VT Nonprofit Lender Mulls Life After End of Student Loan Program

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) was established in 1965 as a public nonprofit agency designed to oversee the issuing of federal education loans to Vermont students. But with the sweeping reforms to the federal student loan program that were passed in 2009, bundled in with the national health care reform bill, VSAC and agencies like it were stripped of their ability to originate new federal education loans.

As of July 1, 2010, all federal parent and college loans are now provided to borrowers directly by the U.S. Department of Education, and VSAC is now facing a staff reduction of nearly two-thirds as it tries to find ways to survive in the age of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program.

The agency had been a lender in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), which was discontinued as part of the federal college loan reforms. As part of its lending functions under the FFEL program, VSAC acted as both a lender and servicer of federal college loans.

Under the new world order, with FFELP disbanded, VSAC can still manage (i.e., “service”) all the college loans it had issued in the past, but the agency is no longer able to issue new loans.

Revenues from the repayment of issued loans were used to fund new student loans as well as ongoing financial aid and student loan education programs, so the agency faces a revenue reduction of about 90 percent as its existing loans are repaid.

VSAC still issues a small number of private student loans, non-federal loans funded by VSAC rather than by the Department of Education, but the agency is looking for a new role with the Direct Loan program.

VSAC recently submitted a proposal to the Education Department to service more than the current statutory maximum of 100,000 federal education loans. Under the proposal, the agency is seeking permission to service the student loans of all Vermont students and all non-resident students enrolled at Vermont colleges and universities. Under the new Direct Loan program rules, only four organizations have been authorized so far by the Education Department to service more than the allotted 100,000 federal student loans.

Even if VSAC’s proposal is approved, however, the revenue from servicing the federal direct loans would bring in only a fraction of the revenue the agency once earned as a lender in the FFEL program.

VSAC is also asking the Vermont state legislature to help underwrite its administrative costs by allowing the agency to divert about 7 percent of its $21 million state appropriation from need-based grants and scholarships for students to the agency itself. VSAC is also asking legislators to allow its private student loan borrowers to deduct up to $500 of the interest on its private student loans from their state taxes.

The agency’s future role is unclear and is likely to remain that way until at least April, while it waits for a determination on the expanded servicing of federal college loans made through the Direct Loan program. The state legislature is likely to render a decision more quickly.

But even with its private student loan portfolio, a favorable decision on student loan servicing from Washington, and additional support from the Vermont legislature, VSAC will still need to reduce its budget by about 10 percent a year for the next three years in order to remain solvent.

The agency, which currently employs about 300 people, has already cut about 60 positions through attrition. If the added student loan servicing work doesn’t materialize and legislators don’t agree to support the agency’s administrative costs and financial aid counseling and outreach work, the agency will likely reduce its staff by an additional 200 positions before the start of the next fiscal year.

college loans

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Bad Credit Business Loan

Based on bank lending practices, one might be misled to believe that people with a bad credit history are not capable of running successful businesses, illegally to repay business loans, and overall, risky borrowers. But the truth of the matter is; having bad credit does not make a person incapable of running a profitable business.

There are many reasons why a person may have a low credit score that may have no relation to their money management skills. These include having obscene amounts of student loans to repay after graduating before getting a job that can support those payments, and getting used in the lure of credit cards as a young adult and having to pay for it later. But in the end, these mistakes can serve as a learning experience, teaching a person to make wiser financial decisions in the future and making them better equipped to handle financial problems that are presented within their business.

The question remains: Is there hope for business owners who have poor personal credit histories? Is there a way to get a bad credit business loan?

The answer is yes. Through a business cash advance, a business owner can get a loan for his / her business even if he / she has bad credit. This is due business cash advance lenders take the strain of repayment off of the borrower, making the business responsible for repaying a loan.

How does this work? A business cash advance is a purchase of a business' future credit card sales. Business cash advance companies provide an up-front cash payment in exchange for a small percentage of the credit card sales that a business makes until the loan is completely paid off. Therefore, having bad credit is not a disqualifying factor when it comes to receiving a business cash advance.

The repayment of a business cash advance also has no affect on a borrower's credit score. So the borrower does not have to worry about worsening his / her credit score when receiving a business cash advance.

Many Americans do not have the 700 point credit score that is normally required to receive a business loan, but that does not mean that their dreams of running a successful business should be shattered. Fortunately, the availability of business cash advances gives business owners with bad credit another option, making it possible for them to finance the development of their businesses.

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4 Things Contractors Should Know About Contractors Insurance

Any company involved in construction work, building maintenance or installation and repair services is in need of contractors insurance. Contractors will be ill-advised to forego contractor insurance in a climate of high crime statistics, unpredictable weather conditions, negligent workers, faulty equipment, defective substances and a million and one other thing that can go wrong in the contracting business.

There is also an ever-growing propensity to be held responsible and accountable for damages caused to third parties. Think about it this way: Insurance premiums cost a mere fraction of stolen materials, damaged projects or compensating agents or third parties for losses incurred through the negligence of workers or the forces of nature beyond anyone's control. By having the conviction and foresight to take out builders' insurance, contracting businesses are safeguarding themselves against possible losses and lawsuits that could end up by severely crippling the company financially or, in the worst case scenario, even bankrupting it. A contractor's policy actually costs very little in terms of premiums and is worth its weight in gold.

