How to Avoid Mortgage Refinance Scams

If you’re looking to refinance, it can be hard to tell the legit offers from the bogus ones. Here are some tips to help you do that and avoid falling prey to mortgage refinance scams.

Know the common scams

Anytime you receive an offer that asks you to reveal personal information in exchange for a specific service, you should be suspicious, says Katherine Hutt, national spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia.

Although you might receive legitimate letters in the mail from time to time, usually you have to seek help to refinance or modify your mortgage. What’s more, you must have your current lender approve and sign off on any such change, and that’s not going to happen over email or a phone call with a third party, Hutt says.

“The usual pitch is a special program guaranteeing a low interest rate so you can refinance your mortgage,” Hutt says. She adds there’s always a catch, such as needing you to fill out forms with your personal information or wire a fee to get your file started. Other scams include asking you to sign over your home’s title to a company or individual in exchange for help (don’t do it!).

Scammers will typically ask for your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number so they can steal your identity — or sell it to someone else, which can be even more lucrative. In short, if it’s not your current lender and you don’t know the company or individual making the offer, it should set off alarms. The best place for such offers is usually the trash can, but if you think the offer might be legit, be sure to do your homework thoroughly before giving out personal information or paying for services.

Nerd note: The FTC has a list of other mortgage scams. Also, the FBI provides online resources for spotting and preventing mortgage fraud crimes.

Never, ever pay fees upfront

If you do receive mortgage refinance offers (often cloaked as “relief”), scammers will sometimes ask you to pay an upfront fee to work with your current lender on a refinance. Another huge, waving red flag: an offer that tells you to stop paying your mortgage and reroute the money to the relief agency instead, Hutt says.

“They will literally use any angle possible,” Hutt says of scammers. “To lock in a low rate, they’ll ask you to send money over a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift cards — all which are untraceable.”

Scammers who are successful in persuading consumers to fork over substantial sums withdraw the cash from an overseas account or prepaid cards, then disappear with your money for good.

Requesting fees upfront before the promised results are delivered is illegal, according to the FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule. The rule states that a company can’t collect any fees until a homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from his or her lender and accepted it. So even if you agree to a mortgage relief service, you don’t have to pay until the transaction or services have been provided to your satisfaction.

Beware of suspicious emails

One of the easiest ways for scammers to swindle you out of money or personal information is by sending deceptive emails. They can send thousands of messages and make it hard for authorities to track the scammers down, Hutt says.

If you get an email from what looks to be a real bank or lender, analyze the URL and sender email address closely; scammers who are trying to steal your personal information typically change the URL to make these items appear legitimate, but they actually redirect to fake sites that steal your information.

Whatever you do, Hutt warns, don’t click on any links from an email if you can’t verify who the sender or company is; call your lender to ask if it sent the offer.

Seek help on your own

If you’re interested in refinancing or modifying your loan, contact your lender first to see what it can do to help. If you need to modify your mortgage because you’re struggling to make payments, or if you’ve received a foreclosure notice, your lender might work with you on negotiating repayment terms.

Avenues for help

Speak with a credit counselor through the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates the national 24/7 toll-free hotline (888) 895-HOPE with free, bilingual, personalized assistance to help at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at (800) 388-2227 to discuss debt relief options with an NFCC certified credit counselor.

Think you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft? File a police report with your local law enforcement agency first, then contact the Federal Trade Commission, your state attorney general’s office, and the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB has a new scam tracker tool that allows you to search for reports of possible scams to see if other consumers have encountered the same caller, phone number, website or keywords that you have. (Note: Keep in mind that even if you don’t find a report of a scam through the BBB’s tool, the offer you received still might not be legit.)

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

More from NerdWallet:

  • Compare Mortgage Refinance Rates
  • How to Refinance Your Mortgage
  • What to Expect From the Homebuying Process

Image via iStock.

AIG Scaling Back on Investments in Hedge Funds

American International Group Inc. plans to exit at least half the hedge funds in which the insurer is invested, according to people familiar with the company’s portfolio.

The insurer has holdings in more than 100 funds and plans to cut that number to 50 or fewer, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing investing decisions. AIG is planning for increased volatility that could pressure high-risk assets, and for a possible period of limited liquidity in financial markets, the people said.

