Jun 20

Wonders & Blunders: Buffett, Banks & Bots

 
OUR CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE WEEK’S NEWS
This week’s Wonders & Blunders covers encouraging news about small bank branch growth, a big change from the shrinking number of big bank branches we hear about, caused by mobile technology. Are small banks immune to the convenience of mobile, did big bank branches multiply too quickly, or is there another lesson to learn from this news?
 
Technology, specifically AI, is driving growth in Heartland cities such as Pittsburgh, transforming a fading factory town into a burgeoning high-tech center that pumps millions of dollars into the local economy.
 
Another looming change on the horizon is Warren Buffett’s inevitable departure from Berkshire Hathaway, which could cause a substantial shake-up in the financial industry. Here’s hoping we learn about the succession plan soon!
 
Smaller Banks Branching Out
Wonder: Thousands of Bank Branches are Closing, Just Not at These Banks – Allison Prang in The Wall Street Journal.
 
More than 9,000 U.S. bank branches closed in the past ten years, yet 1,200 small banks have actually expanded their number of branches. Small bank branch growth helps prove the bank’s commitment to helping local communities. Large banks such as Bank of America eliminated many branch locations as a consequence of customers using online tools for everyday transactions. Many of the newer small bank branches result from mergers or acquisitions, a growing trend causing the number of banks nationwide to drop from 14,500 in 1984 to less than 5,000 in 2017.
AI Additions to the Rust Belt Revival
Wonder: From rust belt to robot belt: Turning AI into jobs in the US heartland – David Rotman in MIT Technology Review.
 
Pittsburgh’s reinvention from a steelworks city into a high-tech economic center depends on AI advances from nearby universities such as Carnegie Mellon. Self-driving car development, a Caterpillar factory for automated heavy machinery, and other newcomers to “Robotics Row” have attracted billions of dollars from investors. With any economic transformation comes growing pains such as rising housing prices and different types of jobs offered by high-tech companies compared to the city’s manufacturing heyday, but economists say it is only a matter of time before big data and AI make all businesses more productive to further boost the economy.
What Happens When Buffett Leaves Berkshire?
Wonder or Blunder: Preparing Berkshire for a Future Without Buffett – Andrew Bary in Barron’s.
 
Warren Buffet has led Berkshire Hathaway for 53 years and continues to attract investors, keeping up with his CEO duties at 88 years old. But what will happen when he leaves? Should he publicly prepare his successor now to gain investor confidence? Barron’s outlines an 8-step plan for turning over the company’s $190 billion portfolio to the new CEO: hold an investor day, share the annual-letter writing, buy back Berkshire stock, consider paying a dividend, give more details on the investment portfolio, get more flexible with acquisitions, disclose more subsidiary financials and name Greg Abel as the probable successor.
» IN THE NEWS
BISTalk Radio interviews Dr. Eugene Izhkevich, CEO and co-founder of Brain Corpabout turning today’s manually-operated machines into tomorrow’s autonomous solutions.
USA TODAY speaks about small-cap stocks with JP Gravitt, CEO and chief market strategist at Market Realist, an independent market research firm.
More than ever before, college students are struggling with student debt. According to Federal Reserve data, Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student debt and one in four Americans make payments on student loans. Per person, the inflation-adjusted price for the average undergraduate degree has increased 161 percent to $63,973 since 1987, according to Market Watch. Compounding this problem is the fact that wage increases are failing to match inflation, increasing pressure on already strained budgets.
» FEATURED CASE STUDY: Brain Corp
Brain Corp wanted to be recognized as the company that builds artificial brains for robots and self-driving vehicles, not as a company that builds robots. Brain Corp asked KCD PR to quickly advance that message to key technology and business reporters prior to the company’s announcement of its partnership with a national retailer.
 
 
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