Alphabet to buy AIG? Analysts think it’s a good idea.

American International Group, or AIG, is one of the nation’s leading insurance companies. Over the past several months, analysts from Citigroup have discussed the idea of a possible merger between AIG and Alphabet, the parent company of Google. On paper, connections between the two seemed unfathomable, but upon further inspection, the partnership could be a positive one. If Alphabet were to partner with a large investment bank and purchase the insurance company, they could turn it from various insurance policies to an insurance FinTech laboratory.

Founded in 1919 by Cornelius Vander Starr, AIG traces it’s roots back to Shanghai, China. Starting as American Asiatic Underwriters, the company expanded and, within the first two years of operations, evolved into a life insurance company. Within the next decade, various branches emerged throughout different parts of China and Southeast Asia, followed by the first official American opening in 1926. The company was renamed the American International Underwriters Corporation (AIU) and growth in Latin America occurred afterwards. The growth in these agencies was substantial, as World War II loomed on the horizon, which correlated to the decline of business in Asia. As a result of these historical events, AIU moved it’s headquarters to New York City from Shanghai, China after 20 years.

With its long history, AIG’s merger with Google seemed unlikely. Analysts acknowledged it was an event that most likely would not occur, but one that could benefit everyone. The copious amounts of data AIG owns could be appealing to Alphabet, while having a parent company to help protect AIG from battles that could arise over the upcoming years could benefit AIG.

According to an article published by Quartz, the analysts developed their proposal around two main points. The first was a modular finance model. This is would shift financial institutions from what they do – selling a portfolio of products to consumers – to using technology to develop offerings that were complex on a whim. The second addresses the lack of disrupting insurance companies. Many companies focused on tech shy away from companies that focus on insurance because of the strict regulations that come with their industry.

Alphabet obtaining AIG for their portfolio could address both points. There are several challenges if this occurs, such as issues with shareholders and banks, but it could be worth the risk. AIG’s CEO, Peter Hancock, spoke about how the company’s new modules. Nine in all, were based off Alphabet’s business structure.

 

Saving for Retirement

Piggie Bank

Saving for retirement can be confusing, but in this day and age it’s essential to start contributing to your retirement fund as soon as possible. Since there are numerous different types of funds out on the market, it can be hard to figure out which one or two will provide the best benefits for you. Here are the  5 most popular types of retirement funds.

1. 401(K)/ 403(B)
This is the easiest one to maintain as many companies offer it to their employees. If your company does have one, it’s the easiest way to start saving and investing for retirement. Your investment is automatically deduced from your payroll. One company benefit is that they will match your contributions up to a specific percentage. If this is offered to you, it’s recommended to take advantage of it. In 2015, individuals were able to save up to $18,000 pre taxed dollars.

2. IRA
An IRA is the  second most popular way to contrbute to a retirement fund. Any individual is able to open an account and contribute to it. You can only add in $5,500 a year, but you can contribute to other retirement funds if you have them. The money that you add into it will grow tax-free. If you don’t get a retirement fund from work, you will get a full deduction regardless of income levels. When you turn 70 though, there is a mandatory withdrawal rule.

3. Simple IRA
If you work in a company that has less than a 100 employees, this might be your best match. It allows you to set up an IRA with significantly less paperwork. An employer is obligated to make contributions that either match or not. In 2015, individuals were allowed to contribute up to $12,500 dollars.

4. Roth IRA
With all the types of IRA’s, it can be rather confusing to break it down. With a Roth IRA, you contribute with your after-tax dollars and get no tax-deduction for your contribution. The money added into is not taxable if you withdraw it after you turn 60 and grows tax-free in the meantime. However, to add to a Roth IRA, you must make less than $131,000 dollars as an individual

5. Health Savings Account
This might be one that doesn’t come to mind when people think retirement account, but it is one that will allow you to save your money tax-free. You can add up to $3,350 dollars a year and withdraw from it to pay for approved medical costs. If that money is not spent though, it is eligible to roll over with no consequences. If you withdraw it after 65, there is no penalty and must only pay the income tax. If it’s before 65 and any reason besides medical then you must pay an income tax and face a 20% penalty.
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Bowie Bonds

David Bowie is known as a performer who changed the worlds of music, art, and fashion. Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer at age 69, just after celebrating his birthday. The world now mourns because an icon was lost at such a young age. However, not many people are aware of how he revolutionized the financial world.

David Bowie took an incredible risk when he invented ‘Bowie Bonds.’ These were the first type of celebrity bond to ever enter the financial world. They are basically securities that are backed by assets. In Bowie’s case, the asset was him. Therefore, the bonds had an annual payment based on the revenue, both current at that time and future, from first 25 albums that David Bowie released. The star was able to accumulate money without waiting for future revenue to hit his bank account.

Bowie Bonds lit a fire under the performing world. Several artists took out celebrity bonds in order to do accumulate even a fraction of the wealth that Bowie had with his bonds. Bowie managed to raise 55 million dollars from future royalties, using this money to buy property, and even to start an internet provider and online bank. David Bowie, however, was not under the impression that celebrity bonds would be relevant for more than a decade. He knew the internet was going to take over the music industry, which would make celebrity bonds irrelevant. Sure enough, by 2007, his Bowie Bonds were liquidated.

