The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Greece is important and so is Alabama


This quote from Rana Foroohar on CNN this weekend makes one stop and think. A similar comment related to Connecticut (similar GDP to Greece) effectively bailing out any of the smaller southern US states every year.

Why Greece Matters for Everyone

It’s not that the economy of Greece itself matters so much–China creates a new Greece every six weeks–it’s that a Greek exit from the Eurozone calls into question the entire European experiment.

Its easy to understate the importance of small economic areas, but they matter immensely within their geographic and economic context within which they belong no matter what the bean counters think.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 13, 2015 at 00:01

Posted in Uncategorized

Garakei: Galapagos cell phone


My wife just came across this term on a recent trip back to Japan. Garakei or another version, Gara-phone.

It literally means “Galapagos Cell Phone”. The backdrop actually goes back to Charles Darwin and how he made the Galapagos Islands famous for uniquely eveolving animal forms and this formed the basis of his “Origin of Species”.

Garakei: Galapagos cell phone

Recently I’ve been hearing about a Japanese electronic device called a “garakei ガラケイ”. Mystified by this katakana word, which I assumed to be at least partially the transcription of some foreign term, I set about trying to find out more about it.

It wasn’t hard to discover (here and here) that the word basically means “Galapagos cell phone”. What a strange name for a kind of cell phone!

If we recall back to before 2007 Japan had their own industry leading and very efficient phones which had apps and characteristics that were unique to Japan. iPhone entered in 2007 and smart phones are mainstream around the world now including Japan.

However there remain a diehard group including my wifes dad who continue to use the unique Japanese phones bearing the pre-2007 style. These are the Gara-phones and hence the reference to Galapagos.

More from language log.

The idea is that, like the animals and birds of the Galapagos Islands, which developed unique traits in isolation from mainland species so as to fit their special environment, the garakei ガラケイhas features that were developed solely in and for people of the Japanese islands without regard to global IT trends. Thus, garakei are not known or used in places outside Japan. Naturally, they have some features that are shared with cell phones elsewhere (e.g., built-in camera), but they also have functions that do not exist outside of Japan.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 10, 2015 at 08:15

Posted in Uncategorized

China stock market is unplugged


Maybe there are just some things that cannot be controlled.

Despite massive government intervention, the Chinese stock market is collapsing in light of an overbought bubble.

Fresh turmoil hits China’s stock market ft.com

China’s central bank stepped up state support for sinking stocks on Wednesday, as investors rushed to sell what they still could after a fresh wave of share suspensions that have now halted trading in half the market.

….

The renewed selling followed another round of share suspensions overnight, which have now halted trading in 1,476 stocks — or more than 50 per cent all listed companies on China’s two main exchanges. The suspensions have frozen $2.6tn worth of equity, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 7, 2015 at 23:06

Posted in Uncategorized

Piketty brings academic pragmatism to Greece debate


This interview with Thomas Piketty by Die Ziet is a landmark. As the interview rightly points out this 700+ page best seller has not been read beyond probably Page 26 by most of the purchasers. This is obvious to me by the book reviews.

However this interview has two main aspects of interest:

  1. it highlights some economic history, history meaning anything previous to the last quarter, and that in which most folks have no interest. This stuff is not in the history books. Economic history is boring and unless you read Niall Ferguson, Thomas Piketty, or Kenneth Rogoff will not mean much. His central point in this interview is that Germany has never re-paid their country debts. They have either inflated themselves out of debt or just plain not paid. In other words they have, in his view, no moral right to the position they take against Greece.
  2. there is a symbience between the European countries that require a symbiotic agreement to move forward. To take the Grexit approach would simply alert the Spains, Portugals, and Italys to the potential to save money by reneging.

This subject is important. Consider California or Michigan seceding because of their debts. A domino game would be set off that would result in chaos within currency markets. To bring it closer to home, going on vacation would become a currency guessing game.

I actually don’t like the Eurozone but I think its important for the future becuase it brings the world closer to economic similarity if not equivalence.

In closing the orginal Die Ziet interview on Medium has been closed due to

I am currently in touch with DIE ZEIT to ensure my compliance with German copyright law. Updates will follow very soon. The original German interview with Thomas Piketty can be found here

Clearly since this morning (July 6th, 2015) someone ‘big’ got to Piketty and/or Die Ziet. Piketty is not exactly on my side of the political fence but I admire him for his tenacious focus on research and facts.

Here is the English translation that has since been taken down.

Go Thomas Piketty.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 6, 2015 at 22:19

Posted in Uncategorized

Music and how we listen to it


The whole music streaming thing is becoming one of the the next big things. There are lots of apps out there and when Apple announced Apple Music it seemed clear they could leap above the fray.

This piece at recode exemplifies what has bothered me. Simplicity.

In Battle of Streaming Music Services, Simplicity Is the Killer Feature

In the battle of the streaming music services, when most of them can claim the same number of tracks, offline listening, a multi-platform approach and some basic cloud services, the standout feature might just be the least sexy: Simplicity.

Of course there is complexity to deal with:

  • my existing Apple Music
  • Internet Radio (why now)
  • Social media interactions with musicians

Somehow Apple launched so many features simultaneously that its confusing, and more importantly killed their opportunity to take the lead.

I think that companies including Apple do not appreciate the ability of folks to adapt. I have seen it from LP’s to cassettes to CD’s to mp3’s to iTunes. No problem. Just make it clear that the next step is to pay per month for streaming. End of job.

The complexity of British DJ’s, American headset manufacturers and social media interaction with musicians is completley ignoring the fact i want to listen to music.

