May 17, 2021

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Financial

Also Currency Exchange and Laundering (offsite)

Here's some loose rules on how to play with financial payments & investments other than just certified credsticks. The game is supposed to be fun, not terribly realistic. Feel free to change the tables to better reflect your game environment, but try to keep things simple so that you can get back to shadowrunning and just roll a few dice during character upkeep at the end of each in-game month to see whether there's an extra check in the mail or something.

Ways to Get Paid & Invest

Corporations usually play a very delicate balancing act with their budgets and balance sheets, and nothing is as "undeniable" as a sudden payment of 200,000 downloaded onto a certified credstick. Creating a new credstick is tracable, as might be the funds transfer to the credstick. He has other ways to pay you, ways that leave much less of a trail.

Stocks

There are several ways that you can use stocks in the game. Starting around 2053, it dawned on corporations to pay runners in stocks. The corporation has plenty on-hand, and the market pays for the job rather than it being a line on the balance sheet. ("Hrm, do we put those deniable assets into the marketing budget, the research and development budget, or under HR?") Better to hand over some of those stock issue certificates they've been saving for a rainy day in a corporate vault or safe-deposit-box. In fact, if it's a personal favor, you might be given some of Mr. Johnson's stock rather than involving his employer at all. The corporation never pays a cent; the stock market pays the runners.

Pooled Portfolio (Stable, Safe)

While not the usual way a Mr. Johnson will pay for a job, one could request a portfolio over a single-issue stock. Mr. Johnson might have a portfolio of related stocks (i.e. a mix of subsidiaries of Ares Macrotechnology, and a few parent company stock). It's best to ask for this type of investment for a job only if you have liabilities at home (SINner, dependents, a lifestyle to upkeep) and don't want to play with your money -- you'd rather live off the interest.

With a minimum of 10,000, and a pooled and diversified portfolio, and a character can use their Stock Forecasting skill + Intuition (10, 1 month) to get a 1% gain in their investments in one month (one can default to Intuition on this skill). Or they can use a brokerage firm (see below).

Day Trading

If your character wants to do more active trading, they can monitor their portfolio and engage in active trading. They lower their threshold by -1 per hour invested a minimum of 3 weekdays a week. The interval changes to 2 weeks if they invest that time every weekday (5) for the 2 weeks. The interval is 3 weeks if they do so for 4/5 days per week. Even 1 hour a day 5 days a week can make a big difference in your investment yields. Treat this as a "Day Job" negative quality, usually with hours during normal market times (generally 9a-3p EST, even though the Stock Exchange moved). At night, one could trade foreign markets, but these guidelines don't cover any particulars about foreign markets.

Single Corporation Stock (Volatile, Risky)

Most Johnsons won't pay in a stock portfolio. They'll issue a single-corp stock -- their own! By accepting stock shares, the Johnson ensures the runners' interest in helping his company. In fact, some runs modify a corporation's stock prices for months, so the runners might want to hold that stock for a while (helping GMs moderate the rate that characters blow their nuyen).

The value of the character's stocks varies by the below table each month (roll 2D6). The GM may also add modifiers to this based on other events such as shadowruns! If the character does not have a SIN then he must use a contact to broker the transactions (see below). Characters might want to move shares slowly from their anonymous account to their legal SIN, if that's how they choose to do it.

RollChanceResultsExample
<0---12d% & characters may owe creditors money!corp issues junk bonds to try to raise capital
0---10d% & -4 on next months rollrumors of bankruptcy
1---7d% & -3 on next months rolllose key employee, lose rating point
22.8%-5d% & -2 on next months rollnegative rumors
35.6%-4d% & -1 on next months rollloss of confidence
48.3%-3d%product failure
511.1%-2d%shaky month
613.9%-1d%minor fluctuation down
716.7%+1d%minor fluctuation up
813.9%+2d%good month
911.1%+3d%new product release
108.3%+4d% & dividend payout (10% of increase)increase in confidence
115.6%+5d%, +1 next month, dividend payout (10% of increase)positive rumors
122.8%+6d%, +2 next month, dividend payout (10% of increase)corporate rating up
13--+7d%, +3 next month, dividend payout (10% of increase)new acquisition, new talent
14--+9d%, +3 next month, dividend payout (10% of increase)new C-level employee
15+--+12d%, +4 next month, dividend payout (10% of increase)releases innovative long-term initiative

Other Modifiers (Cumulative Bonus, for # of months)

Stock prices are almost entirely based on the confidence of the market that the corporation is doing well and making a profit. Due to this, news stories, rumors on the street, press releases, press conferences, etc. all affect the stock prices. The public has a very fickle memory for the news. So even the best news about a corporation might not last. Rest assured, though, the public remembers certain things longer than others. Bad news sticks in the gullet, eroding consumer confidence.

