Charges sought against

Malaysias central bank said it had recommended that the public prosecutor bring charges against state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) for inaccurate or incomplete disclosure of information about its investments of US$1.83 billion (S$2.58 billion).

While it acknowledged a decision to initiate criminal prosecution lies solely with the Attorney-General, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said in a statement Friday that it has revoked three permissions granted to 1MDB for the investments. The central bank did not say which transactions allegedly broke foreign exchange laws, but one of 1MDBs biggest investments went into Saudi Arabia-based oil and gas firm PetroSaudi International.

Responding to BNMs statement, 1MDB Friday said a total of US$2.318 billion from the venture, which included its profits, had been substantially utilized towards settling debt, with just US$940 million remaining and earmarked for a debt for asset swap with Abu Dhabi sovereign fund Aabar.

The BNM statement came a day after Attorney-General Apandi Ali said his chambers review of the central banks investigation had determined that 1MDB officials had not committed any crimes.

BNMs statement indicates a clear disagreement between Tan Sri Apandi and central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, whose contract expires in April.

The scrutiny of 1MDBs massive money transactions continues to raise concern because the firms advisory board chief is Prime Minister Najib Razak. 1MDB has struggled to meet obligations due from a RM42 billion (S$14 billion) debt pile it raked up in just five years. Yesterday, BNM said it had ordered 1MDB to bring home the US$1.83 billion.

The Bank concluded that permissions required under the ECA ( Exchange Control Act) for 1MDBs investments abroad were obtained based on inaccurate or without complete disclosure of material information relevant to the Banks assessment of 1MDBs applications. Therefore, the Bank has revoked three permissions granted to 1MDB … for investments abroad totaling US$1.83 billion and also issued a direction… to repatriate the amount of US$1.83 billion to Malaysia…

The central bank has said the unresolved issues surrounding 1MDB have weighed on investor sentiment in Malaysia, whose currency is Asias worst-performing this year. It is unclear when BNM ordered 1MDB to bring the money back to Malaysia, or if it can enforce any punishment on the finance ministry-owned firm if it refuses to comply.

On Friday, the central bank – which itself has been probed for allegedly leaking investigation papers on 1MDB – acknowledged that under the Federal Constitution, the decision to initiate criminal prosecution lies solely with the Attorney-General. Mr Apandi was appointed the countrys top lawyer after his predecessor Abdul Gani Patail was removed on July 28. (k)

Home Renovation Incentive extension a template for the future

The Government is weighing its options for delivering sufficient growth in the residential construction market, without returning to the era of discredited incentives. As it stands, only a fraction of the new homes required are coming on the market and the shortage is increasingly putting strain on both the private rented sector and on social housing.

Before Budget 2016, however, the Government has already made one low-key concession to the slowly recovering construction industry. With no fanfare whatsoever, a notice published on the Department of Finance website announced that the Government is extending for one year the hugely successful Home Renovation Incentive (HRI).

Homeowners will now be able to claim a 13.5 per cent tax credit on the cost of improvement works on their home or rented investment property incurred up to the end of 2016. The incentive had been scheduled to come to an end this December.

Projects involving 36,543 properties have been notified to Revenue’s HRI online system by the middle of last month, representing more than EUR566 million worth of works and 5,975 contractors.

The department reckons the incentive is likely to cost it about EUR38.26 million. It has clearly learned from the mistakes of the past: requiring all projects to be notified to it on a dedicated online site by registered contractors, thus eliminating the vagaries and expense of missing paperwork and the possibility of fuelling the black economy. Indeed, Revenue is hopeful the scheme will encourage some out of the shadows and and back into the legitimate economy.

With the Government balancing the political need for a giveaway budget with an overriding concern not to be seen to return to the discredited policies for which it has happily excoriated the previous government, the success of the Home Renovation Incentive provides it with a template for the future.

How BC Could Finance Home Energy Projects

How BC Could Finance Home Energy Projects

October 2nd, 2015 by Roy L Hales

Originally published on the ECOreport

British Columbia doesn’t have anything like the PACE program, which allows Californians to finance solar panels, energy-saving windows, and other energy efficiency projects through their property taxes. A new study from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), at the University of Victoria, shows that on-bill financing (OBF) performed the same way in Manitoba, the United States and the United Kingdom. The new PICS white paper–Cheaper Power Bills, More Jobs, Less CO2–explores how BC could finance home energy projects.

