Snapshot

The health insurance sector is increasingly adopting technology-driven solutions to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency. Oscar Health has positioned itself at the forefront of this transformation by establishing itself as the first health insurance company built around a comprehensive technology platform focused intensely on member experience.

Oscar’s target customers span a wide demographic, including families needing versatile coverage, adults with chronic conditions who maintain regular contact with their care providers, and small businesses in search of appropriate benefits packages. The company caters to the individual and small group markets under the Affordable Care Act’s defined tier categories. This approach helps meet the diverse healthcare needs of consumers in various life stages and circumstances.

Oscar Health’s approach is not just about providing insurance; it’s about creating a supportive ecosystem that fosters better health outcomes. The company uses its own cloud-native technology platform to support its insurance business and empower healthcare providers and payors through its +Oscar service offerings. This tech-first strategy enables the company to adapt swiftly to changing regulations and market conditions, ensuring they deliver high-value services efficiently.

Currently, Oscar Health is in a strong growth phase; with over 1.3 million members now utilizing its robust technology infrastructure, the company continues to focus on scaling its operations. Oscar’s strategy centers on enhancing user experiences, applying its technology across the healthcare system, and consistently introducing new products to the market. All while aligning to broader trends in healthcare including the shift toward consumer-driven care, increased digital engagement, and personalized healthcare solutions.

Background

Established in 2012, by Harvard Business School classmates, Mario Schlosser, Joshua Kushner, and Kevin Nazemi, Oscar Health was designed to provide the type of health insurance its founders wanted for themselves, emphasizing accessibility, affordability, and quality. The company launched in 2014 in response to the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces and individual mandate. In its inaugural year, the company secured 16,000 members. Before long it had expanded its services to cover New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Arizona, and Ohio

By 2016, membership had grown to 145,000 at which time Oscar set up a concierge team to enhance its member services. A year later, the company further diversified its offerings by entering the small group insurance market in New York, along with Nashville through a partnership with Humana. Expansion into new segments continued in 2020, as Oscar launched health insurance plans for small businesses in partnership with Cigna.

In 2021, Oscar Health went public, raising $1.2 billion, as the company’s growth continued. Over the years, Oscar has made ongoing adjustments to its market strategies and operations entering and exiting jurisdictions where appropriate, as it manages its now one million-strong member base.

Leadership

Mark T. Bertolini took over as chief executive officer in 2023 from co-founder Mario Schlosser who transitioned to chief technology officer. As former Chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc., Bertolini led the company’s transition from a traditional health insurance company to a consumer-oriented health care company focused on delivering holistic, integrated care in local communities. Before joining Aetna, Bertolini held executive positions at Cigna, NYLCare Health Plans, and SelectCare Inc., and he was formerly CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest and most successful hedge funds.

As CEO, Mario Schlosser led Oscar from inception to serving over one million members across its health plans. Now as CTO, he leads product and engineering, improving the company’s technology platform for the future and continuing to set the strategy for the +Oscar product line. Before Oscar, Schlosser also co-founded the largest social gaming company in Latin America, where he led the company’s analytics and game design practices. Prior to that, he was a Senior Investment Associate at Bridgewater Associates and worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company in Europe, the U.S., and Brazil.

Customer

Oscar Health has differentiated itself in the health insurance market through a strong emphasis on technology and member experience. The company’s offerings are specifically designed to make healthcare more accessible and affordable, leveraging a robust technology platform to enhance service delivery.

Oscar’s product range includes individual and small-group health plans, which are available through both exchange and off-exchange channels. These plans are categorized under the Affordable Care Act’s metal tiers: Catastrophic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each category is defined by different levels of coverage and cost-sharing between Oscar and its members, allowing consumers to choose plans that best fit their healthcare needs and financial circumstances. The company targets a diverse customer base, from individuals and families to small businesses, ensuring that each demographic finds a suitable health insurance solution.

The individual market primarily serves people purchasing insurance independently rather than through an employer. These customers often include self-employed individuals, freelancers, and those without access to employer-sponsored insurance. On the other hand, the small group market caters to small businesses seeking to provide health benefits to their employees, covering firms with up to 50 full-time employees in most states, and up to 100 in other states.

In addition to traditional health insurance, Oscar has extended its reach with the +Oscar platform, which serves both providers and payors. This platform features the Campaign Builder, an engagement and recommendation engine that leverages data analytics to enhance care management and patient engagement. The technology underpinning +Oscar enables the delivery of personalized interactions and real-time insights, benefiting approximately 500,000 client lives.

Oscar’s network includes a selection of high-quality providers, ensuring that members have access to effective and affordable care. These strategic partnerships with recognized health systems further enhance the quality of care available to members.

Through its sophisticated use of technology, Oscar Health not only streamlines interactions within the healthcare system but also gains insights into individual health needs, allowing for better cost management and improved health outcomes. This technology-driven approach results in high levels of member engagement and satisfaction.

Thematic

Oscar Health is primed for further expansion as it actively pursues several strategic priorities that aim to combine growth initiatives, operational efficiencies, and a commitment to enhancing user experiences and healthcare outcomes.

Technological advancement remains at the core of this strategy. The company has developed a proprietary, cloud-native technology platform that spans all critical domains of healthcare insurance operations, including claims and utilization management. This technology empowers members to make informed healthcare decisions and allows Oscar to effectively manage healthcare costs.

To date, automation initiatives, such as enhanced IVR systems and AI-powered secure messaging, have improved member services and efficiency during open enrollment. While new AI features and capabilities are continually being integrated into the platform to enhance user engagement and operational efficiency.

Through initiatives like Pharmacy Benefit Manager savings and enhanced payment integrity efforts, Oscar is improving its Medical Loss Ratio, which measures the percentage of premium revenues spent on medical claims and activities to improve healthcare quality. With disciplined pricing strategies and comprehensive care cost management, further improvements are anticipated, underlining the company’s desire to enhance profitability.