The basics of builder's insurance

1. Builders' Risk Coverage (also known as construction coverage)

Builders' risk insurance indemnifies the contractor for losses or damages to a building while the building is under construction. Insurance usually covers the building for a specific time period and applications only while the building is under construction. This type of insurance typically covers fire damage and vandalism. The policy may also include materials in transit to the building site as well as materials and equipment stored on site. Tools, equipment, vehicles, materials and any other assets used on site may also be covered. For the amount of protection it affords (and the peace of mind that goes with it) builder's risk insurance is reliably inexpensively (as against general liability insurance).

2. Insuring Materials on site and in transit

Given the cost of modern building materials, it is common practice for constructors to insure their materials either on site or while in transit. However, the onus is on builders to make sure that all reasonable precautions are in place to protect materials from theft or storm damage as much as possible. This coverage can also include materials stolen in transit due to the vehicle being hijacked while en route to the building site.

3. The most common insurance claims made by contractors

The most frequent claims made by contractors entail materials theft, damaged materials while in transit, storm damage, or surrounding properties being damaged while construction is in progress.

4. Most expensive Claims

The most costly claims most commonly filed by contractor are usually damages caused by third parties and their properties due to the contractor's "negligence" for example, materials being blown off structures in storms or high winds and landing on nearby cars or buildings. Also damage caused to existing underground pipes or cables. Other high claims are damages caused by fire, rainwater damage to structures, lightning damage or severe storm damage. All these liabilities can be covered by an All Risks contractor's policy.

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Investing Mining Stocks and Warrants

The Canadian Dollar is now one of the strongest currencies in the world and there have been many forecasts of parity with the U.S. Dollar and as of today, the Loonie is trading at 90.35 as we write this article.

The first and second charts below shows the strength of the Loonie over the last year and the third chart is of the XAU Gold Index. Observe the long term trends in all of the charts.

For investors around the world how can you best position yourselves to benefit from the rising value of the Canadian Dollar?

If you are like many of us, you are currently participating in the bull market in the commodities sector, specifically, in the precious metals, i.e., gold, silver, copper, zinc, etc. If you are not on board this rally perhaps we can enlighten you to some different ways to benefit not only from the Canadian Dollar but also from your investments.

When an investor purchases shares in the Canadian mining companies you are in essence invested in the Canadian Dollar. With the Canadian dollar increasing relative to your country’s currency, your investment is increasing. As the value of your Canadian investments increases, you win again. Thus, you gain from the increasing in the currency as well as the increase in your investments in the mining shares or perhaps, long-term warrants on the mining shares.

The point is, currently investors are experiencing the best of both worlds and we would expect this trend to continue with normal corrections along the way for at least several more years.

We, as investors ourselves, prefer to defer to the experts, Jim Dines, Doug Casey, Pam & Mary Ann Aden, James Turk and others as to the continued direction and strength of the current bull market.

Perhaps you are a conservative investor and neither you nor your investment advisor are currently aware of the bull market in the commodity sector. We believe that soon, within the next few months or within the year, you, yes, you will be investing in this sector, so the choice is yours, now or later.

Investors have many wonderful opportunities for investments from the gold and silver bullion, ETF’s of gold and silver, mutual funds, mining shares and for those investors looking for additional leverage, long-term warrants on mining shares, some of which do not expire until 2011.

As the experts mentioned above believe, this bull market has strong legs and many years to run, we accordingly suggest investors position themselves and not to worry about the day to day fluctuations of the market.

The important thing for all investors is to recognize the big picture, take a position and enjoy what may be the ride of our lifetime.

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Building a Kingdom – Case Study of Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited

This article presents a case study of sustained entrepreneurial growth of Kingdom Financial Holdings. It is one of the entrepreneurial banks which survived the financial crisis that started in Zimbabwe in 2003. The bank was established in 1994 by four entrepreneurial young bankers. It has grown substantially over the years. The case examines the origins, growth and expansion of the bank. It concludes by summarizing lessons or principles that can be derived from this case that maybe applicable to entrepreneurs.

Profile of an Entrepreneur: Nigel Chanakira

Nigel Chanakira was raised in the Highfield suburb of Harare in an entrepreneurial family. His father and uncle operated a public transport company Modern Express and later diversified into retail shops. Nigel’s father later exited the family business. He bought out one of the shops and expanded it. During school holidays young Nigel, as the first born, would work in the shops. His parents, particularly his mother, insisted that he acquire an education first.

On completion of high school, Nigel failed to enter dental or medical school, which were his first passions. In fact his grades could only qualify him for the Bachelor of Arts degree programme at the University of Zimbabwe. However, he “sweet-talked his way into a transfer” to the Bachelor in Economics degree programme. Academically he worked hard, exploiting his strong competitive character that was developed during his sporting days. Nigel rigorously applied himself to his academic pursuits and passed his studies with excellent grades, which opened the door to employment as an economist with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

During his stint with the Reserve Bank, his economic mindset indicated to him that wealth creation was happening in the banking sector therefore he determined to understand banking and financial markets. While employed at RBZ, he read for a Master’s degree in Financial Economics and Financial Markets as preparation for his debut into banking. At the Reserve Bank under Dr Moyana, he was part of the research team that put together the policy framework for the liberalization of the financial services within the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme. Being at the right place at the right time, he became aware of the opportunities which were opening up. Nigel exploited his position to identify the most profitable banking institution to work for as preparation for his future. He headed to Bard Discount House and worked for five years under Charles Gurney.

