A Proper Family Budget Meets All Financial Needs

To say that every family should have a monthly budget is an understatement. The only way to control your family's finances is with a budget that keeps track of where the money comes from and where it is absolutely spent. A budget, or cash flow plan for those who do not like the B word, is a critical part of any family's secure financial future.

For most families a budget is far down the list of things that are important in the day to day happenings for most families. For most people doing a budget is another task for which they have little time to deal with. Unfortunately this is the reason so many families are having the financial problems that they are dealing with today. A budget can also be a divisive thing if it is used as a way to control the spending habits and place blamed for the financial failures being experienced. For a family budget to work properly it must be used as a tool by all family members that involves financial goals and compromise to reach them.

A budget is actually not that hard to create and keep simply because it is just a list of monthly income and expenses that is either either on a sheet of paper or on a computer equipped with budgeting software. The idea behind any budgeting process is to create a balance between income and expenses so that at the end of the month there is money left over to save, invest, and build wealth.

There is no concrete method for building a family budget because each family's financial needs are different. Some families may be saving for a new car or family vacation, while others are more intent on building savings and college funds. Most families start their budgeting process simply by writing everything down on a piece of paper but as their financial needs grow more complex they may find they need the services of a financial or investment planner.

Another thing to think about and discuss is what are your family's long term financial goals and how do these fit into and affect the monthly budget. It is important to consider not only the goals of individual family members but also the collective goals of the entire family as well. These can include such things as putting away money for a new home, saving for children's college fund, building that retirement nest egg, and probably the most important thing for any family building an emergency savings fund to protect against unforeseen financial emergencies.

The hardest part of finalizing the family budget is making sure you have all the monthly expenses written down. Missing even one or two can seriously affect your budget because at the end of the month you will have less money then originally budgeted for. Be sure to think of those surprise expenses which is particularly important if you have children. It always seems that some unforeseen expense pops up around one of the kid's school activities, or they need new glasses or braces, or something along those lines. Of course if you have an emergency fund in place you can use money from this for such things.

Setting up a proper family budget will not only help you meet your financial goals but will also save money over the long run. Not having money worries will make family life better for all concerned; it just takes a little time and patience.

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How Bitcoin Will Promote Latin American Growth

There has been much ado concerning Bitcoin and how authorities and businesses in China and the United States have reacted to it, but possibly more intriguing possibilities may lie ahead for this currency and other cryptocurrencies. The Wall Street Journal ran a piece a week ago about the obvious divide that exists in Latin America. The Atlantic facing countries have more command oriented economies while the Pacific facing countries, with the exception of Ecuador and Nicaragua, have more market-oriented economies. Latin America has become a continent of focus on a global scale with stifled European growth and an Asia-Pacific region that has already been welcomed into the global economic conversation. Alternative currencies will make their mark on Latin America and it will affect both sides in a different fashion. In the end, Bitcoin and Latin American Growth will go together as they both are in spotlight at the same time and cryptocurrencies (including Bitcoin) will afford Latin American businesses and entrepreneurs the opportunity to operate on a level playing field with the rest of the globe.

Notable State Oriented Economies of Latin America

  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia
  • Cuba
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Nicaragua
  • Venezuela

These countries have economies that are more beholden to national interests. The most extreme state run economy on this list is Cuba, which has a Communist regime that has made slight concessions to economic liberalization. Venezuela has arguably the second most extreme state run economy and is in the midst of a socioeconomic and political crisis. Argentina has had its fair share of instability and command-oriented economic events courtesy of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner including price controls, drama concerning possession of the Falkland Islands, inflation of 26%, police strikes, and the nationalization of YPF just to name a few measures. Brazil is always feared to resort to its old ways and currently there is still a great deal of red tape and taxation is comparatively higher than peers.

Notable Market-Oriented Economies of Latin America

  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Panama
  • Chile
  • Peru
  • Belize

Mexico’s efforts to attract and grow business is not just limited to Mexico City, but Guadalajara has been emphasized as a growth destination in the digital and tech space much like the way Bogota is the established economic powerhouse city in Colombia and Medellin has broken out a youthful, digital force. Mexico is currently the 14th largest economy and growing. Mexico is still plagued by the drug cartels as demand for drugs across the northern border still exists. Ciudad Juarez is plagued by cartel-induced violence, which is considered so bad that the Sun Bowl strongly discouraged visitors from traveling across the border as the college bowl game was an opportunity to promote both El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez for tourism and business.