Example modifiers (GM's discretion):
+1 Foiled shadowrun against corporation [1 months]
+1 Successful shadowrun against rival [3 months]
-1 Successful shadowrun by rival [2 month]
-1 Shadowrun foiled by rival [2 months]
+1 Successful extraction (new key hire, asylum given to AI) [1 month]
-1 Company employee extracted by rival (loses AI) [2 months]
-1 Executive assassinated [3 months]
-1 Product sabotaged [2 months]
-1 Research lost [1 month]
+1 Groundbreaking research/discovery announced [2 months]
-1 to -3 General market crash [see below]
+1 to +3 General market surge [see below]
-1 Corp kills civilians/innocents [2 months]

Note on the economy
The only modifier that isn't affected directly by news about this specific corporation is the general market. The market may surge for months, or just one day ("up"). The market may crash for months (recession), or just a day (drop). Overall this has less to do with one specific corporation but with how the public feels about the economy overall. With corporations sucking the monetary life out of the economy, this entire era could be in recession. Corporations throw enough trid, drugs, AR, sims, new gadetry and so on at the people and they stop noticing that they haven't eaten anything healthy in a long, long time. Anything splashy that makes Joe Public feel better about spending his hard-earned nuyen will help bolster the stock market as a whole.

Spreadsheet

In case anyone finds it useful, I've hacked together a Numbers '08 spreadsheet (Excel version -- export from Numbers so no guarantees! it lost some headings on the tables: On the corps page there's the "overall market", Ares Macrotechnology, Biogene, Aztechnology, Saeder-Krupp. You'll want to label them in Excel accordingly. I hope it kept the formulas!) to keep track of stocks. Really, it's a hack, but it saves you some work and trying to keep track of what happened last month.

Example

Mr. Johnson pays a 4-person team a deposit up-front in Ares Macrotechnology corporate stock. This is to their mutual benefit. The job pays 60,000, so Mr. Johnson hands the runners a datachip with an anonymous stock account containing "12,000 shares of Ares stock currently valued at 36,000." The runners accept the deposit (each getting 9,000 in stock -- don't bother tracking numbers of shares -- this does not represent a significant voting % in the corporation by any stretch of the imagination). The run is successful (run successful + extraction + data steal modifiers).

At the end of the month, the GM calculates the die modifiers below (+3 this month, +2 next month, and +1 the following month, and the market is currently stable (+0)). 2 characters sell their shares the first month. GM rolls 2d6=9 +3 because of the successes of the shadowrun, consults the line for a result of 12. GM rolls 6 dice, a gain of 23% on the stock in the first month. 9,000 x 1.23 = 11,070. And all 4 make a dividend payout of 10% of the increase in stock (207). The 2 characters selling their stock now make 11,277 minus fees, the other two characters pocket their 207 and hold on to their stocks.

One character sells the next month. GM decides there was an upswing in the overall market, partly due to the spike in the Ares stock the month before, and the +2 for last month's roll. Rolls 2d6=8 +5=13. Rolls 7d6=+22%. 11,070 x 1.22 = 12,505 and the 2 characters with stock receive a 243 dividend. This third character has made 12,955 minus fees (black market at 20% nets him 10,364, above board he can get 11,660).

The last player wants to milk the investment for everything possible. Due to other factors in the game, the GM decides there's a dip in the market (-2) and the Ares stock currently only has a +1 modifier remaining from their run. But it also has a +3 from last month's spike. GM rolls a 2, 2+2= 4. Ares Stock has also dipped, suffering (GM rolls 3d6) a 6% drop in value. The character's stock is now valued at 11,755. With dividends, this character cashes out at 12,205 minus fees. He should have cashed out last month. But that's the risks of playing the stock game.

Bearer Bonds

A similar, but perhaps better, way to have Mr. Johnson pay is through bearer bonds. These are debt-backed, generally anonymous slips of paper. They have a face value (say 1,000 a piece), a maturity date (usually in years if they are a recent issue), and a periodic interest rate paid out as a dividend (Annual at say ~20%, Quarterly at ~4%, monthly at 1% -- these are just ideas of how it can be done). Johnson may have a variety of bearer bonds for the characters, some newer, some older, and different percentage rates and interest maturities. This is far more realistic both for Mr. J and for the team's legal status.

