage of Square’s technology. Originally released in November 2020 as part of the Square for Restaurants POS software package, Square KDS has now become available as a stand-alone product. Some other big names in the restaurant industry, such as Kitchen United, have focused on developing their own solutions to keep up with the new trends, but smaller businesses rarely have enough time and funds to do so, making solutions such as Square KDS even more valuable. Square’s new product is currently available as a standalone in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. Square is currently offering a special price for this new solution, standing at $10 per month per device until the end of 2021. Alternatively, users can get it if they opt for Square’s Plus plan, which costs $60 per month per location. Large businesses might also consider purchasing Square’s Premium plan, which can be tailored to a particular restaurant’s needs.

By Julija A. May 28,2021

Check Point Software Technologies researchers gained access to the data of over 100 million Android users due to misconfigured cloud-based storage solutions. They published their findings on May 20, citing 23 highly sought-after mobile apps as dangerous for internal user data due to oversights in cloud-based-storage security configurations. Real-time databases, cloud-based storage, and notification managers were misconfigured, leaving both developers and users exposed. Both secret and access keys were embedded in the same service that stores personal data. The mishandling of these cloud-based solution services revealed personal information like passwords, email addresses, device location, private messages, user identifiers, and more. For example, Astro Guru - an astrology app downloaded more than 10 million times - exposed its users’ personal info and payment details due to unsecured syncing, which could have been avoided with appropriate identity theft protection. Similarly, Check Point’s researchers managed to acquire chat messages exchanged between drivers and passengers on the T’Leva taxi app. Over 50,000 users had their in-app correspondence leaked with a single request sent to the app’s real-time database. Users’ full names, locations, and phone numbers were also contained in the leak. The last example is a screen-recording and storing app called Screen Recorder; the app has over 10 million users. Its developers embedded access keys in the same database they used to store recordings, essentially offering them to anyone who decided to look. Cloud storage on mobile apps is a very convenient solution for developers. However, this widespread mishandling of configuration and implementation put both developer and user data at risk. Check Point Software researchers have found dozens of cases where developers tried to hide how they keep cloud service keys in their apps by providing a solution that doesn’t fix the issue. Researchers had contacted Google and app developers before they published their findings. However, only a few apps have evaluated their configuration since.

By Julija A. May 28,2021

Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jan Hatzius has recently said that a cryptocurrency intended to compete with the dollar is likely to be made at some point by the Federal Reserve. Crypto traders are not enthusiastic about this news, as it brings a level of regulation to the traditionally unregulated market. “The Fed is still in the research stage,” Hatzius explained for Yahoo Finance Live and added that there is an appetite for introducing a digital currency. However, he also says that the Fed needs to move cautiously to avoid undermining the current payment and financial system. “I think small steps are not likely to be very disruptive ,” Hatzius said. “Large steps could be disruptive. That’s why I think you need to move slowly, and gain a lot more experience before you ramp it up.” Crypto traders look unfavorably on the US government’s initial attempts to regulate Bitcoin. The same goes for China. Authorities in that country have already openly said that cracking down on Bitcoin mining and trading is necessary, so this news has a bitter taste for crypto traders around the world. Following the Chinese authorities’ announcement, Bitcoin plunged on Sunday, May 23, by more than 15%. At the moment of writing, it stood at $32,652, half its peak in April. Ether, too, initially shed 18% but recovered the following morning. Currently, both the Fed and the Treasury consider cryptocurrencies to be highly speculative assets. US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says that “to date, cryptocurrencies have not served as a convenient way to make payments, given, among other factors, their swings in value.” Considering Bitcoin’s volatility, many small businesses are likely better off opening checking accounts in banks than using this and other cryptocurrencies. Still, a new currency, coming from the Fed, shouldn’t pose any risk to the current financial system, according to Hatzius. He believes that its introduction could work, provided that the Fed takes its time to research the digital currencies and fit them into the current financial system.

