Building a Kingdom – Case Study of Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited

This article presents a case study of sustained entrepreneurial growth of Kingdom Financial Holdings. It is one of the entrepreneurial banks which survived the financial crisis that started in Zimbabwe in 2003. The bank was established in 1994 by four entrepreneurial young bankers. It has grown substantially over the years. The case examines the origins, growth and expansion of the bank. It concludes by summarizing lessons or principles that can be derived from this case that maybe applicable to entrepreneurs.

Profile of an Entrepreneur: Nigel Chanakira

Nigel Chanakira was raised in the Highfield suburb of Harare in an entrepreneurial family. His father and uncle operated a public transport company Modern Express and later diversified into retail shops. Nigel’s father later exited the family business. He bought out one of the shops and expanded it. During school holidays young Nigel, as the first born, would work in the shops. His parents, particularly his mother, insisted that he acquire an education first.

On completion of high school, Nigel failed to enter dental or medical school, which were his first passions. In fact his grades could only qualify him for the Bachelor of Arts degree programme at the University of Zimbabwe. However, he “sweet-talked his way into a transfer” to the Bachelor in Economics degree programme. Academically he worked hard, exploiting his strong competitive character that was developed during his sporting days. Nigel rigorously applied himself to his academic pursuits and passed his studies with excellent grades, which opened the door to employment as an economist with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

During his stint with the Reserve Bank, his economic mindset indicated to him that wealth creation was happening in the banking sector therefore he determined to understand banking and financial markets. While employed at RBZ, he read for a Master’s degree in Financial Economics and Financial Markets as preparation for his debut into banking. At the Reserve Bank under Dr Moyana, he was part of the research team that put together the policy framework for the liberalization of the financial services within the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme. Being at the right place at the right time, he became aware of the opportunities which were opening up. Nigel exploited his position to identify the most profitable banking institution to work for as preparation for his future. He headed to Bard Discount House and worked for five years under Charles Gurney.

A short while later the two black executives at Bard, Nick Vingirayi and Gibson Muringai, left to form Intermarket Discount House. Their departure inspired the young Nigel. If these two could establish a banking institution of their own so could he, given time. The departure also created an opportunity for him to rise to fill the vacancy. This gave the aspiring banker critical managerial experience. Subsequently he became a director for Bard Investment Services where he gained critical experience in portfolio management, client relationships and dealing within the dealing department. While there he met Franky Kufa, a young dealer who was making waves, who would later become a key co-entrepreneur with him.

Despite his professional business engagement his father enrolled Nigel in the Barclays Bank “Start Your Own Business” Programme. However what really made an impact on the young entrepreneur was the Empretec Entrepreneur Training programme (May 1994), to which he was introduced by Mrs Tsitsi Masiyiwa. The course demonstrated that he had the requisite entrepreneurial competences.

Nigel talked Charles Gurney into an attempted management buy-out of Bard from Anglo -American. This failed and the increasingly frustrated aspiring entrepreneur considered employment opportunities with Nick Vingirai’s Intermarket and Never Mhlanga’s National Discount House which was on the verge of being formed – hoping to join as a shareholder since he was acquainted with the promoters. He was denied this opportunity.

Being frustrated at Bard and having been denied entry into the club by pioneers, he resigned in October 1994 with the encouragement of Mrs Masiyiwa to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

The Dream

Inspired by the messages of his pastor, Rev. Tom Deuschle, and frustrated at his inability to participate in the church’s massive building project, Nigel sought a way of generating huge financial resources. During a time of prayer he claims that he had a divine encounter where he obtained a mandate from God to start Kingdom Bank. He visited his pastor and told him of this encounter and the subsequent desire to start a bank. The godly pastor was amazed at the 26 year old with “big spectacles and wearing tennis shoes” who wanted to start a bank. The pastor prayed before counselling the young man. Having been convinced of the genuineness of Nigel’s dream, the pastor did something unusual. He asked him to give a testimony to the congregation of how God was leading him to start a bank. Though timid, the young man complied. That experience was a powerful vote of confidence from the godly pastor. It demonstrates the power of mentors to build a protégé.

Nigel teamed up with young Franky Kufa. Nigel Chanakira left Bard at the position of Chief Economist. They would build their own entrepreneurial venture. Their idea was to identify players who had specific competences and would each be able to generate financial resources from his activity. Their vision was to create a one – stop financial institution offering a discount house, an asset management company and a merchant bank. Nigel used his Empretec model to develop a business plan for their venture. They headhunted Solomon Mugavazi, a stockbroker from Edwards and Company and B. R. Purohit, a corporate banker from Stanbic. Kufa would provide money market expertise while Nigel provided income from government bond dealings as well as overall supervision of the team.

Each of the budding partners brought in an equal portion of the Z$120,000 as start-up capital. Nigel talked to his wife and they sold their recently acquired Eastlea home and vehicles to raise the equivalent of US$17,000 as their initial capital. Nigel, his wife and three kids headed back to Highfield to live in with his parents. The partners established Garmony Investments which started trading as an unregistered financial institution. The entrepreneurs agreed not to draw a salary in their first year of operations as a bootstrapping strategy.

Mugavazi introduced and recommended Lysias Sibanda, a chartered accountant, to join the team. Nigel was initially reluctant as each person had to bring in an earning capacity and it was not clear how an accountant would generate revenue at start up in a financial institution. Nigel initially retained a 26% share which assured him a blocking vote as well as giving him the position of controlling shareholder.

Nigel credits the Success Motivation Institute (SMI) course “The Dynamics of Successful Management” as the lethal weapon that enabled him to acquire managerial competences. Initially he insisted that all his key executives undertake this training programme.

Birth of the Kingdom

Kingdom Securities P/L commenced operations in November 1994 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmony Investments (Pvt) Ltd. It traded as a broker on both money and stock markets.

