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FinTok: how TikTok is helping young people use cash wisely | Consumer affairs

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Sea shanties and viral dance trends have helped make TikTok a hit since the start of the pandemic. In 2020, the social media app, which allows users to create and share one or more 60-second films soundtracked with music clips, surpassed 2bn global downloads.

In the financial world, TikTok has a reputation for promoting volatile cryptocurrencies and activist investing – interest in Dogecoin and GameStop has been fuelled by the platform. But, beyond the jokes and rocket emojis being shared by some users, there is a wealth of practical personal finance videos that are teaching young people how to use their money better.

This financial TikTok space, dubbed FinTok, is global and growing. Content tagged with the hashtag #stocktok has been seen by users 1.4bn times, while the slightly more mundane #PersonalFinance has garnered more than 4.4bn views. Tagged videos cover everything from budgeting to Isas, from taxes to debt.

What is remarkable about FinTok is not the content of these videos but their reach: young people who might have otherwise been uninterested in personal finance are engaging with it. People are thinking about their money, and how to make it work for them, earlier and with more care. Some are even taking their first steps into investing inspired by short videos they have seen on social media. For many generation Z and millennial users, TikTok is their first and only source of education on money matters.

Ava Montgomery, 17, came across personal finance when her favourite creators on the site shifted into FinTok. “A lot of their videos are advice-based, and a lot of that tends to be around finance,” she says. She is still in the sixth form, and, by her own admission, not yet at the stage of life to act on it, but she has already learned about credit and mortgages while scrolling on her phone. “I have taken into account how much I’m going to need to think about that stuff when I’m older,” she says.

Figures shared with Guardian Money by the investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown show that 46% of 18- to 34-year-olds have become more interested in investing over the past six months, and one in five attributed this newfound enthusiasm to TikTok.

Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Social media and trading apps really have democratised the whole investment process.”

Tips and advice

TikTok recommends videos to its users based on how they have previously watched its content, creating a personalised feed called the For You page (FYP). Unlike other recommendation systems, the FYP deliberately includes a range of diverse and random videos, even if they appear irrelevant to the user’s interests, in an algorithmic effort to avoid “filter bubbles”. As a result, users can come across FinTok videos despite having never shown interest in personal finance before.

Even if you use the platform purely for entertainment, this random feed means you can end up inadvertently engaging with educational content. Laura Pomfret, 33, one of the founders of the personal finance brand Financielle, says this is what she likes about TikTok.

Laura Pomfret
Laura Pomfret and her sister started Financielle on Instagram and have since expanded to TikTok. Photograph: Laura Pomfret

Laura and her sister Holly Holland, 31, started Financielle on Instagram and have since expanded on to TikTok, amassing more than 22,000 followers. Their content ranges from simple explainers to putting a financial spin on the latest TikTok trends and songs.

One recent video explores the question should I rent or should I buy? and features Laura in a garden, explaining rising house prices and market appreciation. Her friendly Mancunian accent and simple language make the daunting issue clear and easy to understand. She ends the 60-second video saying that there are no rules, encouraging viewers to decide for themselves and “bear in mind these factors when considering renting versus buying”.

A Financielle series, called Definition of the Day, breaks down financial jargon. One video explains greenwashing – a term regularly used on social media and often misunderstood. In less than a minute, Financielle’s intern Lucy defines the term: “Basically, it’s deceiving consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.”

The Financielle sisters’ aim is to make content that can act as “someone’s financial best friend”, Laura says: “This isn’t financial advice; this is the bit before it.” They describe their content as “like the couch to 5K” app, which was developed by the NHS to encourage people to take up running. It is about “breaking things down” and creating a plan, Laura says.

Laura and Holly are looking to expand their demographic, with the aim of reaching generation Z “before they make some bad life choices at ages 21 to 25, like we all probably did”. They anticipate: “TikTok’s going to be a massive driver for that.”

A younger creator, @pokubanks, also sees his platform as a space for education. David Poku, 20, started making personal finance videos on TikTok in January 2020, and boasts more than 330,000 followers. His interest in money started “because of the absence of financial literacy in school”, he says. When he was in the sixth form, he realised that he had never learned about taxes, investing or debt, so he taught himself and enrolled in the University of Nottingham to study finance, accounting and management. “I make some of my content from my lectures, literally,” he says.

