Toptal Finance Blog

The Toptal Finance Blog is a hub for in-depth studies and analysis on all facets of finance, ranging from innovative strategies on raising capital to detailed coverage of new finance trends and technologies. Subscribe for daily updates.
Melissa Lin
Everything You Need to Know about the CVS-Aetna Merger

Candy, cosmetics… and medical care? In a vertical merger valued at a whopping $69 billion, your favorite stop-in, CVS, plans to buy Aetna. If it goes through, it will be the largest deal of 2017 and the largest healthcare deal to date.

Amidst all the buzz surrounding the merger, this article elucidates the motivations behind it, including operational cost-cutting, expanded services as a competitive advantage, and threats from both Amazon and UnitedHealth. This piece also explores potential market effects.

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Orinola Gbadebo-Smith
An Investor’s Guide to Palm Oil

To the novice investor or otherwise uninitiated, the ubiquity of palm oil as a global commodity cannot be overstated. It is a super crop with EBITDA margins > 50%, is the world’s most consumed edible oil, and is one of the most versatile raw material/substrate bases known to industry.

This article explores the sparsely understood world of palm, including its cultivation, harvest, and application processes; its financial and investment profile; and ultimately the trends governing its future.

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Matt Dixon
Soul Hypercyle and the Wave of New Fitness Boutiques

The fitness industry is large, growing steadily and rapidly evolving. Since the 1980s, health club locations and memberships have more than tripled to 36,000 and 57 million, respectively. Yet, over the past decade, 35% of its customer base has shifted away from incumbent brands.

This article analyzes some of the shifts in the fitness industry that are illustrative of broader economic issues and highlights interesting implications for other consumer-facing businesses.

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Michael Yarmo
Meal Kit Industry Blues: How Can Blue Apron Lift Its Malaise?

In the past five years, Blue Apron has brought meal kits to the masses and commands a 40% market share in the USA. Yet all is not rosy; its financial losses have continually accelerated and it has ceded 17% of its market share in the past year.

Amazon buying Whole Foods on the eve of its 2017 IPO could have just been bad luck, or prescient signs of what’s to come for Blue Apron. This article looks at ways that the business can get its house in order and win back the Millennial kitchen.

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Elizabeth J. Howell Hanano, CFA
2017 Holiday Spending Forecast: Will Be Better Than Expected

Retail investors have had a rough year. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF has underperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 30 percentage points. From eCommerce shifts to higher gas prices, there are plenty of arguments to be made against retail. Yet, there are a couple reasons to be jolly heading into the holiday season that few are talking about.

In this article, Elizabeth Hanano, CFA suggests that low expectations combined with lesser-known tailwinds indicate it may be time to dip a toe back into the retail pond.

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Orinola Gbadebo-Smith
The Wealth of Nations: Investment Strategies of Sovereign Wealth Funds

Since their emergence in the early 2000s, Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) have been met with both curiosity and trepidation, existing somewhere between return-maximizing asset manager and clandestine government agency.

This article takes us into the $7.4 trillion world of the SWF, shedding light on objectives, ambitions, and mandates as well as allocation strategies.

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Melissa Lin
Are Corporate Responsibility Efforts Profitable?

Financial purists have long questioned whether corporate, environmental, and social initiatives benefit the bottom line and how to quantify their impact.

In this article, we put aside motive—of genuine altruism or self interest—and philosophical debates around moral obligation. Instead, we examine the results of studies around whether corporate responsibility initiatives positively impact profitability, examples of companies that have implemented such measures successfully, and recommendations for those looking to do so.

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Jonathan Sterling
Exploring the Bear Case of the Cryptocurrency Bubble

The arguments for a cryptocurrency revolution can tend to sway toward appearing more like get-rich-quick schemes than balanced debates. The regulatory risk overhang, constant scams, and technological immaturity of the movement mean that long-term success is far from certain.

In this article, Jonathan Sterling addresses the other side of the argument: the bear case for a crypto future. He shines a light on the problems blighting cryptocurrencies and some remedies for them, drawing upon comparisons with historic bubbles, some centuries old.

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Gregory Thompson
Small Data, Big Opportunities

By now, most have heard of Big Data – the buzzword d’jour across most business circles. In this exploratory piece, Finance Expert, Gregory Thompson, introduces us to the wonderful world of Small Data.

Specifically, he guides us through its broader market dynamics, tools, players and solutions, and includes a practical implementation guide for how small businesses might add analytics as a core-capability to their respective business arsenals.