On 24th February 1995 Kingdom Securities Holding was born with the following subsidiaries: Kingdom Securities Ltd, Kingdom Stockbrokers (Pvt) Ltd and Kingdom Asset Managers (Pvt) Ltd. The flagship Kingdom Securities Ltd was registered as a Discount House under Banking Act Chapter 188 on 25th July 1995. Kingdom Stockbrokers was registered with the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange under ZSE Chapter 195 on 1st August 1995. The pre-licensing trading had generated good revenue but they still had a 20% deficit of the required capital. Most institutional investors turned them down as they were a greenfield company promoted by people perceived to be “too young”. At this stage National Merchant Bank, Intermarket and others were on the market raising equity and these were run by seasoned and mature promoters. However Rachel Kupara, then MD for Zimnat, believed in the young entrepreneurs and took up the first equity portion for Zimnat at 5%.

Norman Sachikonye, then Financial Director and Investments Manager at First Mutual followed suit, taking up an equity share of 15%. These two institutional investors were inducted as shareholders of Kingdom Securities Holdings on 1st August 1995. Garmony Investments ceased operations and reversed itself into Kingdom Securities on 31st July 1995, thereby becoming an 80% shareholder.

The first year of operations was marked by intense competition as well as discrimination against new financial institutions by public organisations. All the other operating units performed well except for the corporate finance department with Kingdom Securities, led by Purohit. This monetary loss, differing spiritual and ethical values led to the forced departure of Purohit as an executive director and shareholder on 31st December 1995. From then the Kingdom started to grow exponentially.

Structural Growth

Nigel and his team pursued an aggressive growth strategy with the intention of increasing market share, profitability, and geographic spread while developing a strong brand. The growth strategy was built around a business philosophy of simplifying financial services and making them easily accessible to the general public. An IT strategy that created a low cost delivery channel exploiting ATMs and POS while providing a platform that was ready for Internet and web-based applications, was espoused.

On 1st April 1997, Kingdom Financial Services was licensed as an accepting house focusing on trading and distributing foreign currency, treasury activities, corporate finance, investment banking and advisory services. It was formed under the leadership of Victor Chando with the intention of becoming the merchant banking arm of the Group. In 1998, Kingdom Merchant Bank (KMB) was licensed and it took over the assets and liabilities of Kingdom Securities Limited. Its main focus was treasury related products, off-balance sheet finance, foreign currency and trade finance. Kingdom Research Institute was established as a support service to the other units.

The entrepreneurial bankers, cognisant of their limitations, sought to achieve critical mass quickly by actively seeking capital injection from equity investors. The aim was to broaden ownership while lending strategic support in areas of mutual interest. An attempt at equity uptake from Global Emerging Markets from London failed. However in 1997 the efforts of the bankers were rewarded when the following organisations took up some equity, reducing the shareholding of executive directors as shown below: ïEUR Ipcorn 0.7%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund Mauritius P/L 1.1%, ïEUR Zambezi Fund P/L 0.7%. ïEUR Kingdom Employee Share Trust 5%, ïEUR Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund – 8% redeemable preference shares amounting to US$1,5m as the first investee company in Southern Africa from the US Fund initiated by US President Bill Clinton, ïEUR Weiland Investments, a company belonging to Mr Richard Muirimi, a long standing friend of Nigel and associate in the fund management business took up 1.7%, Garmony Investments 71.7% -executive directors. ïEUR After a rights issue Zimnat fell to 4.8% while FML went down to 14.3%.

In 1998, Kingdom launched four Unit Trusts which proved very popular with the market. Initially these products were focused at individual clients of the discount house as well as private portfolios of Kingdom Stockbroking. Aggressive marketing and awareness campaigns established the Kingdom Unit Trust as the most popular retail brand of the group. The Kingdom brand was thus born.

Acquisition of Discount Company of Zimbabwe (DCZ)

After a spurt of organic growth, the Kingdom entrepreneurs decided to hasten the growth rate synergistically. They set out to acquire the oldest discount house in the country and the world, The Discount Company of Zimbabwe, which was a listed entity. With this acquisition Kingdom would acquire critical competences as well as achieve the much coveted ZSE listing inexpensively through a reverse listing. Initial efforts at a negotiated merger with DCZ were rebuffed by its executives who could not countenance a forty year old institution being swallowed up by a four year old business. The entrepreneurs were not deterred. Nigel approached his friend Greg Brackenridge at Stanbic to finance and effect the acquisition of the sixty percent shares which were in the hands of about ten shareholders, on behalf of Kingdom Financial Holdings but to be placed in the ownership of Stanbic Nominees. This strategy masked the identity of the acquirer. Claud Chonzi, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) GM and a friend to Lysias Sibanda (a Kingdom executive director), agreed to act as a front in the negotiations with the DCZ shareholders. NSSA is a well known institutional investor and hence these shareholders may have believed that they were dealing with an institutional investor. Once Kingdom controlled 60% of DCZ, it took over the company and reverse listed itself onto the Stock Exchange as Kingdom Financial Holdings Limited (KFHL). Because of the negative real interest rates, Kingdom successfully used debt finance to structure the acquisition. This acquisition and the subsequent listing gave the once despised young entrepreneurs confidence and credibility on the market.

Other Strategic Acquisitions

Within the same year Kingdom Merchant Bank acquired a strategic stake in CFX Bureau de Change owned by Sean Maloney as well as another stake in a greenfield microlending franchise, Pfihwa P/L. CFX was changed into KFX and used in most foreign currency trading activities. KFHL set as a strategic intention the acquisition of an additional 24.9% stake in CFX Holdings to safeguard the initial investment and ensure management control. This did not work out. Instead, Sean Maloney opted out and took over the failed Universal Merchant Bank licence to form CFX Merchant Bank. Although Kingdom executives contend that the alliance failed due to the abolition of bureau de change by government, it appears that Sean Maloney refused to give up control of the extra shareholding sought by Kingdom. It therefore would be reasonable that once Kingdom could not control KFX, a fall out ensued. The liquidation of this investment in 2002 resulted in a loss of Z$403 million on that investment. However this was manageable in light of the strong group profitability.

