Monthly Archives: May 2016

Jammal Trust Bank has been Serving Just not for The Local Market

Jammal Trust Bank SAL draws its financial strength from conservative asset and liability management policies, as well as a high-quality asset profile and deposit base. With a proven track record spanning almost 50 years, JTB provides tailor-made, innovative financial products and services.

We have a large network of branches throughout Lebanon, primarily in para-urban areas, where JTB prides itself for being one of the few banks to support and serve Lebanon’s SME market through commercial lending thus contributing to economic growth and development rather than less productive financial instruments and government securities.

The other important characteristic distinguishing JTB is the fact that JTB’s client base includes major private sector corporations, financial institutions, multinational companies all active in the region and west African states which provides the Bank with protection from risk related exposure to single market. JTB has gained experience for project and trade finance and as a major player in the local syndicated loan market.

JTB enjoys a reputation among its versatile customer base and the market at large for delivering and ever improving a highly personal service and very quick responsiveness to our client’s needs. This reputation is merely a reflection of JTB’s core values and deep rooted philosophy articulated in its logo and motto, “We Speak Your Language”.

With significant improvements continuing across all major business activities, the Bank set in 2009 on a growth path which continues to fuel restructuring and expansion strategies. This exceptionally strong year-on-year advance reflects increases in both interest and non-interest earnings and a reduction in provisions for credit losses, demonstrating the success of JTB’s ongoing strategic initiatives, coupled with an effective and proactive management of risk. The results clearly depict the soundness of the Bank’s new retail banking strategy introduced a few years ago, focusing primarily on Lebanon and the Western African States, which has increasingly contributed to a diversification of a steadily growing flow of recurrent earnings. JTB continued to provide shareholders with enhanced returns, while maintaining favorable recognition from clients, counterparties, regulatory authorities, and market observers.

Despite the turmoil in the region, signs of economic improvement remains acceptable; coupled with a stable domestic performance has stimulated substantial vigor in JTB’s business since the introduction of its new retail strategy a few years back. As a result, there have been strong contributions across all major operating activities, enabling the Bank to achieve record levels in financial performance.

JTB’s prospects for the years ahead continue to look encouraging. This is supported not only by the promising economic and business environment, but also by JTB’s more balanced earnings profile, and an increased focus on marketing and new products and services’ development.

In addition, the demand for overall banking services is expected to increase as important structural reforms in the country’s financial infrastructure gather pace.

A major thrust on retail banking activities improved the sector’s contribution to the overall income of the Bank in the last three years through the implementation of a carefully formulated business development strategy that focuses on increased market penetration and product diversification. The Bank also expanded its capabilities in the provision of specialized lending to Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The Bank maintained its active role in providing financing for the corporate sector as well.

JTB believes that there is ample room to further leverage the distinctive advantage it has, by enjoying a privileged access to niche markets both on-shore and off-shore. Such efforts will rest, as defined in the detailed Strategy and Business Plan, on adopting an all-inclusive approach to service large clients and to attract prospects.

Samsung has Stepped up its Focus on Artificial Intelligence

ttThe acquisition comes just days after Google launched its new Pixel phone which also puts a strong focus on an AI digital assistance function.

Amazon and Microsoft are also making a push into getting computers to learn and respond like human beings.

Samsung has recently seen its image battered by the global Note 7 recall.

The company plans to use Viv in its phones, televisions and a wide range of other devices.

The deal showed Samsung’s “commitment to virtual personal assistants and is part of the company’s broader vision to deliver an AI-based open ecosystem across all of its devices and services,” the South Korean tech giant said in a statement.

“With the rise of AI, consumers now desire an interaction with technology that is conversational, personalised and contextual – an experience that fits seamlessly within their everyday lives,” the firm added.

AI boom

According to Viv Labs chief executive Dag Kittlaus, the new AI assistant’s mission is to “breathe life into inanimate objects”.

Mr Kittlaus was behind developing Siri, the digital assistant bought by Apple in 2010. He remained with Apple until he left in 2012 when he began working on Viv.

“We see a future that is decidedly beyond apps, where you can get what you need quickly and easily no matter where you are, or what device you are near,” he said.

Earlier this week, Google launched a number of new devices that also place a virtual assistant at the heart of their functionality.