AIG had about $11 billion dedicated to hedge funds as of the third quarter, and returns on the holdings have slumped in recent months. Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock said at a Jan. 26 investor presentation that the company intends to lower the allocation, but he didn’t say how many hedge fund managers the company would stick with or provide details on the planned amount of exits.

“We had a very negative experience in hedge funds,” Hancock said in the presentation. Shifting the allocations will “lead to a much better return on risk and especially return on capital.”

New Investing Chief

AIG has an investment portfolio of more than $340 billion, mostly in bonds, and is seeking to free up funds to return to shareholders. Hancock hired former JP Morgan amp; Co. colleague Doug Dachille in July as chief investment officer, and the two are working to reshape the portfolio.

Hedge funds globally have underperformed the Standard amp; Poor’s 500 Index for seven straight years, and money managers including BlackRock Inc. have decided to wind down some strategies. Seneca Capital Investments and Lucidus Capital Partners are among firms that have disclosed plans to shutter funds, while others suffer client redemptions.

MetLife Inc., the largest US life insurer, said Feb. 4 that private equity and hedge fund investing has proved effective over time, even if fourth-quarter results were disappointing. Chief Investment Officer Steve Goulart said that while MetLife intends to stick with the strategy, the insurer had pared some bets and plans to be “really concentrating on the managers and strategies that have been the longer-term stronger performers for us.”

The people familiar with AIG’s plans didn’t list the funds that the insurer plans to exit. Nor did they specify how much money the company intends to pull. Jon Diat, a spokesman for the New York-based insurer, declined to comment.

AIG is scheduled to announce fourth-quarter results after the market closes on Feb. 11. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System announced plans in 2014 to divest the assets that it invested with hedge funds, saying they’re too expensive and complex.

With assistance from Simone Foxman.

Related:

  • AIG Hires Dachille as Investment Officer; Buys His Firm

Exclusive: Why Panasonic is making ‘significant’ investments in Coppell operations

Panasonic is investing in its North Texas operations as it ramps up the expansion of its A/V Solutions division in Coppell.

“So we’re the fastest growing entity in North America,” Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co., said about the company’s divisions. “We’re the tip of the spear in the sense that we’re doing things that traditionally you wouldn’t think we do.”

Canada’s CI Investments returns C$156 mln to investors

TORONTO Feb 10 Canadian investment fund manager
CI Investments Inc has agreed to a settlement calling for it to
return C$156.1 million ($112 million) to investors after
miscalculating the value of cash collateral in certain of its
funds, Ontarios securities regulator said on Thursday.

The settlement – which includes an C$8 million payment to
the Ontario Securities Commission and C$50,000 to cover the cost
of their investigation – is the largest compensation since the
regulator introduced no-contest settlements in 2014.

As per the terms of such settlements, CI Investments, a unit
of CI Financial Corp, neither admitted nor denied the
allegations of OSC staff that it had not adequately monitored
the valuations of the funds.

($1 = 1.3917 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

How to avoid becoming a victim of mortgage refinance scams

If youre a current homeowner, scammers might be targeting you to refinance your mortgage. Theyll use email, phone calls, fliers and even direct mail to lure you in, but beware these scams are designed to steal your money or personal information.

From touting mortgage relief plans to promising rock-bottom mortgage rates for a nominal fee, scammers use numerous angles to get what they want from vulnerable homeowners who might be struggling to make mortgage payments. In 2013, more than 11,000 complaints for loan fraud (including mortgages) were filed with the Federal Trade Commission, according to the FTCs Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.

If youre looking to refinance, it can be hard to tell the legit offers from the bogus ones. Here are some tips to help you do that and avoid falling prey to mortgage refinance scams.

Know the common scams

Anytime you receive an offer that asks you to reveal personal information in exchange for a specific service, you should be suspicious, says Katherine Hutt, national spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia.

Although you might receive legitimate letters in the mail from time to time, usually you have to seek help to refinance or modify your mortgage. Whats more, you must have your current lender approve and sign off on any such change, and thats not going to happen over email or a phone call with a third party, Hutt says.

The usual pitch is a special program guaranteeing a low interest rate so you can refinance your mortgage, Hutt says. She adds theres always a catch, such as needing you to fill out forms with your personal information or wire a fee to get your file started. Other scams include asking you to sign over your homes title to a company or individual in exchange for help (dont do it!), or phony counseling help.