A short while later the two black executives at Bard, Nick Vingirayi and Gibson Muringai, left to form Intermarket Discount House. Their departure inspired the young Nigel. If these two could establish a banking institution of their own so could he, given time. The departure also created an opportunity for him to rise to fill the vacancy. This gave the aspiring banker critical managerial experience. Subsequently he became a director for Bard Investment Services where he gained critical experience in portfolio management, client relationships and dealing within the dealing department. While there he met Franky Kufa, a young dealer who was making waves, who would later become a key co-entrepreneur with him.

Despite his professional business engagement his father enrolled Nigel in the Barclays Bank “Start Your Own Business” Programme. However what really made an impact on the young entrepreneur was the Empretec Entrepreneur Training programme (May 1994), to which he was introduced by Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa. The course demonstrated that he had the requisite entrepreneurial competences.

Nigel talked Charles Gurney into an attempted management buy-out of Bard from Anglo -American. This failed and the increasingly frustrated aspiring entrepreneur considered employment opportunities with Nick Vingirai’s Intermarket and Never Mhlanga’s National Discount House which was on the verge of being formed – hoping to join as a shareholder since he was acquainted with the promoters. He was denied this opportunity.

Being frustrated at Bard and having been denied entry into the club by pioneers, he resigned in October 1994 with the encouragement of Mrs Masiyiwa to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

The Dream

Inspired by the messages of his pastor, Rev. Tom Deuschle, and frustrated at his inability to participate in the church’s massive building project, Nigel sought a way of generating huge financial resources. During a time of prayer he claims that he had a divine encounter where he obtained a mandate from God to start Kingdom Bank. He visited his pastor and told him of this encounter and the subsequent desire to start a bank. The godly pastor was amazed at the 26 year old with “big spectacles and wearing tennis shoes” who wanted to start a bank. The pastor prayed before counselling the young man. Having been convinced of the genuineness of Nigel’s dream, the pastor did something unusual. He asked him to give a testimony to the congregation of how God was leading him to start a bank. Though timid, the young man complied. That experience was a powerful vote of confidence from the godly pastor. It demonstrates the power of mentors to build a protégé.

Nigel teamed up with young Franky Kufa. Nigel Chanakira left Bard at the position of Chief Economist. They would build their own entrepreneurial venture. Their idea was to identify players who had specific competences and would each be able to generate financial resources from his activity. Their vision was to create a one – stop financial institution offering a discount house, an asset management company and a merchant bank. Nigel used his Empretec model to develop a business plan for their venture. They headhunted Solomon Mugavazi, a stockbroker from Edwards and Company and B. R. Purohit, a corporate banker from Stanbic. Kufa would provide money market expertise while Nigel provided income from government bond dealings as well as overall supervision of the team.

Each of the budding partners brought in an equal portion of the Z$120,000 as start-up capital. Nigel talked to his wife and they sold their recently acquired Eastlea home and vehicles to raise the equivalent of US$17,000 as their initial capital. Nigel, his wife and three kids headed back to Highfield to live in with his parents. The partners established Garmony Investments which started trading as an unregistered financial institution. The entrepreneurs agreed not to draw a salary in their first year of operations as a bootstrapping strategy.

Mugavazi introduced and recommended Lysias Sibanda, a chartered accountant, to join the team. Nigel was initially reluctant as each person had to bring in an earning capacity and it was not clear how an accountant would generate revenue at start up in a financial institution. Nigel initially retained a 26% share which assured him a blocking vote as well as giving him the position of controlling shareholder.

Nigel credits the Success Motivation Institute (SMI) course “The Dynamics of Successful Management” as the lethal weapon that enabled him to acquire managerial competences. Initially he insisted that all his key executives undertake this training programme.

Birth of the Kingdom

Kingdom Securities P/L commenced operations in November 1994 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmony Investments (Pvt) Ltd. It traded as a broker on both money and stock markets.

On 24th February 1995 Kingdom Securities Holding was born with the following subsidiaries: Kingdom Securities Ltd, Kingdom Stockbrokers (Pvt) Ltd and Kingdom Asset Managers (Pvt) Ltd. The flagship Kingdom Securities Ltd was registered as a Discount House under Banking Act Chapter 188 on 25th July 1995. Kingdom Stockbrokers was registered with the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange under ZSE Chapter 195 on 1st August 1995. The pre-licensing trading had generated good revenue but they still had a 20% deficit of the required capital. Most institutional investors turned them down as they were a greenfield company promoted by people perceived to be “too young”. At this stage National Merchant Bank, Intermarket and others were on the market raising equity and these were run by seasoned and mature promoters. However Rachel Kupara, then MD for Zimnat, believed in the young entrepreneurs and took up the first equity portion for Zimnat at 5%.

Norman Sachikonye, then Financial Director and Investments Manager at First Mutual followed suit, taking up an equity share of 15%. These two institutional investors were inducted as shareholders of Kingdom Securities Holdings on 1st August 1995. Garmony Investments ceased operations and reversed itself into Kingdom Securities on 31st July 1995, thereby becoming an 80% shareholder.

The first year of operations was marked by intense competition as well as discrimination against new financial institutions by public organisations. All the other operating units performed well except for the corporate finance department with Kingdom Securities, led by Purohit. This monetary loss, differing spiritual and ethical values led to the forced departure of Purohit as an executive director and shareholder on 31st December 1995. From then the Kingdom started to grow exponentially.

Structural Growth

Nigel and his team pursued an aggressive growth strategy with the intention of increasing market share, profitability, and geographic spread while developing a strong brand. The growth strategy was built around a business philosophy of simplifying financial services and making them easily accessible to the general public. An IT strategy that created a low cost delivery channel exploiting ATMs and POS while providing a platform that was ready for Internet and web-based applications, was espoused.

