W. R. Berkley Corporation Appoints Executives

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W. R. Berkley Corporation has announced the appointments of two senior executives.

 

Richard M. Baio has been named senior vice president and chief financial officer and Andrea C. Kanefsky has been named vice president – corporate controller. Ms. Kanefsky succeeds Clement P. Patafio, who oversees the Company’s financial shared services team and related data management. The appointments are effective immediately.

 

Mr. Baio most recently served as the Company’s vice president and treasurer. He succeeds Eugene G. Ballard, executive vice president, who will continue to have oversight responsibility of the finance, actuarial and data management departments. Mr. Baio will be responsible for the financial and treasury functions of the Company and report to Mr. Ballard. He has over 25 years of experience in the insurance and financial services industry, having served prior to joining the Company as a director in Merrill Lynch & Co.’s financial institutions investment banking group and as a partner in Ernst & Young’s insurance practice. Mr. Baio earned a B.S. in accounting from Clarkson University and an M.S. in taxation from University of Hartford.

 

Ms. Kanefsky joined the Company’s operating unit, Clermont Specialty Managers, as senior vice president and chief financial officer in 2013, having previously served as the chief financial officer of a specialty property casualty insurance company. In her new role as the Company’s corporate controller, she is responsible for financial reporting and related accounting activities and reports to Mr. Baio. She has over 30 years of experience in the property casualty insurance industry and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in accounting and business management from Bucknell University.

 

Founded in 1967, W. R. Berkley Corporation is an insurance holding company that is among the largest commercial lines writers in the United States and operates worldwide in two segments of the property casualty insurance business: Insurance and Reinsurance.

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CEO of the Month – California

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Andy Khawaja is the founder and CEO of Allied Wallet, America’s fastest growing online global credit card processor, providing state-of-the-art services to merchants and consumers over a global platform.

 

The company accommodates global merchants to transact different currencies from banks around the world, also giving users the opportunity to shop online and pay through a secure and safe online gateway of finance. Everything is based in-house, so no services are outsourced via third party to make sure customers’ credit card data and security is of paramount importance and is kept in secure.

 

As CEO, Andy’s role involves overseeing the company’s day to day operations as a whole, and ensuring each department is run with efficiency and ease. Andy shares his entrepreneurial knowledge with his team members, bringing out their best and helping grow his brand bigger and better.

 

Getting involved with his team members is something Andy takes pride in as he believes this brings new innovative ideas to the table and inspires his team to become future pioneers.

 

Not only does Andy dedicate his time to his team members, but he also devotes equal energy and time directly to his customers, getting involved in every way possible, from taking customer query calls, to reading up on any dissatisfied customer complaints and coming up with solutions to keep customers happy and running the business successfully. Being strong minded and focused is something Andy passes down to his employees and promotes within the business, creating a positive and free thinking environment.

 

As CEO, Andy realises it is imperative to produce products that customers would like to use as the company caters to a wide range of clients and merchants around the globe. Making sure the merchants and customers are satisfied with the quality of service and products received is one of Andy’s keys to success, along with constantly developing innovation to produce breakthrough content.

 

Allied wallet has always found a way to accommodate merchants with functions that other companies don’t have; providing them with ways to generate more money and profit, making them the premier company in the market. The company recognises its users and stores their credit card details online on their secures system so that users are able to pay by the click of a button, rather than having to type out all their credit details numerous times to make payment on various online platforms. Having their own facility as part of their online service makes the company one of the safest and secure credit card processors in the world, allowing its users to gain control and enjoy a safe and easy service that also protects their sensitive information from being hacked or misused.

 

The innovative, pioneering functions that Allied Wallet offers are the result of Andy’s vast travels through Europe and Asia, where he discovers new ideas and finds inspiration for advanced, unique solutions.

 

Andy is heavily involved in the firm’s technological development sector, plays a big part in developing ideas and solutions to take the company forward to new heights and stay on top of the market.

 

This hands-on approach stems from Andy’s interest in entrepreneurship. Andy has always been drawn to innovative people who create new ideas and breakthrough solutions, as he himself gave up a career in computer science to venture into the world of innovation. Since then he has always had a vision to make a difference in the technology industry.