Oscar achieved a major milestone by reaching insurance-company EBITDA profitability in 2023. Building on this foundation, it is now targeting total-company EBITDA profitability in 2024. Consequently, the company is seeking to leverage and enhance its technology offerings, particularly through the +Oscar platform, to increase its market capabilities. New products are being added such as tailored chronic illnesses, while to address a growing Spanish-speaking member base the company now offers a specialized experience for Spanish-speaking members.

Looking ahead, Oscar sees Affordable Care Act (ACA) markets as the fastest-growing segment, with over 21 million individuals enrolled through exchanges as a significant opportunity. However, there is also a focus on expanding beyond ACA markets to include a broader customer base such as employers and employees.

Financials

Oscar Health has delivered a solid upward trajectory as the company’s revenue has surged from $456.2 million to $5.7 billion over the past four years following triple and double-digit year-over-year revenue growth.

In 2023, premiums earned increased by 47% year-over-year to $5.7 billion, primarily driven by the impact of deposit accounting for quota share reinsurance agreements and a decrease in risk transfer per member as a percentage of premiums.

Oscar’s insurance operations saw significant improvements in 2023 as a result of targeted rate increases and disciplined pricing strategies along with total cost of care initiatives. Additionally, lower distribution expenses and higher net premiums due to reduced risk transfer per member also saw adjusted EBITDA losses significantly narrowed by $417 million year-over-year to just $45 million. Net losses also showed a considerable improvement, decreasing by $339 million to $271 million.

The strong performance has continued into the first quarter of 2024 as total revenue hit $2.1 billion, up 46% year-over-year, driven primarily by higher membership, rate increases, and lower risk adjustment as a percentage of premiums. Adjusted EBITDA of $219.3 million significantly improved by $168.2 million year-over-year. While net income of $177.4 million also drastically improved by $217.1 million year-over-year.

Looking ahead, management anticipates total revenue for FY24 to be in the range of $8.3 billion to $8.4 billion, in line with consensus estimates, and continuing strong year-over-year growth of almost 43%. Moreover, total company adjusted EBITDA is expected to be between $125 million and $175 million. Analysts are also expecting full-year earnings per share to record a loss of $0.16 for FY24, representing an 86% improvement from the $1.22 loss in FY23.

Risks/Competition

The highly competitive health insurance market is marked by frequent regulatory changes, technological advancements, and shifts in consumer expectations. It is also shaped by ongoing industry consolidations and strategic alliances, and a constant evolution in medical care capabilities.

Competitors in Oscar’s market vary significantly by region and the specific segments they serve. In the small group market, Oscar primarily competes with national carriers and local Blue Cross plans. In the individual market, its main competitors are other national and regional carriers, Medicaid-focused insurers offering products through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and local Blue Cross plans.

However, Oscar differentiates itself by forming strategic alliances with high-quality healthcare systems rather than contracting with all available systems and providers in a given area. This approach enables the company to integrate more closely with providers using its technology, often securing more favorable reimbursement rates and fostering higher quality care. Consequently, it maintains a strong advantage due to the diversity and pricing of its health plan offerings, the extent and quality of its provider network, and coverage comprehensiveness.

Conclusion

With a clear trajectory towards profitability and sustained growth, coupled with strategic expansion into new markets and continuous innovation in health tech, Oscar Health presents a compelling thematic that aligns with broader trends toward digitalization and personalized healthcare solutions.

Symbol Info

Weekly Chart

Fundamental Data

Snapshot

The digital world is constantly changing, affecting how businesses and consumers handle their financial activities. This shift has created a demand for integrated solutions that simplify these transactions and financial management processes.

Against this backdrop, Block has emerged as a key player, offering expansive ecosystems to address these needs. Block’s primary focus is on building cohesive ecosystems that cater to different customer segments, including sellers, consumers, artists, fans, and developers. As a result, the company has carved out a position among the top five transaction and payment processing services amongst sector peers including incumbent giants, Visa and Mastercard.

The Square ecosystem is tailored to businesses of all sizes, from small entrepreneurs to large corporations across virtually all industries. This platform offers dozens of distinct products and services, helping businesses manage transactions and growth efficiently. While the company’s Cash App ecosystem focuses on individual consumers, providing a range of financial services designed to make money management more accessible and user-friendly.

Block has evolved from its initial focus on the Square ecosystem, which began in 2009 to facilitate card payments for businesses. Over time, it has expanded its services to include a wide range of consumer and business solutions. Now it is exploring new customer segments, and investing in emerging ecosystems such as TIDAL and bitcoin. TIDAL, acquired in 2021, represents Block’s foray into the music industry, offering a platform for artists and fans. While the Bitcoin ecosystem is focused on developing open-source projects and financial services leveraging blockchain technology, which the company believes can help address inefficiencies in the current financial system.

Block’s services facilitate close to a quarter of a trillion dollars in transaction value across a broad spectrum of sectors including food and drinks, retail, healthcare, and professional services, amongst many others. As the company’s strategy revolves around enhancing and diversifying its ecosystems, it continues to see robust growth in gross payment volumes solidifying its position in the financial services and payment processing markets.

Background

Founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey, Block, formerly known as Square, started its journey in the financial technology sector with a ground-breaking small, white card reader that connected to smartphones. The product was a game-changer for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs, making it easier and more affordable for them to process credit card payments.

The company saw rapid adoption of the Square card reader and within a few years had broadened its product range with additional versatile and user-friendly payment solutions. These included Square Register, a comprehensive point-of-sale system, and Square Stand, which transformed an iPad into a complete POS solution. While the introduction of Square Capital in 2015, a service offering business loans to Square merchants marked a further integration of financial services into the company’s portfolio.

Block went public in 2016 as its growth was supported by more and more new services such as payroll processing and additional Square Capital capabilities. In 2018, the company acquired Weebly, a website and eCommerce platform that allows website building and online store creation, catering to the growing demand for integrated online business solutions.

In recent years, new tools focused on business analytics and customer engagement, have further enhanced Block’s product offerings. This phase also included exploring new sectors such as the music industry with the acquisition of TIDAL and delving into blockchain technology. Consequently, the company underwent a significant rebranding in 2021, changing its name from Square, to reflect the evolution beyond its original Square ecosystem into various areas of financial services and technology.