On 1st April 1997, Kingdom Financial Services was licensed as an accepting house focusing on trading and distributing foreign currency, treasury activities, corporate finance, investment banking and advisory services. It was formed under the leadership of Victor Chando with the intention of becoming the merchant banking arm of the Group. In 1998, Kingdom Merchant Bank (KMB) was licensed and it took over the assets and liabilities of Kingdom Securities Limited. Its main focus was treasury related products, off-balance sheet finance, foreign currency and trade finance. Kingdom Research Institute was established as a support service to the other units.

The entrepreneurial bankers, cognisant of their limitations, sought to achieve critical mass quickly by actively seeking capital injection from equity investors. The aim was to broaden ownership while lending strategic support in areas of mutual interest. An attempt at equity uptake from Global Emerging Markets from London failed. However in 1997 the efforts of the bankers were rewarded when the following organisations took up some equity, reducing the shareholding of executive directors as shown below: ïEUR Ipcorn 0.7%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund Mauritius P/L 1.1%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund P/L 0.7%. ïEUR Kingdom Employee Share Trust 5%, ïEUR Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund – 8% redeemable preference shares amounting to US$1,5m as the first investee company in Southern Africa from the US Fund initiated by US President Bill Clinton, ïEUR Weiland Investments, a company belonging to Mr Richard Muirimi, a long standing friend of Nigel and associate in the fund management business took up 1.7%, Garmony Investments 71.7% -executive directors. ïEUR After a rights issue Zimnat fell to 4.8% while FML went down to 14.3%.

In 1998, Kingdom launched four Unit Trusts which proved very popular with the market. Initially these products were focused at individual clients of the discount house as well as private portfolios of Kingdom Stockbroking. Aggressive marketing and awareness campaigns established the Kingdom Unit Trust as the most popular retail brand of the group. The Kingdom brand was thus born.

Acquisition of Discount Company of Zimbabwe (DCZ)

After a spurt of organic growth, the Kingdom entrepreneurs decided to hasten the growth rate synergistically. They set out to acquire the oldest discount house in the country and the world, The Discount Company of Zimbabwe, which was a listed entity. With this acquisition Kingdom would acquire critical competences as well as achieve the much coveted ZSE listing inexpensively through a reverse listing. Initial efforts at a negotiated merger with DCZ were rebuffed by its executives who could not countenance a forty year old institution being swallowed up by a four year old business. The entrepreneurs were not deterred. Nigel approached his friend Greg Brackenridge at Stanbic to finance and effect the acquisition of the sixty percent shares which were in the hands of about ten shareholders, on behalf of Kingdom Financial Holdings but to be placed in the ownership of Stanbic Nominees. This strategy masked the identity of the acquirer. Claud Chonzi, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) GM and a friend to Lysias Sibanda (a Kingdom executive director), agreed to act as a front in the negotiations with the DCZ shareholders. NSSA is a well known institutional investor and hence these shareholders may have believed that they were dealing with an institutional investor. Once Kingdom controlled 60% of DCZ, it took over the company and reverse listed itself onto the Stock Exchange as Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL). Because of the negative real interest rates, Kingdom successfully used debt finance to structure the acquisition. This acquisition and the subsequent listing gave the once despised young entrepreneurs confidence and credibility on the market.

Other Strategic Acquisitions

Within the same year Kingdom Merchant Bank acquired a strategic stake in CFX Bureau de Change owned by Sean Maloney as well as another stake in a greenfield microlending franchise, Pfihwa P/L. CFX was changed into KFX and used in most foreign currency trading activities. KFHL set as a strategic intention the acquisition of an additional 24.9% stake in CFX Holdings to safeguard the initial investment and ensure management control. This did not work out. Instead, Sean Maloney opted out and took over the failed Universal Merchant Bank licence to form CFX Merchant Bank. Although Kingdom executives contend that the alliance failed due to the abolition of bureau de change by government, it appears that Sean Maloney refused to give up control of the extra shareholding sought by Kingdom. It therefore would be reasonable that once Kingdom could not control KFX, a fall out ensued. The liquidation of this investment in 2002 resulted in a loss of Z$403 million on that investment. However this was manageable in light of the strong group profitability.

Pfihwa P/L financed the informal sector as a form of corporate social responsibility. However when the hyperinflationary environment and stringent regulatory environment encroached on the viability of the project, it was wound up in early 2004. Kingdom pursued its financing of the informal sector through MicroKing, which was established with international assistance. By 2002 MicroKing had eight branches located in the midst of, or near, micro-enterprise clusters.

In 2000, due to increased activity on the foreign currency front within the banking sector, Kingdom opened a private banking facility through the discount house to exploit revenue streams from this market. Following market trends, it engaged the insurance company AIG to enter the bancassurance market in 2003.

Meikles Strategic Alliance

In 1999 the entrepreneurial Chanakira on advice from his executives and the legendary corporate finance team from Barclays bank led by the affable Hugh Van Hoffen entered into a strategic alliance with Meikles Africa whereby it injected some Z$322 million into Kingdom for an equity shareholding of 25%. Interestingly, the deal nearly collapsed on pricing as Meikles only wanted to pay $250 million whilst KFHL valued themselves at Z$322 million which in real terms was the largest private sector deal done between an indigenous bank and a listed corporate. Nigel testifies that it was a walk through the incomplete Celebration Church site on the Saturday preceding the signing of the Meikles deal that led him to sign the deal which he saw as a means for him to sow a whopping seed into the church to boost the Building Fund. God was faithful! Kingdom’s share price shot up dramatically from $2,15 at the time he made the commitment to the Pastor all the way to $112,00 by the following October!