Pfihwa P/L financed the informal sector as a form of corporate social responsibility. However when the hyperinflationary environment and stringent regulatory environment encroached on the viability of the project, it was wound up in early 2004. Kingdom pursued its financing of the informal sector through MicroKing, which was established with international assistance. By 2002 MicroKing had eight branches located in the midst of, or near, micro-enterprise clusters.

In 2000, due to increased activity on the foreign currency front within the banking sector, Kingdom opened a private banking facility through the discount house to exploit revenue streams from this market. Following market trends, it engaged the insurance company AIG to enter the bancassurance market in 2003.

Meikles Strategic Alliance

In 1999 the entrepreneurial Chanakira on advice from his executives and the legendary corporate finance team from Barclays bank led by the affable Hugh Van Hoffen entered into a strategic alliance with Meikles Africa whereby it injected some Z$322 million into Kingdom for an equity shareholding of 25%. Interestingly, the deal nearly collapsed on pricing as Meikles only wanted to pay $250 million whilst KFHL valued themselves at Z$322 million which in real terms was the largest private sector deal done between an indigenous bank and a listed corporate. Nigel testifies that it was a walk through the incomplete Celebration Church site on the Saturday preceding the signing of the Meikles deal that led him to sign the deal which he saw as a means for him to sow a whopping seed into the church to boost the Building Fund. God was faithful! Kingdom’s share price shot up dramatically from $2,15 at the time he made the commitment to the Pastor all the way to $112,00 by the following October!

In return Kingdom acquired a powerful cash-rich shareholder that allowed it entrance into retail banking through an innovative in-store banking strategy. Meikles Africa opened its retail branches, namely TM Supermarkets, Clicks, Barbours, Medix Pharmacies and Greatermans, as distribution channels for Kingdom commercial bank or as account holders providing deposits and requiring banking services. This was a cheaper way of entering retail banking. It proved useful during the 2003 cash crisis because Meikles with its massive cash resources within its business units assisted Kingdom Bank, thus cushioning it from a liquidity crisis. The alliance also raised the reputation and credibility of Kingdom Bank and created an opportunity for Kingdom to finance Meikles Africa’s customers through the jointly owned Meikles Financial Services. Kingdom provided the funding for all lease and hire purchases from Meikles’ subsidiaries, thus driving sales for Meikles while providing easy lending opportunities for Kingdom. Meikles managed the relationship with the client.

Meikles Africa as a strategic shareholder assured Kingdom of success when recapitalisation was required and has enhanced Kingdom’s brand image. This strategic relationship has created powerful synergies for mutual benefit.

Commercial Banking

Exploiting the opportunities arising from the strategic relationship with Meikles Africa, Kingdom made its debut into retail banking in January 2001 with in-store branches at High Glen and Chitungwiza TM supermarkets. The target was principally the mass market. This rode on the strong brand Kingdom had created through the Unit Trusts. In-store banking offered low cost delivery channels with minimal investment in brick and mortar. By the end of 2001, thirteen branches were operational across the country. This followed a deliberate strategy for aggressive roll-out of the branches with two flagship branches ïEUR­ïEUR one in Bulawayo and the other in Harare. There was a huge emphasis on an IT driven strategy with significant cross-selling between the commercial bank and other SBUs.

However, it was further discovered that there was a market for the upmarket clients and hence Crown banking outlets were established to diversify the target market. In 2004, after closing three in-store branches in a rationalization exercise, there were 16 in-store branches and 9 Crown banking outlets.

The entrance into commercial banking was probably held at the wrong time, considering the imminent changes in the banking industry. Commercial banking does provide cheap deposits, however at the price of huge staff costs and human resource management complications. Nigel concedes that, with hindsight, this could have been delayed or done at a slower pace. However, the need for increased market share in a fiercely competitive industry necessitated this. Another reason for persisting with the commercial banking project was that of prior agreements with Meikles Africa. It is possible that Meikles Africa had been sold on the equity take-up deal on the back of promises to engage in in-store banking, which would increase revenue for its subsidiaries.

Innovative Products and Services

KFHL continued its aggressive pursuit of product innovation. After the failure of the KFX project, CurrencyKing was established to continue the work. However this was abolished in November 2002 by government ministerial intervention when bureau de change were prohibited in an effort to stamp out parallel market foreign currency trading.

Sadly this governmental decision was misguided for not only did it fail to banish foreign currency parallel trading but it drove underground, made it more lucrative and subsequently the government lost all control of the management of the exchange rate.

In October 2002, KFHL established Kingdom Leasing after being granted a finance house licence. Its mandate was to exploit opportunities to trade in financial leases, lease hire and short term financial products.

Regional Expansion

Around 2000 it became evident that the domestic market was highly competitive, with limited prospects of future growth. A decision was made to diversify revenue streams and reduce country risk through penetration into the regional markets. This strategy would exploit the proven competences in securities trading, asset management and corporate advisory services from a small capital base. Therefore the entrance had low risk in terms of capital injection. Considering the foreign exchange control limitations and shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe, this was a prudent strategy but not without its downside, as will be seen in the Botswana venture.

In 2001, KFHL acquired a 25.1% stake in a greenfield banking enterprise in Malawi, First Discount House Ltd. To safeguard its investment and ensure managerial control, an executive director and dealer were seconded to the Malawi venture while Nigel Chanakira chaired the Board. This investment has continued to grow and yield positive returns. As of July 2006 Kingdom had finally managed to up its stake from 25,1% to 40% in this investment and may ultimately control it to the point of seeking a conversion of the license to a commercial bank.

