Month: April 2020

investgrowth
Cash ManagementFinance

Why financial planning tools should be at the forefront of every modern wealth management firm

There has been a radical shift in client’s behaviour towards portfolio construction. No longer is there a requirement for costly active portfolios and instead, many would rather opt for passive low-cost investment products. With a range of advisors providing this offering, the market has become fiercely competitive. Wealth & Finance International sits down with InvestCloud’s Chief Growth Officer (CGO) Mark Trousdale, who gives his views on why modern financial planning tools should be at the forefront of every wealth management firm.

What is behind the trend of moving away from active portfolios towards passive investment products?

Both active and passive investment products have had their days in the sun. If you look at large-cap blended funds from 1985 to 2019, active and passive are nearly neck and neck on the number of years in which those portfolios performed better. In bull markets, many passive portfolios are rising, so active portfolios risk missing the wave. In bear markets, contrarian active portfolios sometimes avoid the pitfalls of the broader market. The rising popularity of passive portfolios is not a judgment of performance in a vacuum – it’s a judgment of performance against fees. Active portfolios simply cost more to invest in than passive portfolios; and given that active portfolios have not consistently outperformed passive ones, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify those higher fees.

 

Why is financial planning now more important to financial advisors (and clients)?

Fund fees are not the only ones under the microscope. Transaction fees have fallen significantly, and in some cases to zero – such as Charles Schwab’s move to eliminate fees in October 2019. Advisory fees are also under threat. The market has been taking a critical look at value for money in all areas of financial services. The lower the value of a service – or the more commoditised it is – the harder it is to justify high fees. One area that cannot be commoditised is financial planning, and investors really rate it. After all, what is the point of wealth management if not to ensure financial wellness and help families achieve their goals? Advisers are increasingly emphasising their financial planning offerings to stay at the forefront of investor value creation.

 

How is fee compression affecting firms? Will it get better or worse? How does this affect competitive dynamics in the market?

As noted above, fee compression is having a big impact on several areas of financial services, and it’s only going to get more intense for traditional offerings. But as we’re seeing with financial planning, service innovation and value focus are keys to success. I’m a big believer that price is only an issue in the absence of value. The imperative must be to innovate, focusing on value as the north star. This will spur further competitive dynamics in our market.

 

What do wealth managers and financial advisers need to do with regards to their business models and operations to support this?

In order to innovate and focus on value, advisers should focus on enhanced client communication. This involves empowering clients to interact with their advisers, view account information, track their private assets and held-away accounts, store life’s important documents, consume curated content, build goals and make confident decisions alongside their advisers. At the same time, advisers and other wealth managers need to focus on building in automation to improve operational efficiency. Across the middle and back office, advisers can automate account opening, simplified account funding, scalable model creation and distribution, automated rebalancing, personal balance sheet aggregation, one-click proposal creation and other digital advice apps. This list goes on. The aim is to reduce the number of manual, repetitive and laborious tasks so advisers can instead focus entirely on value creation.


From a technology perspective, what do firms need to implement? Should they build or buy?

Many firms focus on answering the build versus buy question. For advisers and wealth managers, delivering technology effectively is rarely a core competency. That’s not to say that these firms don’t have great tech talent – many do. But their track records are atrocious when it comes to delivering technology solutions on time or on budget. Most in-house technology projects ultimately fail for this reason. Besides considering explicit (vendor) vs. sunk (internal team) costs, firms should also look at risk costs – ‘can do’ is not the same as ‘have done’, and failing clients in this market is not an option. The value proposition to build simply doesn’t exist.

At the same time, buying technology off the shelf can seem like it will save money, but most financial technology is monolithic and cannot be customised at scale.  Logo-swapping is not customisation and clients will notice the lack of flexibility or functionality open to them.

By themselves, build and buy both lead to unsatisfactory results. Advisers and wealth managers should not approach this as one or the other and instead focus on how to take control of technology in a cost-effective, fast-to-deliver way.

The answer to this is via subscriptions to digital platforms that are flexible and modular – build and buy. With a truly modular platform, you can add functionality as your business evolves, versus an all-or-nothing proposition. This also controls recurring costs, because you pay for only what you need. The best type of platform is one that also supports mass customisation – a framework to flexibly configure and customise the look and feel as well as the workflow, integration points and data scope. From a risk and cost perspective, this should be able to be delivered in no more than six months at a price that beats your internal measures. These are all the benefits of a build and buy – the best of both, with none of the downsides.


Should wealth managers/financial advisors look to patch process with different technologies, or should they be focused on digital transformation?

