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Selecting the right bank for you



Selecting the right bank for you

Opening a bank account is a simple job. There are many banks where you can open an account. The question is how to decide the bank where you can open the account. You may be opening an account for the first time or maybe opening an additional account. In either case, you will need to put some thought into it to find the bank that offers the best services to fit your needs.

You will need to look at the financial aspects involved. Banks charge you for the services provided. You will want to look for a bank that has the most competitive charges. This doesn’t mean that you use fees alone as the criteria to select a bank, but it should be considered before opting to bank there.

The following are the criteria or factors that you can consider before selecting a bank.

  1. Your needs today and for the future

This is the first criteria to consider while selecting a bank. What areyour expectations from the bank? Do you want a bank account where only your paycheck would be deposited every month? Do you want a bank account to avail of services like deposits? The answers to these questions will help you decide on a bank. Apart from your needs for today, you also need to keep in mind the needs for the future.

It is possible that you commence a business. Can the bank help you open a business account? Can you get an overdraft when you need it? Does the bank offer services beneficial for a business? You would need to get the answers to these questions to help you take a decision. It is possible that you may physically shift your place of residence or work, in which case you would want to change the bank. You need to consider whether the bank offers a facility to transfer your account to another branch.

Apart from this, you would also want to consider their online services or mobile banking services. This is convenient as you don’t have to visit the bank. You can carry out all your transactions from the comfort of your home. The trend today favors online and mobile banking. These are the aspects related to your present and future needs that can help you decide a bank to open an account. You need to find out if the bank offers all that you need.

  1. Fees and charges

Banks charge fees for their services. Once you know what services you want from a bank, the next thing is to look at the fees charged. When you open a bank account, the bank would charge you an annual/monthly fee. Different banks charge different fees. The big banks would naturally charge higher fees. This is because they offer a larger bouquet of services. There are also online banks that do most of the work through the internet. Since they don’t have expenditure on running a branch, they offer a lower fee.

You would be justified in expecting a lower fee for a savings or checking account. When the annual or monthly fee is high, you can consider a bank that charges a lower rate. The only reason why you should be willing to pay a higher fee is if the bank offers additional services that you need. Apart from the monthly fee, the charges for overdraft should also be considered. If you plan to use overdraft facility, then you would need to select a bank that charges you lesser fees for using overdraft facility.

Banks also charge fees for various transactions carried out. They may charge a fee for bank transfers. Fees may also be charged for issuing checkbooks. Fees may be charged for ATM usage. You need to consider all these fees before taking a decision. You can first shortlist a few banks based on the services you need. You can then make a comparative chart listing out the charges for all the services, including maintenance charges. This will help you make a decision easily.

  1. Rates offered by the bank

Apart from the charges levied by the bank, there are also the rates that the bank offer. When you open a savings account in a bank, the bank would pay you interest.  It would not be much, but it does matter. Similarly, when you deposit money and get a certificate of deposit, you would be paid interest on it. This is one of the investment options where you can earn returns. You can consider these rates also before deciding on where to open an account.

However, if you are not planning to obtain a certificate of deposit then you need not give too much importance to this. Similarly, the fees charged are more significant than the interest paid on savings accounts. If you need to choose between a bank that offers a higher savings interest and a bank that charges a lower monthly fee, you would do well to choose the bank charging a lower fee. The difference in savings interest is hardly significant. The maintenance charges would matter more.

  1. Access to bank branches and ATMs

If you enjoy going to the branch or using the ATM this is going to be a primary concern for you.If this is the case, then you may prefer opening an account with a bank that has branches convenient for you to visit. If you visit ATMs to withdraw or deposit funds than the bank you select should have a network of ATMs that would be convenient for you. You should open an account with a bank that allows you access to its branches and ATMs in a convenient way.

  1. Is your money safe?

When you open a bank account and deposit your money, you would expect safety. The safety of the money you deposit should be covered under insurance. In the US, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) secures the deposits of banks. If you prefer to open an account with a credit union, then it should be backed by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration). Such a backing guarantees that your deposit will be safe.

Do not open an account in a bank or credit union that does not have such backing. You can visit the websites of these institutions to get a list of banks that are insured. Check if the bank where you wish to open an account is listed or not.