In return Kingdom acquired a powerful cash-rich shareholder that allowed it entrance into retail banking through an innovative in-store banking strategy. Meikles Africa opened its retail branches, namely TM Supermarkets, Clicks, Barbours, Medix Pharmacies and Greatermans, as distribution channels for Kingdom commercial bank or as account holders providing deposits and requiring banking services. This was a cheaper way of entering retail banking. It proved useful during the 2003 cash crisis because Meikles with its massive cash resources within its business units assisted Kingdom Bank, thus cushioning it from a liquidity crisis. The alliance also raised the reputation and credibility of Kingdom Bank and created an opportunity for Kingdom to finance Meikles Africa’s customers through the jointly owned Meikles Financial Services. Kingdom provided the funding for all lease and hire purchases from Meikles’ subsidiaries, thus driving sales for Meikles while providing easy lending opportunities for Kingdom. Meikles managed the relationship with the client.

Meikles Africa as a strategic shareholder assured Kingdom of success when recapitalisation was required and has enhanced Kingdom’s brand image. This strategic relationship has created powerful synergies for mutual benefit.

Commercial Banking

Exploiting the opportunities arising from the strategic relationship with Meikles Africa, Kingdom made its debut into retail banking in January 2001 with in-store branches at High Glen and Chitungwiza TM supermarkets. The target was principally the mass market. This rode on the strong brand Kingdom had created through the Unit Trusts. In-store banking offered low cost delivery channels with minimal investment in brick and mortar. By the end of 2001, thirteen branches were operational across the country. This followed a deliberate strategy for aggressive roll-out of the branches with two flagship branches ïEUR­ïEUR one in Bulawayo and the other in Harare. There was a huge emphasis on an IT driven strategy with significant cross-selling between the commercial bank and other SBUs.

However, it was further discovered that there was a market for the upmarket clients and hence Crown banking outlets were established to diversify the target market. In 2004, after closing three in-store branches in a rationalization exercise, there were 16 in-store branches and 9 Crown banking outlets.

The entrance into commercial banking was probably held at the wrong time, considering the imminent changes in the banking industry. Commercial banking does provide cheap deposits, however at the price of huge staff costs and human resource management complications. Nigel concedes that, with hindsight, this could have been delayed or done at a slower pace. However, the need for increased market share in a fiercely competitive industry necessitated this. Another reason for persisting with the commercial banking project was that of prior agreements with Meikles Africa. It is possible that Meikles Africa had been sold on the equity take-up deal on the back of promises to engage in in-store banking, which would increase revenue for its subsidiaries.

Innovative Products and Services

KFHL continued its aggressive pursuit of product innovation. After the failure of the KFX project, CurrencyKing was established to continue the work. However this was abolished in November 2002 by government ministerial intervention when bureau de change were prohibited in an effort to stamp out parallel market foreign currency trading.

Sadly this governmental decision was misguided for not only did it fail to banish foreign currency parallel trading but it drove underground, made it more lucrative and subsequently the government lost all control of the management of the exchange rate.

In October 2002, KFHL established Kingdom Leasing after being granted a finance house licence. Its mandate was to exploit opportunities to trade in financial leases, lease hire and short term financial products.

Regional Expansion

Around 2000 it became evident that the domestic market was highly competitive, with limited prospects of future growth. A decision was made to diversify revenue streams and reduce country risk through penetration into the regional markets. This strategy would exploit the proven competences in securities trading, asset management and corporate advisory services from a small capital base. Therefore the entrance had low risk in terms of capital injection. Considering the foreign exchange control limitations and shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe, this was a prudent strategy but not without its downside, as will be seen in the Botswana venture.

In 2001, KFHL acquired a 25.1% stake in a greenfield banking enterprise in Malawi, First Discount House Ltd. To safeguard its investment and ensure managerial control, an executive director and dealer were seconded to the Malawi venture while Nigel Chanakira chaired the Board. This investment has continued to grow and yield positive returns. As of July 2006 Kingdom had finally managed to up its stake from 25,1% to 40% in this investment and may ultimately control it to the point of seeking a conversion of the license to a commercial bank.

KFHL also took up a 25% equity stake in Investrust Merchant Bank Zambia. Franky Kufa was seconded to it as an executive director while Nigel took a seat on the Board.

KFHL had been promised an option to gain a controlling stake. However when the bank stabilized, the Zambian shareholders entered into some questionable transactions and were not prepared to allow KFHL to up it’s stake and so KFHL decided to pull out as relationships turned frosty. The Zambian Central Bank intervened with a promise to grant KFHL its own banking license. This did not materialize as the Zambian Central Bank exploited the banking crisis in Zimbabwe to deny KHFL a licence. A reasonable premium of Z$2.5 billion was obtained at disinvestment.

In Botswana, a subsidiary called Kingdom Bank Africa Ltd (KBAL) was established as an offshore bank in the International Finance Centre. KBAL was intended to spearhead and manage regional initiatives for Kingdom. It was headed by Mrs Irene Chamney, seconded by Lysias Sibanda with the concurrence of Nigel after managerial challenges in Zimbabwe. Two other senior executives were seconded there. She successfully set up the KBAL’s banking infrastructure and had good relations with the Botswana authorities.