By Julija A. May 27,2021

In the latest ID theft and Cybersecurity research study conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group and Generali Global Assistance, 76% of respondents expressed concern about ID theft, while 34% stated they’re very concerned. The research findings were published on May 18, based on a survey of 702 adults aged 25 and older. The respondents were more worried about ID theft than about severe illness or injury (74%), car accidents (64%), or home robbery (56%). Nearly half the respondents (49%) think their lives would be seriously impacted if their identity was stolen. They believe this is highly likely, too - one in five respondents consider falling prey to cybercrime or ID theft in the next five years to be 75-100% probable. CEO of Generali Global Assistance, Chris Carnicelli, has stated that what consumers want is a savior, or identity-theft hero, who can give them complete protection before cybercrime happens. They turn to institutions that already earned their trust for advice on privacy data protection, ID theft, and cyber protection services. CEO of Global Identity and Cyber Protection at Generali Global Assistance, Paige Shafer, added that the company expected consumers to be more confident about protecting themselves from ID theft and cybercrime than they were in 2017. Unfortunately, the results of the second study showed that 50% of respondents still lack sufficient education to handle ID theft and cybercrime threats, same as they did in 2017. An overwhelming majority (84%) of respondents consider themselves incapable of handling all relevant aspects of cybersecurity and ID-theft protection alone. Just above three-quarters (76%) expect they would need assistance from a qualified expert. 90% claimed that there’s a possibility they’ll become victims of ID theft and cybercrime. 80% were afraid of various methods that can endanger their identity info, with 63% of surveyed adults said they wouldn’t know what to do if this happens. The number of people who seek to protect their sensitive data using cloud backup services is also increasing. To help allay their concerns, 60% of respondents plan on buying ID-theft protection software in the next two years, and 54% would turn to cybercrime protection software. In the spirit of using companies they already trust, 77% of respondents would consult with their credit-monitoring or ID-theft protection company. 64% of surveyed members would get the ID-theft and cybercrime protection services from insurance companies, 63% from credit unions or banks, 61% from credit card companies, and 58% as a part of a computer software bundle.

By Julija A. May 27,2021

The real estate development and management services company Newmark announced that Richard Holden is being promoted to President of Property Management. He’ll be overseeing the company's service line and is tasked with improving operations and service assets for the commercial real estate division. "Newmark's Property Management service line has an important impact across lines of business throughout the organization," Holden said after his appointment. “With a clear path to growth and opportunities, I look forward to continuing to work with Newmark's Property Management team, offering our clients a full suite of industry-leading services." Holden will answer to Newmark’s Chief Revenue Officer and East Region Market Leader, Luis Alvarado. For his part, Alvarado applauded the newly appointed president for his contribution to the company. "Richard has brought tremendous value to Newmark and has continued to deliver the top-level service to which our clients are accustomed. We look forward to seeing him grow and flourish in his new role as a valued member of the Newmark family," Alvarado said. Holden previously served as Executive Vice President and Co-head of Property Management. He was primarily focused on ensuring efficiency in Arizona, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Before joining Newmark in 2019, Holden was the Executive Vice President at the commercial real estate consulting company Davis Partners for over five years, where he helped with the company’s growth. He was also a partner at Woodmont Real Estate Services for seven years. Newmark supports over 150 million square feet of properties with its real estate management services which include customer service, maintenance and engineering, and tenant experience. Its property management division focuses on property-related service delivery. Newmark was established in Manhattan in 1929 and remains one of the biggest commercial real estate companies to date. In 2020, Newmark’s revenue was over $1.9 billion. They have 500 offices worldwide and 18,800 employees.

By Julija A. May 26,2021

It seems that even the head honchos at Goldman Sachs invested into Dogecoin this year. The “joke” cryptocurrency and its huge price hike was reportedly the reason why Aziz McMahon called quits at the investment banking company. McMahon departed the company suddenly, but not after cashing out on the meme crypto everyone has been talking about recently. The news of McMahon’s departure came from an update on his LinkedIn profile, followed by an official confirmation to the press by a Goldman Sachs representative. How much cash the former director amassed from selling his coins is unknown, but it obviously was more than enough to leave a high-paying job at one of the top banks. Maybe mister McMahon expected the Dogecoin would crash right after Elon Musk debuted at Saturday Night Live. At least he won’t be needing a bad credit loan to continue his career. Dogecoin is definitely the hotness of the year, at least in the crypto world. Originally created as an extension of an internet meme, it was never supposed to take off. That, of course, couldn’t stop the crypto enthusiasts to amass millions of these coins and, in time, Dogecoin became equal with Ether, Litecoin, and other alt coins. Still, it never really was expensive to purchase, floating at just $0.05. But, when Elon Musk and other influential people started promoting it, everyone jumped on the hype train trying to get Dogecoin value “to the Moon,” which led to a price increase of more than 10,000%. When the aforementioned episode of SNL aired, the overwhelming negative reception to the episode and collective sigh at Musk’s acting performance plunged Dogecoin’s value by a huge margin. The coin is stabilizing now, but it’s far from its highest price. Back to McMahon, the future endeavours of former Goldman managing director are still unknown. A rumor suggests he might be starting his own hedge fund, but at the time of writing this piece there weren’t any solid proofs to support that claim. Whatever his next step is, there’s no doubt internet sleuths will immediately report about it.