Leadership

Co-founder Jack Dorsey still serves as the principal executive officer of Block, under the title, Block Head, which changed from CEO in 2022. He recently returned to running the Square business again after its former CEO stepped down. Dorsey’s leadership has been pivotal in Block’s expansion from a payment processing start-up to a major player in the financial technology sector. The company’s significant investments in Bitcoin, also reflect his belief in its potential as a ubiquitous currency in the future. He is also known for co-founding Twitter, where he was also CEO from 2015 to 2021 before stepping down at the same time Block went through its rebranding.

Dorsey is joined by CFO and COO Amrita Ahuja, who brings a wealth of experience from significant roles in high-profile companies including Blizzard Entertainment, Fox Networks, Walt Disney Company, and Morgan Stanley. Her diverse background in finance and operations has been instrumental in driving Block’s narrative to support businesses of all sizes with not only payments, but also software and integrated solutions, hardware, and financial services.

Customer

Block offers a diverse suite of products and services that cater to a wide range of customer use cases covering everything from banking and transactions, payroll and team management to loyalty and marketing applications. These are split across Square, Cash App, and the newer ecosystems, TIDAL and Bitcoin.

Initially launched to enable businesses to accept card payments, the Square ecosystem has expanded into a comprehensive suite encompassing over 30 distinct products and services. These include tools for commerce, customer relationship management, staff management, and banking. These are all designed to be intuitive and self-serve, with an open developer platform for seamless integration with third-party applications. This ecosystem is monetized through transaction, subscription, and service fees.

Cash App offers a range of financial products and services designed to make personal finance management more relatable and accessible. Starting as a simple tool for peer-to-peer money transfers, it has grown to provide a broader array of services, including storing, sending, receiving, spending, and investing money. It caters to a diverse mix of consumers, thanks to its ability to handle peer-to-peer transfers and bitcoin transactions, along with stocks and ETFs. At the end of 2022, Cash App had over 51 million monthly transacting “actives” across the United States and Europe.

Block entered into the music industry with its acquisition of TIDAL, a global platform for musicians and fans, offering an extensive catalog of songs and videos. It connects artists and fans worldwide, with listeners in over 60 countries and partnerships with more than 200 labels and distributors.

Investments in the bitcoin ecosystem are aiming to address inefficiencies in incumbent financial systems, particularly in areas of identity and trust. These include initiatives like Spiral, an independent team focused on contributing to bitcoin open source work and TBD, an open developer platform focused on making the decentralized financial world accessible for everyone. In addition, Bitcoin hardware projects include a self-custody wallet and a mining system.

Block’s customer base reflects the versatility and breadth of its services. Square solutions are utilized by a broad spectrum of businesses, albeit with food and drink, and retail businesses making up half of the platform’s gross product values (GPV) at 31% and 19% respectively. Although initially appealing to smaller businesses, products are being increasingly adopted by large corporations with GPV greater than $500k, which now make up close to 40% of transaction values, as the company successfully scales to meet the needs of mid-market and larger businesses.

Thematic

Jack Dorsey’s return to lead Block has brought a notable sense of market optimism regarding his strategies to revitalize the company’s growth and achieve the “Rule of 40” by 2026. This framework is characterized by a balance of growth and efficiency, targeting mid-teens gross profit growth coupled with mid-20% adjusted operating income margins. In a letter to shareholders, Dorsey set forth several strategies for enhancing growth and reducing costs. These include reducing and capping the employee count at 12,000, restricting stock-based compensation, trimming overhead staff, and implementing AI in sales, marketing, and development operations.

Despite implementing a strict cost discipline, Block is keen on maintaining a strong focus on innovation and growth. Dorsey emphasized overcoming internal silos and redundancies to foster a culture of collaboration and faster product development, especially across Square and Cash App ecosystems. In addition, Improving product features and streamlining the onboarding process are critical areas of focus. These improvements are aimed at making the platforms more accessible and attractive to a broader range of sellers and customers.

A major strategic move has been the restructuring of the commerce business, particularly the integration of the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platform into the Cash App, which is expected to enhance the consumer experience by combining the capabilities of both ecosystems. Since acquiring Australian BNPL company, Afterpay, Block has also continued to add new products and jurisdictions as part of its strategy to strengthen its position in the rapidly growing BNPL market, which is expected to exceed $100 billion before the end of the decade.

Dorsey’s return has also marked a renewed focus on Bitcoin and blockchain technologies with the company’s name change seen as a reflection of his well-known enthusiasm for cryptocurrency. Banking products are seen as a significant differentiator for Block, with the potential for both customer retention and new customer acquisition. The integration of banking services is expected to enhance the user experience and contribute to the company’s growth.

Financials

Up until 2022, at which time total revenue remained relatively flat year-over-year at $17.5 billion, Block maintained a remarkable path of revenue growth, consistently delivering high double-digit percentage increases. This record largely continued across transaction, subscription and services, and hardware-based revenue in 2022 also, given a notable near 70% surge in subscription and services revenue to $4.5 billion. However, a 29% decline in Bitcoin revenue for the year, significantly distorted the company’s result.

A strong rebound to double-digit growth has been achieved in FY23 as total revenue already hit $16.5 billion in September for just the first nine months of the year. This result is off the back of user-based subscription plans and Bitcoin revenue both delivering 25% year-over-year increases compared to 2022.

A more disciplined managerial approach has led to early signs of improving profitability. Looking forward, leadership expects record profitability in 2024 with gross profit at close to $7.5 billion for a 24% year-over-year increase. While adjusted EBITDA and operating income are anticipated to reach $1.7 billion and $225 million, respectively.

Consensus estimates also support management’s positive view with revenue coming in at $21.8 billion for FY23, a 25% increase year-over-year. While earnings per share are expected to improve strongly by 92% to $1.92, up from $1.00 in 2022.

Risks/Competition

Block operates in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving market. Its major competitors include industry stalwarts such as Visa and Mastercard, as well as newer yet still significant players such as PayPal and Stripe, among many other financial service providers. These rivals offer everything from business software, payment terminal hardware, merchant acquirers, banks, payroll processors, and alternative lenders. In addition, traditional methods like pen and paper, manual processes, and paper currency, continue to be used by potential customers. In the Cash App platform, Block also competes with money transfer apps, prepaid debit card offerings, brokerage firms, tax firms, financial technology apps, banks, and crypto trading services.