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Melissa Lin
Celebrity Investors Take Over Silicon Valley

Today, there are many celebrities that have become investors, and many investors that are borderline celebrities. One thing is clear: The division between Hollywood and Silicon Valley has become increasingly blurred. Though in the past it has been common for famous entertainers, musicians, or actors to grow their wealth through real estate, royalties, or restaurants, celebrities today are turning towards tech investments.

This article explores why celebrities are drawn to Silicon Valley, the types of companies they invest in, different models of their involvement, and commentary on how it impacts the tech industry.

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Elizabeth J. Howell Hanano, CFA
Pearls of Wisdom - The Best Shareholder Letters Nobody Is Reading

Equity analysts often leave out an important source of wisdom when analyzing companies—the annual shareholder letter. This article intends to elucidate the purpose and traits of good shareholder letters based on an analysis of the 601 companies in the S&P SmallCap 600 Index. The article will also direct readers to some of the best lesser-known shareholder letters to put on their annual reading list.

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Mauro F. Romaldini, ACMA CGMA
How Is the International Money Transfer Market Evolving?

With the global workforce becoming increasingly mobile, international money transfers (“remittances”) have equally grown in prominence, passing the $530 billion a year mark in 2016.

Fees for transfers are at an all-time low, thanks to pressure from bodies such as the UN, which is providing consumers with more value. But how are transfer companies responding to this pressure and what steps are they taking to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack?

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Marty Mooney
Why Every Business Should Build Weekly Cash Flow Forecasts

When most finance professionals hear the term “13 week cash Forecast,” they view it as a burden—one more task to appease an overbearing lender. It doesn’t help that it seems less exciting than analyzing an investment or acquisition. Therefore, people often only prioritize these forecasts in distressed situations, when it is too late to take corrective actions.

However, in this article, Toptal Finance Expert Marty Mooney argues that weekly cash forecasts are crucial for all businesses, irrespective of size, health, or sector. It also provides a simple tutorial for efficiently building such analyses.

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Alex Graham
Fintech and Banks: How Can the Banking Industry Respond to the Threat of Disruption?

Fintech attention tends to focus on startups and their efforts to unbundle the financial service industry’s suite of services. But how are banks responding to this disruptive threat? Despite their wealth, talent, and rich history of innovation, they have been sluggish to respond to the upstart movement.

This article suggest four ways banks can change their tact and respond better to fintech.

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Francesco Castellano
Commercial Drones Are Revolutionizing Business Operations

When most hear “drone,” they think expensive military aircrafts or small consumer toys. However, the future of drones will actually be shaped by practical commercial applications, due to their ability to drive efficiency and data analytics.

This article defines drones and their total addressable market and highlights how their capabilities can be leveraged in commercial business operations. It also includes investment trends and predictions for the future of the industry.

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Orinola Gbadebo-Smith
Bridgewater's Ray Dalio: Quiet Pioneer of Big Data, Machine Learning, and Fintech

Ray Dalio is an investing legend whose success is most often attributed to investment acumen. This article argues that it was equally due to his foresight as an early but quiet adopter of computational systems, big data techniques, and artificial intelligence that resulted in his outstanding success. Bridgewater was one of the world’s earliest fintech companies.

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Alex Graham
Great Recent Examples of Competitive Strategy Successes

Competitive strategy frameworks are widely known and mainstays of university curricula, despite being almost 40 years old. We often hear the stories of Walmart and Southwest Airlines, but what modern examples are there? In this article we use Michael Porter’s activity positioning framework to show successful applications of competitive strategy from modern digital companies.

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Orinola Gbadebo-Smith
Why More Entrepreneurs are Choosing To Build Search Funds over Startups

Search funds, though once an esoteric asset class and model for entrepreneurship, have seen a substantial rise in popularity in recent years. They can often represent a superior alternative to the venture-backed startup route especially for a select cohort of formally trained entrepreneurs, most of all those who deeply understand their motives, risk appetites, and contextual/financial encumbrances.

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Melissa Lin
Cybersecurity: What Every CEO and CFO Should Know

$7.35 million. That’s the average cost of a data breach is. Sure, cybersecurity isn’t sexy. However, in today’s digital age, it is undeniably critical for large corporations and small startups alike. This is compounded by the fact that hacks are becoming commonplace.

Read on to arm yourself with awareness to these invisible threats, and tangible steps you can take to protect yourself and your company.

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