By Julija A. May 13,2021

Even more corporations are looking into different venues of profit through consumer healthcare. Most recent acquisition in this industry has been made by Walmart. The giant retailer revealed it has made an agreement with MeMD for integrating this telehealth provider into the Walmart Health network. According to retail statistics, online retail is generally on the rise and a lot of brick-and-mortar stores are incorporating various online branches to their business. “Telehealth offers a great opportunity to expand access and reach consumers where they are and complements our brick-and-mortar Walmart Health locations. Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions,” said Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of Walmart’s Health & Fitness division. Currently, Walmart has 20 locations where it provides healthcare in-person, with plans for future expansions of this service already in motion. Compared to more than 4,700 retail locations it doesn’t look as impressive, which is the reason behind the latest acquisition. MeMD has been operating for more than a decade and its 24/7 healthcare service is another step into the omnichannel health service Walmart is aiming for. Practically at the same time, Amazon has landed its very first customer for the Amazon Care health program. The Washington-based fitness equipment manufacturer Precor is now the first company that will use Amazon’s pay-per-user healthcare plan. Founded in 1980, Precor now has 800 employees and they’ll all get access to Amazon Care’s services, but the company won’t be paying a flat fee for that. Instead, the monthly fee is calculated based on how many of Precon’s employees actually use the service. This way, the customers can save significant amounts of money on healthcare without sacrificing anything to the end users. That is, their employees. Of course, Amazon and Walmart aren’t the only big players fighting for their piece of the consumer healthcare cake. Walgreens and CVS Health Corp. are famously leveraging their physical locations to also offer affordable physical treatments, specifically for patients with conditions that would otherwise cost a lot to take care of. According to analysts, this is just the start of big acquisitions and expansions in this field.

By Julija A. September 21,2021

Finance Watch, an initiative for improving the impact of the financial world on society, urged the European Commission to strictly regulate banks and insurers dealing with climate-related endeavors. The group is lobbying for a 150% risk weight for investments in companies whose activities damage the environment. The so-called “climate-finance doom-loop” implies that “the longer the EU waits, the higher the chances that it will face a financial crisis induced by the climate crisis.” The proposed solution would force banks to hold as much as three times the amount they usually would to cover the risks involved with the fossil-fuel business, such as financing new refineries or mines. The EU is in an unenviable position at the moment: It’s already in the process of reviewing its policies for lenders and insurers, but also needs their support for the pandemic recovery effort. Banks provided loans and lines of credit to small businesses across Europe, and they will have an even more vital role after the pandemic - the reallocation of resources. However, the growth in eCommerce and virtual communication services made for excellent investment opportunities for banks, which will, in all likelihood, continue to be profitable after the pandemic. This skyrocketing of profits created room to raise the risk assessments and allocate more insurance funds for companies traditionally considered to be low-risk. In the eyes of the banks, climate-endangering businesses are currently no different from other corporate financings. Companies in the fossil-fuel industry often have good credit standing, with risk ratings under 50%. That percentage doesn’t nearly cover the financial damage if and when the activities of those companies take a downward turn, especially since climate events are a substantial uncontrollable factor in their operations. This is why the Finance Watch is pushing for the EU to modify its current rules on the topic. If the EU enforced a 150%-risk rule for banks investing in environmentally impactful enterprises, it would bring such investments to the same level as private-equity and other high-risk investments. Finance Watch is supported by its members, public donations, philanthropic foundations, and the EU itself.

By Julija A. May 11,2021

As the total US student debt has exceeded $1.8 trillion, more than a million people have signed an online petition, relying on President Biden’s statement during his campaign trail to forgive some of the student debt piling up. The numbers disclosed in the petition are more than worrisome: Of almost 45.4 million people who took a student loan, approximately 80% were unable to pay it back, even before the pandemic. Due to outstanding student debt taken in 2004, default rates stand at 40%, even though students in 2004 took much less money than students these days have to take to cover their studying expenses. By the same metric, the current borrowers’ rate is expected to exceed 75%, which is approximately four times the default rate of subprime home mortgages. As more and more people visit job posting sites since the COVID-19 struck, the need for a permanent solution to ever-growing student debt is becoming evident. There were several attempts to remedy the effect the pandemic had on student loan borrowers. The CARES Act, which granted people a break from their payments until September 2020, was helpful, but not nearly enough, as shown by the call from House Democrats, which, under the HEROES Act, asks to prolong the pause in payments for another year. Biden relied on forgiving student loans in his election campaign. The last month’s news of him asking his Education Secretary to see whether he can legally cancel up to either $10,000 or $50,000 of student debt stirred new hopes, but the main question remains: Is the president able to take action independently and cancel student debt without legislation? It is safe to say that Democrats still hold a fragile majority in Congress, and many wonder whether it would agree to forgive the loans even if it came to it. A. Wayne Johnson, former COO of the Office of Federal Student Aid under Trump’s government, asked for student loan forgiveness of $50,000 per borrower. However, the creators of the petition say there is no political background to it and that most borrowers identify as politically independent. While some argue that canceling student debt would be unfair to those who budgeted and paid off their debt or never took loans in the first place, it is painfully apparent that $1.8 trillion in outstanding debt is a problem that demands some solution. The other side to the argument is the claim that forgiving student debt would be stimulating for the economy. It would increase the borrowing capacity of a vast number of people, who are likely to use the money for buying homes instead of paying off student debt. This money would also benefit up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are currently either getting into more debt or having to rely on alternative funding methods, such as crowdfunding, to kick-start their businesses. This petition seems to be only the beginning of a movement toward forgiving student loans. It is unlikely to subside, as other supporters, borrowers, and politicians are starting to support this movement and advocate for the president to follow through on his promises to cancel student debt.