 

Looking to the future, Andy provides us with a fascinating insight into what is to come for Allied Wallet.

 

“We are launching a new product called ‘Next Generation’, an API platform that will be able to integrate itself to any system, making the process easy and simple. We are looking at launching the product in early June 2016,” said Khawaja.

 

“We’ve also seen apps and social media increase in popularity, so we plan to offer state-of-the-art solutions and features in these markets moving forward,” he continued.

 

Lastly, Khawaja added, “…through our partnership with Merrill Lynch we are looking at launching an IPO in the New York stock exchange and are very happy about the future of our alliance. It’s a great achievement to partner up with them and we are excited to see what the future holds.”

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BPM Used to Fight Fraud

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Retail and banking using customizable BPM process-based applications.

Bonitasoft has confirmed that its flagship BPM application platform, Bonita BPM, has been selected by a major international retailer to implement processes to intercept phishing attempts against its customer accounts.

This follows news that a Swiss financial institution has successfully deployed Bonita BPM applications to manage the complex onboarding process driven by legal and regulatory changes in banking and finance, recently reinforced in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

With the proliferation of illegal activity around online services, processes for protection and compliance have become mission-critical. Retailers, banks, and other financial services providers have stepped up protection from increasingly sophisticated criminal actions like data theft and illicit financial transactions.

“Support for fintech security is a natural for process-based applications. Step-by-step verification, monitoring and notifications, these are all process-based actions that need to be fully traceable,” said Miguel Valdès Faura, CEO and founder of Bonitasoft. “With constantly evolving international regulations, being able to change underlying processes to maintain compliance, without interrupting service, is a mission-critical consideration.”

According to the National Money Laundering Risk Assessment 2015, published by the US Treasury Department, identify theft led to losses totaling $24.7 billion in 2012.

Identity theft has expanded the scope and impact of financial fraud. Techniques such as phishing are often used to trick a victim into revealing or providing access to personal identity information.

The Congressional Research Service published a 2015 report on some of the largest retail data breaches publicly known to date, directed against some names well-known to American consumers, including eBay and Home Depot.

Mindful of these examples, retailers have ramped up security measures. Process-based applications built specifically to manage phishing alerts are one measure being taken to strengthen surveillance and action.

In another criminal sphere, the US Treasury estimates that about $300 billion is generated annually in illicit proceeds in the United States alone, and money laundering now easily crosses international borders.

The Bank Secrecy Act establishes anti-money-laundering (AML) customer identification, recordkeeping, and reporting obligations for financial institutions. Evolving regulations are intended to make it more difficult to put “dirty money” into financial systems or use it anonymously. Financial institutions are required to fully verify a customer’s identity and retain traceability.

One Swiss bank recently implemented Bonita BPM process applications to manage its customer onboarding process in compliance with these stringent regulations. Their lengthy process of verification comprises up to 40 documents and 500 different questions for about 150 new customers annually.

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Drug Approvals Driving Acquisitions in US Pharma

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Large innovative U.S. pharmaceutical companies are expected to continue targeted acquisitions as the need for larger transactions has declined, according to Fitch Ratings. Consolidation continues as players search for scale, efficiencies and the next blockbuster drug, but an M&A shift toward smaller targets reflects increased drug approvals. Good access to funding at favorable rates has also aided M&A activity.

 

As pipelines improve, big pharma is seeking out individual therapeutics and smaller biotech companies to bolster drug portfolios. While patent expiries are not terribly onerous near term by historical standards, strengthening innovative drug portfolios is seemingly a preferable strategy as bigger M&A deals struggle to close.

 

The need for large acquisitions as a driver of organic growth is lessened by positive trends in drug development pipelines, new product commercialization and moderating patent expiry risks. As a result, transactions will focus on innovative treatment platforms through acquisitions or joint ventures.

