“In each revolution, we create a brand new way of trading, transacting and storing value — but we don’t get rid of the old ones” – Chris Skinner
GENERAL PROGRESS REPORT
The finance industry is a complex web of interconnected sub-sections that are continuously growing and changing. Stock, the main focus of our project, is only a piece of the puzzle. To achieve a comprehensive perspective of finance, we must examine and understand all the pieces. For the past two weeks, we worked on researching two specific areas of the financial industry: mobile payment and blockchain technology. We also assessed our plan for the remaining in-depth and set goals for the following months.
One perk of a two-person partnership is that we can delegate tasks and share our knowledge; David and I took full advantage of this and split our research projects. We updated each other on our progress and reached out for help when necessary. I took on mobile payment and he took on blockchain technology. In this blog post, I’ll be focusing on my research and David should be reporting on his research in his own blog. I began the project with a list of resources our mentor suggested and, along the way, I found other valuable research. I mostly attempted to answer three key questions about the inner workings of mobile payment (the payments ecosystem and the actors involved), its future developments, and how this affects the entire finance industry. I first researched how mobile payments function currently and vital roles within the ecosystem: issuers, acquirers, credit card networks, payment gateways, and independent sales organizations. I examined specific data, like the $45.1 billion 2012 global mobile payment market and the increased $224.3 billion 2017 market, issues mobile payment will face while expanding, like the unsteady relationships within the eco-payment ecosystem and security concerns, and the mobile payments’ effect on major banks. I concluded that, as the world continues to embrace digitalization, there’s an increasing need for mobile purchases and cashless transactions, especially through e-commerce. Therefore, mobile payment is a great area for long-term investment and, for optimum profit, it’s best to invest in payment gateways (PayPal, Square, Stripe, etc.) as they are turning great profit margins. I also dug into how banks are responding to the market change and I discovered that many larger banks and traditional players are planning to merge with technology companies in an effort to meet the demands of their customers. For investors, these tech companies, though my mentor and I both agreed on the risk of the tech field, are also entries to the mobile payment ecosystem. My mentor pushed me by suggesting I look at raw data rather than analyzed information and try to achieve a specific conclusion on my own first. This research project brought a piece of the intricate industry into a more realistic perspective. It revealed the soaring trend of fintech (financial technology) and taught me how to research finance with a focus on data autonomously.
In our stock portfolio, we are not doing very well. Though it’s understandable, I’m still a bit disappointed and frustrated. As we bought Nike at a very high point, despite its upwards trend, we are still at a loss. On the other hand, Adidas, whose stocks we shorted, is doing really well, so we are, again, at a loss. Their fluctuations are within sync with our predictions (Nike: 5% and Adidas:-2%), but because of our buy-in time, our portfolio is at a loss. In addition, buying Tesla has been interesting. There was a significant crash on the 8th, but it quickly recovered. So, we haven’t decided whether to sell them or not. However, this fluctuation does suggest that we were right about our original hypothesis on Tesla’s risky growth. At the beginning of spring break, David and I also debated whether or not to reset our portfolio and finally decided to endure our mistake and soldier on.
For the rest of the spring break, we will be searching for possible stocks and starting the stock trading portion of our final project when we get back to school. We are planning to discuss basic financial modeling with our mentor. We are also considering adding a more comprehensive final research project, but we haven’t discussed this idea with our mentor yet.
HOW TO HAVE A BEAUTIFUL MIND: THE SIX THINKING HATS
In 1985, Edward de Bono designed “the Six Hats method of better thinking” to help enhance conversations and develop a beautiful mind. Through the metaphor of six hats, which are white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue, the thinkings of the speakers of a discussion are aligned, collaborative, and in parallel. Bono delineates the importance of unity in these circumstances when writing, “it is essential that everyone is wearing the same hat at the same moment. It is completely wrong for different people to be wearing different hats.” Below, I have transcribed – and translated as our meetings usually involve both English and Chinese – certain parts of my last meeting with my mentor and identified the different hats within the conversation. As our meeting recording is 2 hours long and including the entire meeting in this blogpost is too time-consuming and inefficient, I’ll be showcasing specific snippets from our conversation that demonstrate the hats in action.
