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Nonbank Specialty Servicers: What’s the Big Deal?

August 31, 2014 Comments off

Nonbank Specialty Servicers: What’s the Big Deal?
Source: Urban Institute

Following the crisis, nonbank specialty servicers rapidly expanded their portfolios of distressed loans. This has contributed to a significant market change: in 2011, the 10 largest mortgage servicers were all banks; by 2013, only five of the top 10 were banks, and the other five were nonbank servicers. The rapid growth and lack of a federal regulator have contributed to significant, heated regulatory scrutiny. This commentary discusses major concerns raised about the largest nonbank servicers, focusing on the three fastest-growing large nonbank servicers. We explore the regulatory and market framework driving their striking growth, then address the major charges against them, in an effort to elevate the debate and inform sound policy.

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EU — Organic production and labelling of organic products

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Organic production and labelling of organic products
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment (IA) accompanying the above proposal which was adopted on 24 March 2014.

The general problem identified is that the overall objective of the current EU political and legislative framework to ensure the sustainable development of organic production, is not being met. Over the last ten years, the organic market has been characterised by dynamic development driven by strong growth in demand. The global market for organic food expanded fourfold between 1999 and 2011, yet the area under organic production in the EU only doubled in the decade 2000-2010. According to the IA, neither internal supply, nor the legislative framework, has kept up with this market expansion, resulting in lost opportunities for EU producers. Moreover, the IA considers that the continued growth of the organic market might itself be at threat from possible erosion of consumer confidence, due to the watering down of some EU organic production rules, with excessive use of exceptions, and cases of fraud in the control system and the import regime. In addition, the development of private schemes has led to confusion, with a multiplication of logos competing with the EU organic logo. The entire regulatory framework is extremely complex and difficult to understand for operators, producers, consumers and public authorities, and will become more so with the foreseen implementation of a compliance regime for control bodies in non-recognised third countries from 2014. There is significant administrative burden linked notably to the management of the exceptions by national administrations and to the control of business operators.

The New Rules for Designing Fixed-Mobile Bundles: Winning with Convergence

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The New Rules for Designing Fixed-Mobile Bundles: Winning with Convergence
Source: Boston Consulting Group

Convergence and integrated telcos go way back, but the relationship has often been a rocky one. In theory, convergence offers—packages that leverage an operator’s fixed and mobile assets—have long been tempting propositions. If all of a subscriber’s needs could be met with one basket of services, customers could be steered away from other providers. Market share and revenues would rise, churn would decrease—what could go wrong? In practice, plenty.

Traditionally, most convergence offers were built around very simply discounted bundles that prompted customers to buy more and save. Telcos would slap together their existing fixed and mobile plans and shave some dollars off the price. But competitors could easily replicate such bundles, shaving still more off the cost. The resulting price war eroded margins, and even the telcos that picked up market share saw little net gain.

Little wonder, then, that many telcos now look at convergence and think, “Been there, done that—it doesn’t work.” Yet increasingly, we are seeing evidence that convergence offers can work. Or, rather, that a new take on convergence offers works. At the heart of this approach is the idea that simple discounts need not be—and shouldn’t be—the sole differentiator between a convergence offer and standalone fixed and mobile plans. Instead, an operator’s assets can be combined in ways that offer unique, compelling services that can’t be easily replicated, such as the ability to watch TV from any device.

For customers, these bundles are attractive because they have a clear “better together” value proposition: subscribers end up with more overall than they would have if they had purchased separate mobile and fixed plans. In other words, one plus one now equals more than two.

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Personal Consumption Expenditures by State, 1997-2012 (Prototype Estimates)

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Personal Consumption Expenditures by State, 1997-2012 (Prototype Estimates)
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released prototype estimates of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) for states for 1997-2012. These new estimates provide insight into household spending patterns across states that can be used together with other regional data to gain a better understanding of regional economies.

The data provide a new tool for state-level analysis of consumer activity and household economic well-being. The statistics can be used by state and regional policy makers for fiscal analysis and by businesses targeting regional markets. These prototype estimates are released for evaluation and comment by data users.

The Next Frontier: Insurance Marketplaces That Promote Quality Improvement

August 25, 2014 Comments off

The Next Frontier: Insurance Marketplaces That Promote Quality Improvement
Source: Commonwealth Fund

In 2014, most state-run health insurance marketplaces focused on the technical challenges of enrolling millions of people in new coverage. While this will continue to be a challenge this year, ongoing operational improvements will allow marketplaces to better focus on encouraging the delivery of better, more cost-effective care.

In a recent Commonwealth Fund issue brief, we assessed efforts among the state-based health insurance marketplaces to implement the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) quality improvement initiatives. Although federal officials allowed the marketplaces to delay implementing key quality provisions of the law, we found that 13 of the 17 states* operating their own marketplace moved forward with at least one of the quality-related provisions of the ACA, such as collecting quality data or making quality information public. However, we also learned that using health insurance marketplaces as a vehicle for achieving better, more affordable care is easier said than done.

To be successful, marketplaces need to set common standards and expectations across health plans, and overcome other barriers such as the lack of effective IT systems, the complexity of selecting effective quality measures and evidence-based delivery system reforms, the need for sufficient enrollment to make quality measurement statistically meaningful, and other complexities.

Acquity Group 2014 Internet of Things Study

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Acquity Group 2014 Internet of Things Study
Source: Accenture (Acquity Group)

Based on more than 2,000 consumer surveys across the U.S., Acquity Group’s 2014 Internet of Things (IoT) Study examines consumer adoption of connected devices and smart technology now and in the future.

The study found consumer adoption of network connected technology is on the rise, with 69 percent of consumers planning to buy an in-home device in the next five years. By the end of next year, a total of about 13 percent of consumers will own an in-home IoT device such as a thermostat or in-home security camera. Currently, only about 4 percent of those surveyed own such a device.

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Here’s Looking at You: How Personal Health Information Is Being Tracked and Used

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Here’s Looking at You: How Personal Health Information Is Being Tracked and Used
Source: California HealthCare Foundation
From press release:

Every day, in the course of using cell phones, credit cards, search engines, websites, and medical devices, we leave digital “footprints.” Aggregated and analyzed, these data flows, which occur with and without our knowledge, have the potential to paint a detailed health profile of individuals, as well as to describe whole communities based on location, health conditions, or other factors.

The proliferation of extremely large databases of health information challenge regulators’ and society’s ability to ensure individuals’ data rights and privacy. This report provides an overview of some of the emerging issues related to consumer-generated health data. It is based on numerous interviews with technology and health care experts, several of whom offer strategies for protecting privacy in the future.

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