Scammers will typically ask for your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number so they can steal your identity or sell it to someone else, which can be even more lucrative. In short, if its not your current lender and you dont know the company or individual making the offer, it should set off alarms. The best place for such offers is usually the trash can, but if you think the offer might be legit, be sure to do your homework thoroughly before giving out personal information or paying for services.

Never, ever pay fees upfront

If you do receive mortgage refinance offers (often cloaked as relief), scammers will sometimes ask you to pay an upfront fee to work with your current lender on a refinance. Another huge, waving red flag: an offer that tells you to stop paying your mortgage and reroute the money to the relief agency instead, Hutt says.

They will literally use any angle possible, Hutt says of scammers. To lock in a low rate, theyll ask you to send money over a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift cards all which are untraceable.

Scammers who are successful in persuading consumers to fork over substantial sums withdraw the cash from an overseas account or prepaid cards, then disappear with your money for good.

Requesting fees upfront before the promised results are delivered is illegal, according to the FTCs Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule. The rule states that a company cant collect any fees until a homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from his or her lender and accepted it. So even if you agree to a mortgage relief service, you dont have to pay until the transaction or services have been provided to your satisfaction.

Beware of suspicious emails

One of the easiest ways for scammers to swindle you out of money or personal information is by sending deceptive emails. They can send thousands of messages and make it hard for authorities to track the scammers down, Hutt says.

If you get an email from what looks to be a real bank or lender, analyze the URL and sender email address closely; scammers who are trying to steal your personal information typically change the URL to make these items appear legitimate, but they actually redirect to fake sites that steal your information.

Whatever you do, Hutt warns, dont click on any links from an email if you cant verify who the sender or company is; call your lender to ask if it sent the offer.

Seek help on your own

If youre interesting in refinancing or modifying your loan, contact your lender first to see what it can do to help. If you need to modify your mortgage because youre struggling to make payments, or if youve received a foreclosure notice, your lender might work with you on negotiating repayment terms.

Avenues for help

Speak with a credit counselor through the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that operates the national 24/7 toll-free hotline (888) 895-HOPE with free, bilingual, personalized assistance to help at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at (800) 388-2227 to discuss debt relief options with an NFCC certified credit counselor.

Think youve been a victim of fraud or identity theft? File a police report with your local law enforcement agency first, then contact the Federal Trade Commission, your state attorney generals office, and the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB has a new scam tracker tool that allows you to search for reports of possible scams to see if other consumers have encountered the same caller, phone number, website or keywords that you have. (Note: Keep in mind that even if you dont find a report of a scam through the BBBs tool, the offer you received still might not be legit.)

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

Broadridge acquires Anetics

Broadridge has acquired Massachusetts-based tech firm Anetics, adding to its arsenal of securities finance tools.

The new relationship advances Broadridge’s strategy to expand its securities finance suite of offerings, according to the tech solutions provider, which already includes FinancePro.

Jerry Friedhoff, managing director of securities finance and collateral management at Broadridge, commented: “The Anetics solution is an advanced securities lending tool that will allow us to provide additional capabilities across different asset classes to this important market. We are excited to have Rob Sammons and his talented team as a part of Broadridge.”

Rob Sammons, senior director of securities finance at Broadridge and former CEO of Anetics, added: “Broadridge’s global presence, financial strength and expertise at delivering technology solutions to capital markets firms will enable new service opportunities.”

“We find the Broadridge culture to be consistent with our own and expect this to be beneficial to our existing customers.

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Five Advice for Addressing Essay Enquiries

Five Advice for Addressing Essay Enquiries

You have merely a very limited time to carry out an examination. But crafting is time-ingesting. To be sure the most beneficial technique usually is to reduce plenty of time you take article writing. Read the rest of this entry »

Microsoft Finance and the Journey to Digital Transformation

With the continuing evolution of the role of finance function’s contributions, many financial leaders are now tasked with balancing the traditional job requirements of accurate and timely financial reporting with new necessities, including setting the company’s strategic technology direction, discovering insights in a deluge of data, and driving corporate performance through the use of technology. This evolution from balance sheet manager to strategic leader is underscored in the recent Gartner Financial Executives International (FEI) CFO Technology Study, which found that 39 percent of IT organizations currently report to the CFO. Clearly, as enterprises transform to embrace digital technology, it is often the CFO and finance leaders who must take a proactive approach to partnering with the business to drive this change.