However, the business model chosen of an offshore bank ahead of a domestic Botswana merchant bank license turned out to be the Achilles heel of the bank more so when the Zimbabwe banking crisis set in between 2003 and 2005. There were fundamental differences in how Mrs Chamney and Chanakira saw the bank surviving and going forward.

Ultimately, it was deemed prudent for Mrs. Chamney to leave the bank in 2005. In 2001 KFHL acquired the mandate as the sole distributor of the American Express card in the whole of Africa except for RSA. This was handled through KBAL. Kingdom Private Bank was transferred from the discount house to become a subsidiary of KBAL due to the prevailing regulatory environment in Zimbabwe.

In 2004 KBAL was temporarily placed under curatorship due to undercapitalisation. At this stage the parent company had regulatory constraints that prevented foreign currency capital injection.

A solution was found in the sourcing of local partners and the transfer of US$1 million previously realised from the proceeds of the Investrust liquidation to Botswana. Nigel Chanakira took a more active management role in KBAL because of its huge strategic significance to the future of KFHL. Currently efforts are underway to acquire a local commercial bank licence in Botswana as well. Once this is acquired there are two possible scenarios, namely maintaining both licences or giving up the offshore licence.

The interviewees were divided in their opinion on this. However in my view, judging from the stakeholder power involved, KFHL is likely to give up the off shore banking licence and use the local Kingdom Bank Botswana (Pula Bank) licence for regional and domestic expansion.

Human Resources

The staff complement grew from the initial 23 in 1995 to more than 947 by 2003. The growth was consistent with the growing institution. It exploded, especially during the launch and expansion of the commercial bank. Kingdom from inception had a strong human resourcing strategy which entailed significant training both internally and externally. Before the foreign currency crisis, employees were sent for training in such countries as RSA, Sweden, India and the USA. In the person of Faith Ntabeni Bhebhe, Kingdom had an energetic HR driver who created powerful HR systems for the emerging behemoth.

As a sign of its commitment to building the human resource capability, in 1998 Kingdom Financial Services entered a management agreement with Holland based AMSCO for the provision of seasoned bankers. Through this strategic alliance Kingdom strengthened its skills base and increased opportunities for skills transfer to locals. This helped the entrepreneurial bankers create a solid managerial system for the bank while the seasoned bankers from Holland compensated for the youthfulness of the emerging bankers. What a foresight!

In-house self-paced interactive learning, team building exercises and mentoring were all part of the learning menu targeted at developing the human resource capacity of the group. Work and job profiling was introduced to best match employees to suitable posts. Career path and succession planning were embraced. Kingdom was the first entrepreneurial bank to have smooth unforced CEO transitions. The founding CEO passed on the baton to Lysias Sibanda in 1999 as he stepped into the role of Group CEO and board deputy chair. His role was now to pursue and spearhead global and regional niche financial markets. A few years later there was another change of the guard as

Franky Kufa stepped in as Group CEO to replace Sibanda, who resigned on medical grounds. One could argue that these smooth transitions were due to the fact that the baton was passing to founding directors.

With the explosive growth in staff complement due to the commercial bank project, culture issues emerged. Consequently, KFHL engaged in an enculturation programme resulting in a culture revolution dubbed “Team Kingdom”. This culture had to be reinforced due to dilutions through significant mergers and acquisitions, significant staff turnover because of increased competition, emigration to greener pastures and the age profile of the staff increased the risk of high mobility and fraudulent activities in collusion with members of the public. Culture changes are difficult to effect and their effectiveness even harder to assess.

In 2004, with a high staff turnover of around 14%, a compensation strategy that ring fenced critical skills like IT and treasury was implemented. Due to the low margins and the financial stress experienced in 2004, KFHL lost more than 341 staff members due to retrenchment, natural attrition and emigration. This was acceptable as profitability fell while staff costs soared. At this stage, staff costs accounted for 58% of all expenses.

Despite the impressive growth, the financial performance when inflation adjusted was mediocre. Actually a loss position was reported in 2004. This growth was severely compromised by the hyperinflationary conditions and the restrictive regulatory environment.

Conclusion

This article shows the determination of entrepreneurs to push through to the realisation of their dreams despite significant odds. In a subsequent article we will tackle the challenges faced by Nigel Chanakira in solidifying his investments.

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Trademark Application: Online Tools to Protect Your Investment

Many businesses understand the benefits of trademarks for their products and services, in protecting them from the time and monetary investment in developing those products and services. However, many organisations and businesses are unaware of the need to register these trademarks to comprehensively protect their brand and business offerings.

Without the security of a registered trademark, a business risks losing the investment, or minimising the effect of, developmental and marketing efforts that it engages in. Competitors in the same or similar industries could potentially own a trademark with comparative qualities and identity in order to market products and services that replicate the business model. This could not only affect the revenue generating capability of the business by increasing the level of competition in the marketplace, but could lead to a damage of the image that has been created; resulting in a lower perception of quality by current and potential customers. Given the importance of securing your investment made in the marketplace, as well as securing the business future, legally registering the interest through the trademark application process is essential.

Applying for a trademark application, and upon finalisation, provides numerous benefits to the business, including that they are able to strongly differentiate their identity and products in the marketplace from their competitors. Furthermore, the trademark can act as a marketing instrument which empowers a company to control the image and perception presented to the market. An important commercial asset, applying for a trademark application can provide a level of quality to consumers, guaranteeing potential buyers of the quality of the products and services being sold.

The brand and logo of the company is the physical representation of the quality of the business. Successful logos and brands evoke instant feelings of trust, credibility and a desire by the consumers to purchase from the brand in question. This is why it is imperative that a trademark application be processed for the company’s design work, images, colour, fonts and other components that make up the logo and brand.