More Successful Programs

BC has already tried OBF programs, at Colwood and in the South Okanagan, but failed to attract many customers.

Comparing these ventures to more successful programs in Manitoba and Tennessee, the report found the BC programs lacked several key ingredients.

The authors of Cheaper Power Bills, More Jobs make three recommendations. First, the provincial government must champion energy efficiency undertaking strong promotion at the launch of the program. The criteria for loans should be more relaxed than  typical bank requirements. Secondly, accredited contractors who can submit applications on behalf of customers need to be involved.

“Having industry contractors trained in OBF makes a huge difference in terms of grassroots promotion, plus they can remove entrance barriers by helping with the paperwork thus ensuring fast processing turnarounds, and ultimately uptake. OBF has been a huge success, for example, in Manitoba that retrofits 5,000 houses a year, and it can work here too,” said co-author Carter Williamson.

An OBF Program Offers BC

If an OBF program is carried out as this is done, the authors believe it could provide BC with:

  • A steady 12,000 homes retrofitted per year.
  • Energy savings of 4 TWh after 20 years, which would help the province meet the rising demand for electricity.
  • Three million tons in total (direct and indirect) GHG reductions over 20 years.
  • $60 million annually in additional economic activity.
  • 600 to 1,080 direct and indirect full-time jobs (ie building/maintenance and construction related).

The ECOreport submitted a number of questions to Carter Williamson and these are his answers:

Q/ You called the pilot projects in Colwood and the South Okanagan “failures.” Is that because of “the very low uptake from utility customers”? Is there any other sense in which they were failures?

CW: Thirty OBF programs were reviewed to identify factors of success. Success of a program is primarily about achieving its targets, which could be defined as market penetration, loan amounts or renovation volume, energy savings or low default rates. These metrics were selected as indicators of success as they, as evidenced in the research done, capture a wide breadth of quantifiable elements that distinguish successful programs from failed programs.

The indicators of success identified are not standalone elements, and in order for an OBF program to be successful, all areas must be satisfied. Initial success may arise if an indicator of success is missing; however the program will likely fail in the long-term given their interdependence.

Because the pilot programs in BC did not achieve meaning numbers for these factors, they were deemed unsuccessful.

Q/ How certain are you that the decreased energy demand as a result of the retrofit will actually lower energy costs so that there’s little-to-no net change in utility bills until the loan is paid off?

CW: The best method to ensure upgrades and retrofits done to a home provide the most value, a home energy audit could be completed. A home energy audit would ensure upgrades that provide the most savings are completed first. This would provide the greatest opportunity to maintain the status quo with each utility bill. However, we do not recommend that pre energy audits be a formal requirement to join an OBF program. This is because they may act as an entrance barrier to join the program and decrease participation. Many home owners in OBF programs throughout North America skipped the pre energy audit and were happy with how much their utility changed. Evidence of this is the high number of home owners who reenter the program once the loan is paid off.

Q/ You mention 12,000 houses being refitted a year, do you have a specific area in mind where this would happen?

CW: Ideally I would like this program to cover the entire province. The 13 year old, $290 million OBF program in Manitoba proves that on bill financing is a powerful tool to expand access to capital to homeowners, make energy efficiency affordable and drive demand for the adoption of energy efficient practices.

Q/ How would you suggest the BC government (rather than BC Hydro) champion and marketing face of energy efficiency?

CW: The government’s initial role with this program would be to promote OBF and be its champion. This will give credibility to Fortis BC and BC Hydro with respect to them acting as lenders. Initially, residents of BC were hesitant to use loans from utility companies, as they were suspect of the utility companies’ motives for offering loans. It was interpreted by consumers as a way for utility companies to make more money.

On June 3, 2010, the Clean Energy Act became law in BC. This comprehensive act covered multiple areas including greenhouse gas reductions, job creation, and increasing energy efficiency. The government’s efforts to meet the standards of the Clean Energy Act can be used as a platform to raise initial awareness of OBF and its benefits for homeowners.

Government must be a champion of this program as utilities in BC are fragmented primarily between two companies: BC Hydro, a crown corporation, and Fortis BC, a private entity. Having two different organizations with different governance and goals (public versus private) may be confusing to potential OBF customers, and may limit an OBF program.

Q/ You mentioned relaxing loan requirements. Should the provincial government guarantee the loans?

CW: No. A provincial guarantee adds additional unnecessary costs. Default rates are extremely low, Manitoba for example has a default rate of 0.48%. The cost of covering defaulted loans is built into the interest rate, so the utility companies can build a reserve fund to pay for defaults without causing the government to incur any unnecessary added costs.