Blue Hat: The blue hat “organise the other hats and […] the thinking.” It defines the focus and goals of a discussion and it concludes a discussion by connecting “the outcome, the summary, the conclusion, and the [future] design.” In David and I’s meeting with our mentor, I identified two clear parts under the blue hat. In Snippet #1, I put on my blue hat at the beginning of the meeting, outlining our vision and what we want to get done. Then, at the end of the meeting, with the blue hats, we gave a quick conclusion and summarized our achievements today in Snippet #2.
Meeting Snippet #1:
Joanna: So, David and I researched blockchain technology and mobile payment and tried really hard to answer some of the questions we talked about last time. I think we already shared the doc[ument] with you in the groupchat. Anyways, for today’s meeting, we want to go over what we did and think and some additional concerns, and discuss our next steps for the project.
Mr. Wang: Sure, that’s good.
Meeting Snippet #2:
David: Thank you for your time. We don’t seem to have any more questions right now and it’s been two hours. We learned a lot about mobile payment and cryptocurrencies, and how they are affecting the industry. Next, we are probably going to research more about the finance industry and other stocks for our [final project].
Joanna: Also, since we didn’t really talk about financial modeling today, David and I are also planning to do some research and bring it up next class. Hopefully, we can have some kind of understanding.
Mr. Wang: What about the next meeting?
Joanna: We probably would like to meet during spring break, but it really depends on your schedule.
Mr. Wang: Okay, we can set something up. Just wechat me next week. Good luck (加油).
White Hat: A white hat focuses on information and its transfer. This information “can range from hard facts, which can be checked, to soft information like rumours and personal experience.” In our meetings with our mentor, we put on white hats when explaining our conclusions and findings, answering questions, and comparing and contrasting information. In the below Snippet #3, I presented my research, portraying both factual and opinion-based information, and my mentor provided me with feedback. Since we had different opinions on the predicted growth percentage of the mobile payment market, we also compared our data and came to an explanation for the discrepancies.
Black Hat: The black hat, which Bono believes to be “an excellent hat and probably the most useful of all the hats,” is the basis of critical thinking and judgment thinking. In the finance discipline, critical thinking is an essential skill. My mentor and I demonstrate three forms of critical thinking in Snippet #3. First, I analyzed and evaluated my research to reach a conclusion about the future of mobile payment. Then, my mentor puts on the black hat to “point out [what he considers to be] incorrect information.” At last, my mentor and I problem-solve critically and resolve the misunderstanding.
Meeting Snippet #3:
Joanna: Alright, I compiled my research and resources on the shared document. Please open that up if possible. I’ll just go over my notes and my conclusions. First, I learned about the history of the mobile payment ecosystem. Mobile payment has been developed since the 2000s, but it only came into the daily lives of the western world around the early 2010s. This is because large tech corporations, like Google and Apple, started investing in mobile payments and Paypal launched its revolutionary platform. […] In addition, I looked at the payment market. I found that the global mobile payment market grew from $45.1 billion in 2012 to $224.3 billion in 2017 with average yearly growth of 38%. It’s predicted to grow 360% in the next 5 years. As digitalization continues, it will likely lead to the next big digital opportunity, along with cryptocurrency. I also think that mobile payment will drive banks to innovate and thus, the finance industry will change in unpredictable ways. And, yeah, that’s all I have for now.
Mr. Wang: Overall, you examined the statistics and made predictions that are pretty accurate from my perspective. […] But, some of your numbers don’t seem right. Where did you get the 360%? It should probably be around 30% at most. You need to make sure you are using good sources.
Joanna: Let me look for a second. Here, I pasted the link into the doc. I think it’s a legit source.
