Article Link: “Decoupling – Is It Real This Time?”
- Decoupling Definition – Generally speaking, decoupling is the divergence of two asset classes from their expected or historical pattern of correlation. For example, if emerging equity markets historically tended to rise and fall with a high level of correlation to U.S. equity markets, decoupling would imply that going forward emerging equity markets would rise and fall with lower correlation than history would imply.
- Andrew Foster, Chief Investment Officer and Portfolio Manager of Seafarer Overseas Growth & Income Fund, highlights in his most recent portfolio commentary why he believes decoupling may be real this time. He views decoupling as the potential for emerging market assets to offer diversification benefits (lower correlation relative to U.S. assets) to portfolios over a complete market cycle.
- Foster points to three main reasons that decoupling may be real this time (as opposed to when the term was trumpeted over a decade ago, when he was not a “fan” of the term).
- Increased evidence that emerging market central banks have more freedom to set their own monetary policy. Historically, emerging market central banks have been tied to movements by the U.S. Federal Reserve. However, emerging market local bond markets have attracted significant capital, which has resulted in less dependence on borrowing in U.S. dollars. One result has been a divergence in interest rate cycles.
- Most currencies, with a notable exception being China, are managed to allow their currency exchange rates to “float” relative to the U.S. dollar. Foster believes that the constant fluctuation in currency values reduces the chance that large imbalances could build to the point of triggering a currency collapse and associated contagion that would result in defaults.
- Emerging markets enjoy greater profit independence than in the past. Seafarer’s analysis suggests that emerging markets’ dependency on trade with developed markets began to decline in 2005. Today, emerging market domestic economic growth is higher than export growth. So, while still important, trade with developed markets is not as important to overall economic growth as it once was. In addition, corporate profit growth is not highly correlated with domestic economic growth or trade growth. In turn, he believes that emerging market profit cycles will be increasingly independent of global trade cycles.
- In summary, he believes the theory of decoupling has now become more credible than a decade ago because emerging markets enjoy a higher degree of interest rate independence, currency independence and increased corporate profit cycle independence.
- Seafarer is one of many asset managers whose materials we read on a regular basis. We view its work in emerging markets as particularly useful during our market and economic reviews.
- We strongly agree with Andrew Foster and the team at Seafarer regarding the potential benefit to portfolios over the intermediate-term from emerging market decoupling.
- The combination of positive factors noted in Seafarer’s commentary, along with other factors noted in the research focus of our third quarter commentary, make emerging markets one of the areas of emphasis in our portfolios currently.
Article Link: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/president-trump-orders-review-dol-fiduciary-rule-no-delay-yet
- In this second article of our Trump Series we are going to focus on the Department of Labor (DOL) Fiduciary Rule (“Rule”). Earlier this month President Trump ordered a review of the rule, which was scheduled to go into effect on April 10. The Presidential Memorandum ordered the DOL to examine the Rule to determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.
- We will not be speculating on the probability of implementation of the Rule or taking a political stance. We will do our best to provide our perspectives on the issues surrounding the Rule.
- The general premise of the Fiduciary Rule is that it requires investment advisors to act in their client’s best interest with respect to retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s. Right now, some advisors are only held to a suitability standard, which simply states that the advisor must have a reasonable basis for a recommendation. https://www.sec.gov/answers/suitability.htm
- On the surface the comparison is straightforward. As usual, the details are much more difficult. Over the past four months two lengthy FAQs (more than 40 pages in total) have been released attempting to clarify the Rule. Those FAQs and more information on the rule itself can be found on the DOL website. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/rules-and-regulations/completed-rulemaking/1210-AB32-2 It is a lot to digest.
- What do individuals need to know about the Rule? What should individuals do to protect themselves regardless of the Rule being put in place?
- We believe it is fair to disclose that Entasis Asset Management is a registered investment advisor. The advisors at our firm operate according to the fiduciary standard. It is our duty to act in the best interest of our clients. Each of our founders is also a CFA charterholder, which means we commit to a strict code of ethics and standards of professional conduct. With that context, we believe every investor should know a few key things about the rule and working with an investment advisor.