Colombia still is combatting FARC, but it is clearly winning the battle after President Uribe’s term. FARC has been more limited to the jungle areas of Colombia. Active peace talks with FARC are also being negotiated to an extent. The Colombian economy has much room to grow in terms of agriculture, energy, finance, tourism, and digital technology.

Belize is actively courting Americans to purchase real estate in the country marketing their pristine beaches, tax policies, and English fluency. Belize has a lot more growing to do and it has to shake stigmas.

Chile is considered by the Heritage Foundation to be #1 in economic freedom in Latin America. Chile enjoys a trade surplus, a central bank policy rate of 4.5% that would be attractive to investors outside of Chile. Trading the Chilean Peso may be a worthy endeavor for those wishing to take advantage of the carry trade against countries/economic zones that have extremely low interest rates such as the United States, European Union, and Japan. Chile has low inflation and has policies that benefit not just copper exports, but other exports to help maintain the surplus. Morgan Stanley expects Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico to grow on average 4.25% in 2014.

These countries are not facing looting outbreaks, fights over toilet paper, nor do they have leaders that are trying to escalate action against another country.

Bitcoin’s Impact on State-Oriented Economies

In all of these state-oriented economies, there are currency controls. Venezuela and Argentina are infamous for their price controls. Brazil’s government influence in the economy stems from their excessive influence, possible corruption issues, and inflationary concerns. Entrepreneurs, investors, and ordinary individuals will be looking to the marketplace to meet their needs. Rationing, red tape, high costs, and possible surveillance are associated with these state-oriented economies. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will meet the needs of many that have access to the internet.

Competing globally in countries that wish to be more insular comes with negative ramifications, but the usage of the internet and the ability to transact in a possibly untraced fashion in a global marketplace will enable competitive pricing for citizens to receive the goods and services needed. Venezuelans will be able to buy toilet paper from foreign sources without having to use a currency that is being grossly debased. Venezuelans will also have the opportunity to engage in entrepreneurship while still in Venezuela to fund their endeavors and possible defection to other countries such as Colombia. Over 26% of Venezuelans use the internet on a daily basis. Venezuela has not filtered the internet just yet and purchasing Bitcoin is far more secure than holding onto Bolivar.

Bitcoin usage could take the government’s tight grip on the economy away by rendering its presence useless by adopting the private currency. Less tax revenues can be collected, a populace that is armed financially and possibly literally (you could have bought anything on Silk Road), and decreased influence from political leaders and enforcers as cryptocurrency usage becomes viral. This thought process can be applied to Venezuela-lite in Argentina, which is an economy with a lot of potential.

The Brazilian economy could grow further by giving businesses more exposure overseas and overcoming the exotic sovereign currency issue. The World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016 will put much pressure on the Brazilian economy to grow and keep up appearances. Lower transaction costs, currency familiarity, and nationality ambivalence with Bitcoin customers will help Brazilian firms seeking to do business outside of Brazil. With a large influx of tourists and business-people coming to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the acceptance of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will remove the barriers of having to convert currencies and engage in secure purchases. Brazil may be a more command-oriented economy like Argentina, but global expectations and aspirations should push them away from past tendencies.

For the state-oriented economies, Bitcoin and its competitors offer greater freedom, monetary security, entrepreneurship opportunities, transaction security, and privacy. In the case of Venezuela, it could spark a change in governance much like the way social media was credited for bringing in the Arab Spring to life. Much of the problems surrounding Venezuela are economic in nature and the black market is a natural alternative. Prevention of seizure of assets by keeping them in a digital wallet in the cloud is far more secure than keeping funds in a bank regulated by the Venezuelan government.

Bitcoin’s Role in Economic Growth for the Pacific Countries

Entrepreneurship as described in the previous section is on a smaller level than what may be in Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Colombia and Mexico have cities that have hopes to global players in the digital space. Attracting business from Europe, Canada, and the United States would be easier with lower exchange and transaction fees. Credit cards and PayPal place transaction fees on users wishing to make international transactions and this fee would be reduced.

Latin American outsourcing can experience growth as call centers, development and design firms, and independent contractors are able to not only competitively bid as they do now, but they would be able to accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and this will drive in more business. It is not a fad, it is a matter of making an easier and cheaper transaction. Less barriers to making the purchase will make the sale and it will help Latin American businesses be able to be global, which can lead to Venture Capital growth.

