(Bloomberg) — For more than a decade Tom Montag has dominated Bank of America Corp.’s massive investment bank, not just running its businesses, but single-handedly tending to many of its top clients.
The news that he’s vacating his longtime Wall Street perch at year-end has left a question reverberating inside the firm and across the industry: Who might fill such shoes?
Word around Bank of America is that Montag’s responsibilities could be split among a few people. The company has vowed to say more on succession in coming weeks. Meantime, the talks are underway and closely guarded. Many insiders are naturally wondering about a contingent of senior executives who oversee some of the pillars of the Wall Street powerhouse Montag, 64, helped build: dealmaking, trading and commercial banking.
Matthew Koder runs the global corporate and investment banking division. Jim DeMare is president of global markets. And Alastair Borthwick is in charge of the expansive commercial banking operation, serving mid-size companies and industries such as real estate and education. All three are on the executive management committee, the senior-most decision-making body at the firm.
Like Montag, Koder got his start at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. After stints at UBS Group AG in London and Hong Kong, the Australian joined Bank of America as head of dealmaking in Asia in 2011. He eventually gained responsibility for growing the firm’s operations throughout the region.
The bank tapped Koder for his current post in 2018 when an internal debate over risk-taking led to the departure of Christian Meissner, an episode that rankled some dealmakers. At the time, Koder had a reputation for adhering to Bank of America’s low tolerance for danger.
DeMare, an alumnus of Salomon Brothers and Citigroup Inc.’s trading floors, joined Bank of America in 2008. Over the years, he held roles responsible for trading, origination and risk-management activities within Bank of America’s fixed-income business.
Long seen as a candidate for higher posts, DeMare nabbed his current title and was added to the firm’s management committee in mid-2020 as he led his business lines through the most violent swings in a generation. The markets segment generated more than $5.2 billion in profit last year, up 50% from a year earlier — as Bank of America, like rivals, benefited from market turmoil caused by the pandemic.
DeMare’s division has also seen senior exits in equities in the past year. Fabrizio Gallo, the longtime stocks chief, left last year after his fixed-income counterpart, DeMare, ascended. The bank has since poached from rivals to shore up its ranks and put it on a better competitive footing.
Borthwick, another Goldman veteran, has held his post atop commercial banking since 2012. Before that he was co-head of capital markets, which included responsibility for equity capital markets, investment-grade debt capital markets, leveraged finance and origination for rates and currencies.
To be sure, there are also several other executives with experience in serving investment bank clients who also sit on the firm’s management committee.
They include Sanaz Zaimi, who oversees fixed-income, currencies and commodities sales from Paris and is chief executive officer of BofA Securities Europe. Bernard Mensah, president of the bank’s international business, previously co-led FICC trading.
Setting Off Promotions
Montag, whose retirement plan was announced Thursday, has been known for his iron grip on the investment bank since he joined Bank of America through its takeover of Merrill Lynch during the 2008 financial crisis.
He not only has a hand in promotions several rungs below, but sets bonuses for individual executives and sometimes members of their teams.
He’s also known to cultivate important relationships, whether it’s chatting with BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink, courting Japan’s biggest banks or partying alongside Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Beyoncé at one of the world’s most expensive weddings in India.
Most of his deputies, in contrast, are known for their administrative styles.
The question of who could succeed Montag over the investment bank is all the more complicated by his plan to step down as chief operating officer for the entire company. The bank may well split the positions — with either or both being filled by more than one person, singling out a new generation of senior leaders.
But Wall Street is keenly focused on the investment bank, as promotions at the top of those operations would trigger others below, creating winners and losers in coming months. Filling Montag’s void will ultimately determine how competitive the bank remains in a variety of business lines.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Israeli developer of popular apps for creators nabs $130m investment – The Times of Israel
Lightricks, a Jerusalem-based software startup that makes photo and video editing apps, raised $130 million in a Series D investment round at a valuation of $1.8 billion, the company announced on Sunday.
The round was co-led by New York-based global private equity and venture capital firm Insight Partners and Hanaco Venture Capital, with participation from existing investors Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Clal Tech, Harel Insurance and Finance and Greycroft. New investors Migdal Insurance, Altshuler Shaham and Shavit Capital also participated in the round.
Founded in 2013, Lightricks developed a number of photo and video editing tools that are widely popular with content creators on social media networks, especially Instagram, the highly visual content platform owned by Facebook. The company’s suite of 11 apps including Facetune, Facetune Video, and Videoleap has over 500 million downloads worldwide across Android and Apple users, Lightricks has said.
Facetune, the company’s flagship app used to enhance and retouch photos (think tooth whitening and blemish removal) has previously earned accolades such as Apple’s App of the Year and Google Play’s Best of the Year. The app VideoLeap, which offers powerful editing tools for video content, is one of the most widely used tools to create Tik Tok content, the company indicated.
