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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.

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An Investor’s Guide to Palm Oil

by Orinola Gbadebo-Smith

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.

15 minute readContinue Reading
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Why Are Emerging Market Currencies Volatile?

by Pedro Kniphoff

The attention on international payments tends to center around innovations appearing in the developed world. But what about developing countries? This article addresses what contributes to volatility and illiquidity in emerging market currencies, and how they can stabilize to become more flexible.

13 minute readContinue Reading
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Soul Hypercycle and the Wave of New Fitness Boutiques

by Matt Dixon

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.

12 minute readContinue Reading
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Meal Kit Industry Blues: How Can Blue Apron Lift Its Malaise?

by Michael Yarmo

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.

13 minute readContinue Reading
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2017 Holiday Spending Forecast: Will Be Better Than Expected

by Elizabeth J. Howell Hanano, CFA

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.

13 minute readContinue Reading
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The Wealth of Nations: Investment Strategies of Sovereign Wealth Funds

by Orinola Gbadebo-Smith

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.

13 minute readContinue Reading
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Are Corporate Responsibility Efforts Profitable?

by Melissa Lin

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.

11 minute readContinue Reading
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Exploring the Bear Case of the Cryptocurrency Bubble

by Jonathan Sterling

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.

16 minute readContinue Reading

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