 

Moreover, drug approvals continue to rise. New molecular entity (NME) approvals during 2015 increased by nine from 2014, and the FDA cleared 45 novel medicines for marketing during the year, compared with 36 in 2014. Biologics accounted for 12 of the 2015 approvals versus 10 during 2014. Of the approvals, more than half were drugs to treat cancer (33%), cardiovascular disease (17%) and infections (8%). We expect approvals to remain relatively strong in the intermediate term, despite lagging during the first four months of 2016. Eight NMEs have already been approved through April this year.

 

This week, Pfizer announced it would buy Anacor whose most important near-term asset is its eczema treatment crisaborole. Last month, the potential merger of Pfizer and Allergan was thwarted as a function of new Treasury regulations focused on taxation.

 

Other recent targeted transactions include Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of Padlock Therapeutics, which could expand its presence in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Eli Lilly’s acquisition of Glycostasis, Inc. looks to develop a form of insulin that self-releases when a diabetic patient’s blood sugar level is too high. In addition, Merck bought IOmet earlier this year, adding new immune-oncology technology to its portfolio.

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Blackstone to Close Dedicated Mutual Fund

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Blackstone continues building registered fund platform through Blackstone Alternative Multi-Strategy Fund.

Blackstone has announced that Blackstone Alternative Investment Advisors (“BAIA”), an affiliate of its hedge fund solutions business, will be closing the Blackstone Alternative Multi-Manager Fund (“BXMMX”), the smaller of its two mutual fund products. Blackstone launched BXMMX in August of 2013 as a dedicated vehicle for Fidelity Investments. As of March 31, 2016, the AUM of BXMMX was $631 million. Blackstone will liquidate the fund on or before May 31, 2016.

BXMMX sought capital appreciation through a diversified global set of exposures, traded by alternative asset managers, which demonstrated relatively low beta to traditional markets and produced attractive risk-adjusted performance. BXMMX is operated as a U.S. mutual fund under the Investment Company Act of 1940.

Blackstone noted that BXMMX delivered strong risk-adjusted returns since its launch through March 31, 2016, capturing approximately 66% of the performance of global equities (as measured by the MSCI ACWI Index1) with approximately 37% of the volatility2. In addition, the cumulative return of BXMMX outpaced the broader hedge fund industry over this same period by 12.4% net of fees and expenses (as measured by the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index). Additional information and current performance data is available here.

Given significant investor demand for this type of exposure, Blackstone built a global registered fund platform that offers liquid investment solutions. This platform currently has approximately $6.8 billion in AUM, including $5.9 billion in solutions that offer daily liquidity. The largest fund on this platform is an alternative mutual fund that has an investment objective that is identical to the objective of BXMMX. This fund, Blackstone Alternative Multi-Strategy Fund (“BXMIX”), has experienced significant demand across a broad investor base and has grown to approximately $4.3 billion since its launch in June of 2014.

Blackstone has allocated significant resources to facilitate the continued growth of this platform. This includes a dedicated investment committee that is responsible for ongoing investment, asset allocation, and oversight of all of BAIA’s registered funds. Consistent with its historical approach to team-based portfolio management, Blackstone will designate each of the members on this investment committee as portfolio managers of the Blackstone Alternative Multi-Strategy Fund.

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Amulet Announces Acquisition of SynteractHCR

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Acquisition of leading contract research organization (CRO) is the first for Amulet.

 

Amulet Capital Partners, LP (“Amulet”), a middle-market private equity investment firm based in Greenwich, CT focused exclusively on the healthcare sector, has announced that is has acquired SynteractHCR Holdings Corporation (“SynteractHCR”), a leading contract research organization (CRO) focused on Phase I‐IV clinical trials for emerging to mid-sized biopharma clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

 

Headquartered outside San Diego, California, SynteractHCR was founded in 1995 and is now a top 20 global full‐service CRO. The company has over 800 staff members across 21 countries. SynteractHCR has a reputation for clinical excellence in complex trials in a broad range of therapeutic areas, contributing to more than 230 product approvals since its founding. The company has run over 3,500 projects including more than 700,000 patients in 60 countries.