Q/ If loan applications are made by the trades, rather than homeowners, who pays them? The utility?

CW/ To make the process of applying easier, the loan applications are filled out and submitted by the tradespeople (with homeowner consent). Once the homeowner agrees the work is completed to their satisfaction and the utility company has inspected the work, the utility company pays the contractor directly, and adds the loan payments on to the homeowners next bill.

Q/ What happens in the case of a sale, does the loan go with the former owner or stay on the house?

CW: An on-bill loan may be attached to the individual or the meter. Most of the current on-bill programs associate the loan with the property or consumer. Meter attachment, also called on-bill tariff, is designed to achieve three key objectives: (1) automatic transfer of the tariff between consumers; (2) survival in foreclosure of a first mortgage on the property; and (3) off-balance sheet treatment for non- residential participants.

Q/ What happens in the case of a default?

CW: There is an inherent risk of default when money is loaned. Ideally the default rate would be zero, however it should be noted though that default rates with on bill financing programs are extremely low. Manitoba for example has a default rate of 0.48%.

In the rare event of default, the utility providing the loan would go through the same process they go through now for unpaid utility bills.

Q/ You mentioned loans of as little as $5,000 being available in Manitoba. How successful is the program and have there been any problems?

CW: Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Residential Program is a successful program that has consistently had an uptake of approximately 5,000 participants yearly, with yearly loan amounts of approximately $29 million. MH operates one of the most successful OBF programs in North America in terms of loan volume. In 13 years of operation, the program reached 15% of households within its target market with a total loan volume of $290 million and an astonishingly low default rate of 0.48%.

Manitoba Hydro has been able to avoid large problems because over the years the Power Smart Residential Loan program has been operating, it has undergone various changes. The changes were results of creating a dynamic program that adapts to the needs of the public. The changes have included the amount of capital available for financing, eligible projects, and loan interest rates.

Top Photo Credit: Riverside Energy Installation in Kamloops BC

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City Council Approves new PACE Program for Residential Sustainability

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Malibu City Council voted unanimously 5-0 to approve a new sustainability program for property owners throughout the city.

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Craig George, Deputy Building Official under the city’s Environmental Sustainability Department, said.

The opportunity, called Ygrene Works for California PACE financing program, or Ygrene Pace for short, helps to finance home improvements to save energy and cut water waste.

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) brought its first program to the city in February of this year with the HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) program. The two, HERO and Ygrene, are designed to make energy and water saving renovations affordable for property owners. PACE does this by offering long-term, competitive financing through payments made from their property taxes for up to 20 years.

Both programs work through the California Home Finance Authority.

“The city’s participation in more than one PACE program will provide property owners with the ability to choose the program that best fits their needs,” the staff report for Wednesday’s meeting stated.

“I think the main thing is, it’s an opportunity for the city to increase its sustainability, to have a mechanism for homeowners to do energy savings, energy conservation, using renewable energy sources and … water savings,” George told council.

James Ross, a representative from Ygrene, explained some of the benefits.

“By adding the Ygrene program, you’re actually extending some features that are not available in the HERO program,” Ross said.

The program is enacted largely by contractors who are interested in participating.

“What I do is, I train the local contractors to use the Ygrene PACE program,” Ross said. “We do not cold call your homeowners at all.”

“It’s such a cool program,” Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal said.

More information is available at

Sewer project rebid

The council also voted to re-bid the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility, after bids received came in well above the previously estimated amount.

The City of Malibu received three bids for the project, the lowest of which was from Shimmich Construction Company, Inc., $38,426,050.00, according to the staff report.

“The low bid amount from Shimmich Construction Company, Inc. is over the available budgeted amount for this project,” the report read. “It is proposed to separate the single bid document into three distinct bid packages. In doing so, staff believes that it will allow for more bidders and competitive prices that will fall within the budgeted amount for this project.”

Once the plans are broken into three separate projects, an eight-week bid process will begin. A total of $25,000 was allocated by council for the re-bid of the project.

‘WholeHomes’ promising for rural Md. Shore towns

Gov. Larry Hogan has a commitment to rural Maryland.

That is what fueled the concept behind the state’s WholeHome program, which had its inaugural in-town meeting in Snow Hill, said William Ariano, deputy director for the states Division of Development Finance.