- Ask for an Investment Policy Statement. At the core, the Rule is designed to protect investors from getting poor advice or put into investments that while suitable may not be in their best interests. All investors should regularly ask for clarification on recommendations and ask for an investment policy statement (IPS). The IPS puts the investment strategy that you and your advisor agree to in writing. We put one in place for all clients after a careful review of goals, objectives and risk tolerance.
- Define your needs. We think this is one of the easiest things an investor can do. There is some truth to the notion that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, but for the most part we recommend to clients to keep it simple. Many investors pay a fee that covers services never utilized. Understand the value a suite of services brings to your personal situation. Hire an advisor that offers services you need and pay a fee that meets those needs.
- Clarify compensation structure. This is perhaps one of the biggest elements of the Rule. In too many situations the fees clients pay are misunderstood or never communicated. Know how your advisor is paid. Ask your advisor to summarize their compensation structure and estimate what your fees will be. Costs should never by opaque. Demand transparency.
- In summary, make the process of working with an investment advisor a priority. It is an important decision. Do your homework. An ethical advisor that puts your interests first will not be afraid of any of the questions and will appreciate your involvement. We have developed some helpful tools in our Resource Center. https://entasisam.com/choosing-an-advisor/ Check them out. If you are not currently working with an investment advisor, please contact us today.
Article Link: http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170205/FREE/170209961/what-will-the-estate-tax-look-like-under-trump
- The election of Donald Trump as President has generated a very busy news cycle. We have decided to tackle several key topics being discussed in the press in a series of “In The News” posts we are going to call The Trump Series. The goal is to try and summarize the discussions in a way that is relevant to the investment planning strategies of our clients and potential clients. We will not be speculating on the probability of implementation or taking a political stance. We will just be doing our best to provide our perspectives regardless of the outcomes.
- In this first article, the topic being discussed is the estate tax. The estate tax is a tax levied on the net value of the estate of a deceased person before distribution to heirs. A detailed summary can be found on the IRS website. States may also levy a tax.
- The estate of an individual is required to file an estate tax return if their combined estate and gifts is valued at more than the filing threshold for the year of the individual’s death. For 2017 the filing threshold is $5,490,000. Due to the portability of the federal estate tax exemption between spouses the number effectively doubles if assets are jointly titled and surviving spouses affirmatively elect to add unused exemptions to their exemption.
- In 2015 the number of estate tax returns filed was 11,917. Compared to 2006 that number is down nearly 76% due to the gradual increase in the filing threshold over the years.
- How should individuals plan for the potential repeal of the estate tax? Should individuals put estate planning on hold until it is resolved?
- The most important point we would make is that the estate tax only impacts a fraction of 1% of the total population, but estate planning is relevant to everyone. Thus, the discussion about estate taxes should not cause the average individual to delay or change their estate planning strategy. If you are an individual with more than the $5.49 million in assets or a married couple with more than $10.98 million specific estate tax strategies should be discussed with an estate tax attorney.
- If estate planning is relevant to everyone, when should estate planning begin? Most people tend not to think about estate planning until they are retired, but there are numerous reasons to start planning right away. The birth of a child. Marriage. Starting a new business. The list goes on. Do not think about estate planning as only the assignment of assets. It is about protecting you, protecting your family and providing peace of mind. Start right away. You can always make changes.
- Once you commit to the idea of an estate plan, where should your estate plan begin? The most beneficial first phase is to establish a will or, preferably, a trust. Other key components that also have a valuable place in an estate planning process include: account beneficiary designations, powers of attorney, life insurance, final arrangements, health care directives, tax planning and document storage, among other factors.
- In summary, ignore the news cycle. Do not wait and see. Plan. Our investment planning services at Entasis Asset Management include estate planning suggestions. If you are not currently working with an investment advisor please contact us today.
Article Link: http://www.ashmoregroup.com/insights/research/structural-growth-story-em-overtakes-sp-500-tech
- Fernando Assad, Jan Dehn and Chris Mader of Ashmore examine the make-up of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (“MSCI EM Index”), how the composition of the index has changed over the past decade and the potential implications from those changes.
