Austin, that’s a great question. This impact is well-documented with index funds where dramatic price movements in certain stocks can occur when index funds reallocate funds or when a certain equity is added or removed from an index. You may be interested in this discussion of the impact on the economy in general: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/is-passive-investment-actively-hurting-the-economy
To build on Austin’s question, I wonder what the actual difference is between Fidelity Go and some of Fidelity’s other retail investment offerings. It seems like Fidelity Go is simply a set of off-the-shelf portfolios designed by investment professionals (humans) that are chosen based on inputs from a client. This doesn’t seem to be the same approach that Betterment and Wealthfront are taking. At least, it seems like there is a higher human component in Fidelity Go and from the article, it seems like they believe this to be their advantage. In which case, I wonder how this is truly robo-advising versus automated portfolio allocation based on pre-determined portfolio rules that are periodically updated by human beings.
I find these types of companies and changes very interesting because it goes back to the age-old question of how do you beat the market? My personal stance is that returns over time are always linked to the fundamentals of a business. There are many ways to access these returns and I believe robo-advising has a place for some people but not everyone.
This is a very interesting article and cool overview of a unique application of blockchain! I agree that the blockchain could be used for this application and in many ways could help with the marketing efforts of Walmart in China to gain customer trust. However, I agree with Katherine that the end consumer may not be sophisticated enough to truly appreciate the nuances of a blockchain-based reporting or supply chain information management system. It may not be clear and simple enough to change brand perception of quality and freshness. Imagine having to educate the general public on what blockchain is and how it can be trusted in the pork supply chain. It’s a lot to ask.
On a related note, I also wonder if this is an over-engineered solution. During the initial development stages of an emerging technology, it’s common to think that almost every problem can be solved by it (read: hype). In this case, I wonder if the excitement of piloting a blockchain solution has clouded IBM and Walmart’s judgement of what the optimal solution is here. Having a transparent database of information across the supply chain or certifications from supplier could perhaps be achieved by existing technology solutions. A simple database with authorizations for suppliers could be all that is needed. It seems like the blockchain would bring a level of security and immutability that isn’t needed.
Thanks for the article Alex! Betterment is a fascinating company operating in a rapidly changing industry. The other comments hit on some great points regarding the actual role of a financial advisor and some of the limitations of Betterment in the translation of client risk profiles into portfolio constraints. If more of the money in the capital markets shifts toward index funds and algorithmic investors such as Betterment, I wonder what impact it will have on returns overall and whether this creates a greater opportunity for active managers.
I would love to see how companies like Betterment and other robo-advisors craft their algorithms and investing rules. In the equity market, are they driven by the fundamentals of a business? Do they only look at historical performance or is there a quantitative assessment of future potential based on some analysis? What happens if most of the market behaves predictably or by a set of rules that may be decoupled from real business performance?
When I see companies like BlackRock buy a robo-advisor company, I wonder if they view the acquisition as their future or whether it’s just another offering. I tend to think that in the investing world (retail or otherwise), there will always be a divergence of opinion on the best way to manage money. Further, I think there is more than one way to generate attractive returns. My hypothesis is that robo-advising will grow but only up to a certain point. Traditional methods of management will always exist and play a significant role.
Thanks for the article. Some of the figures you cited around the growth of this space in India are absolutely staggering. There is a payments revolution going on in one of the most populated countries in the world. Kenya is a great example, but I’m sure there are more challenges when thinking about a country like India (both culturally and technically due to scale). As mentioned above, I wonder whether there are easier technology solutions that would help with the rate of adoption. On the other hand, if peer-to-peer mobile payments are something that the government wants to encourage going forward, perhaps a blockchain-based solution (like Circle: https://www.circle.com/en) is a more secure, sustainable solution.
It’s interesting to think about whether the shift to mobile payments and potentially even away from fiat currency (toward things like Bitcoin) is a global trend or whether it will be limited to certain countries. The potential to get more people who are currently disenfranchised by the financial system more involved in the economy is one of the greatest benefits to quick adoption of digital currencies and mobile wallets.
Thanks for the very interesting article – one that highlights a very exciting and high-potential area within the blockchain space. I also appreciate the cogent, concise explanation of blockchain technology and supply chain chain. This isn’t easy given the word count constraint.
I agree that financial institutions and supply chain / trade finance are areas of immense opportunity for blockchain-based systems to disrupt and create value. This is an exciting time as both well-established players and startups are positioning themselves to win, but the jury is still out on who will capture the most value in the future. For example, multiple banks around the world have partnered and join R3, a blockchain consortium to pilot and prototype various blockchain applications related to finance. Recently, there has been an increasing focus on trade finance (http://www.bankingtech.com/551002/r3-blockchain-consortium-gets-smart-on-trade-finance/). However, there are also startups (that were started in Boston!) that are also tackling the same issue. ExImChain (eximchain.com) is a company that is targeting international trade finance as an application of a blockchain-based system.