  • You can literally pick one of these up off the sidewalk and sell it. Whomever holds the bond holds the company's debt. Of course, this means they can be stolen from the runner as well.
  • The bonds are stable, as long as the company is stable. If the company goes bankrupt or out of business, these bonds aren't worth anything. This is strong insurance against the runners acting against the corporation after a run. The interest comes in periodically as a direct payment. Only selling the bond is influenced by the current market prices.
  • The "Sale Value" on the open & black markets is (face value + a % of the outstanding interest +/- consumer confidence in & fiscal health of the issuing corporation +/- confidence in the economy). In other words, the GM will have to fudge this factor, if the character decides to outright sell the bonds.
  • Can they find a buyer right now? What's the offering price? If the "Sale value" of the bond is 1,750, the sale price may be significantly less.
  • Stealing these from someone's safe may not be too bright: the serial numbers could be traced. They might go for 10-20% of actual value on the deep black market, if you aren't sure how legal they are. Nothing pisses corp types off more than stealing from their private vaults, so ka?

Transaction Fees

Brokers take money off the top of all transactions into and out of the stock market, or off the top of purchasing or selling bonds. The size of one's investment portfolio can influence the fee structure (consider a larger portfolio as a bulk transaction for the broker, so they charge a smaller percentage but make more money off their larger clients). A small-fry investor like the average shadowrunner will pay steep fees for their modest portfolio. If you don't understand "modest portfolio" consider what a CEO or a dragon has in investments. Trust me, the majority of shadowrunners are puny in comparison.

Above board, the average brokerage fee for a runner-size portfolio would hover around 10%. On a modest long-term portfolio with a low number of transactions it might be 8%. A legitimate broker probably won't deal with anyone in amounts under 10,000 because of the overhead in their time and attention per customer. They'd rather pay attention to the big guys than small fries. The smaller the portfolio, the higher the commission on transactions.

Matrix-based transaction fees for the electron-enabled with their own brokering skills are paid in the micropayment. The GM can opt to consider these fees to be already taken out before calculations, or if the character is engaged in heavy trading, these fees could pile up to 1-5% per hour every day, but yield & risks should be increased accordingly. Extremely heavy trading, especially lucrative trading, will attract notice. Only the big firms are allowed to aggressively interact on the stock markets without much scrutiny.

On the black market, the brokerage fees would probably be 15-20% and far more vulnerable to portfolio sizes. Investments from 1,000-10,000 would be at the highest rate, and the black-market broker won't deal in amounts over 1,000,000 due to the risk of investigation if the collective portfolio they control gets too large. He doesn't want any scrutiny. Under 1,000 and the black-market broker won't touch you.

The authorities are fully aware of black-market brokers. They turn a blind eye as long as the amounts of money they play with are modest, after all the corporations want runners to accept stock as payment, so they can't come down on the street brokers unless they're really starting to become competition. Due to this restriction, the street brokers can't trade as aggressively as the larger firms can.

Big Risks

(or keeping player investments in check)

A word of advice -- a SINless runner using a fake ID to invest needs to watch their butt. A forged Rating 3 SIN is OK for going to the local shopping mall, and might pass muster if you're pulled over for blowing a traffic light or if you're transacting credsticks. But the big financial institutions and above-board brokerage firms will do a background check if you're sporting mucho nuyen along with an armor leather jacket, motorcycle boots and tribal tatoos. And even if they don't, because you came in an Armani Armored Suit, someone else will. Large influxes of cash, investing in the right corp at the right time over and over, sudden influxes of large amounts of money into your accounts, etc. are all tracable activities, and the rating of a fake SIN will probably not withstand routine scrutiny by the financial industry. The larger the portfolio, the larger the risks.

Being your own Broker

If the character has appropriate Brokerage skill (Logic) and Market Forecasting skill (Intuition -- I figure the theory itself is Logic, but the application on a practical level is Intuition), one might assume they know how to diversify, manage several fake SINs, have their brokering license (under a legitimate SIN!) and thus operate as a black-market Brokerage firm handling their own investment portfolio through numerous assumed identities and a wide range of investments -- as if each fake SIN in his management portfolio were to a legitimate separate person. The corps, authorities, financial industry, etc. will simply ignore this broker up to 10,000,000, then lackadaisically monitor this small-fry broker from 10,000,000 up to a total portfolio of 100,000,000 as long as there's no red-flag activities going on. But at 100 mill, it starts to attract more notice. An account review will then take place annually and if there seems to be insider trading, a lopsided portfolio, etc. they will come down on the broker, revoke their license, and confiscate their portfolio. If the portfolio looks suspicious, they'll do background checks and investigate the investors.

Larger portfolios will garner more scrutiny, so what starts as an annual glimpse might turn into a dedicated Securities Commission employee having this once small-fry broker on their "Watchlist" as it were.


Sources:

Single-Corp stocks heavily borrowed & modded from the SR4 Quality here
A discussion thread on "Stock Market" in Shadowrun
Corporate Shadowfiles p. 39-57 (Second Edition sourcebook, FASA Corp.)