  1. Are investment options available?

As discussed above, you can deposit money to get a certificate of deposit that earns you interest for a period of time. While the interest rates offered by banks are not very high, it is a risk-free investment. Banks also offer other investment services. This includes opening a retirement account where you can save money for your retirement. You can even buy mutual funds through your bank. These investments can be made in any bank of your choice. It would be convenient if you could do all your banking related operations in one bank.

That is the reason why you need to find out if your bank offers these services. When you wish to avail of value added services of banks, you would be required to maintain a higher sum of money as your account balance. There are additional charges for using these services. You need to consider all these before deciding which bank to go with.

  1. Is the bank technology-enabled?

The bank where you open an account should make use of technology to offer you internet banking and mobile banking. Banking using your computer or mobile is easy and convenient. Most banks offer this facility for customers. Confirm if the bank or credit union you have shortlisted offers these services. You also need to check if the services are free or if you would need to pay money to use the services.

Some banks even allow you to deposit checks by sending its photograph if you are in some other location. If you need such a service, you can enquire if the bank offers it. Most banks send you alerts to your mobile phones. This will ensure you are updated on all the transactions happening in your account. Do check if the bank offers this service and if you would be charged for it.

  1. Customer service provided

Customer service is a very important activity in all customer-driven organizations, including banks. The bank of your choice should have a customer service team that can help you with any problems or address your queries. Customer service centers would be available on call 24/7. They would also have online chat options for you to answer your queries and solve your problems.  In case you have a complaint, you need to know what the mechanism of the bank is to accept and resolve your complaint.

  1. Bank timings

When you bank through the internet, the bank is open for you 24/7. Branches work only for a specific time duration every day. Some banks keep their branches open in the evenings. This would be useful for working people who do not get time in the day hours to visit the bank. You can give a higher weightage to the bank that offers such a facility. If you wish to deposit cash, you may need to visit the branch. This would be difficult if you do not have time during the bank working hours. Find out if you can deposit cash at the bank’s ATM. This facility would be convenient if you have a requirement of depositing cash.

Now that you are clear with the criteria to select a bank, it is time to take a quick look at the type of banks where you can open an account. They include:

  1. National and International banks: These are banks that have branches all over the country and across the world. These banks are large and offer a variety of services to cater to all needs of customers. They also would have multiple branches and ATMs for you to access. They would usually charge higher fees. The rates they offer on deposits tend to be less.
  2. Local banks: These are smaller banks operating at the state or county level. They may have just one branch or more than one in a small geographical area. They would offer all the services that are generally expected from banks. They would have limited number of ATMs and branches. The fees they charge would be on the higher side, but the rates on deposits would be reasonable.
  3. Credit unions: These are community-oriented banks that usually operate on a non-profit basis. They offer all the basic services. They usually charge lesser fees from customers. They also pay more interest on deposits. Most credit unions are part of a network and hence you can access ATMs belonging to other credit unions too.
  4. Online banks: These banks don’t have branches and work only online. They offer limited products, charge a very less fee, and offer higher interest rates. They usually do not have ATMs but allow you to use ATMs of other banks at a fee.

A bank account gives you access to many services, including access to investment products. Before opening a bank account, it would be advisable to spend some time evaluating banks based on the criteria discussed. Compare the services and the fees/charges, before you decide where to open your account.


How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world



How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world 1

By Billel Ridelle, CEO at Sweep

Times are pretty tough for businesses right now. For SMEs in particular, a global financial and health crisis of the sort we’re currently witnessing represents a truly existential risk. Yet there is hope of a brighter future. Digital transformation is already helping organisations in countless sectors, with everything from building supply chain resilience to rolling out potentially life-saving contact-tracing schemes. Yet it’s not just delivering transformative benefits in grand projects like this.

Thanks to open banking rules, a new wave of fintech innovation is sweeping the globe, offering business leaders a new launchpad for success. Even something as simple as corporate expenses can be transformed by the power of open data — to help firms cut costs, reduce fraud risk and become more productive.

Opening up data to innovation

It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical details of open banking, and the slew of new acronyms it has ushered in: Third Party Providers (TPPs), Account Information Service Providers (AISPs), Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs), and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Yet at the heart of the open banking revolution is a simple concept: the idea that forcing banks to open up their customers’ financial data will create more competition, and fresh opportunities for market entrants to create innovative new services.