Bitcoin will lead to greater international business transactions for Latin America and enable economic growth. The benefits are different for these countries as the need for stability is not pressing, but rather these countries have an insatiable appetite for growth. Entrepreneurship, competing globally, lower transaction fees, transactional security, competitive biddng, improved economic development, and changing perceptions are all benefits of adopting cryptocurrencies in these countries. A startup in Medellin or Cartagena can compete with a firm in Toronto and another firm in Indianapolis for a services contract. Removing the barriers of nationality from the transaction to focus solely on the services provided and costs involved are a major benefit.

Consumers win too in these countries as they would gain purchasing power because some items are more expensive in their domestic markets than foreign markets. Ex-pats and immigrants can send money to family members in their native country in a simple, inexpensive, quick, and secure fashion. This can help boost local economies.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies help make the world a smaller place just like the way air travel, the internet, telecommunications, and social media have done. Cryptocurrencies promote globalization and Bitcoin will help provide that opportunity to Latin America, which is eager to compete and grow in the global marketplace.

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A Tour of Forex Trading Tools

In foreign exchange (forex) trading, brokerage companies offer their clients different types of tools to help them succeed. Also referred to as FX, foreign exchange markets are unique and complex. The brokerage company provides our clients with essential forex tools such as margin and pip calculators as well as a currency converter to ensure people trading in forex have a safe and secure trading experience.

Each of the brokerage company's FX tools has been specifically designed to enable customers to have the most efficient resources available, providing the most recent precise information. As a result, data streams and live prices are delivered to the broker's FX tools in real time. As a result, people trading are able to make informed trading transactions.

Calculating Margin
This FX calculator helps the person trading currency to decide on the selling price for currency pairs to attain the preferred profit margin. Depending on the specific tool provided, the trader would simply enter the trade size and select the currency pair in the preferred account currency.

Next, the person planning a trade would then enter the leakage necessary and click on the calculate button which, by design, generates the required selling price and gross margin.

Calculating Currency
The brokerage company currency converter is a simple FX tool to convert a set amount of one currency to another. It features twenty three different contexts.

The trader chooses the desired amount and the appropriate currency from the list provided. The prices are updated in real time by the brokerage company.

Next, the person trading should choose the currency that they want to convert. The next step is to use the calculate feature. The FX currency calculator then gives the value based upon the live market pricing.

Calculating Pip
A pip is the least change that can be made in a given exchange. The FX pip calculator provides the value per pip in the trader's account currency for all major currency pairs. All values ​​are based on real-time brokerage company currency rates.

A pip calculator can be an important tool in the preparation and creation of an assessment of forex trades.

The individual punches in the preferred trading amount in units, then chooses the desired currency pair. The trader then chooses the currency they wish to have the figure converted into.

Activating the calculation button obtains the pip value for the currency chosen using market prices from live forex trading.

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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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4 Things Contractors Should Know About Contractors Insurance

Any company involved in construction work, building maintenance or installation and repair services is in need of contractors insurance. Contractors will be ill-advised to forego contractor insurance in a climate of high crime statistics, unpredictable weather conditions, negligent workers, faulty equipment, defective substances and a million and one other thing that can go wrong in the contracting business.

There is also an ever-growing propensity to be held responsible and accountable for damages caused to third parties. Think about it this way: Insurance premiums cost a mere fraction of stolen materials, damaged projects or compensating agents or third parties for losses incurred through the negligence of workers or the forces of nature beyond anyone's control. By having the conviction and foresight to take out builders' insurance, contracting businesses are safeguarding themselves against possible losses and lawsuits that could end up by severely crippling the company financially or, in the worst case scenario, even bankrupting it. A contractor's policy actually costs very little in terms of premiums and is worth its weight in gold.

The basics of builder's insurance

1. Builders' Risk Coverage (also known as construction coverage)

Builders' risk insurance indemnifies the contractor for losses or damages to a building while the building is under construction. Insurance usually covers the building for a specific time period and applications only while the building is under construction. This type of insurance typically covers fire damage and vandalism. The policy may also include materials in transit to the building site as well as materials and equipment stored on site. Tools, equipment, vehicles, materials and any other assets used on site may also be covered. For the amount of protection it affords (and the peace of mind that goes with it) builder's risk insurance is reliably inexpensively (as against general liability insurance).

2. Insuring Materials on site and in transit

Given the cost of modern building materials, it is common practice for constructors to insure their materials either on site or while in transit. However, the onus is on builders to make sure that all reasonable precautions are in place to protect materials from theft or storm damage as much as possible. This coverage can also include materials stolen in transit due to the vehicle being hijacked while en route to the building site.