Whether it’s the right answer to complement or replace existing processes and technologies depends on the process and technology in question. A firm should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, they should leverage existing investments if they are of value. But equally, firms have loads of technical debt, and can spend a significant portion of their budgets servicing bad tech. So, it’s about reviewing the technical tapestry critically and being strategic about enhancements. This is where hyper-modular apps and functions come into their own, as it means firms use only what they need, complementing their valued investments.


What other considerations do wealth managers and financial advisers need to take into account, e.g. from a digital/engagement perspective?

Investors simply expect more for their money these days, and the norms of consumer digital offerings have crept into many of their psyches. Wealth managers and financial advisers need to be extremely forward-thinking about how they automate workflows, and how they communicate with and manage their clients. Not only is a website no longer anywhere near enough, but also a basic client portal is no longer enough. Advisers and wealth managers should focus on truly enhancing client communication through things like enabling multi-channel adviser interactions and dynamic, holistic digital advice financial planning. These are the things that will matter most to them.


What other trends will affect how wealth managers and financial advisers conduct their business in 2020?

Wealth managers and advisers can expect further fee compression as well as even greater investor emphasis on financial planning. Depending on the demographic, ESG is coming much more into the mainstream. So, expect investors to be demanding more intuitive and engaging tools to compare financial products at a glance in order to help them achieve their goals. It would also not be surprising to see firms outside the US start to offer Turnkey Asset Management Programs (TAMPs) or TAMP-like platforms, which may fundamentally alter how wealth managers and advisers deliver services.

Mark Trousdale, EVP, serves as InvestCloud's Chief Growth Officer (CGO)

Mark Trousdale, EVP, serves as InvestCloud’s Chief Growth Officer (CGO). In this role, Mark is responsible for growing InvestCloud’s adoption and revenue in a consistent fashion, currently focused on the UK and broader EMEA, and headquartered in London. Mark’s responsibilities include business development, regional P&L and executive committee participation. As part of InvestCloud’s founding team, Mark has served in a number of different roles at InvestCloud throughout the years, building upon nearly 20 years of experience in financial and professional services. Prior to joining InvestCloud, Mark led the western region Asset Management Advisory practice of Deloitte. Mark holds a BA with Honors and an MA with Distinction from Stanford University.

Customers out in the cold the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law
BankingFinance

Customers out in the cold: the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law

Customers out in the cold the removal of banking services under UK civil and criminal law

By Jonathan Tickner (Head of Commercial Litigation & Civil Fraud), Neil Swift (Partner), James Gardner (Barrister) and Amalia Neenan (Legal Researcher) at Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP

Financial crime is one of the biggest threats facing the global economy. The 2019 Crime Survey for England & Wales indicated that 3,863,000 fraud offences were committed last year alone, with a high number of cases also unreported. The sheer volume presents law enforcement authorities with an impossible burden were they to investigate and prosecute every offence. And it is unlikely the problem ends here. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that Covid-19 may heighten the risks of fraud and money laundering, with organised crime capitalising on the pandemic.

The old adage is that a problem shared is a problem halved: enter stage left the private sector, in particular the banks, who provide the front line response with Anti-Money Laundering measures to prevent criminals from obtaining bank accounts and laundering the profits of their crimes. But what if criminals obtain access to this system?

To tackle accounts suspected of harbouring ill-gotten gains, there are two measures available. Firstly, civil law provisions that permit banks to close a customer’s account without justification. Secondly, for law enforcement, the criminal law mechanism of Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders (AFFOs) under The Criminal Finances Act 2017. However, although different in their outworking, both carry the risk of an unreasonable and unexplained deprivation of banking services for those swept up by their heavy-handed use and further detrimental effects for individuals and corporate entities.   

No Rhyme or Reason?
In the same way that customers are not obliged to stay with one bank forever, banks also have the ability to end contractual relationships with customers by closing their accounts. Banks will normally only close an account if the customer has been put on notice within a reasonable timeframe (at least 30 days for personal accounts). In these circumstances, the courts have traditionally been hesitant to interfere with a bank’s decision to cut ties with the account holder – termination on notice has been treated as an absolute contractual right. However, it becomes more contentious when banks execute these functions without giving reasonable, or indeed any, notice or reasons. This can occur either when the bank suspects the account holder of fraudulent activity, or when it decides that the risks associated with operating the account (sometimes particular to the account holder, sometimes not) outweigh the benefit to the bank in maintaining the relationship. Here, the bank’s discretionary decision whether to terminate a customer’s account may be subject to contractual fetters.