Lastly … the elephant in the room – fidelity. A friend recently pointed me to tidal.com. It is double the price at $20 pm but the CD sound quality is superb. I have tried multiple tracks on Apple Music and on Tidal. It is night and day.

Instead of breadth of confusing features Apple should lead the way with simple streaming of music and include a lossless CD option. The Apple base would accept that naturally and life would be easier.

For now I don’t see Apple Music getting traction and taking users from Spotify/ Rdio etc becuase Apple Music is too complicated.

Written by Colin Henderson

July 5, 2015 at 01:46

Posted in Uncategorized

Social media meets lobbying meets activist meets Industry Powerhouse Taylor


Social media meets lobbying meets activist meets Industry Powerhouse.

Taylor Swift conducted what was obviously a well thought through campaign on her blog, presumably because 140 characters sometimes is just not enough. (Go blogging, but I digress).

To Apple, Love Taylor.

taylor eddie

To bring everyone up to speed, the Apple Music streaming service was proposed to launch with a 3 month trial period. This is longer than the normal 1 month trial. The kicker was that Apple were not planning to pay an artist royalty during that 3 month period.

Apple had dealt with that potential dissonance with a 2 – 3 % increase to 30% being the payment Apple would pay to the musicians following the 3 month trial.

Taylor was able to talk about the poor “young songwriter” and make the case that the non payment to them during the 3 months was a huge deal financially to those artists.

Mission acconplished. Eddie Cue tweeted

“We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple” (seriously she is #13?)

Apple’s deep pockets pose threat to Spotify in music battle

With days to go before the launch of Apple Music, the company was facing an intensifying chorus of criticism from artists and independent record labels about key terms of its new $9.99-a-month subscription service. Singer Taylor Swift said in a blogpost that it was “shocking” and “disappointing” that Apple was refusing to pay artists for music carried during a free three-month trial period for users.

Yet within a day of the rebuke from Ms Swift, Apple changed its tune and announced that it would pay for every single stream. Eddy Cue, the group’s senior vice-president of internet software and services, tweeted: “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”

Relevance to Bankwatch:

There are so many issues at play here its hard to know where to begin. Here are some I thought of:

  1. Apple didn’t properly externally consult and think through the business model of Apple Music
  2. Apple bean counters created a model that in theory over compensated artists but only if they are successful for a long time. I didnt do the math, but I am estimating that in a PV/ FV calculation it takes a long time to recoup three months working for free
  3. Apple saw an opportunity to support a Spotify hater and be on the side of good (the sceptical view)
  4. Apple over-estimated an issue that ‘might’ blow over
  5. Taylor went corporate with help of her ‘people’ using social media that post was a very well constructed piece that placed the product (Taylor) selflessly and somewhat tongue in cheek at the top of the pile (“Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows”)

Something is changing here in terms of industry power shift. Music has been on the back foot for 20 years. This is one small move for music.

What is more intersting is whether this is a one off or whether other industries than music might see such influence. For now I believe this is a one off that is related to the influence embedded in the Taylor Swift brand. (Eat your heart out Kanye).

Taylor Swift probably hit JayZ status in terms of indutry influence though and there could be impications for Apple Vs Tidal that are going on here.

Written by Colin Henderson

June 22, 2015 at 18:24

Posted in Uncategorized

Apple WWDC 15


Its Apple WWDC 15 day, and I watched the keynote tonight of course on my Apple TV which was handily added for the event. The detailed engineering stuff is handled over the week in ‘tracks’.

Back to the keynote. First off was software upgrades for OS X (El Captane) and iOS 9; both coming this autumn, with a summer customer beta. As expected not too much realy exciting except speed and efficiency. They have introduced Apple Metal which a method of bypassing Open GL and basically ensuring apps interact more efficiently with the computer.

There are updates for some apps including Notes which is long overdue.

Other new stuff which comes mainly with the new OS’s and before they got to the big event, Apple Music.

  • Apple Pay launching in UK with most of the big banks. A quick scan suggested Barclays is missing. Luanching in 100’s of retailers including the London Tube and buss service.
  • A News app that replaces Newstand
  • ipad multitasking
  • Proactive Assistant which I desperately hope they rename. It works to co-relate your own data, documents, calendar, email, and related information such as weather to provide in context guidance for your day. This will draw inevitable comparisons witg Google Now and really there is none. Apple went to great lengths to note that any update in PA for things like weather never used your Apple ID. Its a different model and narrower in focus.
  • significantly improved screen handling. Have to see this in action. This was a feature that was offerred with big splash with Windows 7 and pretty much flopped as too complicated to remember all the keystrokes.
  • improved Safari with a new feature that allows you to clip favourite sites in the bar providing access with a click.

Then Apple Music. Hard to get excited until we see it, and it was too compicated with Apple Music, Beats1 a radio station, and @connect to allow new and old artists to upload stuff and generally interact with fans.

They brought on Toronto’s own Drake to announce Connect and he was so nervous which was surprising. I suppose Apple can overwhlem anyone. I dont see Connect taking over the existing social media sites, but who knows.

Apple Music apppears to be a straming service for $8.99 pm in US so $12.99 in Canada is my guess. This one could be big. Beats1, ho hum.

And someone please Tell Tim Cook to stop saying ‘we are so excited’.

Back to the beginning, I am most looking forward to the OS upgrades. Big reductions in battery usage, and faster loading apps are the simple promise there and as expected from this WWDC.

Written by Colin Henderson

June 8, 2015 at 19:44

Posted in Uncategorized

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