 

This is the first acquisition by Amulet, founded in 2015 by Ramsey Frank and Jay Rose. The partners and principals of Amulet’s investment team have approximately 40 years of private equity experience and bring together a unique blend of leveraged buyout, growth capital, and restructuring skills, supplemented by significant expertise across a wide range of healthcare verticals, including the CRO sector.

 

SynteractHCR CEO Wendel Barr said, “We welcome this new relationship with Amulet Capital Partners as they understand our positioning and the opportunities available to us. New funding will allow us to enhance our full service capabilities, hire even more international clinical development experts to support global trials, and increase our ability to help our clients successfully navigate the complex drug development process.”

 

Ramsey Frank, Partner and Co-founder of Amulet said, “The importance of CROs to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries has grown significantly in the last decade, and the current market dynamic is very favorable for middle market CROs, particularly those focused on small and mid-sized biopharma clients. SynteractHCR is a leading CRO with global scale and solid earnings momentum, well positioned to take advantage of the strong long-term growth prospects in the sector. We are excited to partner with Wendel Barr and his experienced management team to continue to expand SynteractHCR’s business.”

 

Frank added, “As a firm, Amulet is differentiated through our ability to bring extensive financial resources and healthcare experience, especially in the CRO sector. We will work closely with management to build on SynteractHCR’s leading market position and enhance the long-term prospects for the company. SynteractHCR will serve as a platform in the industry as we seek to invest in or acquire complementary businesses that will expand the company’s geographic footprint and areas of therapeutic expertise.”

 

SynteractHCR’s prior owner, Gryphon Investors, a middle-market private equity firm based in San Francisco, CA, acquired a majority interest in SynteractHCR in 2008 and supported the company’s growth into a global business.

 

Capital One, N.A. and certain private debt funds managed by THL Credit Advisors LLC provided debt financing for the transaction. Wells Fargo Securities acted as exclusive financial advisor to SynteractHCR.

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LoCorr Enhances Managed Futures Strategy Fund

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LoCorr Funds has announced that it has restructured its Managed Futures Strategy Fund with the intent to provide significant benefits to investors by reducing overall fund expenses, focusing on improving tax efficiency and offering access to three prominent institutional investment managers in the managed futures space.

 

The new Fund structure provides more transparency and clarity through the elimination of the total return swap and thereby offering direct access to the investment managers as sub-advisers of the Fund. This change eliminates all fees associated with the swap, including any performance-based incentive fees paid to the underlying managers. The overall fees will be a minimum of 1.55% lower annually, based on share class, and reductions will likely be higher than the minimum due to the elimination of incentive fees. This new structure should also result in improved tax efficiency seeking to take advantage of the long and short-term capital gains treatment of certain managed futures markets.

 

LoCorr Managed Futures Fund is a multi-manager solution combining three established investment managers, each with a long history of investment expertise in the managed futures space. Graham Capital Management (founded in 1994 with over $12B AUM), Millburn Ridgefield (with a history of research dating back to the 1970s), and Revolution Capital Management (a shorter-term Commodity Trading Advisor), all offer distinct, well-established strategies with long-term track records, and when combined, deliver the potential for enhanced risk-adjusted returns. The complementary nature of these three strategies is designed to make this Fund a distinctive solution for investors seeking the diversification benefits of low-correlating strategies.

 

“As we’ve seen the industry evolve, we’re pleased to take the lead in enhancing the LoCorr Managed Futures Strategy Fund,” said Kevin Kinzie, CEO of LoCorr Funds, “We believe these changes have the potential to offer great benefits to shareholders and make this fund one of the most competitive multi-manager investment solutions of its type in the industry. At LoCorr, we remain committed to delivering solutions that can provide low correlation to traditional stocks and bonds and to making these solutions easily available to clients.”

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Braemar Invests in Renew Financial

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Braemar Energy Ventures, a leading venture capital investor in energy technology companies, has announced that it has made an investment in Renew Financial, a rapidly growing company that specializes in affordable financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Specific terms were not disclosed.

