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Untangled Web: Banks challenged by high-profile collapse

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Talking Tech

There’s a classic bit from “The Simpsons” in which the school principal hosts the superintendent for lunch but burns the dish. The superintendent questions why there’s smoke coming from the kitchen, to which the principal states it’s steam from the meal. The principal then sneaks over to buy fast food and attempts to pass the cooking off as his own, only for the kitchen to catch fire. Check out the “Steamed Hams” clip on YouTube for reference.

Here’s where the bit gets especially bizarre: Enter artificial intelligence.

An account on video game streaming service Twitch called “UnlimitedSteam” for weeks now has been running an AI-generated version of the bit. The AI has been fed all the lines from the scene in “The Simpsons,” and from there it goes off script in strange and hilarious ways.

The principal might, for example, switch out the burnt meal with an exotic offering from another country. He’ll blame the fire on all kinds of phenomenon, like ghosts or zombies.

The bit resets itself after the superintendent leaves the burning house, and each time the viewer is provided treatment to an entirely new experience at the whim of the AI.

Some have deemed this type of content “the future of entertainment.”

It is highly entertaining, but whether AI can replace actual comedy or entertainment is debatable. I’ll be here, popcorn in hand, waiting for the outcome.

Banks challenged by high-profile collapse

The collapse of a large bank in California has sent shockwaves through the banking industry.

As you’ve no doubt read by now, Santa Clara, California-based SVB Financial Group (Nasdaq: SIVB), dba Silicon Valley Bank, was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on March 13 after it became unable to pay back customers who withdrew their deposits.

It’s a high-profile case, as Silicon Valley Bank is one of America’s 20 largest commercial banks by assets and deposits, according to media reports. New York-based Signature Bank separately was taken over by the FDIC around the same time, adding to investor worries.

As reported by CNN Business, SVB’s collapse was brought on by myriad factors, including its decision to invest billions of dollars into U.S. government bonds during an era of near-zero interest rates, a move that became more volatile as the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates. Further, the company’s stock tanked after it announced it would sell more than $2.2 billion in new shares to shore up its finances.

It’s not just investors of SVB that have been spooked.

The news has hit home in the Show-Me State.

On March 13, shares of Kansas City-based UMB Financial Corp. (Nasdaq: UMBF) dropped by nearly 30% before ending the day down 16%, the Kansas City Business Journal reports.

UMB Bank was included in a March 13 article by MarketWatch, titled “20 banks that are sitting on huge potential securities losses – as was SVB.” It was the only Missouri-based bank on the list.

The article bases its selections on “high levels of unrealized securities losses as of Dec. 31.”

UMB’s stock has rebounded above $60 after hitting a 52-week low of $51.28 per share on March 13, but it’s well off the 52-week high of $102.95.

In a statement provided to Springfield Business Journal, UMB Chair, President and CEO Mariner Kemper said bank officials believe the SVB collapse is “idiosyncratic to its business model and client base and not systemic to the banking industry.”

He noted that the entire banking sector was damaged on March 13 but acknowledged UMB was hit harder than the industry at large.

“We believe this to be due to the fact that UMB shows up as having a very high ‘unrealized loss’ position, as well as a larger percentage of uninsured deposits,” Kemper said in the statement. “It’s important to note that an ‘unrealized loss’ only becomes realized if it is sold prior to maturity.

“It’s also important to remember that a stock price is not an indicator of the strength of a bank. UMB’s strengths are strong liquidity, diversified deposit base, excellent capital ratios and strong credit metrics.”

Keith Noble, president of Commerce Bank in Springfield, said company officials are advising any worried customers that the situation at SVB is not “cause for widespread alarm.”

“Banks, like Commerce, that have a highly diversified deposit base and the experience and knowledge that comes with serving customers through all economic cycles are well-positioned to help our communities navigate times of economic stress,” he said via email.

In evaluating the stability of banks, Noble recommends studying the institutions’ management and decision-making.

Looking ahead, Noble said on March 15 that officials with Commerce Bank – Commerce Bancshares Inc. (Nasdaq: CBSH) on the market – believe it’s unlikely the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in near-future meetings “until financial conditions approve.”

Design trend pops up in Queen City

What do businesses like El Cafecito, MacCheesy’s, BelowZero CryoSpa, Senor Julian Mexican Bar and Grill, and Kinetic Design and Development LLC have in common?

Besides being new to the market, they have a design trend in common that seems to be popping up all over Springfield.

The design concept is essentially neon lettering on top of a green, faux-plant background. At MacCheesy’s, for example, “Say Cheese” in yellow neon contrasts well with the green background.

Abbye Bobbett, architect and chief operations officer for Kinetic Design, said the concept combines two trends: neon lights and artificial green walls designed to look like greenery. At Kinetic Design in Chesterfield Village, the company’s neon lights on a green background read, “People Are Our Purpose.”

Bobbett said the design trends are popular on social media and became especially in vogue during the pandemic, when people sought to spruce up their spaces while working from home.

“I believe the philosophy behind the trend is really about expression, making a statement about something you are passionate about with specific wording or a quote, making a bold choice with lighting colors and designs,” she said via email. “Incorporating the green wall is just an extra touch of personality that we chose to go with.”

Time will tell if the trend stays around, but for now, grab your selfie in front of this hot design taking new Springfield businesses by storm.

Contact Geoff Pickle
Phone: 417-616-5856


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