David Poku
Many of David Poku’s videos try to educate viewers about how to navigate the onslaught of information. Photograph: David Poku

Poku’s typical video takes a conversational, question-and-answer style. In the wake of May’s cryptocurrency crash, Poku published a video in which he acted as a “naive investor” in a black tracksuit and an “experienced investor” in a plain fitted T-shirt. He explored the question of whether people who had bought crypto should sell their coins at a low price or ride the wave of speculation. The more experienced character told the other: “Only invest what you can afford to lose.” Poku says he is summarising the wisdom of established businessmen such as Warren Buffett, “and adding my twist to it so that people can understand the message”.

Poku is wary of the risks of unregulated online advice, so many of his videos seek to educate viewers about how to navigate the onslaught of information. A recent video marked with the hashtag #FactCheckYourFeed was part of a campaign by the site and the charity Citizens Advice.

Poku’s video gives three tips to avoid scams online. He tells viewers it is a “bad sign” if you are asked to pay for something quickly or in an unusual way, that they should avoid giving away personal bank details or passwords, and should not rush into any decisions.

Other films in the campaign have been made by @thatmortgageadvisor, an independent UK mortgage broker, and @tejlalvani, a chief executive and dtar of BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den. The videos in the #FactCheckYourFeed campaign will cover financial terminology, research methods and how to make informed decisions.

When 27-year-old Andra Maier, who lives in London, was furloughed from her job in fashion PR last year, she turned to TikTok in search of budgeting techniques. “Now my For You page is mostly financial advice,” she says.

Andra Maier
Andra Maier turned to TikTok for advice on budgeting when she was furloughed from her job in fashion PR. Photograph: Alina Raducea

Maier remembers specific helpful videos rather than individual influencers. She recalls that one creator explained how to use a Google Form for budgeting, which made Maier ask: “Why did I never do this?” She has created budgets in this way ever since and it has given her an increased awareness about what she is spending money on. She says: “I have a Google Form, I input every single thing I spend, and then it goes into its category.”

Based on Maier’s interests, TikTok showed her more finance videos, which encouraged her to shift from planning to investing. Because she saw “repetitive information” on TikTok, she felt confident enough to make her first trades.

She went to Hargreaves Lansdown and invested in a portfolio of low-risk stocks and funds. Then she downloaded several new investing apps popular on TikTok, such as Plum, through which she made higher-risk trades with smaller chunks of money. She sees TikTok as the first point of information, explaining new concepts such as “compound interest” in simple terms, and showing her what to research in greater depth elsewhere.

What to bear in mind about the videos

However, these simple and snappy FinTok videos are not universally popular. At 37, Matthew Flower from Saffron Walden is older than the typical TikTok user. He downloaded the app “to keep abreast of what my children are actually doing online”, then stumbled across the app’s many personal finance videos. He’s not a fan. “Most of them are awful,” he says.

One problem for UK users is that the majority of FinTok content is American. “Obviously, there’s a difference in our financial systems,” Flower says. But the bigger problem, he says, is that people might take influencers’ “statements as fact, without doing their due diligence”.

Nigel Frith, an FCA-accredited analyst from the website AskTrader, says the emergence of online platforms and the opportunity to act immediately has “brought the Wall Street or the London Stock Exchange experience to consumers”.

But he is also concerned about the dangers that come with such a low barrier to entry. All you need to start posting videos to TikTok is the app. The ability to go viral on the FYP, easier than on other social media according to creators, means information might be viewed hundreds or thousands of times without the need to establish the trust of committed followers.

Nigel Frith
Nigel Frith says online platforms and the opportunity to act immediately has ‘brought the Wall Street or the London Stock Exchange experience to consumers’. Photograph: TikTok

The dangers of unregulated influencers are starker when it comes to personal finance than in other genres because there is a risk that they could engage in market manipulation by giving tips that benefit their own investments.

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Streeter says it is difficult to know “the motives of these people” on social media. And she says if something is wrong “it’s not easy to censure an influencer at the moment”.