KFHL also took up a 25% equity stake in Investrust Merchant Bank Zambia. Franky Kufa was seconded to it as an executive director while Nigel took a seat on the Board.

KFHL had been promised an option to gain a controlling stake. However when the bank stabilized, the Zambian shareholders entered into some questionable transactions and were not prepared to allow KFHL to up it’s stake and so KFHL decided to pull out as relationships turned frosty. The Zambian Central Bank intervened with a promise to grant KFHL its own banking license. This did not materialize as the Zambian Central Bank exploited the banking crisis in Zimbabwe to deny KHFL a licence. A reasonable premium of Z$2.5 billion was obtained at disinvestment.

In Botswana, a subsidiary called Kingdom Bank Africa Ltd (KBAL) was established as an offshore bank in the International Finance Centre. KBAL was intended to spearhead and manage regional initiatives for Kingdom. It was headed by Mrs Irene Chamney, seconded by Lysias Sibanda with the concurrence of Nigel after managerial challenges in Zimbabwe. Two other senior executives were seconded there. She successfully set up the KBAL’s banking infrastructure and had good relations with the Botswana authorities.

However, the business model chosen of an offshore bank ahead of a domestic Botswana merchant bank license turned out to be the Achilles heel of the bank more so when the Zimbabwe banking crisis set in between 2003 and 2005. There were fundamental differences in how Mrs Chamney and Chanakira saw the bank surviving and going forward.

Ultimately, it was deemed prudent for Mrs. Chamney to leave the bank in 2005. In 2001 KFHL acquired the mandate as the sole distributor of the American Express card in the whole of Africa except for RSA. This was handled through KBAL. Kingdom Private Bank was transferred from the discount house to become a subsidiary of KBAL due to the prevailing regulatory environment in Zimbabwe.

In 2004 KBAL was temporarily placed under curatorship due to undercapitalisation. At this stage the parent company had regulatory constraints that prevented foreign currency capital injection.

A solution was found in the sourcing of local partners and the transfer of US$1 million previously realised from the proceeds of the Investrust liquidation to Botswana. Nigel Chanakira took a more active management role in KBAL because of its huge strategic significance to the future of KFHL. Currently efforts are underway to acquire a local commercial bank licence in Botswana as well. Once this is acquired there are two possible scenarios, namely maintaining both licences or giving up the offshore licence.

The interviewees were divided in their opinion on this. However in my view, judging from the stakeholder power involved, KFHL is likely to give up the off shore banking licence and use the local Kingdom Bank Botswana (Pula Bank) licence for regional and domestic expansion.

Human Resources

The staff complement grew from the initial 23 in 1995 to more than 947 by 2003. The growth was consistent with the growing institution. It exploded, especially during the launch and expansion of the commercial bank. Kingdom from inception had a strong human resourcing strategy which entailed significant training both internally and externally. Before the foreign currency crisis, employees were sent for training in such countries as RSA, Sweden, India and the USA. In the person of Faith Ntabeni Bhebhe, Kingdom had an energetic HR driver who created powerful HR systems for the emerging behemoth.

As a sign of its commitment to building the human resource capability, in 1998 Kingdom Financial Services entered a management agreement with Holland based AMSCO for the provision of seasoned bankers. Through this strategic alliance Kingdom strengthened its skills base and increased opportunities for skills transfer to locals. This helped the entrepreneurial bankers create a solid managerial system for the bank while the seasoned bankers from Holland compensated for the youthfulness of the emerging bankers. What a foresight!

In-house self-paced interactive learning, team building exercises and mentoring were all part of the learning menu targeted at developing the human resource capacity of the group. Work and job profiling was introduced to best match employees to suitable posts. Career path and succession planning were embraced. Kingdom was the first entrepreneurial bank to have smooth unforced CEO transitions. The founding CEO passed on the baton to Lysias Sibanda in 1999 as he stepped into the role of Group CEO and board deputy chair. His role was now to pursue and spearhead global and regional niche financial markets. A few years later there was another change of the guard as

Franky Kufa stepped in as Group CEO to replace Sibanda, who resigned on medical grounds. One could argue that these smooth transitions were due to the fact that the baton was passing to founding directors.

With the explosive growth in staff complement due to the commercial bank project, culture issues emerged. Consequently, KFHL engaged in an enculturation programme resulting in a culture revolution dubbed “Team Kingdom”. This culture had to be reinforced due to dilutions through significant mergers and acquisitions, significant staff turnover because of increased competition, emigration to greener pastures and the age profile of the staff increased the risk of high mobility and fraudulent activities in collusion with members of the public. Culture changes are difficult to effect and their effectiveness even harder to assess.

In 2004, with a high staff turnover of around 14%, a compensation strategy that ring fenced critical skills like IT and treasury was implemented. Due to the low margins and the financial stress experienced in 2004, KFHL lost more than 341 staff members due to retrenchment, natural attrition and emigration. This was acceptable as profitability fell while staff costs soared. At this stage, staff costs accounted for 58% of all expenses.

Despite the impressive growth, the financial performance when inflation adjusted was mediocre. Actually a loss position was reported in 2004. This growth was severely compromised by the hyperinflationary conditions and the restrictive regulatory environment.

Conclusion

This article shows the determination of entrepreneurs to push through to the realisation of their dreams despite significant odds. In a subsequent article we will tackle the challenges faced by Nigel Chanakira in solidifying his investments.

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From Debt To Financial Prosperity

In this consumer based society we live in we are spoiled for choice in terms of the consumables we are offered. Regardless if we actually need these products or not billions is spent in the media to convince us that we do. The vast majority of the population does not live within their means. The increasing availability of credit is one factor that is blamed for the increasing amount of personal debt in western society.

On the surface it seems that the availability of credit has plunged many into huge amounts of debt that they will spend the rest of their life paying off but this same weapon called credit it used by savvy investors to create a life of luxury and prosperity in which they can afford the finer things in life.

