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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wealth: How to protect it and how to lose it

Here are a couple of headlines regarding wealth that are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Who had the better system for protecting their wealth?

Bold Brazilian Bank Heist

Thieves pulled off a huge bank robbery on Saturday, August 27th, in São Paulo, Brazil, when they broke into 138 private safes belonging to at least 120 wealthy clients of Banco Itaú, Latin America’s largest bank. The heist took place in one of São Paulo's most highly secured buildings, which is on Paulista Avenue, in the heart of the city's financial district in Brazil's biggest metropolis. This was like robbing a big U.S. bank in New York's Times Square.

Banco Itaú, São Paulo, Brazil

The Mystery Behind Brazil's Biggest Jewelery Heist --
... the thieves left with cash, luxury watches, gold bars, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Loads of diamonds. According to the most optimistic estimates, the total amount of valuables taken was about R$ 100 million ($58.5 million). Little of the loot was insured...

For a bank, a huge robbery like the one in this case can somehow be compared to a plane crash for an airliner. Some 40 managers at the bank were ordered to put aside their daily tasks and devote to personally inform clients that their precious goods had been stolen. Many have had to be medicated after receiving the news...
Armed gang carry out £40 million bank heist --
An armed gang posing as maintenance workers have carried out an audacious bank robbery reminiscent of a Hollywood heist film in Brazil, seizing cash, jewellery and watches valued at around £40m...

Police reportedly believe it is highly likely that some of the gang were also involved in the country's biggest ever bank robbery in 2005 in the northern city of Fortaleza, in which the robbers escaped with 164m reais in cash...
Telegraph: Five audacious bank robberies in history
Cell Phone Safety Deposit

Six time zones and 5700 miles away from São Paulo, in Kenya, Africa, the poor people there have embraced using cell phones to keep their money safe. These poor folks can't afford banks and certainly not safety deposit boxes. So they have learned that storing their money on a cell phone is safer than hiding it in the house or in the grain bin.

The banks are certainly not happy with this new technology that keeps potential customers away. Will JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America's biggest competitor in ten years be Verizon?

The big banks in this country are reportedly going to start adding a $5 per month debit card service fee. If this happens, then poor people in this country will have a strong incentive to move over to a good cheap cell phone money transfer system, like the Kenyans.

More than 14 million Kenyans have a phone-transfer account

Bloomberg Business:
In Kenya, Keeping Cash Safe on a Cell Phone --
Moses Githua has no steady work. He pulls in money from odd jobs, tucking away what he can each month. Githua, who lives in Nairobi, is what development researchers call “unbanked”: He lacks access to a traditional banking system...

It’s not that poor people lack the will to save, Maurer says. They lack the tools. Local banks charge fees that discourage saving small amounts. Keep it in a jar or under the bed, and it becomes attractive to thieves or relatives in need. Instead, Githua, 33, found another way to manage his cash: He uses his account with M-PESA, a service that lets people transfer money with their mobile phones. Githua doesn’t use it that way, though. He loads up his account and lets it sit in his “digital wallet” until he’s ready to use it. This simple trick keeps his savings beyond the reach of thieves. “There was and is micro-finance,” says Maurer, but “what of the people who are too poor to become entrepreneurs, what do they need? A safe, secure place to store what little money they have.” Kenya’s example shows that a $20 mobile phone may be secure enough. By 2012, 1.7 billion of the unbanked poor worldwide will have one...
M-Pesa -- M-PESA (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money) is the product name of a mobile-phone based money transfer service for Safaricom, which is a Vodafone affiliate. It was entirely developed by Kenyans and was initially sponsored by the UK-based Dept. for International Development (DFID) in 2003–2007.

M-PESA runs as an application coded right into the SIM cards of users’ mobile phones.

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