However, Block’s competitive advantages lie in its extensive commerce ecosystem, its focus on building cohesive, fast, self-serve, and elegant products and services, and its ability to innovate and reshape the industries it operates in. It also offers transparent pricing and no long-term contracts. Furthermore, the breadth of its network and the range of products in its ecosystem set it apart from its competitors.

Conclusion

Reinvigorated by the return of Jack Dorsey, Block is making traction with its targeted approach toward achieving balanced growth and operational efficiency. As a leaner organization, it continues to enhance its product offerings and user experience, while taking advantage of the growth in the key BNPL market.

Symbol Info

Weekly Chart

Fundamental Data

Snapshot

As the digital economy embraces the transformative power of cryptocurrencies, pioneers are shaping the way people and businesses engage with digital financial systems as they focus on making the cryptoeconomy accessible, secure, and user-friendly.

At the forefront of this evolution, Coinbase is developing reliable, straightforward technologies and financial infrastructure that allows people to interact with crypto assets and decentralized applications.

In addition to being a cryptocurrency exchange, it provides an integral infrastructure layer for a wide array of crypto-powered technologies like self-custody wallets, decentralized apps, and open community platforms, serving consumers, institutions, and developers. The company is also expanding access to a diverse range of crypto assets.

Coinbase positions itself as the primary crypto account for retail consumers, for which its client base spans over 100 countries, as it offers both a custodial solution through the Coinbase application and a self-custodial solution via Coinbase Wallet.

Navigating through a volatile and cyclical cryptoeconomy, Coinbase has experienced several major price cycles since 2010. Despite these challenges, the company remains focused on expanding its product offerings, enhancing its technological infrastructure, and exploring strategic partnerships. Their goal is to maintain a leading position in the rapidly evolving cryptoeconomy and web3 space, continuing to innovate for their diverse customer base and adapt to the changing regulatory backdrop.

Background

Coinbase’s journey began in 2012 when Brian Armstrong, a former Airbnb engineer, founded the company. With a US$150,000 investment from the Y Combinator start-up incubator program, Armstrong set out to create a platform that would redefine how individuals and businesses interact with cryptocurrencies. Fred Ehrsam, a former Goldman Sachs trader, also joined as a co-founder.

Coinbase launched its service to buy and sell Bitcoins through bank transfers, marking its first foray into the burgeoning world of cryptocurrency. The company’s growth accelerated rapidly as it secured millions in funding and reached one million users within two years. It acquired the blockchain explorer service Blockr, and the web bookmarking company Kippt, secured insurance for bitcoin stored on its servers, and also launched a vault system for secure Bitcoin storage.

Partnerships with major firms like Overstock, Dell, Expedia, and Time Inc. were established, allowing them to accept Bitcoin payments. Furthermore, Coinbase integrated Bitcoin payment processing capabilities with traditional payment companies like Stripe, Braintree, and PayPal.

Coinbase’s momentum continued in 2015 as the company launched Coinbase Exchange, a U.S.-based bitcoin exchange for professional traders. While product expansions included adding support for Ether, Ethereum, Litecoin, and ERC-20 tokens. It also launched Coinbase Ventures to invest in blockchain- and cryptocurrency-related companies, along with Coinbase Prime for institutional customers.

In 2019, amid growing concerns about network security and regulatory compliance, Coinbase acquired blockchain intelligence platform Neutrino. It also acquired the digital asset trading firm Tagomi. While in 2021 the company went public on the Nasdaq.

More recently, Coinbase’s expansion into India faced obstacles due to regulatory issues and it also announced layoffs amid a downturn in the cryptocurrency market. However, it has continued to form significant partnerships, including one with BlackRock, as it maintains its ability to evolve in a dynamic market.

Leadership

Brian Armstrong continues to serve as Coinbase’s chief executive officer. He has established the company as a leading cryptocurrency exchange and an integral part of the global cryptoeconomy. Under his leadership, Coinbase was one of the first to provide a user-friendly platform for buying, selling, and storing cryptocurrencies, making them accessible to a broader audience. His vision for Coinbase took it beyond just an exchange, diversifying its services toward professional traders and institutional clients. His focus on compliance and security also helped the company gain trust in a market known for its volatility and regulatory challenges.

Prior to Coinbase, he worked as a developer for Deloitte and later joined Airbnb as a software engineer. His experience at Airbnb, which involved dealing with payment systems in over 190 countries, was instrumental in shaping his influence on decentralized digital currencies. He was the founder and CEO of both Universitytutor.com, an online tutoring directory, and ResearchHub Technologies Inc., a scientific research development platform. Armstrong has been a vocal advocate for cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, emphasizing their potential to increase economic freedom and efficiency in global financial systems.

Customer

Coinbase has been instrumental in making cryptocurrency accessible and secure for a broad spectrum of users, ranging from individual retail investors to large institutional clients. Through its diverse and comprehensive tools and services, the company has established itself as a fundamental infrastructure component in the rapidly evolving world of digital finance and web3 technologies.

The Coinbase app is a comprehensive platform that enables users to discover, trade, and manage their crypto assets. Designed with both novice and experienced traders in mind, it offers various trading experiences, including a simple interface for general consumers and a sophisticated setup for experienced traders. In addition to the app, Coinbase provides a self-custody wallet option, the Coinbase Wallet, giving users full control over their digital assets and the ability to interact with decentralized applications. Aside from trading, Coinbase allows customers to earn yield on their crypto assets through various methods, including staking rewards and DeFi yield. They also offer an array of proprietary products within the app, such as peer-to-peer payments, direct deposit, and a Coinbase-branded debit card.

Many of these offerings have been tailored to institutional clients through Coinbase Prime. This platform is a complete solution for trading, storage, and asset management, catering to diverse institutional entities such as asset managers, hedge funds, and corporate clients. It provides integrated trading and financing solutions, enhancing capital efficiency across markets through a single platform.