The AI technology in the Google smartphones and voice-activated speakers is one step ahead of Apple’s Siri in that they can hold a conversation, in which one question or command builds on the last, rather than dealing with each request in isolation.

Retail and technology giant Amazon’s also has an AI-driven device on the market.

The company’s Echo speaker can answer questions, control other internet-connected devices, build shopping lists and link in to dozens of third-party services like Spotify, Uber or BBC News.

The Reason Some Small Businesses Restore Group Health Coverage

Some small companies that dropped group health insurance for their employees are reversing course, driven by a tightening labor market and rising costs and fewer choices for individual coverage.

Laura Cottrell, owner of a seven-person home-furnishings and home-improvement products business in St. Louis, dropped group coverage in 2014, not only because of the cost but also the complexities of picking the right plan within a short deadline. Instead, she gave her employees a raise that they could use to buy their own health plans, sparing her from choosing for them.

Now Ms. Cottrell is looking at adding health benefits to make a cabinetry business she launched this year more attractive to potential employees. If she makes the change, she says she would offer coverage to employees of both of her businesses.

“People are looking for health care,” said Ms. Cottrell, who said she was recently turned down by one job candidate because she doesn’t offer health benefits. Adding to her pain: UnitedHealth Group Inc., her personal carrier, won’t offer individual coverage in Missouri next year.

Emily Bremer, Ms. Cottrell’s insurance broker, said she is seeing more small businesses that stopped offering health benefits looking to bring them back. “Individual policies seemed like a good option” when the Affordable Care Act took effect, she said. “But group plans have more value now.”

Unlike large employers, small businesses—those with the equivalent of fewer than 50 full-time employees—aren’t required to offer health benefits under the ACA. Many do so anyway, to be competitive in the job market or because they think it’s the right thing to do.

Chris Carey, president of Modern Automotive Performance in Cottage Grove, Minn., eliminated group health coverage in 2014 in an effort to rein in costs. “This made a dramatic impact on our culture, as employees felt they were missing out on a benefit that was standard in other organizations.” The online auto-parts retailer and manufacturer backtracked last year and now pays 50% of the premiums for its 38 employees.

Questions about the merits of individual versus group coverage are intensifying as changes continue to roil the insurance market. Michael Stahl, a senior vice president at HealthMarkets Inc., an agency that works with small businesses across the country, says most small businesses making changes continue to shift to individual coverage because their workers are eligible for significant government subsidies.

“But the trajectory of that is slowing,” he said. For the first time, “we are seeing a reverse migration back from individual to group.”

Conflicting forces are buffeting small companies. Transitional rules that allowed certain companies to continue offering existing plans that don’t meet certain ACA requirements expire at the end of 2017. In North Carolina, some companies could face cost increases of as much as 40% for ACA-compliant plans, said Michael Matznick, a Greensboro, N.C., insurance broker. Costs and terms vary from state to state.

At the same time, prices for individual coverage are climbing and insurance companies are dropping out of the state and federal marketplaces that sell individual coverage. Last week, Aetna Inc. said it would withdraw from 11 of the 15 state exchanges on which it currently offers coverage, making it the latest major insurer to pull back from that business.

Estimates of how many small businesses offer group coverage vary. Fifty-four percent of companies with three to 49 workers offered health benefits last year, about the same as in 2014 but down from 66% in 2000, according to a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Companies with three to 50 employees paid an average of $15,602 annually for each worker who elects family coverage, according to Kaiser, up from an average of $12,809 in 2010.

Government subsidies can make individual coverage attractive to small firms employing workers earning as much as four times the poverty rate. For 2016, the ceiling generally was $97,200 for a family of four. Employers, however, generally can deduct the cost of group health-care premiums.

Before the ACA, insurers often denied coverage to individuals with existing conditions, one reason costs were often higher for small groups. But the price gap has “narrowed significantly,” said Matthew Byrne, an insurance broker in Dublin, Ohio.

Individual coverage, meanwhile, has grown less attractive as insurers narrow options for physicians, hospitals and prescription drugs in an effort to cut costs. Zach Obront, founder of Book In A Box LLC in Austin, Texas, added group coverage in July in an effort to reduce stress on his 13 employees.