Should foundations be “all in” on their charitable missions? – The Denver Post

Should foundations be “all in” on their charitable missions?

What would our world be like if charitable law required foundations to invest all of their assets in ways consistent with their charitable missions? This important question was recently posed by Mark Finser, chairman of RSF Social Finance.

Most likely, our world would be a much better place.

Charitable foundations exist for one overarching purpose: to benefit the public. To encourage this result, they are highly tax-advantaged. Donations are usually tax-deductible, and assets grow tax-free. In spite of this tax advantage, most foundations are required to grant only 5 percent of their assets for a “public benefit.” What about the other 95 percent?

Harnessing financial power for social good

The Foundation Center reports that in 2010, the combined assets of U.S. family, corporate and community foundations approached $650 billion. Today, that number is presumably even larger. There is significant power in these assets.

Typically, they are invested in traditional portfolios with the goal of generating the best financial return to help the assets grow. Often, however, those portfolios are not aligned with the mission of the foundation. In fact, they are sometimes in direct opposition.

Thus, a foundation with the mission of preserving the environment might be investing in companies that harm the environment. A foundation supporting organic foods and local sustainable agriculture might be investing in agribusiness and fast food. And so on.

Investing your money where your mission is

For decades, many foundations have been engaged in socially responsible investing, where negative screens prevent certain types of investments. For example, SRI could prevent inadvertent investments in tobacco, environmental polluters or weapons by foundations with missions to the contrary.

Recently, many foundations have taken this approach a step further, exploring proactive program-related investments and mission-related investments. PRIs and MRIs employ positive investment tools to intentionally advance their missions.

PRIs are below-market-rate investments that are made with a targeted program objective and can count against the 5 percent grant-payout requirement. They fall into the grant-making category because their primary objective is to accomplish program goals.

MRIs, by comparison, are market-rate investments that support the mission of the foundation by generating a positive social or environmental impact. Although they do not count against the 5 percent grant-payout objective, MRIs produce financial and social returns. These definitions come from Mission Investors Exchange, an excellent resource on mission investing.

via Should foundations be “all in” on their charitable missions? – The Denver Post.

Will Wences Casares’s Lemon.com Replace Your Wallet? – Forbes

The day when the contents of your wallet or purse reside in your Smartphone is coming soon and if successful serial entrepreneur Wences Casares has anything to do with it his Lemon.com will be the platform on which it’s built. Casares’s Lemon.com is a Palo Alto-based start-up operation built around an App that allows consumers to collect and store paper receipts so that they can watch how much money they spend and where and how they spend it.  Instead of having receipts pile up in your inbox, or letting them become a jumble in your wallet, you can send them to Lemon.com where they’ll be instantly filed and organized. Pretty much anything consumers place in their wallets or purses can now be easily digitized by taking a photo of it using their Smartphone. Images are encrypted, stored in the cloud and automatically organized in an easy to use and access service. No more rummaging around your wallet or purse to fish out your gift cards or last week’s dinner receipt. Not only will the service help you spend smarter, but could be a god-send for anyone who loses their physical wallet or purse as the App will aggregate all of your credit card and payment services in one place.

Launched in October 2011 with backing from Howard Schultz’s Maveron VC fund, Lightspeed and Social Capital, Lemon.com now has two million users and is positioned to build a new market opportunity around the organization and management of consumer spending information. Casares sees his Lemon on its way to ten million users and the platform as a stepping stone to a set of new services that can help brands connect with consumers.  Only 38 years old, Casares is a successful and experienced entrepreneur and knows how to grow and build businesses.

via Will Wences Casares’s Lemon.com Replace Your Wallet? – Forbes.

Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | PCMag.com

Amazon today launched its virtual currency program, dubbed Amazon Coins.

To kick things off, Amazon is providing all Kindle Fire owners with 500 free Amazon Coins, which are worth $5. “You can use the coins to buy apps and games, as well as items inside apps and games,” Amazon said in a note on its homepage.

Amazon also said Amazon Coins are available to purchase at a discount, for savings of up to 10 percent depending on how many coins you purchase.

Amazon is offering 500 Coins for $4.80, for example. Users can also purchase them in increments of 1,000 ($9.50), 2,500 ($23), 5,000 ($45), or 10,000 ($90). Amazon said the Coins do not expire, and do not include any fees.