Members of the state came into the small Maryland town last month to present the many options available for loans and grants. The program aims to help residents finance home repairs and improvements, like the abatement of lead paint, structural issues and energy efficiency.

Credit card spends top Rs 1 lakh cr; rise by 22%

Credit card spends in the country topped Rs 1 lakh crore for the six months ended June 30, a growth of 22.4 per cent over the corresponding period a year ago. Credit card spends, which are about two-three times of debit cards spends, will rise further as e-commerce transactions fuel purchases ahead of the festive season. There are over 2.15 crore credit cards in the country. For the full year ending March 2016, total credit card spends could touch Rs 2.4-2.5 lakh crore.

As per RBI data, total credit card spends for January to June 2015 stood at Rs 1.06 lakh crore. In January-June 2014, total credit card spends stood at Rs 86,831 crore. Sequentially, total credit card spends in January-June 2015 grew by 11 per cent from Rs 95,932 crore in July-December 2014.

Says Arjun Chowdhry, head of cards and unsecured lending, Citi India, “The Citi portfolio is witnessing strong momentum on credit card spending. In line with our segment-led strategy, our model includes continuous engagement through relevant and compelling offers to our customers. Consequently, the average spend per card by our customers is about 1.4 times of the average, the highest in the consumer industry.”

“Being digital first, a substantial portion of our consumer spending is online, which contributes about 43 per cent of our total spends. In the last 12 months, online customer spends have grown by 25-30 per cent,” Chowdhry adds.

E-commerce sector transactions are driving credit card spends. “The young populace is hooked to e-commerce. This is why we are launching offerings that help us tap this growth area,” Vijay Jasuja, CEO, SBI Cards, said during a recent interaction.

At an industry level, credit cards generate transactions worth Rs 17,000-19,000 crore a month now. In FY15, India saw Rs 192,263 crore being spent in credit cards ie Rs 16,000 crore a month. In FY14, Rs 155,672 crore was spent ie Rs 13,000 crore a month.

In FY13, the total credit card spend figure was Rs 124,393 crore or Rs 10400 crore approximately a month. Average monthly spend per credit card is now about Rs 8,500-8,800. This is against Rs 7,500-7,800 a year ago. Most credit cards are used at point of sale (POS) and only a minuscule portion sees use in ATMs. Interestingly, this trend reverses in case of debit cards where ATM use is huge due to massive withdrawals while POS use is still playing catch up.

Industry executives aver that while credit cards earlier used to be used to pay utility bills and withdraw money, now these products are now being used to do, among others, online shopping, insurance payments, funding vacations and buying high value electronic items through EMIs.

A thriving economy, substantial increase in disposable incomes and consequent rise in consumer expenditure, followed by growing affluence levels and consumer sophistication, have led to a robust growth in credit cards, according to American Express Banking Corporation India CEO Manoj Adlakha.

To encourage spending on credit cards, credit card providers are offering reward points and discounts. Also, the high rate of interest charge if credit is not paid off by the due date is helping card companies to get better repayment of credit card dues compared to 2007.

Gruh Finance: Home in on this niche player

Home loans are set to get cheaper with the steep cut in the repo rate by the RBI last week. But more than a reduction in loan rates, which can only increase affordability to some extent, it is the RBI’s proposal to reduce risk weights applicable to lower-value but well collateralised housing loans that have brought cheer to players, such as Gruh Finance. A subsidiary of Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), Gruh Finance is one of the pioneers in the rural housing finance segment, providing small-ticket home loans to low-income groups in semi-urban and rural areas.

The RBI’s move will give a fillip to the government’s thrust on the affordable housing segment via its ‘Housing for all by 2022’ scheme. While the details are yet to be finalised, housing finance companies, such as Gruh Finance, that operate in the small-ticket-size segment will be key beneficiaries of this measure.

The stock now trades at a pricey 10.5 times one-year forward book, double that of Repco Home Finance. But the Gruh Finance stock has always commanded a substantial premium over peers, thanks to its consistent operational performance, strong parentage of HDFC, robust returns and good asset quality. While there are concerns over fall in real estate prices eroding the value of lenders’ loan portfolios, it is unlikely to have a major impact on low-ticket players, such as Gruh Finance, whose average loan size is under #8377;10 lakh.

The company has reported an annual profit growth of 29 per cent over the last decade, and 20 per cent in the latest June quarter. With 20-25 per cent expected growth in earnings over the next two to three years, investors with a long-term horizon can still buy the stock at current levels.