Since the inception of the internet, people have been turning to the web to source important information; and with the recent trends in websites providing online assistance and purchasing, a majority of consumers are turning to the internet to source information and purchase online. Trademark applications are no exception, with industry leading business protection companies developing software and wizards which guide the user through the trademark application process; alerting the user to important issues and prompting where other additional information may be required.

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You Can Get a Personal Loan After Bankruptcy

Having survived bankruptcy, you may think that your world is topsy-turvy. Well, that is not exactly true. Your declaration may leave an indelible mark on your credit history that is hard to entirely escape, but remember, you are not the only one. Over 250 thousand bankruptcy declarations are filed every three months in this nation. Many of these are due to the economic and financial turmoil the global economy that has dealt us all some hurt this last half-decade.

Joblessness, Illness, Bad Luck

The unemployment rate, perhaps poor health, or just plain old bad luck, have caused many to become behind on important monthly obligations such as housing or transportation or grocery bills. When these unpaid obligations start to pile up, they can have a snowball effect and get worse with each ensuing month. As a last resort, to protect whatever assets are still surviving, some have no other recourse than to declare bankruptcy. Having come out of bankruptcy, many should consider it as a way to wipe the slate clean and start rebuilding toward the future and improving their creditworthiness.

Up by the Boot Straps with a Personal Loan after Bankruptcy

Rebuilding your creditworthiness and your good name could very well start with taking out a personal loan. Whether taking out a secured or unsecured loan, go for it. One secret is to not stop borrowing. Just remember that an unsecured loan will charge you a higher interest rate than a secured loan. A secured loan is one that is backed by an asset you own, such as real estate or a vehicle. Whatever transpires, please do not neglect this loan in terms of repayment on time every time. You are being granted a second chance and it would be wise to not spoil it.

Potential for Repayment

Depending on factors such as collateral, salary, and even personal recommendations, personal loans are available that range from $500 to $20,000. Income will be a primary consideration when loan amounts are figured. Some financial advisers suggest that individuals who have experienced a bankruptcy can start at $5K or below for a first personal loans ensuing a bankruptcy discharge. If the need is great and the payback potential great, a loan could be higher than that.

Some Extra Help

If you have no collateral, your best bet for a personal loan after bankruptcy would be to have a financially secure cosigner. Unsecured or no-collateral loans are riskiest for lenders so interest rates will be high. To lower these rates, having a cosigner would be a good way to land a personal loan after bankruptcy. The cosigner must be aware that they are liable for the loan should you default for whatever reason.

Seek Far and Wide

Because there are so many folks who have found themselves financially strapped, there are many private lenders who have stepped in to answer the calls of the market regarding personal loans after bankruptcy. You will find a plethora of these lenders on the internet. Simply punch bankruptcy loans into your favorite search engine and you will be rewarded with many lenders willing to take a chance on bankruptcy clients. You will pay higher than usual interest rates, but you will also find that they can be lower than expected due to the competition in the market. As you can see, it is possible to get a personal loan after bankruptcy.

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A Proper Family Budget Meets All Financial Needs

To say that every family should have a monthly budget is an understatement. The only way to control your family's finances is with a budget that keeps track of where the money comes from and where it is absolutely spent. A budget, or cash flow plan for those who do not like the B word, is a critical part of any family's secure financial future.

For most families a budget is far down the list of things that are important in the day to day happenings for most families. For most people doing a budget is another task for which they have little time to deal with. Unfortunately this is the reason so many families are having the financial problems that they are dealing with today. A budget can also be a divisive thing if it is used as a way to control the spending habits and place blamed for the financial failures being experienced. For a family budget to work properly it must be used as a tool by all family members that involves financial goals and compromise to reach them.

A budget is actually not that hard to create and keep simply because it is just a list of monthly income and expenses that is either either on a sheet of paper or on a computer equipped with budgeting software. The idea behind any budgeting process is to create a balance between income and expenses so that at the end of the month there is money left over to save, invest, and build wealth.

There is no concrete method for building a family budget because each family's financial needs are different. Some families may be saving for a new car or family vacation, while others are more intent on building savings and college funds. Most families start their budgeting process simply by writing everything down on a piece of paper but as their financial needs grow more complex they may find they need the services of a financial or investment planner.

Another thing to think about and discuss is what are your family's long term financial goals and how do these fit into and affect the monthly budget. It is important to consider not only the goals of individual family members but also the collective goals of the entire family as well. These can include such things as putting away money for a new home, saving for children's college fund, building that retirement nest egg, and probably the most important thing for any family building an emergency savings fund to protect against unforeseen financial emergencies.

The hardest part of finalizing the family budget is making sure you have all the monthly expenses written down. Missing even one or two can seriously affect your budget because at the end of the month you will have less money then originally budgeted for. Be sure to think of those surprise expenses which is particularly important if you have children. It always seems that some unforeseen expense pops up around one of the kid's school activities, or they need new glasses or braces, or something along those lines. Of course if you have an emergency fund in place you can use money from this for such things.

Setting up a proper family budget will not only help you meet your financial goals but will also save money over the long run. Not having money worries will make family life better for all concerned; it just takes a little time and patience.

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Welding Jobs: Ideas You Can Use At Home To Make Money Welding (No Boss While You Make $100,000)

What if you could make $100,000 a year welding from home?

What if you could make even an extra $500 a month from home, using your current skills? If you are a welder with basic welding skills and you are between jobs or you are being under paid in your current job, it might be worth your time to read this article – let’s think outside the box for just a minute on how you can make money welding from home.

