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Excel never dies


This week in fintech

March 15 · Issue #51 · View online

A weekly summary of the latest news in our world of finance, design, and technology.

Also: 🚀 Speed ⛓ Cryptocurrencies are here to stay 🖼 NFTs causing trouble 🕹Gamifiying Investing 🤖 Automating investing 🧑‍⚖️ Legalese

🚀 Speed
I’ve long believed that speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win. Speed is a defining characteristic — if not the defining characteristic — of the leader in virtually every industry you look at.
- Dave Girouard, CEO of personal finance startup Upstart and former President of Google Enterprise Apps
The best read over this weekend was Dave Girouard writing about the importance of speed and asking, “Why can’t this be done sooner?” A great example of this is Sparebanken Vest asking this question launching Bulder Bank and basing their whole tech stack on their answer. In Stacc, “speed”, is one of our core values which we daily work on proving to our clients.
⛓ Cryptocurrencies are here to stay
Christoffer Hærnes, former CDO in Sbanken, wrote in Shifter about cryptocurrencies and digital assets are here to stay. A bold statement twelve years after its inception (😆). The statement is based on a survey from JPMorgan where 11% of the institutional investors said that their firm either trades or invest in cryptocurrency assets. Coinbase is reporting the same trend: institutional trading is now covering almost two-thirds of their trading volume. This is good news for Coinbase, which is currently filing for a public direct listing at Nasdaq Global Select Market.
🖼 NFTs causing trouble
You know NFTs are reaching mainstream when NRK, the Norwegian public broadcasting company, writes about them. The reason? Someone burning a work by Banksy and selling the video for $380 000. We’ve written a lot about NFTs here over the last three weeks because it’s new territory and a lot of interesting questions arise: 
NFT raises a lot of new questions and problems for artists – especially regarding copyright. Ironically NFTs could also offer artists a new income stream by selling digital versions of their work that are scarce and unique. “NFTs could represent unreleased, exclusive songs that will never become available on traditional streaming platforms.” the DJ Justin Blau “predicted” the week before he sold his newest album for $11.7 million as an NFT.
Why does it matter that it says in a fancy distributed database that you own a digital asset if everyone else can have access to exactly, bit-for-bit, the same thing and use it/enjoy it equally and make infinite copies? Link
Albert Wenger, a partner at Union Square Ventures, has answered the above question with a thought experiment including the Mona Lisa, 3D printing, and copying isotopes. His explanation isn’t that NFTs lets you own the piece, but let someone assert “I am the Louvre” for that piece of content. He closes off with: “This is not a fad. It is a fundamental and profound innovation. […] To be clear though, there are still important problems to be solved, in particular ones around people asserting authorship to works they didn’t create.”
🕹Gamifiying Investing
Many apps today are games in disguise. Sometimes it’s not even disguised: “We use a "learning by playing” approach with storytelling and game features.“ This is the description by Quooore, a new Robinhood-competitor. They are branding this as investing, but it’s looking more and more like gambling. "That’s not democratizing investing, that’s recruiting greater fools for your schemes”.
🤖 Automating investing
Another interesting investing solution we came across this week is Composer, which acts as a layer on top of your existing brokerage. The solution adds no-code tools to investing without the need of developers. I can imagine a marketplace of people selling investment-strategies on top of this platform.
Example from Composer
Example from Composer
The financial supervisory authority of Norway has released their final report from Sparebank1 SR-banks participation in their sandbox with the project “use of artificial intelligence in a digital pension adviser”. Surprisingly enough, there isn’t used any AI in the pension-advisor, just on the advisor’s chat functionality (apparently in this case). The report’s conclusion is rather boring: The current regulations are not an obstacle to developing an automatic pension/savings adviser, but the regulations have strict requirements for information gathering and suitability assessment. However, the main value of the project seems to be that The financial supervisory authority and Sparebank1 SR-bank actually had an opportunity to cooperate on something.
🧑‍⚖️ Legalese
A few weeks ago we wrote about Citigroup accidentally wiring $900 million and not getting all their money back. Well, they are not making that mistake again: Citibank and other agent banks have now added what they call “Revlon Clawback” language to their credit agreements. “Revlon Clawback” means that if you get money by mistake, like Revlon’s lenders did; you have to give it back, like Revlon’s lenders didn’t. So if you ever wonder why there always is pages upon pages of legalese text when you sign something, it is because something happened one time, got added to the boilerplate, and was never removed.
🧮 Excel never dies
Speaking of things that don’t disappear: Despite being over 35(!) years old, Excel is as beloved as ever. Packy McCormick and Ben Rollert have written about the history of Excel and why it will never die.
🙏 Don’t keep it a secret!
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Marius Hauken, partner Stacc X
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