Large opportunity

Despite the strong pace at which the mortgage industry has grown, players such as Gruh Finance have ample opportunities to grow, given the strong demand and shortage of housing in urban and rural areas. Most of the shortage is seen in the economically weaker section (EWS) and low income group (LIG) segments of the population.

Through its ‘Housing for All by 2022’ scheme, the Centre is trying to bridge the affordability gap in these low-income segments. The highlight of this scheme is the interest subvention of 6.5 per cent on housing loans up to 15 years to the EWS/LIG segment.

The government has also raised the income ceilings for both EWS and LIG categories under the new scheme — from an annual income of up to #8377;1 lakh to #8377;3 lakh for EWS and from #8377;2 lakh to #8377;6 lakh for LIG. This will bring more people under the ambit of the scheme. These initiatives present a huge opportunity for players, such as Gruh Finance.

The RBI’s proposal to lower risk weights on affordable housing loans from the existing 50 per cent will also free up capital to fund higher growth.

Players, such as Gruh Finance, are also better placed to ward off competition from banks that have been pursuing the housing finance segment. Given that banks mostly compete in the salaried segment, housing finance companies have created a niche for themselves in the self-employed segment.

Strong financial performance

Gruh’s loan book has grown 27 per cent annually over the last decade. Given its niche offering and the government’s focus on the affordable housing segment, the company is likely to grow its loan book by 22-25 per cent over the next two-three years.

In spite of the risk in the low-cost and self-employed segment, Gruh Finance has been able to maintain loan delinquency at very low levels through a diligent appraisal process and deep understanding of the local markets.

The company’s gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) have been 0.3-1 per cent of loans in the last five years. As of June 2015, the GNPAs stood at 0.52 per cent of loans. The company sports a healthy 30 per cent return on equity and over 2 per cent return on asset.

On the funding side, the company has also benefitted from the low-cost funds provided by National Housing Bank (NHB), due to its focus on rural and semi-urban housing. As of June 2015, funds from NHB account for 32 per cent of Gruh’s total borrowings.

The company has been able to maintain its net interest margins above the 4 per cent mark.

NeighborWorks Awarded $1.75 Million Grant

The US Department of Treasury has awarded NeighborWorks Montana$1.75 Million to expand a popular lending program throughout the state.
Neighborworks is a nonprofit organization that offers housing options to low-income individuals.

Through its 20+ lending program, the organization helps to finance home mortgages that local families are having a hard time affording. It was introduced in 2013, and has since helped over 100 borrowers.

This lending program expands beyond Great Falls to Helena, Bozeman, Missoula and even Billings.

This Is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate Across America. How Do You Compare?

But the rate you wind up paying could differ wildly based on your credit score. lists low interest credit cards as having a national average lending rate of just 11.62%. On the flipside, credit cards geared toward people with bad credit have an average lending rate of 22.73%! This 11.11 percentage point difference might not seem enormous on paper, but lets utilize a real-world example to show just how monstrous an effect your credit score can have.

As an example, imagine two fictitious people have $5,000 in credit card debt. One has an exceptionally high credit score, and the other individuals credit score is in the poor range. Assuming our fictitious credit card holders made the minimum monthly payments based on the national lending rate averages discussed above for those with excellent and bad credit, the individual with an excellent credit score would have their balance paid off in 10 years and eight months, ultimately paying $2,164 in interest charges. In contrast, the individual with poor credit would take nearly 18 years to pay off their loan, and fork over $7,633 in interest in the process!

How you can improve your credit score
Long story short, you should always be looking for ways to improve your credit score, or maintain it once you reach excellent status, which based on the FICO score rating of 300 to 850 is typically anything above a 750. At this level lending institutions should fight for your business, leaving you with the upper hand when it comes to choosing a loan or new credit card.

What steps should you take to ensure your credit score keeps moving higher?

To begin with, making your payments on time is extremely important. has suggested that your payment history comprises slightly more than a third of your credit score. Its a reminder that you should only be purchasing what you can afford to pay for on a monthly basis.

However, its worth noting that most credit lenders are willing to work with consumers who run into a hardship, such as the loss of a job or an unexpected financial emergency. You shouldnt assume that your lender is going to forgive your debts necessarily, but it often pays to be upfront with your credit card lender if you are having trouble making your payments. Being proactive can make a major difference to your credit score.

Source: Covered California. 