This was at the heart of the UK government’s world-leading strategy when it was introduced back in 2016. A revised EU payment services directive (PSD2) gave it legal teeth, mandating that all payment account providers in the region provide third-party access for customers that want it. The push is also about reducing banking fees and enhancing financial inclusion, of course, but it’s in competition and innovation that the benefits really shine for businesses.

Access to real-time financial data via open APIs has already resulted in a range of new services which are helping businesses ride out the current economic storm. Whether it’s capabilities that can help freelancers prove loss of income to receive targeted loans, or services designed to streamline business processes to reduce costs and fraud — examples of innovation are endless.

What’s more, it’s already global. Aside from the PSD2, open banking rules are taking shape in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico and elsewhere. According to frequently cited Gartner predictions, regulators in around half of the G20 countries will create an open banking API regime over the coming year.

In the UK alone this is set to create a £7.2 billion revenue opportunity by 2022, with 71% of SMBs and 64% of adults expected to adopt it by then, according to PwC.

Making expenses pay

Corporate expenses and travel management might not be an area one immediately associates with high levels of innovation. But here too, open banking is having a profound impact. By combining automation, in-app approvals, integration with corporate policy and secure open banking APIs, companies like Sweep are offering new ways to solve old problems.

Part of the legacy challenge relates to productivity. Managing corporate travel costs and expenses was cited last year as the biggest concern of the UK’s small and mid-sized firms. Separate research claimed that SMBs are estimated to lose over £8.7 billion annually due to the time it takes employees and managers to complete these menial tasks. By automatically integrating real-time corporate bank account information into an easy-to-use app, we can save up to 15 hours a month on data input and travel administration per employee. That’s all time they could be spending on growing the business.

Another key area of concern is fraud. According to some estimates, fraudulent expenses claims could be costing UK firms £1.9 billion each year. In the US, the figure could be approaching $3 billion annually. Whether it’s the result of submitting expense claims for personal purchases, claiming for additional mileage on work trips, or over-claiming for other items, it all adds up. What’s more, fraud tends to spike particularly during times of recession, when normally diligent employees look for ways to supplement their income.

In this use case too, there are benefits to be had from open banking-powered solutions. Traditional manual processes offer too many gaps that can be exploited by fraudsters. Submitting paper receipts to finance departments — which must then input the information into spreadsheets or accounting software — is slow, error-prone and lacks accountability. However, with modern digital systems, transactions are automatically fed through from bank account to expense management platform. Here they are seamlessly checked according to policy and automatically approved, rejected or flagged for further investigation.

The future’s open

Thanks to the power of open banking, innovative fintech use cases like this are transforming operational challenges into opportunities to cut costs and fraud risks, improve employee productivity and become more strategic. With real-time data fed through from corporate bank accounts, finance directors can better understand spending patterns, react with greater agility and gain the insight they need to run their businesses more efficiently.

So what of the future? The good news is that open banking is only just getting started. As more sophisticated machine learning algorithms are developed, it has the potential for even greater disruption by empowering SMEs with predictive analytics and forecasting tools, or more accurate fraud checks, for example. Those in Europe may benefit most as PSD2 allows businesses to use tools that work seamlessly and securely across markets, without requiring any duplication of work.

In fact, open banking is not just good for individual SMEs, it’s important for Europe as a whole if we are ever to nurture successful digital unicorns to compete with those coming out of the US and China.

Open banking been described in the past as a quiet revolution. With the right buy-in from business and the continued innovation of digital platforms, it may soon become a full-throated roar.

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Banks take note: Customers want to pay with points



Banks take note: Customers want to pay with points 2

By Len Covello, Chief Technology Officer of Engage People

‘Pay with Points’ – that is, integrating the ability to pay with loyalty reward points directly into the online check-out process – is a trend that is growing exponentially with big-name brands like Amazon, PayPal and American Express leading the way.

The past few months have posed an unprecedented challenge in the loyalty space, especially with the pandemic’s impact on travel. The unforeseen impacts across the board have caused institutions with premier incentive credit cards to feel increased pressure to retain their loyalty members. As such, exploring innovative ways to create a personalized loyalty experience for customers is at the forefront now more than ever.