The apps are geared for individual consumers, beginners and professionals, as well as businesses and brands. Lightricks uses a freemium model for the tools, which offers some functions for free while other features require payment to unlock.
Dr. Zeev Farbman, co-founder and CEO of Lightricks, told The Times of Israel on Sunday that business and brand customers present a huge opportunity for the company as it establishes itself “not just as a toolmaker but also a service provider for content creation.”
“We are looking to help people and businesses draw in their audience and engage with them,” he said.
The company said in a statement that it will use the fresh funding to expand and create new platforms and tools for content creators in an effort to “become a one-stop-shop for resources including creative tools, services, and monetization opportunities.”
Farbman said the funding is a sort of “war chest” with which to acquire similar or related companies and startups to leverage their user base for Lightricks’s growth.
He estimated that the company might be “ready for IPO [initial public offering] in about a year.”
“Our mission has always been to continuously strive to bring creators the most advanced technology and help them find new ways to express themselves,” Farbman said in the company statement. “The rise of the creator economy has only exacerbated the need of mobile users to streamline the content creation and monetization processes. With this latest funding, we’re able to help elevate our users’ creativity and capabilities with continued advancements to our technology and offering.”
The creator economy — an industry of bloggers, influencers, brands, photographers and videographers monetizing their online presence — has an estimated total market size of $100 billion and has seen $1.3 billion in funding for US creators in 2021 alone, according to New York-based research firm CB Insights.
Lightricks reported “tremendous growth” over the past year with the COVID-19 health crisis driving people to tap their creativity “to express themselves and earn income during the pandemic.” The company says it saw a 90 percent increase in app usage across its creativity tools in the US alone.
Worldwide, it says, its users develop over a billion creations per year on the company’s apps.
Farbman confirmed that Instagram is the biggest platform for users of Lightricks’ tools “with Tik Tok playing a bigger part overall and Snap seeing a resurgence.”
“The creator economy has changed the way we, as a society, experience social networks,” said Pasha Romanovski, co-founding partner of Hanaco Ventures. “Audiences constantly consume information through the different content channels daily. Lightricks’ platform enables creators to have a broader, more professional and higher-quality set of tools to optimize content.”
Lightricks was founded by Farbman, Nir Pochter, Yaron Inger, Amit Goldstein, Itai Tsiddon, almost all with a computer science or artificial intelligence background. The company is headquartered in Jerusalem with offices in the UK. Most recently, Lightricks opened an office in China to focus on tapping into the country’s huge potential user base. The company employs approximately 500 people.
Applications now open for 2022 Halton Region Community Investment funding – Oakville News
Community organizations can now submit applications to the Halton Region Community Investment Fund (HRCIF) for non-profit human service programs and initiatives that enhance the health, safety and well-being of Halton residents. Applicants must describe how they will incorporate the latest COVID-19 public health guidance and how their program or initiative aligns with Halton’s overall approach to community safety and well-being.
“We are pleased to support the important work of local non-profits through the Halton Region Community Investment Fund,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “I would like to thank these organizations for delivering vital services to some of our most vulnerable residents and working alongside us to keep Halton a safe and healthy community.”
Funding is available in single year and multi-year grants through two categories:
- Category One: Provides up to one year of funding, to a maximum of $30,000. Non-profit, charitable or unincorporated community organizations can apply to fund short-term, small capital and/or innovative projects.
- Category Two: Provides up to three years of funding to registered charities for programs and initiatives.
Organizations that meet eligibility criteria may submit one application in each funding category. The initial application deadline for both categories is Monday, November 1, 2021 at 2 p.m. Additional opportunities to apply for HRCIF funding will be available in 2022 for programs and initiatives that help respond to emerging community needs.
The Region will host three virtual information sessions to help community organizations learn about the HRCIF and the application process:
- Friday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to noon
- Wednesday, September 29 from 2 to 4 p.m.
- Tuesday, October 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information about HRCIF guidelines, upcoming virtual information sessions and the application process, please visit the HRCIF webpage on halton.ca or call 311.
Don't know how to invest your extra cash? Let a robot do it for you. – USA TODAY
Stock Market 101: Basic strategies investors use to profit off stocks
Before jumping into the market, here’s what first-time investors should know about stocks, capital gains and mistakes to avoid.
For My Money, USA TODAY
Let’s say you have a pile of cash that you’re ready to invest.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t want to spend all your time with your eyes glued to a screen, actively trading on Robinhood. You want your money to grow, but you don’t want to think about it all the time. Maybe the idea of interacting with an investment professional gives you anxiety, or the fees sound like a lot.
You’re not alone.
A study of 3,000 U.S. adults conducted by Vise, a technology-powered investment management platform built for advisers, that was given exclusively to USA TODAY found that the biggest barrier to working with an adviser is concern about how much it would cost (43%).
Here’s what I did: I skipped the personal investment adviser and got a robot to build my portfolio.
Roboadvisers, digital apps that use algorithms to build investment portfolios, are an increasingly popular vehicle for investing, especially for young adults who want a tool that is uncomplicated and mobile-friendly.