How much credit you use also matters. Generally speaking, credit card lenders get worried when you max out a credit card, or rack up big balances on one or more cards. It could demonstrate to a lender that youre either not earning enough to meet your future payments, or that youre an irresponsible spender. Per FICO, the ideal credit utilization rate is 7%, but even up to 20% could be considered OK. If, however, youre using 50% or more of the credit available to you, it may be time to consider paring back your purchases.

Your credit account history length is another factor that affects your credit score. You may have a great payment history and low utilization rates, but it youve only had a credit card for 12 months lenders may be still suspicious of your spending habits. However, if a lender can look back at a decade of spending habits, that lender can paint a pretty accurate picture of what kind of consumer you really are. Plus, if your credit accounts stay open for long periods of time it would likely imply that youre in good standing with your lenders, which is something else that a credit card company would love to see.

Two final factors to consider that can affect your credit score are your credit mix and new credit accounts. In terms of credit mix, lenders like to see that you can handle big and small loans. Were talking about everything from credit cards and revolving loans to mortgages and car loans. If you can handle various types of loans and make your payments on time, then its likely to be beneficial to your credit score.

On the flipside, opening too many credit accounts can hurt your credit score. While FICO is pretty tight-lipped on what number of credit accounts is just right, the idea here is not to open a new line of credit just to save a few dollars. New credit accounts should only be opened if theres a long-term, financially savvy reason to do so.

Israeli Start-Up: Why You CAN Trust This Used-Car Salesman

After the online buyer puts a refundable $500 deposit on the chosen car, a Vroom rep makes contact to finalize the details – without any haggling — and overnights the paperwork. Then the car is shipped from Vroom’s Texas facility to the customer’s door anywhere in the continental United States, at which time a trade-in can be picked up. Financing is available, and there’s a seven-day money-back guarantee.

Only two years old, the company is seeing $20 million in monthly sales and is expanding thanks to a fresh investment of $54 million on top of its original $19 million. It seems the industry was ripe for change.

“We looked at the situation and decided it makes sense to disrupt business as usual,” Wurtman tells ISRAEL21c, noting that Israelis relish challenging the status quo.

Indeed, Vroom’s competitor Beepi,  a peer-to-peer online marketplace for used cars headquartered in California, was cofounded in April 2014 by Owen Savir, an Israeli native with an MBA from Stanford University.

“As with any good idea, others have the same good idea, and for the past two years we’ve all been working at it,” says Wurtman. “It’s just a massive opportunity and it’s about time we use technology and the Internet to change the consumer experience around buying, selling and financing second hand cars.”

Though Beepi and Vroom both operate exclusively in the United States, Vroom maintains an Israeli Ramp;D center in Ness Ziona that developed its proprietary intelligent big-data system.

 “We’ve come to expect that when we order a product online, within two days that product will be at our door. In our vision, there’s no reason a car should be any different than a toothbrush.”

 “This is very much a tech-enabled business, and whereas the entire car industry relies on third-party software, we built everything in house,” says Wurtman. “This is natural to the Israeli tech culture; it’s the secret sauce that makes what we do possible.”

Vroom plans to double its Israeli staff to 30, and to add a fulfillment center in Indianapolis, a city situated within 300 miles of 60 million citizens. The US staff of about 150 employees is expected to grow exponentially as Vroom branches out in order to get cars to customers more quickly. One new hire is Michael Akrop, former vice president of finance for shoe e-tailer Zappos.

“We’ve come to expect that when we order a product online, within two days that product will be at our door. In our vision, there’s no reason a car should be any different than a toothbrush. So we’re rolling out facilities that enable us to provide that same experience to the vast majority of Americans,” says Wurtman, who also owns Bat Shlomo Vineyards in Israel’s Carmel region.

But beyond speed, Vroom is also focused on trust, a commodity traditionally in short order in the pre-owned vehicle space.

“We’re asking people to buy a car sight unseen and we fundamentally want to build a trusted brand in an industry where there’s no trust,” Wurtman says. “And in the same way we want to be trusted, we also want consumers to know we trust them. We buy your car sight unseen, giving a price based on what you tell us, so we’re building a culture of trusting our customers. This is unique in the entire industry.”

Courtesy of Israel21c, by Abigail Klein Leichman

Read more about: Allon Bloch, Beepi, Business/Finance, car industry, Elie Wurtman, Michael Akrop, mySupermarket, Owen Savir, second hand vehicles, Technology/Internet, VROOM TECHNOLOGIES INC, WINSTAR RESOURCES LTD.,