Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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How Schwab Ate Wall Street by Lisa Beilfuss (WSJ)

Charles Schwab was once a simple discount broker, but while the company still competes on price as hard as it can, its more comprehensive model is now offering a more comprehensive suite of financial services to its growing client base. [Link; paywall]

Regional Stories

Can ‘Ma’am’ Be Saved? by Kathleen Purvis (The Bitter Southerner)

An ode to southern gentility, and a simple word often assumed to be snark by anyone not raised or immersed in a culture where genuine politeness is still appreciated. [Link]

California’s population growth is the slowest in recorded history by Javier Panzar and Sarah Parvini (LAT)

While more than 185,000 new Californians were minted in 2018, the rate of growth for the Bear Flag Republic is the slowest since at least 1900, presenting unique challenges for a state that’s never known anything but surging inflows of new residents. [Link]

Media Matters

A doorbell company owned by Amazon wants to start producing “crime news” and it’ll definitely end well by Joshua Benton (Nieman Lab)

Security technology company Ring (a subsidiary of Amazon) is looking to create some buzz by creating content based on crime reports in order to juice demand for Ring products. [Link]

The Lo-Fi Voices That Speak for America by Zack Stanton (Politico)

Once ubiquitous, AM radio is losing ground to FM and other new forms of digital audio, but the lower fidelity broadcast world is still a powerful medium that reaches millions of people every day. [Link]

Working Ways

Microsoft, Slack, Zoom, and the SaaS Opportunity by Ben Thompson (Stratechery)

Thompson walks us through the software-as-a-service world, focusing his lens on the largest (and least-associated) SaaS name out there: Microsoft. He also focuses on the strategic challenges the company now faces in a pure-SaaS world where new markets are being created. [Link]

‘996’ Is China’s Version of Hustle Culture. Tech Workers Are Sick of It. by Lin Qiqing and Raymond Zhong (NYT)

9am to 9pm, 6 days a week: that used to be table stakes to participate in China’s tech industry. But employees, feeling they aren’t getting the promised rewards of that trade-off, are pushing back. [Link; soft paywall]

Stripe’s fifth engineering hub is Remote by David Singleton (Stripe)

While the payments company still has engineering hubs in San Francisco, Seattle, Dublin, and Singapore, their newest location has no location, part of a growing trend of remote-first orientation for tech workers. [Link]

Demand Surges for Software ‘Robots’ That Automate Back-Office Tasks by Angus Loten (WSJ)

Menial labor in back-office tasks is increasingly being dumped on software companies that use software to replicate – with higher speed and accuracy – jobs that clerks used to do. [Link; paywall]

Real Estate

Unraveling Mark Zuckerberg’s Secret Deal for a $59 Million Tahoe Compound by Katherine Clarke (WSJ)

The billionaire Facebook founder has been snapping up huge, pricey properties across multiple states, burying the transactions under layers of LLCs and NDAs. [Link; paywall]

Theoretical Finance

A Legal Theory of Finance by Katharina Pistor (SSRN)

This paper argues that financial markets are not consistent with rule of law (especially enforcement of contracts) because those markets sometimes demand suspension of that law during times of extreme crisis. [Link]


First World War mustard gas leaks from Belgian underwater grave by James Crisp (Telegraph)

35,000 tons of munitions have been left underwater in the North Sea, but recently mustard gas leaked out near the Belgian Coast. [Link]


Hymns drop off top 10 funeral music choices in favour of Ed Sheeran by Rebecca Smithers (The Guardian)

A UK funeral company has released a top ten list of most-requested funeral music. My Way by Frank Sinatra, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life from Monty Python, and Ed Sheeran are some of the most popular tracks. [Link]


The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence by Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh (NY Mag)

The mind-bending story of a group of friends at Sarah Lawrence, the NYC-adjacent liberal arts college. Cult-like behavior driven by the father of one of the students gradually spiraled out of control with horrifying results. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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