“From Cut the Rope: Time Travel to Scribblenauts Remix, you’ll find plenty of fun to choose from, and the selection is growing every day. Selection has tripled over the last year, with 25 percent more in the last three months alone,” Amazon said.

When buying apps and games, users will be given the option to purchase with a credit card or via Amazon Coins.

Amazon first announced plans for Coins in early February.

Amazon said at the time that Coins will provide new opportunities for developers, who will earn the standard 70 percent revenue share when customers make purchases using the virtual currency. Developers with apps and games already in the U.S.

via Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

via Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency

 

Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency

Amazon today launched its virtual currency program, dubbed Amazon Coins.  To kick things off, Amazon is providing all Kindle Fire owners with 500 free Amazon Coins, which are worth $5. “You can use the coins to buy apps and games, as well as items inside apps and games,” Amazon said in a note on its homepage.

Amazon also said Amazon Coins are available to purchase at a discount, for savings of up to 10 percent depending on how many coins you purchase.

Amazon is offering 500 Coins for $4.80, for example. Users can also purchase them in increments of 1,000 ($9.50), 2,500 ($23), 5,000 ($45), or 10,000 ($90). Amazon said the Coins do not expire, and do not include any fees.
When buying apps and games, users will be given the option to purchase with a credit card or via Amazon Coins.

Amazon first announced plans for Coins in early February.

Amazon said at the time that Coins will provide new opportunities for developers, who will earn the standard 70 percent revenue share when customers make purchases using the virtual currency. Developers with apps and games already in the U.S.

“Developers continue to report higher conversion rates on Amazon compared to other platforms,” Paul Ryder, vice president of apps and games for Amazon, said in a statement. “Now we have another new way to help developers reach even more of our millions of customers. Amazon Coins gives customers an easy way to spend money on developers’ apps on Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore.”

The move came at a time when other companies were phasing out the use of virtual currency. In October, Microsoft confirmed that it will be phasing out the use of Microsoft Points in Windows 8. In June 2012, meanwhile, Facebook announced plans to ditch its Credits platform in favor of local currencies and allow app developers to offer in-app subscriptions.

In January, Amazon announced plans to extend its in-app purchasing service — already available for the Kindle Fire $159.00 at Amazon and other Android devices — to cover Mac, PC, and Web-based gaming platforms.

We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners

I attended the Mobile Contactless Payment Innovation Summit in San Francisco last week. The audience included representatives from payments companies, enablers, solution providers and merchants all engaged in mobile payments. Given the constant rate of innovation in mobile payments and recent network incentives for EMV in the US, there was a great deal to talk about.

At Glenbrook we help companies across the payments value chain to understand the future of the market; both the rate of adoption and the value proposition of new offerings are critical. As a result, I was delighted to moderate a panel on mobile and contactless payment innovation with panelists Marc Warshawsky of Bank of America, Peter Ho of Wells Fargo, Ed Busby from ISIS and Oscar Muñoz from CHARGE Anywhere.

Here are some key issues discussed both by the panel and at the event:

Heightened Expectations – As mobile smartphone adoption has exploded, the expectation of mobile payments has grown exponentially. Yet challenges related to technology standards, business models and merchant implementations have slowed progress. Some felt the problem is in consumer education and adoption , but clearly the mobile value proposition has yet to be discovered and defined.

Role of NFC – Throughout the conference, there were vocal detractors and advocates for NFC. Visa, MC and Discover have each laid out a contactless roadmap, providing financial incentives for merchants to deploy contactless (NFC) terminals. The technology is reasonably mature and effective with extensive trials around the globe; ISIS and Google Wallet are examples in the US. Trials demonstrate consistent consumer enthusiasm but handset manufacturers still rarely have NFC chips in new phone models. Why the delay? Most think the problem is in the business model. As long as carriers, handset manufacturers and banks are unclear on how they will realize incremental revenues from mobile payment, there is a hesitation to deploy at scale.