So what is the major difference in how successful investors and the average consumer use credit?

Well the major difference is smart investors use credit to leverage their investment exposure. This simply means that they borrow to invest. Smart investors do not take on credit if in the long run it will not lead to an increase in income and a positive cash flow. The average consumer on the other hand spends thousands on new cars that depreciate rapidly, holidays they can not afford, large plasma TV's, designer clothes, and homes they can not afford to live in. Ironically some smart investors do like the life of luxury but they almost always certainly live within their means.

The message is quite simple if you must live a life of luxury never borrow money to do so involuntarily you will end up spending years to pay off huge debts. These crippling debts often lead to stress, depression and in allot of cases divorce. Millions of people worldwide live in the bondage of debilitating debts and the only reprieve they are offered is more debt over a longer time period to ease their current debt repayments aka debt consolidation. Extreme caution is advised if you choose debt consolidation as an exit from a life of debt.

So how can one make the transition from debt to prosperity

1: Evaluate your Cash Flow
Determine how much money you have coming in each month and how much money is being paid out in debts, expenses and other liabilities. Start with your expenses and get rid of monthly outgoings that are not necessary. This is foregoing temporarily certain amenities for a permanent solution to debt. Club memberships and other things that are not necessary can be canceled. Once you have trimmed down your monthly outgoings by 100-200 pounds / dollars save the extra money or spend it on repaying debts off sooner.

2: Avoid paying Interest only
Interest only loans may seem cheap in terms of monthly repayments but in the long term the overall amount you repay can sometimes be as much as 50-150% of the original loan.
3: Live within your means
This is quite simple forget what you have been brainwashed to believe, you do not have to drive a new car or have the finer things in life at the expense of personal debt. Buy only what you can afford to pay for in cash. By forming the habit of only paying cash you are forced to purchase only the things that you can afford.

4: Pay of Loans early
Paying debts of quickly means you end up paying less in the long run. Think about it why are banks so happy for you to pay less monthly?

5: Consult a financial planner
Sit down with a financial planner and draw a road map to get you out of debt.

Taking any of the above steps will free up a few extra hundreds a month. Now that we have a bit of free money you must start to invest if you do not want to retire poor. Remember regardless of what you have stored for your retirement cash based assets have continued to devalue over the last hundred years and even further back. This simply means 1 million 10 years ago had more buying power that it does today and its only reasonable to assume 1 million today will not have the same buying power in the next 10 years. Drastic steps must be taken to secure your future otherwise you may retire with the nasty shock that you simply can not afford to retire.

The key is investing your money (yours and the banks) and getting it to work as hard as possible. Once your outgoings are reduced and you live within your means you should now be looking to supplement your income with investments and / or small business. This time you use your old adversary called credit and turn him into an ally.

By using financial leverage you are simply speeding up the transition.
But before you even think of investing a dime invest in your financial education by buying books on success, prosperity, financial planning and budgeting. Once you have gained better insight into the financial world seek financial advice.

Some of the things you can invest in include buy to let properties, franchises, small home based business just to name a few. But most new investors start of with real estate. But be smart real estate is all about timing and pricing so if you do start by acquiring real estate make sure you no what your doing and the timing is right.

In summary cut your outgoings, pay loans of early, live within your means and used credit as a tool to increase your investment income and not for personal extravagance.

Good luck and hopefully you join me and make that transition form debt to financial prosperity.

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Investing Mining Stocks and Warrants

The Canadian Dollar is now one of the strongest currencies in the world and there have been many forecasts of parity with the U.S. Dollar and as of today, the Loonie is trading at 90.35 as we write this article.

The first and second charts below shows the strength of the Loonie over the last year and the third chart is of the XAU Gold Index. Observe the long term trends in all of the charts.

For investors around the world how can you best position yourselves to benefit from the rising value of the Canadian Dollar?

If you are like many of us, you are currently participating in the bull market in the commodities sector, specifically, in the precious metals, i.e., gold, silver, copper, zinc, etc. If you are not on board this rally perhaps we can enlighten you to some different ways to benefit not only from the Canadian Dollar but also from your investments.

When an investor purchases shares in the Canadian mining companies you are in essence invested in the Canadian Dollar. With the Canadian dollar increasing relative to your country’s currency, your investment is increasing. As the value of your Canadian investments increases, you win again. Thus, you gain from the increasing in the currency as well as the increase in your investments in the mining shares or perhaps, long-term warrants on the mining shares.

The point is, currently investors are experiencing the best of both worlds and we would expect this trend to continue with normal corrections along the way for at least several more years.

We, as investors ourselves, prefer to defer to the experts, Jim Dines, Doug Casey, Pam & Mary Ann Aden, James Turk and others as to the continued direction and strength of the current bull market.

Perhaps you are a conservative investor and neither you nor your investment advisor are currently aware of the bull market in the commodity sector. We believe that soon, within the next few months or within the year, you, yes, you will be investing in this sector, so the choice is yours, now or later.

Investors have many wonderful opportunities for investments from the gold and silver bullion, ETF’s of gold and silver, mutual funds, mining shares and for those investors looking for additional leverage, long-term warrants on mining shares, some of which do not expire until 2011.

As the experts mentioned above believe, this bull market has strong legs and many years to run, we accordingly suggest investors position themselves and not to worry about the day to day fluctuations of the market.

The important thing for all investors is to recognize the big picture, take a position and enjoy what may be the ride of our lifetime.

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Obtaining A First Mortgage For Investment Property

As the name implies, a first mortgage for investment property is simply the first loan that is issued for the property. When you purchase a piece of real estate, the loan that you receive as financing is also known as a first mortgage.