As Guardian Money went to press, it emerged that TikTok had banned branded content promoting financial services and products, including everything from cryptocurrency to debit cards. The extent of the ban is not yet clear, but it does suggest TikTok is taking action to reduce the potentially harmful content on the site.

Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner at website Interactive Investor, says the change “will hopefully mark the end of dubious and outright misleading adverts of high-risk investments as well as highly volatile cryptocurrency on the platform. The hope is that TikTok’s systems are robust enough to detect and weed out content that falls foul of its revised policy.”

A TikTok spokesperson says: “Keeping our community safe is a top priority,” and that this is why it launched the #FactCheckYourFeed campaign. It posts a public service announcement on financial advice hashtags, reminding users that investments involve risks. The spokesperson says: “Our guidelines make clear that we do not permit content that brings about financial or personal harm – and we have specific rules banning pyramid, Ponzi or similar schemes.”

Even if the rules tighten in the future, FinTok is going nowhere. The viewers and the influencers see TikTok as filling a vital knowledge gap for the UK’s youth, and many creators such as @financielle and @pokubanks actively support some form of regulation.

For now, in the wild west of personal finance videos, the advice is simple: do your own research, don’t make a financial decision just because it is trending, and keep your options open.

Five useful TikToks

@financielle: It’s important you build your own retirement pot

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Holly from Financielle shares tips for building up retirement savings early and independently

@pokubanks: Student loan is more of a tax, not a debt

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A UK student loan explainer – how it is repaid and when it is written off

@herfirst100k: Five questions to ask at the end of a job interview

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The popular US money expert Tori Dunlap suggests helpful questions to ask at the end of a job interview, including queries around salary and company culture.

@lifewithcaits: Budgeting tips for beginners

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A colourful and easy-to-follow video, outlining basic budgeting strategies.

@thatmortgageadvisor: What is the new government 5% deposit scheme?

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Emmy Dent, a UK independent mortgage broker, explains what the 5% deposit scheme is and who is eligible.

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Globalization Partners to create 160 new jobs at Galway EMEA office

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Recruitment tech company Globalization Partners is doubling its staff headcount in Galway to 320 in 2022 to aid its continuing growth.

Recruitment technology company Globalization Partners has announced plans to create 160 new jobs at its Irish base in Galway. The jobs boost will see the company double its Galway staff headcount to 320 in 2022. Jobs will be available across the board at the company’s Galway office, which serves as its EMEA centre of excellence.

The announcement comes following a major funding injection for the international firm. Globalization Partners recently raised $200m in funding from Vista Credit Partners, an organisation focused on the enterprise software, data and technology markets. The investment now values Globalization Partners at $4.2bn.

While its Galway facility will benefit from a major jobs boost, the company plans to continue to expand its share in the global remote working market. As well as the Galway growth, the company will also be expanding its teams in other locations.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

Globalization Partners provides tech to other remote-first teams all over the world. Its platform simplifies and automates entity access, payroll, time and expense management, benefits, data and reporting, performance management, employee status changes and locally compliant contract generation. Its customer base includes CoinDesk, TaylorMade and Chime. The company’s new customer acquisition increased two-and-a-half fold from 2020 to 2021.

“Globalization Partners is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the massive opportunity we see ahead of us,” said Nicole Sahin, the company’s CEO and founder.

Sahin said her company’s combination of tech with its global team of HR, legal and customer service experts “who understand the local customs, regulatory and legal requirements in each geography we serve” were key to its success.

David Flannery, president of Vista Credit Partners said that the company’s role “in transforming the remote work industry has been truly remarkable.”

Flannery said that as a customer of Globalization Partners, his organisation had “witnessed first-hand” the company’s “best-in-class legal compliance, the quality of the user experience, and the deep expertise and support they provide,”

He added that the two companies would work to “further capitalise” on the “untapped” global remote working market, expanding their platform to new customers in new markets.

“Over the past decade, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our business, building our global presence and technology platform to support the evolving and complex talent needs of growing companies,” said Bob Cahill, president of Globalization Partners. “With Vista as our investment partner, we will be able to drive further growth and continue building innovative products to meet the increasing needs of our customers at scale.”