By Julija A. May 11,2021

Texas-based accounting and bookkeeping company GrowthForce has announced the launch of its "Guide to Outsourcing Your Back Office: Bookkeeping and Accounting," a comprehensive article for business owners that explains how to manage finances better and increase profits during various stages of business growth.GrowthForce invites its clients to answer a few simple questions to find out if they should outsource their business’s bookkeeping and accounting tasks. The aforementioned guide provides tips and tricks about how to make the most from outsourcing services.Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are taking the necessary steps to improve risk management strategies and reduce their costs. According to PwC, outsourcing “will be the go-to business strategy of 2021.”More and more businesses are adopting new strategies, including outsourcing bookkeeping and accounting services in order to save money and time, and to increase flexibility. One of the main benefits of outsourcing these services is that businesses can get support from experienced accounting and tax professionals at any time they need.GrowthForce’s guide to outsourcing back office tasks helps business owners learn: How to manage small business finance; How to track and recognize business needs during the different stages of the business lifecycle; How different types of outsourced bookkeeping services work; What the main benefits of full accounting services are; How to choose the right outsourcing company; What are the best approaches in small business bookkeeping outsourcing."Outsourcing financial operations offers a flexible solution for business owners who want to focus on growth. Seventy percent of businesses seek outsourcing to help cut costs, and almost half adopt outsourcing to increase flexibility," said Stephen King, GrowthForce’s founder and CEO.King is known as one of the industry’s most experienced leaders and speakers at helping businesses and nonprofit organizations increase their growth. As the founder of GrowthForce, King focuses on providing an automated accounting service that is effective and accurate for clients.

By Milja April 29,2021

Tax automation provider Avalara announced on April 20 that it had bought assets and expertise from DAVO Technologies, a company that helps businesses automate sales tax requirements.Based in Maine, DAVO uses cutting-edge technology to connect with POS systems and automatically gather tax-related data. This allows it to accurately file and pay sales taxes to the state and local authorities on their clients’ behalf.DAVO’s base of clients across the US includes more than 4,000 businesses from various industries, including restaurants and coffee shops, bike stores, local flower shops, and many others. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.DAVO’s instant integration with the most popular POS systems - like Square, Quickbooks, and Clover to name a few - empowers Avalar to provide all-in-one compliance solutions that help small businesses and startups manage their daily and ongoing tax requirements.“Avalara and DAVO are natural extensions to one another; our services are complementary, and we believe there is an immediate opportunity for value to their customers and our shared partners. The DAVO team has built an excellent, customer-centric product and we are delighted to partner with them to help improve and expand upon their capabilities,” said Jayme Fishman, Avalara’s EVP of corporate development.DAVO integrates seamlessly into your business environment to collect data needed for paying sales taxes and filing tax returns. It’s an automated service that simplifies tax-related tasks with the 100% accuracy that only great bookkeeping services can provide. With Avalara’s products - like business licenses and compliance documents - DAVO will be able to provide even better and more comprehensive services.“This acquisition is an amazing opportunity for the DAVO team, partners, and especially our customers. There has never been a more important time to support the local business community - the backbone to local economic development and community support. We are confident that together with Avalara we can make their day-to-day even easier, so they can focus on their business and leave the sales tax to us,” said Pete Murray, CEO of DAVO.The company’s press release also includes forward-looking statements regarding the expected “growth opportunities and synergies arising from the acquisition,” as well as potential risks that could lead to different material results than those predicted by the forward-looking statements.

By Milja April 29,2021