Before you apply for a first mortgage for investment property, it’s a good idea to obtain a copy of your credit report and confirm the accuracy of the information listed therein. Every 12 months, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit file from each of the three credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The best way to choose a lender for your first mortgage for investment property is to shop around. Compare interest rates, required down payments and other loan terms in order to find the best fit.

When you speak to a lender regarding a first mortgage, they will explain the required down payment, invite you to fill out a loan application, access your credit file and possibly even provide you with a loan decision within hours. In most cases, a lender will require a down payment ranging from 20-35% for investment properties. Depending on your credit history, you may be asked to pay a slightly higher down payment than average. Because the purchase will not be used as a primary residence, the loan term will likely be shorter than a traditional mortgage.

When it comes to a first mortgage, every lender will require that a title search be performed on the property prior to approving a loan. A title search can be performed by a licensed attorney specializing in real estate and is beneficial for making sure that there are no judgments, liens or back taxes on the property. In addition, a title search will confirm the identity of the property owner and will ensure that the seller has the full right to deed the property to a new owner.

While shopping for a lender, most investment property buyers will apply with more than one lending institution. Although it is widely known that multiple credit inquiries in a short period of time may lower your credit score, applying for a mortgage is slightly different if the inquiries are made close together. The reason is because lenders expect that you will apply at multiple locations and may, therefore, not let recent inquiries for a mortgage loan deter them from approving your application for a first mortgage for investment property.

A first mortgage for investment property will be more likely to be approved if the hopeful buyer can provide an appraisal confirming the market value of the property. A loan is even likelier to be approved if the property is being sold for below market value, which will result in instant equity. These factors, combined with an appreciating market and a large down payment will increase your chances of being granted a first mortgage for investment property.

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Forex Robots – The Sales Copy Says Huge Profits But the Truth? Most Destroy Equity Quickly

Every forex robot promotes a track record of gains and yet well over 95% failure to deliver so here is the sales copy translated so you can find out the ones that will not make money and find the minority which do …

Here is the sales copy and translation

1. A track record of spectral gains

On paper yes, in real trading not at all. Try and find a track record which does not have the worlds "simulated" and in "hindsight" on it in the risk warning – a word from experience, you will have a long search. The track records you see of $ 100,000 a year are not real dollars there paper dollars done looking back with all the facts and price data to hand. The reality of trading forex though is you do not have that luxury of knowing the closing prices.

That's why you can get financial freedom for $ 100.00 or so – its not real life though!

2. A formula that occurs and re occurs for consistent gains

The formula works once on paper and never works again and the system takes a bath. The vendor simply bends the system to fit the data (a concept known as curve fitting) and curve fitting is always the death of a trading system in real time trading, as the data never replicates itself exactly again the system fails.

3. Designed By a Boffin

Usually an ex banker, mathematician or other boffin. Why does that ensure success? Trading systems that tend to work tend to be simple and being clever or having an education mean nothing in forex trading – its results and that's it and I know plenty of simple traders who make money and plenty of clever ones that do not.

4. Earn Money Without knowing anything

You can try and earn money but if the systems worked as the vendors say, ie there is no work involved, begs the question – Why bother selling the system, why not trade it and keep quite you could make yourself a millionaire or better and not worry about a few hundred bucks from a sale.

You do not get anything in life for nothing and it's the same in forex trading

5. You have nothing to lose

On the fee maybe not, on the account probably yes!

Demo accounts (unless you want to trade them for a long time) are no real use, as you need a year to judge a system and also there is no pressure, so its not a real trading experience and after reading this article why bother, you know the facts.

Forex robots sell in there thousands and very few work and most simply fail miserably in the market and its no wonder when they have never been traded. The hypothetical track record simply is not questioned by buyers – but why not? That's the acid test and keep in mind you cant spend paper money.

If you want to make money at forex trading understand, it's not easy and you do not achieve success with no effort.

You can make gains but you need to get a solid forex education, a simple system, that's robust, logical and you understand and can trade with discipline. You are then on the road to currency trading success.

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Welding Jobs: Ideas You Can Use At Home To Make Money Welding (No Boss While You Make $100,000)

What if you could make $100,000 a year welding from home?

What if you could make even an extra $500 a month from home, using your current skills? If you are a welder with basic welding skills and you are between jobs or you are being under paid in your current job, it might be worth your time to read this article – let’s think outside the box for just a minute on how you can make money welding from home.

From Home Welding # 1:

Teaching or tutoring any skill is a very profitable business. In any town of any size you’ll see at least one tutoring business in a strip mall brick and mortar location. In that same town will be at least a dozen other tutors working from home, making good money.

Yes, most of the time they are tutoring math and reading to students. Lean back and think about what skills you have that can also be used in a tutoring business you can set up and milk cash from, like milk from a cow.

Let’s say you are good enough with TIG to weld razor blades or pop can butts.

If you can teach a non welder to operate a TIG torch good enough to go on and practice on their own at their home in about 3 hours of your hands on theirs – they will pay up to $100 an hour for 3 hours of TIG instruction. Just 2 students a day would bring you $100,000 a year. If you think I’m kidding I’m NOT! There are many reasons why education is so valuable – and that includes intense, focused tutoring in welding.

6G pipe welding is the highest paid of all welding certifications – most 6G welders make $100k to $300k a year – and demand is crazy. However, if you are a 6G welder and you want to stay home, you can set up and teach 6G in your garage. Let’s say you do this with 7 students, each paying you $10,000 for a 3 month course. Yes, they will pay it – especially if you show them how they will have more time with your hand on theirs (the #1 secret to learning 6G fast).

From Home Welding # 2:

I was in Palm Springs the other day. I have been in and around the trades for 30 years… and when you see a tradesman’s truck and it is late model without dents or many scratches, clean, organized and well equipped, it means (99% of the time) that guy is making money.