3. The most common insurance claims made by contractors

The most frequent claims made by contractors entail materials theft, damaged materials while in transit, storm damage, or surrounding properties being damaged while construction is in progress.

4. Most expensive Claims

The most costly claims most commonly filed by contractor are usually damages caused by third parties and their properties due to the contractor's "negligence" for example, materials being blown off structures in storms or high winds and landing on nearby cars or buildings. Also damage caused to existing underground pipes or cables. Other high claims are damages caused by fire, rainwater damage to structures, lightning damage or severe storm damage. All these liabilities can be covered by an All Risks contractor's policy.

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Agriculture Investment Funds – The Best Alternative

In times of a rapidly expanding population, low interest rates, inflation and murky equity markets, investors are searching for assets that will grow in value, produce a regular income, and retain value in the event of a crash. Essentially we need a safe haven for our cash and that is leading many investors towards the agricultural sector as 75 million new mouths to feed every year and a changing diet in developing economies supports the theory that agribusiness will do well in the mid to long term.

There are a number of options open for investors choosing this sector, from agricultural investment funds, ETFs, direct investment into agribusiness companies, or trading soft-commodities such as wheat. My problem here lies in the fact that these investment strategies do not tick all of our boxes. Funds incur management fees, and over the lifetime of a mutual fund, investors lose 80% of their gain to management fees, commodities can be volatile in the short term, and investing into agribusiness companies does provide any level of non-correlation.

So what is the alternative? More and more canny investors, both private and institutional, are snapping up what little good quality agricultural land is left in the hope that as time passes, and the population continues to grow, the land we have will become more valuable in the face of a higher demand for food. We also know that well tilled land will produce an income every year from the growth and sale of crops, replacing the lost risk-free income we no longer achieve from holding cash. Of course, if someone somewhere finds an alternative to food then the value of farmland will fall, but I think we can all agree that we will all have to eat at some point and therefore arable land retains value even in the worst of circumstances.

So how does the small investor source a piece of agricultural land large enough to farm commercially? And how do we reduce general agricultural risk such as exposure to poor weather, commodity prices and quality farm management? There are opportunities for the smaller investor to take part in large farmland investment transactions, either pooling capital with other investors in order to purchase better and larger land parcels, and other very interesting structured vehicles allowing the small investor to purchase a small piece of a much larger, commercially managed farm, with the farmer shouldering the general agricultural risk and paying the land owning investor a fixed annual income. This methodology, provides the farmer with much needed liquid capital to expand operations and invest in the his business, whilst providing the investor with risk-managed exposure to high-yielding farmland, consistent income, principle protection and capital growth.

Where should one consider purchasing farmland? The EU, Latin America and Australia are all investable locations, and have consistently achieved returns of between 10% and 20% over income and growth depending on the location of the farm and the structure of the investment.

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Get Rich With Forex – 3 Steps Towards Your First $1,000 Trading Currency With Forex

If you’re reading this article, then you already know how difficult and costly Forex currency trading can be.

In fact, most people will tell you that comparing Forex to the stock market is like comparing the complex Japanese number puzzle, Sudoku, to a children’s coloring book. However, I’m here to tell you that this is NOT the way it is… At least, if you know what you’re doing.

Believe it or not, the Forex market can be very simple and easy to manipulate. As you continue reading, I’ll be outlining the basic process you’ll need to take to start earning money with Forex.

Okay? Alright!

The Obvious First Step You Need to Take Before You Make a Dime

First things first, you’re obviously going to need to find a broker to open a trader’s account with.

That’s not so hard, right? First step done! All you’ll really need to do is fill out some paper work…Don’t be intimidated!

Remember, your broker is there to help you, and you’re paying them commissions to do so, don’t be afraid to use what you pay for! Most brokers will be more than eager to help you fill out the appropriate forms with the appropriate information. Next your application will (hopefully) be approved, and THEN you can start funding your Forex account.

What You’ll Want to Know From Your Broker BEFORE You Start Trading

You’ll want to talk to your broker about what to do with the money you want to invest in currency.

Decide on a Leverage Ratio – For example, before you do anything else you’ll probably want to decide on a leverage ratio for your broker to trade. Basically, leverage is a ratio used to measure the level of risk/reward in a trade. It’s sort of like betting…There’s 10:1, 20:1, 50:1 and even 100:1 leverage ratios that you can use in your trades.