Although Bowie Bonds were not around long term, David Bowie still changed the finance industry. The idea that assets backed by revenue that would be accumulated in the future was possible spread across the financial industry. This tactic even spread into the sports sphere, which shows just how influential the idea is. Although some financial experts still think such investments are too risky to be worth it, Bowie was able to make a lot of money.

David Bowie left this world as an innovator. He was always creating something new in a different sphere. With 150 albums under his belt and an incredible music career, it is no wonder he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, his lesser-known achievement in the financial industry allowed him to invest in his future, and brought up a whole discussion about an artist’s right to his own music.

His dabbling in finance and small business just shows how much of a creator he really was. He will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, David Bowie.

AIG Restructures Management

Ever since Peter Hancock took over the role of Chief Executive Officer of American International Group, Inc., there have been some profound management changes. His most recent alteration included having the company’s Chief Financial Officer, David Herzog, leave the company. Herzog is being replaced by the Chief Risk Officer, Sid Sankaran. Another recent change is the stepping down of the Head of Commercial Insurance, John Doyle, with CEO of the Americas, Rob Schimek, taking over.

The reason that the leadership began to be dramatically restructured when Hancock took over last September had to do with AIG’s results. For years, the company has had high claims costs, and the company was forced to recover from a bailout around the year 2008. Hancock announced during that time that he wanted to dismiss at least 23% of the people in leadership positions.

He is following through with the plan, but whether or not the restructuring will be beneficial to the company as a whole is still a question.

Herzog’s departure was more of a shock than that of Doyle. Doyle was not getting expected results in his position, but Herzog was a real asset to the company. He was recognized as a great CFO by the United States Treasury Department, and helped pull AIG out of their bailout. Many experts believe that asking Herzog to leave was a mistake by Hancock. However, the rumor is that Herzog will take the millions he made in his position at AIG and retire, although he has not commented on the matter

Activist investors are trying to force Hancock to break up the company into smaller parts, and that is exactly what Hancock is trying to avoid. The investor Carl Icahn has been especially vocal on this matter. He has the idea that AIG should have a life insurance sector, a property coverage sector, and a mortgage sector, all separate from one another. Hancock has not adhered to this demand.

Many other changes are taking place on the leadership level of AIG. The leadership team as a whole is becoming a lot smaller, and those already in leadership positions are taking on more responsibility in the United States and overseas.

Will this leadership overhaul help AIG in the long run? Only time will tell. It is my opinion that AIG has been suffering, so large change is necessary to pull the company out of its slump. Whether or not Hancock is taking the right approach remains to be seen.

For more information on Hancock’s plan, check out Insurance Journal.

London Market Sees Potential Use for Blockchain

The London Market, which is the major international insurance market in the United Kingdom, is undergoing plans to modernize. Part of that plan may include the use of blockchain technology, the main innovation behind Bitcoin, to improve data access and reduce the costs that come with administrative paperwork.

Lloyd’s, a key participant of the London Market held a seminar last week in London to highlight several technologies, including blockchain that could improve or otherwise innovate areas of the insurance market. It’s all part of their plan to modernize the experience of insurance market participants called the Target Operating Model.

Blockchains, which record transactions and protect Bitcoins from double spending, could be used to increase risk-recording abilities, transparency, accuracy and speed in the insurance markets.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Lloyd’s director of operations told CoinDesk in a statement: “Blockchain has the potential to improve the way insurers record risk, increasing the speed, accuracy and transparency of our processes. As part of the TOM consultation we will be interested to see how blockchain could help us resolve some of the challenges facing our industry.”

Two use-cases for blockchain were floated at the seminar. The first was for blockchain-powered “deal rooms” wherein documents would be securely shared and logged. The second was for a permissioned ledger for insurance markets. The ideas were presented by Michael Mainelli, executive chairman of Z/Yen, a think tank and venture capital firm and a professor at Gresham College.

The so-called “deal rooms” would completely revolutionize the way business is done in the London Market. Currently, markets rely on physical proximity to one another, personal relationships and paper documents to get deals done. The use of a digital deal room could make the London Market more attractive to international business, which would drive significant growth for both Lloyds and the market itself.

“If we were sitting in Hong Kong right now and decided to create a global insurance market,” Mainelli added. “We could build a quick deal-room and we would automate it from the start.”

A deal room based on blockchain would take out the need to trust an intermediary while providing an accurate record of the documents shared by all participants. The database would be unalterable and owned by nobody. It’s simply an accurate ledger of who sent what to who and when.

Other technologies were presented at the Lloyd’s seminar including peer-to-peer lending and alternative cross-border payments. The goal of the seminar was to simply debate the risks and rewards of technological disruption. The Target Operating Model is a five-year plan to “support the ease of doing business” in the London Market and technological innovations like this could be an important step.