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

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How to speed up your broadband internet | Wifi

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Do a speed check

Find out the speed you are getting using a computer connected to your router via an ethernet network cable. Many routers and other devices come with one, or they cost about £5 separately.

You may also need a USB ethernet adapter (about £10) if your computer does not have a port built-in.

If you can’t connect via ethernet, use a modern phone, laptop or tablet on wifi as close to your router as possible with a clear line of sight.

Ookla’s Speedtest.net and Netflix’s Fast.com are reliable speed-testing services.

Some more advanced routers have speed testing services built into them, too. They are typically accessible via a router’s settings pages in your browser or a companion app, if they have one.

Woman setting up home office connection
Connecting your device to the router with an ethernet cable can improve speeds. Photograph: Tetra Images/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

If your broadband is slow at the router, it might be time to switch providers. Some fixed-line ISPs offer speeds in excess of 200Mbps in certain areas, while 4G/5G home broadband is an alternative.

If you are not getting near the speed your ISP advertises, you may be able to get a discount, or switch to a plan with higher speeds.

Work out what you need

When it comes to broadband the faster the better, particularly with multiple people and devices using the internet at once. However, the minimum speed needed for most online activities is fairly slow.

Video calling services, such as Zoom, typically need up to 4Mbps upload and download.

Online gaming services, such as Xbox Live, need at least 3Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up, while game streaming services need a minimum of 10Mbps down.

Video streaming, such as Netflix, needs at least 5Mbps for HD or 25Mbps for 4K content.

The median broadband speed in the UK is 50.4Mbps down and 9.8Mbps up, according to data from Ofcom in March 2021. That means that the majority of connections should be able to handle most popular services.

But bear in mind that with more than one device, or person, using your connection simultaneously, including updates and downloads when idle, slower broadband packages can quickly get choked.

Reposition your router

If your broadband connection is fast enough but your wifi is weak, there are things you can do. If possible, move the router closer to the centre of the house, or towards the rooms in which you need the strongest signal. Keep it in the open, not in a cabinet, and away from solid and metallic objects.

And try to position it away from dense walls, particularly those made out of concrete blockwork or with pipes and wires running through them.

Check your settings

Most modern routers will automatically select the best settings for your home, but you can manually check using the web interface of your router accessed through a browser on a computer. Consult the help pages for your ISP’s router for how to do so.

Wifi operating at 2.4GHz uses a range of frequency “channels”, only some of which do not overlap with each other. To reduce interference from your neighbours’ wifi, switch to channel 1, 6 or 11, which do not overlap, and therefore are less likely to cause or suffer interference.

If you have a connection under 200Mbps, enabling prioritisation or “quality of service” for your key devices, might help. This stops other things from sucking up all the available bandwidth – it will prevent a game download on an Xbox cutting off a video call on your laptop, for instance.

Set a strong wifi password using at least WPA2 security, not the lowest WEP option. This will make sure no wifi thieves can log on to your network and steal your bandwidth.

Check your devices

An internet slowdown may be down to your devices rather than your router. For older computers, upgrading the wifi adapter may help. USB wifi 5 adapters cost under £15, while the latest wifi 6 models cost about £50, but you will need a compatible router to take advantage of the extra speed.

For a non-portable device, such as a media streamer or a console, use an ethernet cable if it is close to the router, as this will be faster and more reliable than wifi.

If you have about 40 devices connected at once, consider disconnecting unnecessary ones to help provide more bandwidth for those you need most.

Weaker routers struggle with lots of devices connected at once.

Extend the wifi reach

If your wifi can’t reach parts of your house you can extend the signal of your current router with add-on gadgets.

Powerline networking devices use your home’s power cables to transmit data. They typically cost between £20 and £70. They plug into standard electrical sockets with one connected to the router via an ethernet cable, and others placed about the home providing ethernet ports and/or wifi for your devices. The speed you get through them is dependent on the condition of your electrical wiring.

Wifi extenders (£25-70) do a similar thing, but simply connect to your router via wifi, then rebroadcast it for other devices.

A network switch (under £20) can add more ethernet ports to your router if you need to connect more devices.