Coinbase’s suite is rounded out by its merchant and developer solutions. Coinbase Commerce is a tool designed for merchants to facilitate cryptocurrency payments, thereby integrating digital finance into mainstream business operations. While Coinbase Cloud and Coinbase Pay enable companies to build crypto products efficiently and integrate crypto transactions into their businesses using trading APIs and data access.

Coinbase also generates income from the stablecoin known as USD Coin via transaction fees, interest earnings, rewards programs, and the facilitation of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications.

Thematic

Coinbase has solidified its presence in the digital asset market by making cryptocurrency accessible and safe for all users. The company has developed a comprehensive growth strategy that revolves around promoting cryptocurrency as an investment, and as a foundation for a new financial system, and also using crypto assets as a platform for applications, focusing particularly on the growth of Web3 and decentralized, blockchain-based internet applications.

New cryptocurrencies are continuously brought to the platform, providing its users with a wide array of investment options. New coins currently anticipated to launch include Bitcoin Minetrix, a Bitcoin cloud mining portal; Wall Street Memes, a large community-backed crypto project; and Sponge V2, a new upgrade of the Sponge Token, among many more.

By embracing crypto-native protocols and launching Base, an Ethereum Layer 2 network, Coinbase has positioned itself at the forefront of the DeFi movement. This allows the company to tap into a growing market of developers and users who are building and using decentralized applications (dApps). As more dApps are developed and used on the Base network, Coinbase can attract a wider user base, leading to increased transaction volume and revenue.

The introduction of Coinbase’s On-Chain Payments Protocol simplifies and unifies on-chain payments. This also attracts more users and businesses to use Coinbase for their crypto transactions, as it makes the process more straightforward and efficient. Moreover, by providing a platform for users to discover the most popular web3 dApps, Coinbase has positioned itself as the go-to resource in the crypto space.

Regulatory changes have been a significant factor in the crypto industry and Coinbase has been proactively tackling these changes. The company has been seeking regulatory clarity in its international expansion plan, focusing on acquiring licenses in major financial jurisdictions that are enacting clear rules for the crypto industry. As a result, it is targeting to expand its presence in the E.U., U.K., and Australia, in addition to recent launches within Canada, Brazil, and Singapore.

Proposed spot Bitcoin ETFs could have a significant impact on Coinbase’s business. These ETFs could bring Bitcoin further into the mainstream, making it accessible to millions more investors, including those in broker-dealer, registered investment advisor, and tax-advantaged account structures. In the long run, spot Bitcoin ETFs could add billions of dollars to the total crypto market cap and encourage new investments in the asset class. Furthermore, the approval of these ETFs should also lay the groundwork for a more regulated environment, greater inclusion in financial markets, and a substantial increase in demand for bitcoin. It also has the potential to lead to new financial products like lending and derivatives.

Financials

Given the cyclical nature of the crypto market, Coinbase has seen significant fluctuations in its revenue over the past few years. Since its listing in 2019 total revenue skyrocketed from $482.9 million to $7.4 billion in 2021 as a result of the cryptocurrency boom during which the price of Bitcoin reached all-time highs. With the market cooling in 2022, revenue retreated to $3.2 billion as various currencies saw significant pullbacks.

Coinbase’s profitability has been equally volatile. The crypto market downturn exposed the company’s bloated cost structure, resulting in huge losses as revenue dropped sharply. However, the company has turned things around with significant expense reductions making it a far leaner organization as it seeks to build a sustainable business to drive long-term growth. In its latest quarter, net losses were cut down to just $2 million, while adjusted EBITDA was positive for the third consecutive quarter.

Interestingly, in 2023 the company’s revenue mix has also evolved significantly. For the last two quarters, trading did not account for the majority of the cash coming in, as subscriptions and services, which include custodial fees, interest income, and staking revenue accounted for more than half of total revenue.

Looking ahead, consensus estimates have Coinbase slightly tempering revenue by 10% year-over-year for FY23 to $2.87 billion. However, analysts also expect the company’s losses per share to improve by 83% from a loss of $7.83 in FY22 to just $1.32 in FY23.

Risks/Competition

The cryptoeconomy remains highly fragmented, intensely competitive, and subject to increasingly global regulatory scrutiny and oversight. Coinbase faces significant competition from a variety of companies around the world ranging from crypto native companies, including decentralized exchanges, to large traditional financial services incumbents and financial technology providers.

The competitive landscape varies significantly by geography. While the traditional financial services and financial technology companies are largely US and European-based and operate under the same evolving US regulatory landscape, other crypto-native companies that operate primarily in international markets are often subject to less regulatory oversight. As a result, their product offering is different, with the ability to offer a wider range of crypto assets and product experiences such as higher leverage financing products that appeal to sophisticated traders.

However, across Coinbase’s product portfolio, they differentiate themselves through a cohesive ecosystem of products and services that address the distinct needs of customers. Its full-stack technology platform is purpose-built for the cryptoeconomy, while significant investments in regulatory compliance and licensure, advanced cryptography, and security expertise provide a valuable emphasis on accessibility, trust, and ease of use. Additionally, the company’s ability to quickly and continuously innovate have further separated Coinbase from its competition.

Conclusion

Coinbase has been a pioneering force in the digital economy and is shaping the future of how people and businesses interact with digital finance. Despite facing challenges like market volatility and regulatory hurdles, it remains committed to expanding its product offerings and enhancing its technological infrastructure, reinforcing its role as a fundamental player in the cryptoeconomy.

Symbol Info

Weekly Chart

Fundamental Data

Snapshot

In an era where digital and mobile-first commerce is rapidly evolving, financial services that prioritize transparency and user-centricity are increasingly critical.

Affirm Holdings has emerged as a key player in this evolving market, offering innovative financial products including merchant solutions and consumer buy now, pay later services. The company specializes in modernizing payment and commerce through technology and engineering expertise, offering solutions that foster responsible spending and build trust.