I pulled up to a light behind just such a truck – “Joe’s BBQ Service and Repair.” That’s it – that is all Joe does. He will weld cast aluminum or steel. He’ll clean and polish. He’ll replace a burner or a control. OR he’ll buy your old unit and sell / or sell you a new one.

Yes, you need a town with a lot of high end BBQs. Other than that, go get it.

From Home Welding # 3:

Large steel cut outs. In art of all kinds, size matters. For example, 20 years ago we purchased two 4′ long coat racks – each is a piece of 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 1/8″ angle 4′ long with 6 horse shoes welded to the angle to hang the coats.

On the horizontal surface of the angle is welded a scene made of 7 horse and 7 tree cut-outs. We paid $185 for each of these 20 years ago… that would be about $300 a piece in today’s dollars.

The problem with you making these is that the 14 cut outs on each unit are too small too many to cut by hand – you need a computerized plasma table to make these.

Here is where the magic of size makes all the difference.

The artist who drew the cut outs on our coat rack was good. Each of the 7 horses is different and beautiful, as well as the trees. Any – or all of these – cut outs can be scaled up with chalk onto a sheet of say 4′ x 8′ x 3/16″ steel. Now, all you need is a plasma or an oxy torch to create the large version.

What would a horse cut from a 4′ x 8′ sheet sell for?

$300 to $700. It would depend on where you are and how you market it. Marketing is a large part of any business. Good marketing is not hard – you can do it.

You can see, if you could get a “business pipe” full of inventory and sales and you were delivering 2 horses a day, you could easily make $100k. The other major opportunity with big cut outs is gates. The key to all of this stuff in the art category is beautiful line drawings. If you are not an artist, hire one on the condition that they sign the copyright to you.

There are endless ideas to utilize even your most basic welding skills from home to make an excellent living or just extra money. The trick is:

Step A:

Find what will work best for you.

Step B:

Write out a simple plan of attack. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Many small businesses fail because the owner gets all wrapped up in the details and loses site of what is important. Here is what is important: Don’t spend money – MAKE MONEY!

Step C:

The first rule of business is to GET NOTICED. That is also the end goal of all marketing – once you have enough eyeballs on you, you will succeed. The common mistake is to leave marketing for last while concentrating on every little rule and piece of paper. A business license will do you no good if you don’t make money! Save your money and get it (if you really need one) when you make some money. Towns and cities will simply say, “do you have a business license?” When they ask, say: “I’m getting one now.”

Conclusion:

You are blessed to live in a country where you can go from nothing to something in a hurry. However, to get anywhere in a hurry requires running hard. You’ll never regret it.

What should you do next?

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Dress Hangers – A Wise Investment For Every Wardrobe

Hangers were invented in the early 1900s, when Albert J. Parkhouse twisted a wire to use for hanging coats. A century later, shoppers can find a plethora of hanger types, including dress hangers.

More than a handy tool for holding clothes while in storage, a dress hanger is also an accessory that helps an item of clothing maintain its form. This is especially true for dresses, which require additional support to keep the garment in shape.

Options for dress hanger selections include the wood, metal or acrylic varieties, which offer a distinct look as well as strength. The wooden type appears classy and natural, with colors that range from taupe to chestnut and to dark brown. Metals are known for their remarkable durability, but select makers of plastic hangers have become popular in recent years for developing a sturdier – even touted as 'unbreakable' – line.

For that extra touch of fabric care, shoppers can also opt for dress hangers that come with fabric padding made of velvet, linen or satin finish. This type is perfect for dresses that are crafted using lace, silk, taffeta and similar fabrics that can be sentenced to damage. Clips, stay-on details and drop and bar attachments may likewise be added to address particular clothing display needs.

Investing in good hangers is a wise decision not just for women with an extensive wardrobe, but also for clothing store owners that need reliable garment storage and display accessories. A hanger can even serve to market a company's brand, through the artful use of logos that are etched, printed or embossed onto its surface. High-quality dress hangers can contribute to the creation of a shopper-friendly vibe in stores, and even make the merchandise become even more appealing.

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VT Nonprofit Lender Mulls Life After End of Student Loan Program

The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) was established in 1965 as a public nonprofit agency designed to oversee the issuing of federal education loans to Vermont students. But with the sweeping reforms to the federal student loan program that were passed in 2009, bundled in with the national health care reform bill, VSAC and agencies like it were stripped of their ability to originate new federal education loans.

As of July 1, 2010, all federal parent and college loans are now provided to borrowers directly by the U.S. Department of Education, and VSAC is now facing a staff reduction of nearly two-thirds as it tries to find ways to survive in the age of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program.

The agency had been a lender in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), which was discontinued as part of the federal college loan reforms. As part of its lending functions under the FFEL program, VSAC acted as both a lender and servicer of federal college loans.

Under the new world order, with FFELP disbanded, VSAC can still manage (i.e., “service”) all the college loans it had issued in the past, but the agency is no longer able to issue new loans.

Revenues from the repayment of issued loans were used to fund new student loans as well as ongoing financial aid and student loan education programs, so the agency faces a revenue reduction of about 90 percent as its existing loans are repaid.

VSAC still issues a small number of private student loans, non-federal loans funded by VSAC rather than by the Department of Education, but the agency is looking for a new role with the Direct Loan program.

VSAC recently submitted a proposal to the Education Department to service more than the current statutory maximum of 100,000 federal education loans. Under the proposal, the agency is seeking permission to service the student loans of all Vermont students and all non-resident students enrolled at Vermont colleges and universities. Under the new Direct Loan program rules, only four organizations have been authorized so far by the Education Department to service more than the allotted 100,000 federal student loans.

Even if VSAC’s proposal is approved, however, the revenue from servicing the federal direct loans would bring in only a fraction of the revenue the agency once earned as a lender in the FFEL program.