You can download an app and fill out a survey about yourself with questions like your age, income and risk tolerance. Based on those responses, roboadvisers generate a portfolio of stocks and bonds for you to maximize your long term returns.
These investment vehicles can scale dramatically with little marginal cost because the portfolio is generated by algorithms. Since they cut out the human element of investing, they can service millions of customers at once with just a few lines of code.
Many roboadvisers are designed with young investors in mind, specifically millennial and Gen Z clients.
Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, began entering the workforce shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and when unemployment rates were at historic lows. Jobless rates subsequently skyrocketed and then have leveled off. And those workers are starting to save for retirement at an unprecedented young age, according to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a nonprofit organization.
Similar to millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, these young Americans are saddled with student loans and credit card debt but want to invest for retirement and build up savings.
“Millennials and Gen Z grew up digitally native, and they expect to be able to manage their money the same way they order stuff from Amazon or call a car on Uber,” says Kate Wauck, chief communications officer at Wealthfront, a roboadvising company. “These young investors don’t want to have to pick up the phone or walk into a stuffy office to manage their money.”
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Most investors want a financial adviser but don’t trust robos
Despite familiarity with digital tools among young investors, the same study by Vise showed that nearly half of Americans (48%) trust human financial advisers, compared with just 11% of Americans who trust roboadvisers.
Two percent of total respondents and 4% of 18- to 24 year-olds used roboadvisers. Three percent of respondents from 25 to 49, 1% from 50 to 64 and 0% of 65 and older had tried roboadvisers.
By contrast, 41% of people over 65 say they work with a financial adviser, compared with 26% of Gen X, 17% of millennials and 14% of Gen Z.
“People, young or old or anything, trust a human being, especially with their most personal asset, which is money,” explains Samir Vasavada, founder and CEO of Vise and a member of Gen Z himself.
Robo options to consider
Despite low adoption rates, a wide variety of roboadvising options exist depending on your investment goals.
SoFi Invest allows customers to invest with just $5 and charges no management fee, according to The RoboReport from the second quarter of 2021. On average, the roboadvisers in the report charged a 0.35% management fee.
InteractiveAdvisors is another option that provides portfolios for sustainable and socially responsible investments if you care about buying from companies that share your values. Betterment also has some options for ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investing, including Climate Impact, Social Impact, and Broad Impact.
Betterment is great for first-time investors with its “intuitive dashboard” and “excellent suite of educational tools,” says The RoboReport.
Wealthfront has the best financial planning tools, according to the report, including features to model one’s home purchase and future net worth.
Other roboadvisers aim to change the financial landscape for new investors, including women. Ellevest, for instance, is a roboadviserbuilt by women and tailored for female investors.
Roboadvisers: pros & cons
To be sure, roboadvisers have their fair share of benefits, as well disadvantages.
Roboadvisors tend to charge fairly low rates and employ Nobel-prize winning algorithms on your money. However, unlike traditional financial advisers, roboadvisers aren’t as personalized to your specific goals, says Vasavada. They also don’t have a long track record to prove their success.
So far, roboadvisers have mixed annual returns from 1% to 5%, according to NerdWallet.
“I would give roboadvisers about 25 years before comparing their returns to the traditional method,” says Danetha Doe, financial expert and creator of Money & Mimosas, a financial wellness platform.
Despite uncertainty around roboadvisers, Doe encourages women to invest as early as possible.
“Roboadvisers have made investing accessible to more people. As we move into a more inclusive economy, I am in full support of folks who choose to work with a roboadviser,” Doe says.
Roboadvisers are heavily regulated and are considered a safe investment vehicle. They must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are subject to the same securities laws and regulations as human advisers. Most roboadvisors are also members of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a brokerage watchdog and Wall Street’s self-regulatory arm.
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Vasavada believes that the future of the personal investment industry lies in a hybrid approach, where technological solutions like roboadvising are paired with human investment advisers.
On one hand, advisers will have to evolve by incorporating technology and tailoring their services to younger investors. On the other hand, roboadvisers are beginning to incorporate more human services to their platforms, Vasavada points out.
“I think that the future of the space is still with financial advisers. However, I think there’s a place for roboadvisers. And I think that roboadvisers are here to stay,” Vasavada says.
Ultimately, the key draw of roboadvisers is their convenience. You could set one up on a Sunday just sitting in your bed on your phone, which is precisely what I did.
When conducting research on young investors, Wealthfront found that many of them enjoyed not having to interact with anyone.
“We’ve designed our product so everything can be done right in our app through software,” says Wauch, “Since day one, our clients have told us, ‘We pay you not to talk to me.'”
As a young investor and roboadvising client myself, I couldn’t agree more.
Michelle Shen is a Money & Tech Digital Reporter for USATODAY. You can reach her @michelle_shen10 on Twitter. She uses Wealthfront as a roboadviser.
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