Affirm’s clientele encompasses tens of millions of consumers and more than a quarter of a million merchants, covering a wide range of industries across the spectrum of retail trading. The company’s risk model and transparent lending approach cater to a broad demographic of consumers, from those with limited credit histories to more established buyers. Merchants benefit from enhanced sales conversion and customer loyalty solutions, with services tailored for businesses of all sizes and sectors.

Competing against traditional banks, credit card companies, and emerging fintech firms, Affirm differentiates itself through its innovative products with help boost merchant sales, making it less reliant on pricing battles.

Currently in a strong growth phase, driven by its deep network effects and technological leadership. The company’s strategy revolves around expanding its merchant and consumer base, innovating financial products, and entering new markets through various retail verticals. They are leveraging their data-driven approach and capital management expertise to scale operations and enhance their platform’s efficiency.

Background

Affirm was founded in 2012, when Max Levchin, Nathan Gettings, Jeffrey Kaditz, and Alex Rampell embarked on a mission to revolutionize consumer finance. Levchin, known for co-founding PayPal, became CEO in 2014, guiding the company into the burgeoning BNPL market.

Affirm soon began expanding its BNPL services, announcing availability on e-commerce platforms like Kibo Commerce, BigCommerce, AspDotNetStorefront, and Zen Cart. The compnay’s approach, using machine learning to assess creditworthiness, offered an innovative alternative to traditional credit systems, benefiting consumers and merchants with higher approval rates and user-friendly loan terms. By 2018, Affirm had established itself as a credible alternative to conventional credit card services.

A partnership with Walmart in 2019, making its services available both in-store and online marked a major expansion into large-scale retail, significantly extending its consumer and merchant reach. This coincided with the company’s IPO in the same year where it raised close to $1.2 billion.

Affirm’s growth strategy included the acquisition of Returnly, a financial technology service company, for $300 million. This was part of a series of expansions and partnerships with major players like Amazon, Apple, Target, and Stripe further widening its market presence. By the end of 2022, the company was holding a 30% market share in the U.S. BNPL app space.

Leadership

Co-founder Max Levchin continues to serve as Affirm’s chief operating officer. He has been pivotal in shaping the company’s innovative operating model utilizing advanced technology like machine learning for credit assessments and establishing major partnerships with retail giants.

He is also the co-founder and chairman of Glow, a data-driven fertility company. Both Affirm and Glow were created and launched from his San Francisco-based innovation lab, HVF (Hard, Valuable, Fun). Levchin served as PayPal’s CTO until its acquisition by eBay in 2002. Prior to HVF, he also founded and was CEO of Slide, a personal media-sharing service, which was acquired by Google in 2010. Levchin also helped create Yelp, where he served as chairman from its founding in 2005 until 2015.

His achievements have seen him repeatedly named as one of the world’s top technology innovators.

Customer

Affirm offers a suite of financial products designed for both consumers and merchants that are built on simplicity and transparency.

For consumers, Affirm at Checkout provides an option when purchasing from partner merchants to choose Affirm as a payment method. This feature facilitates payment over time, with terms varying from a few weeks to several months, depending on the consumer’s preference and the transaction’s nature. The technology not only ensures smooth transactions but also monitors merchant credibility and consumer repayment behavior.

In the lending space, Consumer-First Borrowing delivers a frictionless solution for on-the-spot loan applications and approvals. Customers are presented with either 0% APR or simple interest loans, where the interest amounts are fixed and do not compound, thus maintaining transparency in financial obligations. Notably, Affirm underwrites each transaction individually and does not charge late fees, aligning its success with that of its consumers. While the Affirm Card feature lets consumers access credit with a unique post-purchase option available to convert debit transactions into installment loans.

The Affirm Marketplace, accessible via the Affirm app and website, allows consumers to receive personalized offers from merchants. And for those looking to save, a high-yield savings account in partnership with Cross River Bank is available, which is also FDIC-insured and comes without minimum deposit requirements or fees.

On the merchant side, Affirm’s direct API enables easy integration into payment systems, facilitating incremental sales and enhancing customer conversion and loyalty. This solution caters to a wide range of transactions, making it versatile for different business sizes and types. Merchants have the flexibility to offer various pay-over-time options, providing a compelling alternative to traditional discount strategies. Affirm also works with manufacturers on brand-specific promotional financing offers, further assisting merchants in increasing sales and preserving margins.

The company’s Merchant Dashboard is a comprehensive tool that allows businesses to manage transactions, access vital data, and configure their Affirm accounts effectively. Additionally, analytical tools and dedicated client support help to optimize performance, conversion rates, and average order values. The Affirm app and marketplace extend these capabilities, enabling merchants to reach customers through featured placements and personalized advertisements. An added feature is the prequalification option for consumers, which can be integrated early in the shopping journey to potentially increase conversion rates.

At the end of FY23, Affirm facilitated more than $20 billion in Gross Merchandise Volume across its 36 million consumers, utilizing a unique risk model based on sophisticated machine learning algorithms and proprietary data to cater to diverse financial needs. The merchant network, consisting of approximately 254,000 active merchants, caters from small businesses to large enterprises, across virtually all retail sectors.

Thematic

Affirm differentiates itself in the market with its specialized BNPL offering, delivering distinct value to merchants beyond mere payment processing. Unlike competitors like Block and PayPal, who engage in intense competition primarily based on fee reduction, often ranging between 1-3% which just about covers operational costs, Affirm’s strategy is focused on using installment lending as a tool to facilitate merchant sales conversions rather than competing solely on price.

This approach is particularly aligned with the needs of premium brands, who prefer to avoid constant discounting and instead focus on adding value to the customer experience. Consequently, Affirm can capture a larger portion of each transaction it facilitates, achieving this at a higher margin. This effective strategy enables Affirm to generate a significantly higher profit per dollar of revenue and gross merchandise volume compared to traditional payment processors.

Affirm’s strategy for growth is structured around enhancing its utility to existing partners and pursuing new merchant relationships across various sectors and geographies. The company has added 21,000 merchants in the last 12 months with notable new partnerships spanning a range of industries from fashion to telecommunications to travel, including Shein, TikTok Shop, Temu, Metro by T-Mobile, Booking.com, and Cathay Pacific.