 

Renew Financial announced in early February of this year that it had raised $70 million to expand its clean energy and energy efficiency finance products across the U.S. Apollo Capital Management, Angeleno Group, Claremont Creek Ventures, LL Funds, Inc., NGEN Partners and Prelude Ventures all took part in the new growth capital round. Renew Financial secured additional capital from Braemar immediately following its new growth capital round.

 

Renew Financial was founded in 2008 by Cisco DeVries, who brought together a multidisciplinary team of experts in finance, technology, operations and government policy to innovate the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing model. The company specializes in affordable financing for renewable energy, energy efficiency and water conservation projects and is developing an array of financing products that will help move America toward a clean energy model.

 

Braemar Energy Ventures is a venture capital fund making early- to mid-stage investments in the energy technology sector. The firm’s principals have invested in more than 60 companies in the sector and have more than 100 years of combined technical, operational and financial experience in energy and energy-related industries. Braemar partners with exceptional companies and management teams, in both alternative and traditional energy markets, that can contribute to a more profitable and efficient energy landscape through innovation and marketplace expertise.

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Best Small Business Accountant – New York

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Linda Hamilton started her career with Coopers & Lybrand (now Pricewater­houseCoopers) and founded her own firm more than 25 years ago. We invit­ed Linda to talk us through her experi­ence and how this has shaped her busi­ness and the services it provides.

 

My firm works with clients in the U.S. and across the globe including businesses, nonprofit entities and high-net-worth indi­viduals. Primarily I advise clients on federal, state and local tax matters and provide financial coaching, and outsourced CFO and controller services.

 

Our mission is to go beyond compliance and number crunching to help our customers understand the story behind their numbers so they can make smarter financial decisions. We talk to clients on a monthly or quarterly basis about revenue growth, profits, and cash flow. These meaningful discussions lead to actionable steps business owners can take to improve performance and make smart money decisions.

 

We do not believe in a cookie-cutter approach, and as such we make sure that we understand each customer’s aspirations, pain points and business goals. Only then can we share solutions to business, accounting and technology challenges. Using perfor­mance dashboards including financial and non-financial ratios business owners and nonprofit leaders we work with are able to monitor key performance indicators against industry benchmarks and business and financial goals.

 

In addition, we partner with best of breed technology partners to deliver state of the art technology solutions that integrate with accounting systems. This allows us to provide real-time financial data for smarter, more informed decision making.

 

Our core values include:

 

• Respect and integrity

 

• Empathy, simplicity and clarity

 

• Continuous learners and teachers

 

• Be problem solvers

 

These values affect every aspect of our work and we always endeavor to use them to provide our clients with the highest possible quality of service.

 

Accounting and tax rules are constantly changing. In keeping with our core value of continuous learning and teaching, we regularly attend industry conferences, teach workshops for business own­ers and leaders, and maintain an extensive research library.

 

Overall we are honored to win a Finance Award and be recognized in the “Best Small Business Accountant” category. Success means different things to everyone. For me it is about legacy. I am passionate about helping small businesses grow and mentoring young women interested in starting their own business and in accounting as a profession.

 

Contact Details

 

Company: Linda A Hamilton, CPA LLC

 

Name: Linda Hamilton

 

Email: [email protected]

 

Web: www.lahcpas.com

 

Address: 555 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017

 

Phone: (212) 850 – 2521

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Principal Adds Drew Lawton to Board of Directors

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Principal Funds has named Drew Lawton, former CEO and senior managing director of New York Life Investment Management, to its board of directors.

Lawton’s financial services career spanned more than 30 years and included roles with Aetna Life and Casualty, Fidelity Investments, Fridson Investment Advisors and, most recently, New York Life. His experience in these organizations included leading institutional, retirement and retail market businesses within the U.S. and globally.

“We are pleased to welcome Drew to our board. His extensive knowledge of the investment management business and experience in the mutual fund industry will serve Principal Funds’ shareholders well,” said Mike Beer, president and CEO of Principal Funds.

Lawton earned a bachelor’s degree in administrative science from Yale University and an MBA from the University of North Texas. He serves on the board of directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.

Principal helps people and companies around the world build, protect and advance their financial well-being through retirement, insurance and asset management solutions that fit their lives.

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