Offering the flexibility to pay with points is certainly one option that can help transform financial institutions’ (FIs) loyalty programs. With the evolution of consumer preferences – like relying on other forms of payment outside of credit and the move towards contactless payments – viewing points as currency naturally ties into the “new ways” in which American consumers bank, pay and shop.

Personalization is a win-win for banks and loyalty program members

As the world continues to evolve in light of the pandemic, consumer habits like mobile banking and shopping online for groceries are likely to carry over long-term. As a result, consumers will expect their loyalty programs to provide new incentives to fit their ever-changing needs. By offering loyalty program members the ability to pay with points for the items they want or need during the online check-out process, FIs are creating a more personalized shopping experience. This can help increase member retention, especially compared to dated loyalty programs that offer limited options for point redemption.

As we’ve learned with iPhones, tap to pay and other technologies that reduce friction, once consumers begin using a new and convenient digital service, there’s little desire to go back to the old way of doing things. By incorporating pay with points into loyalty programs sooner rather than later, FIs will be setting themselves apart in terms of meeting their member’s needs with modern payment offerings.

Outside of providing a personalized experience to loyalty program members, pay with points as a program perk also has specific benefits when it comes to a bank’s bottom line. Currently, there are billions of dollars in liabilities in the form of unused points sitting on banks balance sheets. This is in part due to loyalty program members inability to spend their points how they want. By allowing a more personal and flexible way to spend points, banks can reduce those liabilities while creating a more engaging experience for their members.

Meeting consumer demand is easier than you think

Incorporating the infrastructure to power new digital capabilities is more often than not a cause for concern: how expensive will it be? What does down time look like? How long will it take to get up and running?

Luckily for banks, the process is actually quite simple – and inexpensive. With a lightweight integration of a few APIs, banks can tap into a pool of retailers to make their merchandise available for purchase with points by loyalty program members in no time. And as the retail network expands, there’s no need for additional IT work to add new brands into the fold. Ultimately, API integrations upfront create a frictionless and scalable solution for FIs and a preferred shopping experience for members. And based on market feedback, the personalized experience that results from giving customers the option to spend points as easily as they would cash or card, far exceeds any initial inconveniences that may arise.

According to our recent Customer Loyalty Survey, 75% of customers are more likely to spend loyalty reward points to make a purchase over other payment methods. The findings also indicated that 72% of customers are actively engaged in loyalty programs because of the available redemption options.

Long-term loyalty is not just about acquisition or promotional material, but rather the experience of redemption and viewing loyalty points through a fresh lens. Customers today are well-versed in what’s available to them online. The more redemption options offered to the consumer, the more appealing the FI becomes.

Loyalty point redemption in action

In April of 2020, when the world was mostly in lockdown, we looked at how a select group of approximately 3,000 consumers spent their loyalty reward points, comparing April 2020 to April 2019. Key findings suggest that, if given the opportunity, consumers will spend their loyalty points to buy what they want or need based on their specific circumstances. For example:

  • Significant increases in the purchase of outdoor items like BBQs and smokers (+3401%), fire pits and heaters (+2644%) and pool and patio accessories (+1297%) suggested people were making the most of the spaces around them.
  • Consumers were focusing on their personal health and well-being with the increase in points spent on fitness accessories (+1664%), bike accessories (+1453%) and fitness trackers (+536%).
  • Finally, the increase in purchases of hand-held power tools (+3076%), smart control lighting (+1750%), stick vacuums (+1096%) and specialty small appliances (+531%) suggests consumers took advantage of the opportunity to check projects off their at-home to-do lists.

We’re keeping a close eye on how loyalty point purchases evolve as more retailers and FIs get on board with viewing points as a true form of currency, especially in a post-pandemic world. Which items will rise to the top in the coming months and years as the payments ecosystem evolves? Will flight purchases or experience-based purchases regain popularity?

What’s next in the loyalty payments space?

As consumers continue to look for alternative payment methods, offering the flexibility to pay with points is the perfect opportunity for FIs looking to reinvent their loyalty programs. Engage People has always viewed loyalty points as a fiat currency, creating innovative technology that allows for easy integration that satisfies loyalty program members’ needs.