The company has identified the prevalence of smaller transactions in U.S. e-commerce, with about 80% of purchases under $150, and is adapting its offerings to tap into this market segment. Recognizing the significant portion of global e-commerce occurring outside the U.S., including $1.1 trillion in the EU and UK, and $450 billion in the APAC region, Affirm is actively targeting these markets for expansion. A venture into the UK market is imminent, where discussions with potential launch partners are in progress.

To increase its user base, Affirm is leveraging its channels to promote the Affirm Card, aiming for widespread adoption. The company is also capitalizing on its existing merchant relationships to provide unique deals that attract users while benefiting merchants. Perks and rewards are being introduced as checkout options and are tailored to accommodate a wider array of merchant categories and transaction sizes.

Plans are also underway to introduce the Affirm Money Account, offering transactional account capabilities alongside the Affirm Card, including competitive savings rates and direct deposit among other traditional banking services. New product features, such as ‘Pay in 6’ plans, are also being developed to encourage repeat usage and customer retention.

Affirm is now targeting sectors beyond e-commerce and travel, as it looks to in-store retail settings and other consumer spending areas for growth. The company’s strategic moves into segments such as subscriptions, utilities, dining, and professional services are aiming to diversify its service applications.

Through these strategies, Affirm has an overarching goal to enhance its market share and presence in the digital payment ecosystem. Furthermore, the scaling of services in these new areas, alongside evaluations for further market opportunities, is targeting major expansions of the company’s total addressable market.

Financials

Since going public, Affirm has delivered an impressive record of strong double-digit revenue growth, albeit more tempered at 18% year-over-year in FY23 when it hit $1.59 billion. Consumers are returning to pre-pandemic shopping patterns, and the company is seeing increased demand for previously laggard categories which boomed during the pandemic such as consumer electronics. Merchant network revenue increased 11% as GMV rose off the back of the company’s active merchant base and consumers. Card network revenue rose 19% also correlated with the growth of GMV processed. While interest income surged 30% year-over-year.

This momentum continued into the first quarter of 2024 with total revenue increasing 37% year-over-year to $496.5 million as pricing initiatives and a mix shift towards interest-bearing products paid off.

Whilst Affirm is loss-making recording a near $1 billion loss in FY23 with material stock-based compensation expenses driving this, the company’s underlying cash position is robust at $1.1 billion. The company also announced that for FY24 operating expenses have declined in part due to the restructuring program that it announced in February 2023.

Looking ahead, consensus estimates have Affirm continuing its strong revenue growth in FY24, advancing a further 27% year-over-year to $2.02 billion. Analysts also expect the company’s losses per share to improve by 38% from $3.19 to just $1.98 in FY24.

Risks/Competition

Affirm faces competition from traditional payment methods like credit and debit cards provided by major banks including J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, and Bank of America, among others. It is also up against technology solutions from payment companies like Visa and MasterCard, mobile wallets including PayPal and Apple, and other pay-over-time options from firms like Block and Klarna. Merchants are also introducing their own proprietary pay-over-time options, often available alongside Affirm’s offerings at checkout.

Despite the intense challenges from well-established and highly-resourced competitors, Affirm’s competitive edge lies in its transparent, no-hidden-fee policy and its advanced technology that offers personalized, flexible payment solutions to a wide consumer base. The company also distinguishes itself with its use of advanced technology and data analytics which allow for personalized, inclusive financing solutions beyond the reach of traditional banking.

Conclusion

Affirm stands out with its premium and flexible product offerings, tailored to meet the evolving needs of consumers, while helping to drive merchant success. This approach combined with its growing list of new services and potential to expand into new markets position it for continued expansion and market leadership amidst a competitive financial landscape.

Symbol Info

Weekly Chart

Fundamental Data

Snapshot

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way people invest. The days of telephone calls, paper stock certificates, and high commissions are all but gone. Now, thanks to new technologies and regulatory environments, billions of trades are executed electronically every day from the comfort of desk chairs, in many cases at virtually zero cost.

With origins going back almost half a century, Interactive Brokers has been at the forefront of the automated trading revolution. The proliferation of electronic exchanges and market centers since the early 1990s has allowed it to integrate its software with an increasing number of trading venues, creating one automatically functioning, computerized platform that requires minimal human intervention.

Today it continues to be one of the premier securities firms, with over $10 billion in equity capital and close to $300 billion in client equity, conducting its broker and dealer business on over 150 market destinations worldwide. The company provides direct access, online trade execution, and clearing services to institutional and professional traders for a wide variety of electronically traded products including stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds, commodities, cryptocurrencies, and funds worldwide, executing over three million trades per day.

Since the launch of its electronic brokerage business in 1993, IB has grown to over two million institutional and individual brokerage customers by providing one of the most effective and efficient platforms in the industry with high-speed trade execution at low commission rates due to its proprietary automation technology. As a result of the high-performance platform, the company attracts both sophisticated and active investors. It is now the largest electronic brokerage firm in the U.S. by the number of daily average revenue trades and is the leading forex broker.

Increased interest in the financial markets and the interconnectedness of investors worldwide have also propelled IB’s growth in recent years. Furthermore, with ongoing innovation and new products added to the company’s portfolio, it continues to deliver industry-leading profits and growth.

Background

In 1977, Thomas Peterffy left his job designing commodity trading software and bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange as an individual market maker. He soon expanded trading activities to several other members, as he developed algorithms to determine the best prices for options, which he used on the trading floor.

Under pressure to become a true market maker and keep constant bids and offers, Peterffy saw value in handheld computers and was instrumental in convincing the Chicago Board Options Exchange to be the first to allow computer use on the trading floor, which soon extended to other exchanges. By 1987, he had created the first fully automated algorithmic trading system and was trading on the Nasdaq.

Interactive Brokers Inc was incorporated in 1993 as a U.S. broker-dealer, providing technology developed for electronic network and trade execution services to customers. In 1995, IB created its primary trading platform, Trader Workstation, and executed its first trades for public customers, as trading across more and more exchanges were added.

