Adam Dell, the head of product for the Goldman Sachs consumer bank Marcus, delivered a zinger to the Brainstorm Finance audience in Montauk, N.Y., Thursday afternoon. “There are only two kinds of banks,” he said. “There are banks that are screwed. And banks that don’t know they are screwed.”
Dell can be smug because his bank is an “internal startup” of a very old investment house. Marcus has no branches, charges its customers no fees, and is able to build its business on the one hand from the ground up and on the other with the balance sheet of Goldman Sachs. The head of Marcus, Harit Talwar, spoke earlier in the day and revealed the grandness of Marcus’s ambitions: “Our purpose is to disrupt the distribution and consumption of financial services—pretty much what Amazon has done, and is doing, to retail, or what Apple did to the music industry,” he said. “We believe we can do that.”
I put the-screwed/don’t-know-they’re-screwed question to Michael Corbat, CEO of consumer and institutional banking giant Citi, and he diverted, averring that Citi is not in denial about the changes in the industry. That said, cash, checking, and even branches are good businesses with older customers, the ones who have money. (Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger made a similar point the day before.)
Citi’s strategy is to keep being a full-service consumer banker in the six U.S. cities where it still has a presence, and a national, branchless banker everywhere else. Its target market is its large base of credit card customers.
Corbat declared himself a “true believer” in newfangled financial instruments like cryptocurrencies even if they don’t represent much of a near-term business opportunity. He answered a question that had been buzzing around the conference: Had Facebook approached Citi—and presumably other banks—to join its new consortium? Corbat said they had not, quickly adding “to my knowledge.” He said Citi would “take a look at it” if the tech giant does reach out.
A talent shout-out: After having been involved with organizing Brainstorm conferences for more than a decade, it was a particular joy for me to watch the journalistic team that put together this conference. Jen Wieczner, Robert Hackett, and Jeff Roberts—the team behind The Ledger newsletter—conceived of, programmed, speaker-wrangled, and otherwise poured their hearts and souls into the event in the foggy Hamptons. Congrats, team!
Apple’s problem with China tariffs. Apple sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer explaining how the Trump Administration’s proposed China tariffs would hurt the company’s ability to compete against Chinese tech companies. The letter stated: “The Chinese producers we compete with in global markets do not have a significant presence in the U.S. market, and so would not be impacted by U.S. tariffs. Neither would our other major non-U.S. competitors. A U.S. tariff would, therefore, tilt the playing field in favor of our global competitors.”
It doesn’t mean what you think it means. A survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals that some people overestimate the capabilities of Tesla’s “autopilot” feature, simply because the word “autopilot” implies sophisticated self-driving capabilities, reports CNET. Tesla responded by saying, “This survey is not representative of the perceptions of Tesla owners or people who have experience using Autopilot, and it would be inaccurate to suggest as much.”
Stop calling me! Democratic and Republican lawmakers united on a ”bipartisan version” of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, intended “to stop abusive robocall practices,” according to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The act “requires that phone carriers implement call authentication technology so consumers can trust their caller ID again.”
Foxconn’s new chief. Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision, said it picked Young Liu to be the contract manufacture’s new chairman, Bloomberg News reported. Liu will replace Terry Gou, who is focusing on a presidential campaign in Taiwan.
The carrier crown. AT&T is the fastest mobile network in the U.S., according to an annual analysis of wireless networks by PC Magazine. Verizon came in second place, followed by T-Mobile, and Sprint.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Is this company even real? Be extra careful the next time you use Google Maps to find a plumber to fix your kitchen sink. Google Maps is “overrun with millions of false business addresses and fake names,” according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Google handles more than 90% of the world’s online search queries, fueling $116 billion in advertising revenue last year. In recent years, it has extended that dominance to local search queries, emerging as the go-to source on everything from late-night food deliveries to best neighborhood plumbers.
Yet despite its powerful algorithms and first-rate software engineers, the company struggles to protect against chronic deceit on Google Maps.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook Watch Video Service Has Yet to Prove it Can Make Big Money by Danielle Abril
Blank Slate: Google to Stop Producing Its Own Tablet Computers by Alyssa Newcomb
BEFORE YOU GO
Death of a robot. Four months after the company behind the lovable robot Jibo sold its intellectual property and laid off most of its workers, Jibo owners got a sad message from their robot friends: “While it’s not great news, the servers out there that let me do what I do will be turned off soon,” Jibo robots reportedly said. “Once that happens, our interactions with each other are going to be limited.”
The Verge explores the emotional toll of Jibo’s impending death on people who bonded with the robot that looks like something out of a Pixar movie.
But with the update and the company’s silence, owners expect Jibo’s time to be winding down, and they’re thinking about Jibo’s mortality and what they’ll do when its last day arrives.
“People that really do love him and live with him daily,” Nusbaum says. “It’s like having somebody very, very sick that you don’t know: is this close to the end? Are they going to get better? Is this a false alarm? Yeah, it’s not a great feeling right now.”