VSAC is also asking the Vermont state legislature to help underwrite its administrative costs by allowing the agency to divert about 7 percent of its $21 million state appropriation from need-based grants and scholarships for students to the agency itself. VSAC is also asking legislators to allow its private student loan borrowers to deduct up to $500 of the interest on its private student loans from their state taxes.

The agency’s future role is unclear and is likely to remain that way until at least April, while it waits for a determination on the expanded servicing of federal college loans made through the Direct Loan program. The state legislature is likely to render a decision more quickly.

But even with its private student loan portfolio, a favorable decision on student loan servicing from Washington, and additional support from the Vermont legislature, VSAC will still need to reduce its budget by about 10 percent a year for the next three years in order to remain solvent.

The agency, which currently employs about 300 people, has already cut about 60 positions through attrition. If the added student loan servicing work doesn’t materialize and legislators don’t agree to support the agency’s administrative costs and financial aid counseling and outreach work, the agency will likely reduce its staff by an additional 200 positions before the start of the next fiscal year.

college loans

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Silver Investment Clubs

Why should you want to buy silver at $15 an ounce when you can wait for silver to go down to $12 an ounce. The simple and realistic answer is the supply of silver decreases with time. Trying to wait for low prices will negatively affect your ability to buy the quantities you want. Buying on a cost average method allows a consistent accumulation of silver.The short term price you pay today will be considered a bargain in the future.

If you could flash forward one year and look at the price you paid for silver today, you will realize that the price you paid last year was a bargain. Making small changes in your spending profile can benefit you greatly. Do you purchase cigarettes on a regular basis? Consider this, once purchased your cigarette purchase is destroyed upon use. You will get a one time value from each cigarette. But to repeat the experience you will have to give away more money. With the regular purchase of silver, whether weekly or monthly, you have a product that lasts year after year after year.

If you take the same amount of money that you spend on pampering yourself and buy silver you increase your real wealth. Forget about that daily cup of gourmet coffer and buy yourself an ounce or two of silver.

Become part of or start a silver investing club. Most silver brokers buy from wholesale sources. Leverage the power of group buying to negotiate purchase rates that are fair and favorable to your silver investment club. Silver brokers work on commission. Do not overlook the power of negotiating. Make sure you have a plan a and an plan b. If your club plans to purchase more than $1000 in a single transaction ask for a discount. If your club purchases $2500 or more in a single transaction ask for a larger discount. Another advantage of a group membership is that you can be more productive with 100 people giving one percent of effort than 1 person giving 100 percent of their effort. Their is strength in numbers.

If there are no clubs in your immediate area then look at the penny saver magazines of surrounding communities. If you have to start your own club run an ad in the local newspaper or penny saver magazine. An example ad would be: Investment club forming. initial investment under $50. Automatic monthly purchases to acquire precious metals. Call telephone xxx-xxxx. Place your ads under the business, financial, and personals section of the penny saver publication. Of course, this technique will work just as well with the local newspaper.

You can also post advertisements in the form of flyers. These flyers can be put on public bulletin boards. Convenience stores, food stores and churches are excellent places to advertise. Just make sure you get permission first. And sometimes you do not need permission.

Look at your bank account and tell me if you are getting a fair return on the money you loan to the bank. If not you need an equalizer to develop you wealth. Using your paper money to acquire real money protects your economic standing. Your best friend when it comes to your finances is you. Be proactive in managing your assets.The systematic acquisition of silver coins can be painless. You have alternatives to starting a silver club. For a more direct and systematic way to own silver consider joining already established silver clubs.

Watch the current trend in owning precious metals. Do what the smart money movers are doing.The possibility of silver prices skyrocketing to three digits may not be far away. Consider this, the fiat currency you have in your savings account is being inflated away on a continuous basis. Acquire real wealth now. Buy silver because the price will surely increase.

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UK Corporations Feeling the Financial Crunch, But Do not Panic As Advice is Available!

Your business may not be a high-profile company that makes headlines every month but that does not mean you can not have the same problems as Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley. After years of being successful and profitable you may find that your company is currently having financial difficulties and you need more cash. Before you set out to raise more cash any way you can imagine, take the time to speak to a lawyer and discuss all your legal options.

It is important that any business acts early when they start to see a decline in finances. You need to review your businesses cash flow on a regular basis even if you have an accountant or a financial department. Whilst you may delegate the financial process of your company to other people, do not make the mistake of not reviewing the financial statements. Stay up-to-date with your company's finances and you will be able to adjust quickly when financial difficulties start to appear.

If you do find your business is in need of more cash do not panic and start making poor decisions that could jeopardize your business. Whilst it is important to plan for a downtimes and be proactive before the creditors start calling, sometimes the problem will catch you by surprise and you may find yourself needing to take action quickly. The Companies Act of 2006 sets out the duties directors owe a company and you need to ensure that you follow these guidelines. Speaking to a lawyer can help you keep on top of the current regulations and verify that your company is following all the appropriate laws for every country your company does business in.

If you trade while insolvent you could be breaking the law. Whilst you may be panicked due to your company's cash flow problems, it is important to take the advice of your lawyers and financial personnel in order to make sensible and legal decisions for your business. You may need to make some tough choices that require you to change the structure of your business. You may need to let some of your employees go but whatever decisions you need to make you should discuss your choices with a lawyer to always confirm you are following the appropriate laws correctly.

It is understandable to make foolish and short sided decisions when your business is in trouble. If you built a large company from the ground up, you may be feeling that the company's financial problems are your own problems. It is important that during tough financial time you take charge and make arrangement with any creditors.

If you need assistance in negotiating settlements and arrangements with creditors a experienced solicitor can assist you with the process.

It may be possible to sell off the shares in the company or the company assets instead of liquidating the entire company or filing for bankruptcy. You may be able to save your company and rebuild once your cash issues are resolved. A solicitor can help you plan your business future and keep you focused during a very difficult time in your business career.

This article is free to republish provided the authors resource box below remains intact.

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