The company’s technology and products continued to advance with additions such as direct market access, smart order routing, and the ability to trade equity derivatives, and by 2001, IB was handling 200,000 trades per day. Within ten years it became the largest online U.S. broker based on daily average revenue trades. The company’s offerings expanded further with real-time risk management and portfolio analysis tools, along with additional trading algorithms and a mobile app for the Trader Workstation. IBKR went public on the Nasdaq in 2007.

Over four decades of developing automated trading platforms and automating many middle and back office functions have allowed the company to become one of the lowest-cost providers of broker-dealer services, whilst also significantly increasing the volume of trades it handles from its now two million-strong customer base.

Leadership

After pioneering the advancement of securities markets and electronic brokerage and trading, founder Thomas Peterffy, despite stepping down as CEO in 2019, continues to serve IB as the chairman of the board of directors, whilst also being the company’s largest shareholder.

Current chief executive officer, president and director, Milan Galik joined IB over 30 years ago as a software developer after being recruited by Peterffy. After trading European derivatives for the firm, Galik moved to Germany, where he helped launch the region’s operations and ran the derivatives trading desk on the first electronic exchange in Frankfurt. On returning to the U.S., he helped build IB’s automated market-making systems and the firm’s electronic brokerage segment. He was named president of IB in 2014, and CEO in 2019.

Fellow company veteran, Thomas A. Frank, who joined IB in 1985 and was instrumental in the development of its early market-making systems, is now executive vice president and chief information officer, responsible for the company’s technical infrastructure and operations and information security.

Customer

As an electronic broker, IB executes, clears, and settles trades globally for both institutional and individual customers. Capitalizing on its proprietary technology, its systems provide customers with the capability to monitor multiple markets around the world simultaneously and to execute trades electronically in these markets at a low cost across multiple products and currencies from a single trading account.

IB offers customers access to all classes of tradable stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, commodities, and cryptocurrencies traded on more than 150 electronic exchanges and market centers in 33 countries and 25 currencies seamlessly around the world. The ever-growing complexity of multiple market centers has provided IB with opportunities to build and continuously adapt its order-routing software to secure market-leading execution prices.

Customers include individuals, trading desk professionals, electronic retail brokers, hedge funds, mutual funds, financial advisors, proprietary trading firms, and introducing brokers and banks that require global access.

IB’s versatile platform provides seamless electronic market access to a range of instruments in a single platform across multiple desktop and mobile trading interfaces. Furthermore, customers can access advanced trading and research tools, over 100 order types, algorithms, and API solutions.

Thematic

Proprietary technology has been key to IB’s success. Automation allows the company to be one of the lowest-cost processors in the industry. From account opening through the entire transaction lifecycle, to back office functions such as compliance and customer service, IB’s processes are automated. The majority of senior management are software engineers, committed to streamlining as many processes as possible and integrating systems with electronic exchanges and market centers worldwide to ensure transparency, liquidity, and efficiencies of scale. This approach reduces overall transaction costs to customers and in turn, increases transaction volumes and profits.

Over the past forty years, IB has developed its integrated trading system and communications network to position the company as an efficient conduit for capital across asset and product classes on electronic marketplaces around the world. Developing, maintaining, and continuing to enhance this proprietary technology provides IB and its customers with the competitive advantage of being able to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing environment of the industry. Whilst also allowing it to take advantage of opportunities presented by new exchanges, products, or regulatory changes before competitors.

The company has several important growth drivers, including a growing brokerage market in emerging regions, where more and more individual and institutional clients are entering the market. The adoption of cryptocurrencies and the ability to trade both securities and cryptocurrencies from one account make for a significant competitive advantage. Furthermore, tightening monetary policy which will see rising interest rates increase the company’s income in an aggressive environment will also provide a lucrative tailwind.

New product development also continues to keep IB at the forefront of the industry. Recent enhancements and new products include the IMPACT mobile app – a simplified trading platform that allows users to seamlessly align their investments with their values as environmental, social and governance factors gain an increased focus with customers. Fractional share trading is now possible for European stocks and ETFs, allowing investors the opportunity to trade across markets more affordably. While the company’s Traders’ Insight Radio is providing a new podcast series featuring interviews with executives, thought leaders, and market experts from across the financial services industry discussing topical themes impacting global markets and trading.

Financials

Despite weak equity markets worldwide, IB has performed strongly in 2022 as the company reported total revenues of $830 million for the third quarter, blitzing the prior comparative period at $467 million. This was largely driven by a 73% increase in net interest income due to higher benchmark interest rates and customer credit balances.

Impressively, customer account growth has continued with a 34% five-year compound annual growth rate, further expanding IB’s potential for both commission and interest revenues going forward. The strong third quarter result has trailing twelve-month revenues exceeding a record annual $2.8 billion run-rate.

While execution, clearing, and distribution costs rose from last year and total operating costs exceeded $1 billion, adjusted pre-tax margins were a record 68%, leading to an operating income of $563 million and net income of $99 million, up from $480 million and $42 million respectively.

Looking ahead, consensus estimates have IB closing out the full year with expected revenue of $3.09 billion representing year-over-year growth of 14%, while 2023 is forecasted to add a further 30% to $4.01 billion. Full-year earnings per share estimates for 2022 are forecasted to improve by 16% to $3.94 per share, up from $3.37 in 2021.

Risks/Competition

IB has a broad array of competitors ranging from large integrated banks to online brokers to early-stage private companies including huge names such as Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs among many others. These firms, both in the U.S. and abroad, provide electronic and prime brokerage, along with financial advisor, and introducing broker products and services. They compete based on numerous factors, including transaction execution, customer experience, products and services, technological excellence and innovation, as well as price.

Yet since IB’s inception, it has been driven to transform the electronic brokerage business through continued innovation, which has created significant differentiators that set the company apart from its competitors.

Conclusion

Interactive Brokers’ relentless focus on automation has seen it impressively increase its customer base, revenue, and earnings over the past decade. And with several important drivers including a growing brokerage market in emerging markets, the adoption of cryptocurrencies, and an environment of rising interest rates creating further benefits to trading volumes, the company looks well-placed to deliver continued growth ahead.

Symbol Info

Weekly Chart

Fundamental Data