An attempt to impose such limits on a bank’s determination was recently made by a customer in
N v Royal Bank of Scotland Plc [2019]. N held approximately 60 accounts with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Of key importance was Clause 9.4 of RBS’ Account Terms, which governed the contractual right to terminate banking services. The clause stipulated that RBS “will give the Customer not less than 60 days’ written notice to close an account, unless [it] considers there are exceptional circumstances”. Exceptional circumstances usually concern suspected fraudulent activity, and in this case RBS froze a number of N’s accounts, ultimately terminating the relationship on a without notice basis due to these suspicions. N initially asserted that RBS’ determination that there were exceptional circumstances was unreasonable or irrational. However, the High Court found that RBS had been entitled to terminate the relationship without notice as RBS had investigated the issue of potential criminality and had in good faith, and rationally, assessed whether there had been exceptional circumstances that justified the closure of N’s accounts without notice. The appeal dismissal on 10 March 2020 reaffirmed the court’s position in favour of the bank.

However, can it ever truly be
‘reasonable’ to deprive a person of access to banking facilities without warning? Understandably, the provision exists to ensure that if accounts are being used perpetrate fraud – either by storing the proceeds of crime or as a vehicle for money laundering – that the wrongdoer is not alerted to the possibility that the account will be closed, allowing time to move funds. But what happens if there is no fault, fraud or justifiable reason? This commonly occurs where banks take steps to ‘de-risk’ by sector. 

 

Freezing Cold!
AFFOs have the potential to result in similar problems, if used haphazardly. These new powers allow for authorised law enforcement agencies to freeze and forfeit accounts suspected to contain the proceeds of crime, and have been viewed as a great success by law enforcement. For instance, in December 2019, the NCA secured nine orders against property tycoon, Malik Riaz Hussain, amounting to £190 million.

Yet, the heavy-handed use of AFFOs risks undermining their legitimacy. Similar to the contractual removal of banking facilities, these orders are obtained without notice to the account holder. All an officer needs are reasonable grounds to suspect that the property is recoverable. Once again, the key issue centres on this notion of
‘reasonableness’, and if left unchallenged, or not challenged properly, the ‘reasonable’ belief of one officer can lead to further consequences. An ill-advised response from the account holder may open up further investigations. Even if successfully defended, the mere fact that their account holder has been suspected of holding the proceeds of crime may cause the bank to rethink the desirability of the relationship. 

 

Domino Effect
Both the civil and criminal law systems have similar detrimental effects on respondents, and a ‘domino effect’ on other accounts can occur. When a banking relationship begins, the new institution will no doubt wish to know what happened with the old, particularly if their own risk assessment indicates issues.

Nonetheless, remedies are available. The difficulties created by a bank giving notice to terminate can be assuaged. Subject Access Requests (made against both banks and compliance databases that have been used by banks to assess customer risk profiles) pursuant to the GDPR can be an effective way of discovering information that has likely caused or contributed to the refusal of financial services. Individuals can then seek to have damaging information removed pursuant to the GDPR if it is (inter alia) inaccurate or misleading.

The effects of AFFOs can be moderated too. No matter how modest the balance at stake, it is vital that a robust challenge is put forward to protect the account holders’ other accounts and their ability to bank. If necessary, AFFOs can be varied to permit the release of funds for this purpose. 

Given the scale of the world’s ‘financial crime problem’ , the public and private sector will inevitably continue to embrace such measures to respond to suspicions of fraud and risk as they are quick and cheap. Whilst undoubtedly effective, the challenge is ensuring that they provide a fair and proportionate response in the fight against fraud, with an acceptable level of transparency and customer certainty.

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years
Foreign Direct InvestmentMarkets

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years

UK reduces its oil imports by over 75 million barrels in five years
  • New tool charts global commodity trading over the last decade
  • China has overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil
  • The UK is the 8th best European country at reducing its oil imports

The UK has reduced its oil imports by more than a fifth (21%) in five years, a new online tool from Daily FX has revealed.

While the country remains the 12th biggest global importer of oil, including petroleum oils, it has taken great strides towards reducing its reliance on such environmentally-harmful fuels.

Between 2013 and 2018, the UK had the eighth-best rate in Europe for reducing such imports, with its intake dropping by 76.9 million barrels (from 359 million to just over 280 million).

Malta (93%) and the Republic of Moldova (92%) experienced the most significant decreases across the continent.

The data has been visualised on a
new interactive tool built by Daily FX, the leading portal for forex trading news, which displays global commodity imports and exports over the last decade.

The tool shows that China has recently overtaken the USA as the world’s biggest importer of oil. The Asian giant imported nearly 3.4 billion barrels in 2018, which was over 240 million more than the USA. China tops the list having increased its oil imports by 64% since 2013 – nearly six times the rate of its rival (11%).