In the future, there’s a real opportunity to incorporate loyalty reward points into everyday life – extending beyond the online shopping experience. Imagine a world where you can pay for coffee, your bills, monthly subscription services like Netflix or make charitable donations with loyalty points just as you would with a credit card or cash. The future involves a mindset shift by consumers, financial institutions and the entire payments ecosystem, and that shift is viewing loyalty points as a true form of currency. Like reaching for cash, a debit or credit card, loyalty points can easily become a payment option of choice for consumers. FIs that are at the forefront of this trend now have the most to gain long term.

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The Importance of Liquidity Solutions



The Importance of Liquidity Solutions 3

By Justin Silsbury, Lead – Product Manager at Infosys Finacle

Economic uncertainty and business complexity have made a deep impact on corporate treasury management in recent years. With regulations getting tougher, funding becoming elusive, and profits shrinking fast, the way liquidity is managed is making a real difference to companies’ survival. As corporate treasurers around the world struggle with the challenges of liquidity management, they are turning to their banks for support; it is imperative that the industry respond with digital solutions that enable clients to manage money efficiently at low cost.

Why corporates need liquidity solutions

Corporate banking customers need a liquidity structure that maximises security, liquidity and yield.  Even today, treasurers in multinational corporations lack visibility into their companies’ overall cash position across countries and currencies. Delivering returns on excess cash, although important, is not a priority for them, but making sure the money is safe and available when needed, is. Therefore, a liquidity solution should be able to consolidate a company’s cash position across all its accounts around the world, provide a unified view in real-time, as well as offer timely suggestions on maximising utilisation and yield. It should automate all these functions as far as possible to reduce both manual overheads and the risk of moving money manually on a daily basis.

Broadly, liquidity solutions are of three types – cash concentration solutions that automatically move money around the world; interest optimization solutions that reward customers based on their aggregated balances without the need to move any money; and investment sweeps that move all the consolidated funds to a money market fund or other short-term investment to earn extra returns.

And why banks should provide them

There are several reasons why banks should invest in a sound liquidity solution. The most important one is that without it, a bank can never become a customer’s principal financial institution. A large corporation will have many banking providers, each one trying to increase share of wallet; in this situation, a high involvement product such as a liquidity solution is particularly effective for building stickiness and strengthening a bank’s position vis-à-vis others. An illustration may be useful here: say a food retail chain banks with Santander in the U.K., and other banks across Europe. If the retailer chooses to consolidate its cash daily into its U.K. account using Santander’s liquidity management solution, where the excess cash can then be swept into an investment vehicle overnight, over time, Santander can cross-sell other products to the client to increase revenue and stickiness.

Technology does it

Corporate banking has historically lagged retail banking in technology adoption. It is high time that banks remedied this by digitizing their corporate solutions. Specifically, they can leverage a variety of digital technologies to provide clients instant access to liquidity, global visibility into the overall cash position, and efficient working capital management. With robotic process automation and machine learning, they can simplify and automate processes to cut cost and lead-time.  Blockchain enables banks to offer fast, secure, cross-border transactions, while open APIs ease collaboration and co-innovation with Fintechs, customers and developers.

Banks need to deliver frictionless, personalized, “retail banking-like” experiences over customer-centric corporate banking channels. Instead of channel silos – one for liquidity, another for payments and so on – customers will see data from all their accounts in one place, from where they can manage liquidity, forecast cash flows, secure trade finance etc. On their part, banks can use 360-degree customer insight to issue not just timely alerts but also contextual recommendations. For instance, being able to alert a customer that a large payment is due the following week, but also suggesting the best options for arranging those funds.

Apart from improving the customer journey, a real move in corporate banking is towards cloud adoption. Many banks have started the cloud journey, but many still have some distance to cover before they are fully cloud-enabled; mainly, they are migrating monolithic, on-premise workloads to the cloud. Early adopters, such as JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and Citibank, are setting the pace by developing their own capabilities as well as procuring certain components from Fintech partners to plug into their overall solution.

One size doesn’t fit all

In the past, corporate banking solutions were largely meant for big companies, but today they are relevant to enterprises of all sizes. Internet and mobile have enabled even small local firms to scale far and wide, creating a need for solutions to manage their money across borders. Therefore, banks need to make sure their liquidity solution can accommodate the different needs of different clients. Only a flexible, componentised solution can do that.

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