Upgrade to a better router

Mesh wifi systems
Mesh wifi systems come in various shapes and sizes, spreading your broadband all over your home using a series of wirelessly interconnected satellite units. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Replacing your existing router is often the most effective way to improve your wifi, but is also the most costly. Before committing to a third-party router, speak to your ISP as it may be able to provide you with a more modern one for free. Virgin and other ISPs are currently rolling out more powerful wifi 6-capable routers.

Otherwise, there are broadly two options: a beefy single router with much more powerful wifi broadcasting ability than the cheap one provided by your ISP, or a mesh system, which uses a series of satellites dotted about your home to blanket it in wifi.

Both typically use your existing router as a modem and then broadcast their own more robust wifi network.

Single unit wifi 6 routers start at about £60 but can reach the hundreds for powerful gaming-orientated devices. They connect to your old ISP box via ethernet cable, which means they are often easier to place in a more central area of your home. Running a long ethernet cable under floorboards, carpets, behind skirting boards or picture rails, or just under furniture can help keep things neat.

Good wifi 5 mesh systems start at under £100 for a triple pack of satellites, which should be enough for most homes with connections under 200Mbps. For those with faster broadband, good tri-band wifi 6 models cost about £300.

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IBM finally finds someone willing to buy Watson • The Register

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In-brief IBM has offloaded healthcare data and analytics assets from its Watson Health business, with private equity firm Francisco Partners hand over around $1bn for the privilege.

The takeover “is a clear next step as IBM becomes even more focused on our platform-based hybrid cloud and AI strategy,” Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Software, told newswire Bloomberg. “IBM remains committed to Watson, our broader AI business, and to the clients and partners we support in healthcare IT.”

Launched in 2015, IBM Watson Health hasn’t been able to turn a profit despite the company spending $4bn in acquisitions to grow the business and its capabilities.

IBM has tried to whittle down its Watson Health division for a while, after struggling to sign hospitals as clients.

Algorithms are improving poker players’ skills but are they ruining the game?

Professional poker players are increasingly consulting specialized poker software programs to boost their chances of winning, but some believe it has made the game less fun and encourages cheating online.

PioSOLVER, available for purchase starting from $249, allows players to recreate game scenarios and calculates the optimal strategy that should be played given the cards available. Some professional poker players, described by the New York Times, use the software to replay their games to see if they played their cards correctly, others boot up PioSOLVER to learn and memorize new strategies.

Poker is seen as a mostly-solved problem in computer science. Libratus, an AI model, beat the top players in a no limit heads-up no-limit Texas competition in 2017. At the time, Tuomas Sandholm, one of Libratus’ creators, said it was unlikely people could run the complex software to cheat. But some claim that PioSOLVER is now helping mediocre poker players to rack up wins.

It’s unclear if PioSOLVER relies on similar machine learning techniques as Libratus, as little information is available about the algorithms it employs.

Doug Polk, a notable semi-retired poker player, said: “I feel like it kind of killed the soul of the game.” The game has turned from “who can be the most creative problem-solver to who can memorize the most stuff and apply it.”

PioSOLVER’s creator, Piotrek Lopusiewicz, however, said similar poker-solving programs have been available for a while and that his software is merely the latest advance in the field.

Rent a robot for less than the cost of human labour

There’s a robot that presses metal to make things like hinges or locks, and it’s cheaper to hire than human workers.

Built a company named Formic, the machine is pretty much one long mechanical arm. Its job is to pick up bits of metal and put them into a press for shaping. It can work without any breaks for its employer, Polar Hardware Manufacturing, and costs about $8 per hour – less than the minimum wage of $15 in Chicago, Wired first reported.

Companies like Formic help industrial factories recruit robot workers without having to pay for the whole machine. Customers can, instead, rent the company’s metal arms to perform simple, repetitive tasks whenever they want. Its cheaper, and they don’t have to faff around with things like software or maintenance.

“Anything that can help reduce labor count or the need for labor is obviously a plus at this particular time,” said Steve Chmura, chief operating officer at Georgia Nut, a confectionery company in Illinois that also rents robots from Formic. Chmura has been able to staff up with robot workers during the pandemic; these machines can take over if human employees quit or get sick. ®

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