The top 10 global importers of oil (2018) are:

  1. China – 3.38 billion barrels
  2. USA – 3.14 billion barrels
  3. India – 1.65 billion barrels
  4. Japan – 1.09 billion barrels
  5. The Republic of Korea – 1.09 billion barrels
  6. Germany – 622 million barrels
  7. Netherlands – 506 million barrels
  8. Italy – 460 million barrels
  9. France – 397 million barrels
  10. Singapore – 376 million barrels

Daily FX’s unique tool allows traders to spot developments in the flow of commodities and the growth of both supply and demand while comparing the changes to critical economic indicators.

One trend highlighted by the tool is the decreasing reliance on oil among African countries. Five of the world’s ten best nations at reducing oil imports are found on the continent, including the top four. Morocco, Kenya, Burundi and Gambia all decreased such imports by over 99%.

John Kicklighter, Chief Currency Strategist at Daily FX, said: “The world is changing and so is the way that it uses energy. Renewable and environmentally-friendly fuel options are the future, and while the end of crude oil is still far off, there will be considerable changes in the world’s top importers and exporters. Our new tool helps track those changes.

“While some of the larger countries have increased their appetite, it is interesting from an investor’s perspective to see the UK exploring alternative energy sources and reducing its dependence on oil.”

Global Commodities’ takes the form of a re-imagined 3D globe where the heights of countries rise and fall to show the import and export levels of a range of commodities over the last decade. The data visualisation allows users to switch views from a single commodity or market and show information relevant to that commodity or market’s performance.

To learn more about Global Commodities and view the tool, visit:
https://www.dailyfx.com/research/global-commodities

THE FUTURE OF TAX HAVENS
Finance

The Future of Tax Havens

THE FUTURE OF TAX HAVENS

 

The EU recently added four countries and jurisdictions to its blacklist of tax havens, including British overseas territory the Cayman Islands.

“The EU set up the system in 2017, to put pressure on countries to crack down on tax havens and unfair competition, sanctioning those it considered unfair in offering tax avoidance schemes. However, with this news coming in just weeks after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, many are concerned it’s a sign of things to come,” says Granville Turner, Director at Offshore Company Formation Specialists, Turner Little.

“The Cayman Islands have become well known for being a tax haven, offering foreign individuals and businesses a minimum tax liability, making it a prospering environment for offshore banking. The significant tax benefits aren’t the only offering making the Cayman Islands advantageous, they also have confidentiality clauses in place to protect the privacy of assets, as well as the individuals or business’s reputation. In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) listed the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland, as world-leading tax havens, together with Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland. Some of these countries offer similar benefits to the Cayman Islands and none of them are on the EU blacklist,” adds Granville.

At the same time, the EU has removed the Bahamas from its watch list, after deeming the island fully compliant with tax standards, a decision that acknowledges that the Bahamas has implemented all the necessary reform to address concerns regarding economic substance, removal of preferential exemptions and automatic exchange of tax information.

“For those with assets in the Cayman Islands, it’s important to realise the blacklisting may be short-lived, and the fundamental change to existing structures should be considered in this light. There may however in the interim be increased reputational concerns surrounding the Cayman Islands, and new funds or structures may wish to consider an alternative jurisdiction,” says Granville.

At Turner Little, we specialise in creating bespoke solutions for both individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of our specialists, ensures we are able to assist with any enquiries, no matter how complex. To find out more about how we can help you,
get in touch with us today.

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market
MarketsReal Estate

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market

TurboTenant, an
all-in-one, free property management tool, releases its latest industry report
– “How COVID-19 is Impacting the Rental Market.” This report
highlights key rental market indicators from March 2020 in cities throughout
the U.S. who have and are currently following social distancing and
stay-at-home orders.

You can read the report and how COVID-19 is Impacting the
Rental Market here.

TurboTenant’s new trend report analyzed 18 cities and four
key rental market indicators: total active listings, change in number of active
listings, total renter leads and the average number of renter leads per
property. While the full effects of the coronavirus on the housing market are
still unknown, delisting and new home listings steeply declined in March.
TurboTenant’s report found while some markets reflected those trends, others
had strong markets.

TurboTenant Highlights that New York, Denver and Houston all
experienced large net losses for new listings with New York holding the biggest
decrease at -65.17% while San Diego, Atlanta and Cleveland all experienced net
gains in listings. Lead growth in 14 of our cities, including Jersey City and
Denver, fluctuated throughout the month, but ended lower than they started. In
cities such as Boston, Houston and Milwaukee, leads were higher at the start of
April than at the beginning of March.

The reasoning for the report to be created is to give “insights
on how the rental market is starting to react to the COVID-19 pandemic,”
said Sarnen Steinbarth, TurboTenant Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
“With the peak rental season approaching, we want landlords to be prepared
and informed about the trends nationwide and in their own cities.”

“It is imperative to monitor rental trends during the
coronavirus pandemic,” Steinbarth said. “This report along with our
past and future trend reports, will help educate not only landlords, but also
property investors, businesses and the public.”