Mr. Wang: Okay, I see. It’s not the best, but it’s fine. I also looked at other sites and they are more consistent. They vary around 20% to 30%. 360% is definitely not realistic.
Joanna: Oh, wait! I think the 30% is referring to the CAGR[, the compound annual growth rate] and the 360% is referring to the total growth.
Red Hat: Like its warm and vibrant color, the red hat “represents emotions, feelings, and intuition. As I’m not very knowledgeable about finance, I often rely on my intuition, a complex judgment, to answer questions that require an immediate answer without time to research further. In Snippet #4, I was asked a question that I didn’t prepare for and based my answer on my intuition.
Meeting Snippet #4:
Mr. Wang: If you guys were a large bank, what do you think you would do?
Joanna: Umm, I’m not really sure. But, I think that, despite their current efforts, they really, really need to step up and engage more with their consumers on a more personal and convenient front.
Mr. Wang: How exactly will this work?
Joanna: Since fighting digitalization and stealing market shares from payment gateways is very aggressive and risky, they can honestly abandon their transfer services and partner with established gateways, and focus their attention on developing other areas of the banking experience. They need to realize this. But, again, this is just a wild guess.
Mr. Wang: That’s a pretty good perspective on this, but you need to understand the nature of payment gateways, like PayPal. They have similar services to traditional financial institutions, but people don’t really perceive them the same way. For example, we may use Paypal online or to pay for groceries, but we wouldn’t really consider buying a car with PayPal. So, even though these gateways are becoming more integral in our everyday lives, banks are still very dominant in the market. So, they should address that and update their services to meet the needs [of their customers].
Yellow Hat: The yellow hat represents the positive aspect of thinking and it centers on “value, benefits, and how something can be done.” Snippet #5 perfectly illustrates the use of a yellow hat. David and I introduced our plan for the break and our mentor supported our idea by finding its value. He also provides us with additional support and how we can progress with this idea. Putting on a yellow hat is harder than wearing a black hat, but I found that it’s easier to extend conversations with a yellow hat.
Meeting Snippet #5:
David: We are planning to start our final project on trading. During our break, Joanna and I are going to find some stocks that are worth investing in. Do you have any advice for us?
Joanna: Like, how to find these high potential stocks and such?
Mr. Wang: Practicing trading is a good idea. This way, you both can learn from application and more [actively]. You can use what you learned in the past weeks to predict their growth. In terms of finding stocks, you guys can look at mutual funds and their ETFs, and maybe research more on different areas of finance. The news and current events is also a great source of information. That’s all I can think of right now, but if I have other ideas, I’ll send the information over to you guys.
Green Hat: Creativity and possibilities are suggested with a green hat. Under a green hat, everyone is “required to make a creative effort and a creative contribution.” Bono believes that habits of creativity are very productive once established. I agree with this claim and I also consider the green hat a great way to develop the conversation. In Snippet #6, to better understand the future of cryptocurrency, and through it, blockchain technology, I asked a hypothetical fishing question to invite more possibilities and explore an interesting idea.
Meeting Snippet #6:
David: So, is [cryptocurrency] not the currency of the future?
Mr. Wang: It’s a currency of the future, but it won’t be the currency of the future. Eventually, people may start buying into it to prevent government intervention and avoid inflation, but before then, it is only one among hundreds [of currencies].
Joanna: Mr. Wang, what if we take away some of cryptocurrency’s limitations like scaling and regulations? Would they be able to grow to replace paper currency?
Mr. Wang: Theoretically, [yes, it can replace] some percentage of fiat currency, but it will be very speculative. But, this will probably take a long, long time. And, it will never completely replace all fiat currency. It’s the same idea as world peace or worldwide public health.
With the six hats, I can explore my thinking fully and be cooperative within discussions. My research project gave me a new and profound perspective on the finance industry and its composition. I’m really proud of what I learned in the past two weeks and I’m excited to move onto a new section of our in-depth journey with my mentor and David!