Just remember that a higher leverage means a higher potential for loss…But it can also mean you make more money! If you’ve got enough money that you can be risky, then a high leverage is usually recommended.

Pick Currency Pairs to Focus On – Alright, now that you understand leverage and what it means for you, now we can talk about currency pairs! This is the fun part! Basically, all trades are formatted and identified the same way…Using currency pairs.

For example, in the currency pair EUR/USD, the EUR would be the BASE currency, where as the USD would be the COUNTER currency. Remember that, order is very important. In the above example, you would be measuring the European Euro in terms of US Dollars. If you were to make this trade, you would want the Euro to have a HIGHER monetary value than the US dollar.

Hopefully that makes sense.

You can pair any currency, just remember that the Base comes first, and the Counter comes second. The order is VERY important and if you mix them up it will cost you money! You won’t be trading what you think you are!

Congratulations! You now have a basic background on Forex that’s enough to get you started…Although I still encourage you to try and learn more if you can.

Warning! Do NOT Buy a Forex Trade Bot!

If you’re starting out trading Forex, then almost everyone and anyone that you talk to online will tell you to go out and buy this Forex bot, or that Forex bot…But I’m here to tell you that you’re wasting your time and money with such systems.

Why?

Because all currently ‘Forex Trade Bots’ are based on PAST trades. That means that they simply can NOT remain accurate in the long haul.

There are only 2 or 3 TOTAL systems on the market today that I would ever recommend anyone spend money on, and I’ll tell you about those now…But you have to promise to do your due diligence before you spend any money!

If you really want to get into Forex, then I really recommend that you NOT buy any of the conventional “back tested” Forex bots. They’re simply not accurate or consistent.

Is It Still Possible to Automate REAL Forex Growth?

Short answer, yes! It is! But you have to know where to go and what to do once you get there. Fortunately, I’m just the guy to let you in on the secret to automation of consistent growth.

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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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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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Different Methods of Mining Coal

Different methods of coal mining are adapted to dig out the natural coal from the earth. Among them, Surface mining method is applied for producing coal of about nearly 40% in the world. The coal deposits are found on the surface of the earth and make the mining easier for the coal-miners. The various types of coal mining are contour, mountaintop removal and strip mining.

Strip mining is adopted in areas, which has leveled landscape. The surface coal is exposed when the earth covering them is removed in strips. When the whole earth concealing is removed from the surface the coal that lay beneath is exposed. They appear in blocks and are usually extracted either by drilling or blasting. Once the strip is free of coal or goes empty, the strip mining process is continued with the next strip that lay adjacent to the former.

The contour mining is used to remove coal from the layer following the contours found along the ridges of a hill or landscape. The commonly used places for this type of mining are areas with rolling to steep terrain. This method may create landslides and erosion troubles. Using the freshly cut overburden to refill the mined areas rectifies these problems. Strip mining has its own limitations and when the process of strip mining reaches a specific stripping ratio, it may not yield you profit when continued.

Mountaintop removal coal mining can be understood by its name. Removing the mountaintops exposes the coal. This method also involves disposing of mining overburden that is associated with mountaintops removal in nearby valleys. This method is a combination of area and contour strip mining methods. This process creates adverse changes in the topography like creating head of hollow hills and filling valleys with mining wastes.

Latest open cast methods can reveal higher proportion of coal deposit than the underground mining methods.

Deep mining or underground mining is applied to dug out coal that lay underneath the surface of the earth. The primary underground mining ways are Continuous, Longwall, Shortwall, Retreat and Blast Mining.

Longwall mining method is adopted for about 50% of underground mining. This method involves a complex machine with a revolving drum that sways mechanically back and forth across the coal deposit. This method yields high production and ensures safety. This method has sensors that can detect the quantity of remaining coal in the seam and robotic controls contribute to the efficiency of the process.

Continuous mining method is applied for about 45% in underground coal mining. The machine used in this method has a huge revolving steel drum that is facilitated with tungsten carbide teeth to extract the coal from the seam.

Blast mining occupies less than 5% of the whole underground mining in USA. Explosives are used to break the coal seam in this method. The extracted coal is collected and transported to the central area using conveyors or shuttle cars.

Shortwall mining covers 1% and the method is somewhat similar to longwall mining. Retreat mining method employs pillar or coal ribs to support the roof of the mine. This is the most dangerous method as it involves risk of falling roofs that might trap or crush the workers in the mine.

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