An Evolutionary Example

Microsoft Finance experienced this transformation to digital as it evolved over the company’s last 40 years. The first two decades of Microsoft Finance were defined by a centralized system focusing primarily on controllership and the fundamentals, an appropriate approach for a fast-growing and relatively small company. As the company’s business became more complex from a product and geographic standpoint, the finance function was decentralized, moving finance roles into growing business groups and appointing new divisional CFOs.
Advancing into the second half of the 2000s, the complexity of the business increased exponentially. In addition to big product families such as Windows and Microsoft Office, there were new growth areas in products like Xbox, Bing, and Windows devices. Each product presented different business models and challenges for Microsoft Finance, which were complicated further by geographic expansion into new, emerging markets.

To address these new business realities, Microsoft Finance embarked on a journey. The finance department performed a self-assessment that exposed several areas for potential internal improvements. Like so many enterprises that experience rapid growth, Microsoft faced an abundance of data in multiple, disparate environments, and found that 75 percent of its analysts’ time was spent simply collecting and compiling data. Reporting on this data was also complicated by inconsistent definitions, hierarchies, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), combined with hundreds of decentralized finance tools and systems. The result was that the teams often performed financial reporting in offline, siloed environments, and unnecessarily invested in a variety of redundant financial systems and applications.

Transformational Steps

As a company that prides itself on its long history of developing technology to help people maximize productivity and “realize their full potential,” a change was clearly required. Microsoft Finance decided to address these challenges head-on by embarking on a digital transformation.

“At Microsoft, Finance is very focused on driving impact so we can maximize shareholder value,” says Marc Reguera, Microsoft Director of Finance. “There are two big steps in that process. The first step is examining our data, systems and standards to make sure we have the right discipline at the core to efficiently convert data into insights and gain a unified view of our business. The second step is using that intelligence to influence decision-makers and empower our employees with the flexible technology tools and applications they need to drive impact.”
When it came to establishing discipline at the core and flexibility at the edge, the mission focused on discovering business insights and driving impact. This process meant outsourcing and centralizing transactional activities to address the following key objectives:

Reducing Complexity

To start, the team focused on improving operational efficiency within the Microsoft Finance organization as part of the “One Finance” initiative. The company began to outsource repetitive, non-strategic finance activities, including some accounting, accounts payable and procurement functions, to trusted partners to maximize the productivity of its own employees. The use of outsourcing focused internal teams on the strategic tasks central to the future success of the business. Microsoft Finance also implemented efficient compliance processes that improved the control environment to ease financial reporting.

Process Standardization amp; Controls

The next step in this transformation was called “Core Finance,” and involved placing the Microsoft Information Technology team in control of the data and standards used across the company. IT first focused on infrastructure, implementing key financial tools on a reliable, cloud-based platform that balanced strong user-level security and agility. Next, IT examined the architecture of the Microsoft Finance systems and worked with internal leaders to establish a reliable data source and consistent taxonomies that formed the basis for a corporate standard for business intelligence. By implementing business rules and establishing data and hierarchy element definitions, Microsoft created a single master data source from which all financial reports could be generated. Then by using Microsoft SQL Server to apply role-based security and business rules to a common data warehouse, Microsoft democratized corporate data and created a one-stop-shop experience for all users. To maintain the quality of the data, Microsoft set up a regular data governance program and established very strict rigor for core company-wide financial metrics.

Empowering Teams

Recognizing that an intuitive user experience would be critical to the adoption of a new financial strategy, Microsoft Finance next focused on promoting a culture of self-service where finance professionals within the company could access a single business insight portal as an access point for standard reports and scorecards. This experience leveraged a custom web-based interface along with familiar Microsoft business intelligence tools, like Excel with Power BI, to enable centralization and standardization. With standard scorecards, reports and analytics at the core, and added flexibility to drill down and apply analytics for self-service, Microsoft Finance created alignment and a culture of shared accountability. This enabled greater business agility and transparency across Microsoft and empowered intelligent decision-making.

