Industry News The Week That Was

3 major companies plan to disrupt the US healthcare system & Facebook bans crypto ads

Harriet Green
Written by Harriet Green

Hi everyone,

Happy Friday.

This was the week that Goldman Sachs annoyed people by repeatedly promoting on Twitter a video of David Beckham sharing his success secrets, and a woman was reportedly barred from taking her emotional support peacock on a United flight.

Have a good one when you get there.

Harriet

THE ROUNDUP

1. What would a red Britain mean for markets? The (grim) reality of a Corbyn government for investors

Printing money, maximum wages, high taxes, nationalisation, and more centralisation. Writing for FT Adviser, Edward Smith of Rathbones has drafted a helpful run-down of the potential investor landscape under a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

Smith likens it to when socialist French President Francois Mitterrand came to power in 1981. He oversaw the expansion of the welfare state, higher minimum wage, spending sprees and widespread nationalisation.

Within five weeks of the election, the French index had fallen 35 percent relative to global equities, and government bond spreads over bunds widened by 2 percent almost overnight. The stock market did recover (though it remained volatile), and a weaker currency and higher yields actually started attracting foreign money.

But Smith explains that, by this point, Mitterrand’s policies had become increasingly centrist, with money getting tight and austerity measures having to be rolled out.

Smith suggests that, broadly speaking, the same could happen under Corbyn, with his and John McDonnell’s blurry vision devoid of real policies – “a half-baked attempt at progressivism by two left-leaning throwbacks”.

Who’s willing to risk it and find out?

2. How many billionaires does it take to fix the US healthcare system? Three of the world’s largest companies are joining forces to give it a go.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan have launched a joint venture to build a healthcare firm designed to cut costs for their employees.

We don’t yet know any details as to what the firm will offer, but it will be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints”, the companies have said. They added that the aim is to use technology to provide “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare.”

Deals seeking to cut the isurance middleman out of employee healthcare aren’t new – Intel and Walmart have tried it. But pundits think the three firms are alluding to something bigger: they want to disrupt the entire $3.3 trillion healthcare system. The New York Time has put together a list of ideas as to what this might look like in real life.

Could a titan like Amazon do to healthcare what it’s done to the retail market? According to McKinsey, 73 percent of US millennials say they would be more excited about a new financial service from Amazon, Google, Square or Paypal than from their bank. It’s not hard to imagine they would feel too differently about healthcare.

And what would sizeable competitors mean for healthcare provision in the UK, with our state-funded and provided system? Would you pay to use an alternative if it was inexpensive and well-reviewed, even if you were paying twice (taxes)?

3. Facebook is banning crypto ads. And a quick note on China’s one-child policy.

In 2017, binary options scams saw investors losing more than £87,000 a day. The Financial Conduct Authority warned this week that the number of online investment frauds is rising, and scammers are increasingly taking to social media to entice younger folk.

Facebook then announced that it is banning all ads relating to binary options, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been increasingly used to advertise fraudulent versions of financial instruments, like forex and cryptocurrencies.

Scammers usually advertise high returns alongside images typifying the high life (luxury watches, cars), then distort prices on their website with “extreme” pay-out clauses, or they just close customer accounts without returning money.

Incidentally, this story in the New York Times explains how young Chinese investors – often recent graduates – are being stripped of their savings by huge scamming outfits that walk off with billions. It reminded me of articles about the strain young Chinese men are now under. Greatly outnumbering female counterparts, they’re trying harder than ever to improve their fortunes, competing with tens of other men. China could well end up with a huge ageing population of single, childless men.

CAUGHT OUR EYE

Company

This is not a congratulatory addition, but rather serves as a timely – and amusing – warning about initial coin offerings (ICOs): a company called Prodeum pledged to put fruit and other produce on the blockchain (whatever on earth that entails), held an ICO, then ran off with investors’ money, leaving on their website only the word “penis”.

Tech

Running app Strava, which tracks users’ jogs via their phone’s GPS and allows them to share their routes, has managed to give away the position of secret army bases. Previously hidden locations – in Helmand Province, Syria, Somalia – have now all been highlighted by the regular running routes of active military personnel.

Comedy aside, it reiterates a point that came up last week with Amazon’s new supermarket that seeks to make queuing a thing of the past by using your phone to track what you buy: how much data are we willing to share?

We rarely consider the full implications of consenting to companies using our data – often because we know there is an immediate benefit (instant gratification) from doing so.

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About the author

Harriet Green

Harriet Green

Harriet Green is a former financial and business journalist. She left City AM earlier this year to set up a company that creates new forms of ownership in public services. She covered fintech, alternative finance and entrepreneurship for four years, but now you’ll more likely find her in a public convenience north of Birmingham. Harriet also works as a consultant for venture-stage tech firms.