From Home Welding # 1:

Teaching or tutoring any skill is a very profitable business. In any town of any size you’ll see at least one tutoring business in a strip mall brick and mortar location. In that same town will be at least a dozen other tutors working from home, making good money.

Yes, most of the time they are tutoring math and reading to students. Lean back and think about what skills you have that can also be used in a tutoring business you can set up and milk cash from, like milk from a cow.

Let’s say you are good enough with TIG to weld razor blades or pop can butts.

If you can teach a non welder to operate a TIG torch good enough to go on and practice on their own at their home in about 3 hours of your hands on theirs – they will pay up to $100 an hour for 3 hours of TIG instruction. Just 2 students a day would bring you $100,000 a year. If you think I’m kidding I’m NOT! There are many reasons why education is so valuable – and that includes intense, focused tutoring in welding.

6G pipe welding is the highest paid of all welding certifications – most 6G welders make $100k to $300k a year – and demand is crazy. However, if you are a 6G welder and you want to stay home, you can set up and teach 6G in your garage. Let’s say you do this with 7 students, each paying you $10,000 for a 3 month course. Yes, they will pay it – especially if you show them how they will have more time with your hand on theirs (the #1 secret to learning 6G fast).

From Home Welding # 2:

I was in Palm Springs the other day. I have been in and around the trades for 30 years… and when you see a tradesman’s truck and it is late model without dents or many scratches, clean, organized and well equipped, it means (99% of the time) that guy is making money.

I pulled up to a light behind just such a truck – “Joe’s BBQ Service and Repair.” That’s it – that is all Joe does. He will weld cast aluminum or steel. He’ll clean and polish. He’ll replace a burner or a control. OR he’ll buy your old unit and sell / or sell you a new one.

Yes, you need a town with a lot of high end BBQs. Other than that, go get it.

From Home Welding # 3:

Large steel cut outs. In art of all kinds, size matters. For example, 20 years ago we purchased two 4′ long coat racks – each is a piece of 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 1/8″ angle 4′ long with 6 horse shoes welded to the angle to hang the coats.

On the horizontal surface of the angle is welded a scene made of 7 horse and 7 tree cut-outs. We paid $185 for each of these 20 years ago… that would be about $300 a piece in today’s dollars.

The problem with you making these is that the 14 cut outs on each unit are too small too many to cut by hand – you need a computerized plasma table to make these.

Here is where the magic of size makes all the difference.

The artist who drew the cut outs on our coat rack was good. Each of the 7 horses is different and beautiful, as well as the trees. Any – or all of these – cut outs can be scaled up with chalk onto a sheet of say 4′ x 8′ x 3/16″ steel. Now, all you need is a plasma or an oxy torch to create the large version.

What would a horse cut from a 4′ x 8′ sheet sell for?

$300 to $700. It would depend on where you are and how you market it. Marketing is a large part of any business. Good marketing is not hard – you can do it.

You can see, if you could get a “business pipe” full of inventory and sales and you were delivering 2 horses a day, you could easily make $100k. The other major opportunity with big cut outs is gates. The key to all of this stuff in the art category is beautiful line drawings. If you are not an artist, hire one on the condition that they sign the copyright to you.

There are endless ideas to utilize even your most basic welding skills from home to make an excellent living or just extra money. The trick is:

Step A:

Find what will work best for you.

Step B:

Write out a simple plan of attack. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Many small businesses fail because the owner gets all wrapped up in the details and loses site of what is important. Here is what is important: Don’t spend money – MAKE MONEY!

Step C:

The first rule of business is to GET NOTICED. That is also the end goal of all marketing – once you have enough eyeballs on you, you will succeed. The common mistake is to leave marketing for last while concentrating on every little rule and piece of paper. A business license will do you no good if you don’t make money! Save your money and get it (if you really need one) when you make some money. Towns and cities will simply say, “do you have a business license?” When they ask, say: “I’m getting one now.”

Conclusion:

You are blessed to live in a country where you can go from nothing to something in a hurry. However, to get anywhere in a hurry requires running hard. You’ll never regret it.

What should you do next?

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Forex Trading Courses – Why They Are The Best Way to Learn Forex Quickly

If you want to learn Forex trading quickly and get on the road to Forex trading success, there are courses which can cut your learning curve and give you proven tools for success, lets look at the how the best courses can help you win.

Most new traders think there going to win by following an automated Forex robot and earn a regular income with no effort but in a market where 95% of traders lose, its obvious you need to make an effort and do some study. It is for this reason that more traders than ever before, are seeking out the best Forex courses.

The best courses are presented by experienced traders, who have been in the trenches and t have learned the hard way, they have made mistakes and found out what tools work and do not work and present you with proven strategies to help you enjoy currency trading success.

By giving you a proven Forex trading strategy, they cut your learning curve and all the best courses, will show you how their strategy works in real time, so you can see if it's profitable and in addition, gain confidence in the strategy so you can trade with confidence and discipline.

All the best courses are backed up by 100% money back guarantees, so you can learn with no risk and see if their strategy can lead you to success or not. You have the comfort of no risk and the fees for these courses are reasonable, usually around a hundred dollars so and this means any trader can afford them and one good trade will pay for them. The best courses will teach you skills that last a lifetime, full support from real traders and offer complete satisfaction or your money back.

So if you have ever wondered if you could become a successful Forex trader from home, try one of the best Forex trading courses and find out for yourself – risk free.

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