Mobile beyond NFC – Patrick Gauthier from PayPal started his presentation emphasizing the difference between NFC and mobile wallets. He demonstrated that there are other ways to access the wallet. With more active accounts than American Express has cards in hand, PayPal’s cloud-based model is a significant alternative to the physical card-centric NFC approach. Peter Ho discussed Wells Fargo’s experiences with using In2Pay microSD card for Visa payWave transactions attached to a Wells Fargo account as compared to NFC. Either technology supports the desired interaction and he suggested the decisions were more around creating the right consumer experience. Other alternatives to NFC include the barcode model (also known as the Starbucks Example). One constraint to adoption of mobile is the speed at which merchants can implement the technology at POS. Merchants have to sort through the hype, identify mandates and ultimately prioritize their investments.

Are we just sticking a credit card on the phone? – Card issuers in particular were concerned with enabling card transactions over the phone. These models are expensive to merchants as they move card present, in store transactions to what they expect will be card not present interchange. So is there value in a mobile transaction and perhaps even room for more fees? Value in a mobile payment needs to be found in the added functionality brought from the phone. Location, data, computing power and Internet capabilities augment the in-store transaction. Bill Gajda from Visa was clear “it’s about more than replacing a swipe with a tap”.

via We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

via We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

Zigging and Zagging toward Mobile Payments in the US — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners

The common wisdom around mobile payments in the US is that they will be based upon card credentials electronically inserted into secure elements in new mobile handsets that will talk to new POS terminals capable of supporting NFC or contactless payment technology. There’s been lots of activity – and accompanying industry forecasts about how we’re on the cusp of a new world of mobile payments based on NFC/contactless technology.

Almost a year ago, three of the mobile network operators in the US – Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile – announced Isis, an NFC-based approach that was going to create a new payments network to rival the payments incumbents. Post-Durbin and after listening a bit to the marketplace, Isis modified its strategy to be much more accommodating to the existing payment networks – while still remaining very NFC-centric. As a result, the major networks agreed to cooperate – time will tell exactly what that means. Trials begin in 2012.

In May, Google announced it was partnering with Citibank, MasterCard, First Data and others to launch an NFC-based Offers and Wallet – based on this technology approach. The only wrinkle in Google’s approach is that it decided that it (and not a card network, a card issuer or a wireless operator or a consortium like Isis) would manage the keys to the secure element in each handset. Google also introduced a nifty concept called SingleTap that would enable a new kind of offer redemption process at the time of payment – for those merchants who agree to deploy Google’s proprietary SingleTap POS technology.

In August, Visa announced its support for nudging this POS upgrade process along by defining a multi-year program designed to transition the US POS infrastructure from mag stripe-based today to both EMV contact and NFC/contactless technologies over the next several years.

That’s seemingly the current state of play with respect to the NFC-based approach to mobile. Everything seems to need changing – the mobile handsets, the POS terminals, along with new operational systems being required to manage and control this fundamentally different payments ecosystem. And, of course, the consumer will have to be educated and understand how all of this works – perhaps by their mobile carrier, or their issuer, or the card networks. It’s fair to say that it’s yet to be seen how that might evolve.

via Zigging and Zagging toward Mobile Payments in the US — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

Financial Reform Destined To Fail, Top Federal Reserve Official Says

Reforms instituted after the financial crisis to prevent future taxpayer-funded bailouts are bound to fail and will likely be weakened within the next few years, the Federal Reserve’s longest-serving policy maker predicted Monday.

The stark warning, offered by Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig, who’s been warning about the rise of too-big-to-fail banks for more than a decade, comes as international regulators finalize plans to increase supervision of and toughen requirements on the world’s largest banking organizations as a reaction to the global financial crisis. Rather than break up big banks, politicians decided to simply subject them to more oversight.

Yet debate rages as to whether the requirements are too tough, or not tough at all, and whether regulators will have the backbone to follow through on their commitments. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to dismantle the domestic financial reform law passed last year; banks are screaming that lending will dry up, inhibiting the anemic U.S. recovery; and on the global level, regulators from some countries where large banks dominate the national economy (and thus enjoy overt taxpayer backing) are trying to weaken international accords.

For Hoenig though, the choice is clear when it comes to what to do with the financial institutions that caused the most punishing downturn since the Great Depression: break them up into pieces that regulators can understand and provide a backstop to entities engaged in the so-called real economy — but allow those dabbling in more risk-laden activities to fail.

The Obama administration and Congress chose the alternate route in passing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. To Hoenig, they made a mistake.

via Financial Reform Destined To Fail, Top Federal Reserve Official Says.