Digital Transformation Results

The results of this digital financial transformation were dramatic and felt almost immediately. In terms of sheer numbers, Microsoft Finance was able to reduce redundant financial systems to deliver $30 million in lifetime contract savings to the business. Starting in Fiscal Year 2010, the company has saved $4 million in finance efficiencies annually, and over $14 million in discount capture through improved oversight and financial operational management. Most impactful, the consistent data standards and reporting resulted in a $1 billion dollar cleanup of the balance sheet, and enabled better utilization of Microsoft’s over 650 business process operations professionals to expand their financial services to 110+ countries.
The qualitative impact of the transformation was substantial as well. Before the financial infrastructure update, the company was consistently producing reports and information in silos, and storing critical information on local servers that prevented cross-department sharing. After the cloud transition, the centralized, flexible platform provided controls and access that people in Microsoft Finance, and across the organization, needed to transform data into insights and impact.

The changes in information architecture also changed the day-to-day work of Microsoft Finance. Before the transition, meetings were often spent debating the validity of financial numbers. After establishing consistent classifications and hierarchies and setting up a recurring data quality program with ongoing reviews and oversight, the discussion was streamlined toward establishing a single, centralized version of the truth based on the agreed-upon taxonomies.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement was that financial reporting became simpler and more standardized across the organization following the transformation. The single portal provided consistent access to reliable data. Standardized scorecards and reports displayed tabular and graphical views of KPIs and metrics with drill-down capabilities, and freed up employees to spend less time on data collection and more time on analysis. As a result, the leaders in Microsoft Finance quickly transitioned to become trusted business partners within the company.

Continuous Innovation

Microsoft’s financial transformation efforts didn’t stop once its initial objectives were met. The company continues to increase focus on using next-generation business intelligence tools to influence business strategy and operations. The pillars of this approach revolve around the values of partnership, prioritization, and people:

  • Partnership encourages effective communications, and a level of engagement where Microsoft Finance teams can go beyond responding to partners’ needs and requests to providing what partners need before they know they need it.
  • Prioritization focuses on simplified and effective business processes, a more efficient cost structure, and risk management. It requires Microsoft to implement process excellence and frameworks that guide consistent decision making.
  • People speaks to the company’s renewed focus on teamwork, management excellence and opportunity. The company aims to welcome not only people of diverse backgrounds but also diverse approaches and ways of thinking, to help the company achieve future success.

Through the focus on these core values, Microsoft plans to continue to grow the role of Finance to have greater impact on the company and its customers and partners. The Microsoft Finance organization of 2015 aims to drive corporate strategy, be effective and efficient without wasted effort, and continue to move beyond simply being trusted advisors to becoming trusted leaders.

Digital Journey Lessons

This evolution of the Microsoft Finance journey on the path to digital transformation didn’t happen overnight. It was the result of recognizing that a better approach was possible, as well as a concerted effort by the entire company to create the infrastructure, architecture, user interface and tools necessary to achieve the company’s goals. Microsoft Finance continues to enjoy the qualitative and quantitative results of this transformation but other outside enterprises can also glean key insights from Microsoft’s internal experience, including:

Ensure you have the right platforms to rapidly convert data into insights. One of the first issues Microsoft addressed internally was creating a centralized hybrid cloud infrastructure that would shift the team’s focus away from just collecting data toward analyzing data to discover deeper insights. This allowed finance professionals from around the world to collaborate from virtually anywhere, at any time — allowing them to recognize and solve business challenges faster and more effectively. By combining these flexible cloud technologies with familiar data visualization tools, any enterprise can empower its financial decision-makers to dive into insights, make faster decisions with secure, instant access to visual data on any device, and collaborate to drive business impact.

Create a single, integrated view into your organization to assess and control risk. The massive amounts of corporate and customer data available to finance executives delivers great opportunity if it can be collected and securely accessed digitally from across the organization. Microsoft transformed its data architecture to make it quick, easy, and secure for finance teams to migrate their data into the cloud to create a single, integrated view into the organization. By creating one standardized source for data and combining it with self-service tools, Microsoft and other enterprises can anticipate issues, and react to them in real-time to control risk.