In my experience, blockchain talent will be the key issue going forward. A lot of the experts are younger (“millennials”) that have the appetite and energy to start companies and innovate quickly. However, given the incredible power (and resources) that well-established financial institutions have, it is more likely that the future will have room for both.
Thanks for the great post – it gave me a lot of insight into an industry that I am not that familiar with but is a heavy contributor to emissions. The survey of the industry and its relevance to climate change was extremely helpful. I especially liked your recommendations. Having an integrated program of operational design, energy consumption and patient outcomes is exactly what hospitals should be doing. Your ideas about usage transparency being part of the design is something the hospitals of tomorrow should adopt.
In regards to your point about the difficulty linking patient outcomes to energy reduction, I agree with you but also think there’s a great opportunity here. You mentioned one example of the changing prevalence of certain diseases and that is definitely true. In addition, I think designing a hospital with greater energy usage transparency and sensing / monitoring overall would contribute to better patient outcomes. Hospitals would have a better sense for the utilization, traffic or energy consumption across their departments which would enable more efficient planning. This could perhaps optimize labor and materials resources (or reduce error) which could improve patient outcomes. Further, this infrastructure of sensors could perhaps be used to better monitor or track patients, their environment and state of health during their stay at the hospital. There seems to be an opportunity within hospitals to align “greener” solutions with better outcomes.
I agree with Nick’s comment that this is a large potential opportunity for SDP. This is such a fascinating problem to solve with a multitude of concerns extending beyond just the environment and business performance – this is an industry that employs millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the palm oil market.
I’m interested to see how the commercialization of biogas plays out in Malaysia as a lot can be learned from the necessary partnerships and investments in infrastructure and technology to move toward “greener” energy in other parts of the world. However, given the nature of the markets that SDP competes in (such as palm oil), I wonder how sustainable or profitable these big investments will be for them (or their investors) in the long run. In other words, it’d be interesting to learn more about the unit economics of wasterwater to bioenergy conversation via the biogas plants.
Further, the post mentioned a low barrier to substitution to other vegetable oils. I wonder how palm oil compares to the others in terms of environmental footprint. Could we envision a world where the investments in the conversion technology over time would make palm oil potentially obsolete for certain applications?
I’m a huge coffee drinker (I love coffee…) so I read this post with great interest! It’s scary to think about a world without coffee. However, your post clearly articulates the realities of this threat. I wasn’t aware how temperamental and nuanced coffee bean growing is and especially how strongly it could get impacted by climate change.
I like your recommendations in general, but I am concerned about your suggestion to influence the genetic makeup of the coffee beans within Starbucks’ supply chain. Although this isn’t exactly genetic engineering along the lines of a “GMO,” it seems this type of activity would go against Starbucks’ brand as a forward-thinking, sustainable company. I would worry about potential negative press or media in the future about how Starbucks is contributing to mono-cultures of coffee beans (similar to corn). Regardless of the impact, there’s a negative perception of mono-cultures and its impact on biodiversity.
Further, I agree with Ludwig’s concern about taste of blends. I believe consumers are becoming more discerning and demanding when it comes to taste. To complicate this more, the coffee space is becoming more and more competitive with alternative choices both from other chains (Dunkin’ Donuts, Caribou Coffee, etc.) and “craft” roasters / coffee shops. Changing the blend of traditional Starbucks blends could pose as a huge risk.
This post does a great job in highlighting the opportunities within the waste management industry to manage and mitigate climate change. As Catherine brought up, the most interesting question for me is around the economics of investing (and the model of investment) in new waste management technologies. How can we ensure the incentives are aligned such that we can maximize investment in these types of technologies that are critical for our sustainable future.
Companies like Waste Management will have to play a critical role if we are to move toward a circular economy. Given their purview into the various waste streams, Waste Management can collaborate across industries with companies that are trying to make more sustainable, recyclable and reusable products. For example, Waste Management could partner with a company like Nike to optimize the “cradle-to-cradle” lifecycle of their products. At the very least, these types of collaborations can help inform Waste Management’s investments in technologies and processes while also informing Nike’s product development and design choices.
I find the building and construction industry an interesting one especially from the perspective of climate change given the sizable impact it has in terms of resource usage and emissions. This post gives a great overview of some the fundamental challenges that real estate developers in terms of energy-efficient operations and resource-efficient construction. However, the issue of rising sea levels (the “existential threat”) is also touched on – something I haven’t spent much time thinking about. Given the premium that is often placed on coastal properties, I wonder how developers are factoring the rising sea level into their diligence. When will this threat be reflected in prices? As a developer (or even a consumer), how should you think about the purchase and ownership of coastal properties that are at risk of submersion?
When discussing solutions, the post mentions the necessary investments and partnerships that will be needed with local government. I think that this is fertile ground for some novel public-private partnerships in real estate development as the incentives for “greener” buildings are aligned for both parties.