Drive corporate performance through greater business agility and efficiency. To keep up with the rapid speed of innovation, finance executives at Microsoft recognized they needed tools and user interfaces that make it easy to connect and collaborate. These same Web, mobile, and social technologies are becoming critical components for today’s modern enterprise, providing the tools necessary to stay current on the issues affecting the business. By providing the right individuals in the organization with the right access to critical business information, enterprises can improve productivity and help everyone transform data into insights.

Accelerate a culture of innovation and collaboration. Change is hard for any business, and Microsoft recognized early on it would face some cultural resistance to transitioning from the traditionally accepted finance practices to a new approach. By prioritizing simple, intuitive user experiences and empowering the workforce with secure self-service productivity tools, they gave their employees the freedom to tackle anything from anywhere, while protecting what matters most to their business. This focus on establishing clear and consistent standards, communications and tools can help enterprises set their own digital initiatives into motion and encourage teams to suggest new and innovative solutions that deliver real impact.

Financial reporting and responsibilities are not easy in today’s increasingly complex world. With Gartner predicting that in the next two years, one in five organizations will use cloud for analytics and transactions, finance executives are quickly transforming into technology and operational leaders who can capitalize on today’s technology tools to address business challenges and stay ahead of the competition. By incorporating new digital efficiencies into the organization and standardizing data and reporting across the enterprise, Microsoft Finance addressed many of the financial challenges enterprises face every day. Through transparently sharing some of the challenges they faced and describing the key approaches the company took to address them, Microsoft Finance hopes to offer some insight to finance leaders into techniques for navigating today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.

“We recognize that we are in the early stages of digital innovation in Microsoft Finance and this process is something we plan to continually evaluate and refine,” adds Reguera. “Finance leaders are often the drivers of corporate performance within today’s modern enterprises and they need the insights necessary to deliver real change. We want to take the results we have achieved internally and use them to inspire finance professionals at our customers and partners with new ideas they can use now and into the future.”

Laura Kramer works with Enterprise Accounts at Microsoft.

This article first appeared in Financial Executive magazine.

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Microsoft on Android: MSN News, Money, Sports and Weather (video)

Back in 2014, Microsoft brought its suite of MSN apps to Android. The apps divide various aspects of lifestyle topics such as news and weather in order to help people keep up with whatever interests them. Microsoft killed off some of the suite last year, but the apps that remain are News, Money, Sports and Weather. There’s nothing particularly special about the information or the presentation in any of them, but they do work well side by side and sync your personal information to the cloud for easy management.

Between these four apps, there’s a lot more similar than there is different. They each share the same basic UI: a tabbed listing of various columns, a hamburger menu to the left exposing additional options, a search bar along the top and a bar with different buttons that will show up at the bottom of the screen intermittently. The whole design is a mix of the Windows Phone 7 and 8 era paginated organization blended with the Holo era Android design. All in all in works well, but looks a little dated on modern devices. There are some personalization options if you dig into the settings for each app, but they are generally pretty bare. You can even sign in with your Microsoft account so that it’s easier to track your personalization across your devices. All in all, I appreciate the unified design language between the apps and the detailed information each of them shows but I really wish Microsoft would give them a fresh coat of paint.

There are some unique aspects to each app that I’d like to point out though. The weather app gives a sizeable amount of detail, giving a daily breakdown with a temperature graph and sunrise/sunset times, maps with readouts for different weather variables, weather specific news and favorited cities all in one place. The majority of the sports app is focused on scoreboards, a listing of completed or upcoming matches in various sports. Each sport is broken down even further, showing top news articles, videos, current standings and more. There are some other things included as well, like popular video, photo and athlete content. The money app starts off with a single article giving a summary for the stock news of the day and then offers sections to break things down further. If you save a particular company’s ticker symbol in the watchlist, it will give you a summary of their performance and links to relevant news reports. The most curious addition is a suite of personal finance tools, like a mortgage calculator and a retirement planner. And finally, the news app is the most straightforward of the four. It gives you a Top Stories section that can be customized with different types of news or columns of the various topics individually. You can also search for news and look at video content if you’re so inclined.

All in all, the apps give enough content to make them worth a look but their greatest strength is just that they integrate with your Microsoft account to sync your personal information across your devices. With the recent attention Microsoft has been giving to design across its suite of apps, I hope the MSN suite doesn’t get lost and end up languishing without updates for much longer.