- Many individuals still view emerging markets as a commodity or cyclical growth story. However, structural growth drivers in technology, consumer, telecoms and health care now account for over 50% of the MSCI EM Index, compared to cyclical industries, which only make up roughly 20% of the Index.
- Emerging market valuations (P/E ratio) trade in-line with their historical average and significantly below developed markets (as represented by the MSCI World Index). The authors contend that emerging markets should trade at a higher than historical average valuation because of better earnings visibility and long-term growth for structural growth companies (compared to cyclical companies).
- Technology is particularly important for the transition of emerging markets from a cyclical growth story to a structural growth story. Seven out of the ten largest companies in the MSCI EM Index are now technology companies, and in aggregate, technology is a greater percentage of the MSCI EM Index (23%) than technology is as a percentage of the S&P 500 Index (21%).
- Ashmore is one of many asset managers whose materials we read on a regular basis. We view their work in emerging markets as particularly useful during our market and economic reviews.
- In addition to the positive factors noted in this paper, other positive characteristics of emerging markets include: many countries have significantly improved their underlying financial condition (especially compared to the late 1990’s), an emerging and increasingly wealthy middle class is aiding in the transition of many larger countries from export-driven to service-oriented and the asset class as a whole has a relatively more attractive growth and valuation profile (compared to many developed market countries).
- Emerging market equities (in aggregate) have performed relatively poorly (notably compared to the U.S. equity market) over the past 5+ years. However, weak recent performance is another factor that we view as a positive because we tend to gravitate towards areas/regions of the global equity market that have underperformed (we try to follow the mantra of buy low, sell high as opposed to buy high after great results and then sell low when disappointed).
- The combination of positive factors noted above and in Ashmore’s paper, along with a number of other factors, make emerging markets one of the areas of focus in our portfolios currently.
- More specifically, we have made an investment in an emerging market equity manager that we have a high-level of conviction in for the long-term. Based on our research, we believe this particular firm has a strong investment team, is led by a talented portfolio manager and places a heavy emphasis on “boots on the ground” research. We believe all of those factors are critically important to navigating investment opportunities in emerging markets.
(Click on image to enlarge)
- The chart shown above was shared by Richard Turnill and the BlackRock Investment Institute in BlackRock’s global weekly commentary.
- The chart displays year-to-date equity returns for a selection of major country/regions through the end of July. The orange circle represents the total return for each country/region. Total return is then broken out between dividends (blue shading), multiple expansion (purple shading), which is calculated as price change minus earnings growth, and earnings growth (green shading).
- BlackRock’s view is that earnings growth, which has been flat to negative so far in 2016, would need to improve in order to generate further equity market gains.
- They are cautious for the second half because they believe an improvement in revenues and earnings may already be reflected in market prices.
- BlackRock’s main takeaway is that investors need to be more selective with their investments at these levels.
- BlackRock’s global weekly commentary is one of many market commentaries that we review on a regular basis. We like this chart because we believe it conveys a significant amount of information about the environment for equities in one picture.
- We believe the combination of positive equity market returns and anemic, or even negative, corporate earnings growth sets the stage for a potentially challenging period for equities over the remainder of 2016.
- We share BlackRock’s view that any further equity market gains without a subsequent improvement in underlying earnings growth will lead to heightened volatility.
- Historically, during periods of heightened volatility, investors have gravitated to companies that have displayed earnings stability and companies that pay dividends. Dividend growers are particularly favored.
- For a number of reasons, we are maintaining a relatively defensive approach in our portfolio construction, and U.S. large-cap dividend payers are among our favorite ideas.
Article Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-banks-wealth-idUSKCN1090DA
- Large U.S. brokerages such as Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are using a combination of incentives and penalties to push their financial advisors to bring in more multi-millionaires and move away from clients that have less than $750,000 to invest.
- The shift away from clients with “only” a couple hundred thousand dollars to invest continues to accelerate due to concerns about margins and regulatory change.
- The story notes that clients with less than $100,000 at Morgan Stanley and less than $250,000 at Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch are being referred to call centers and digital advice platforms as bonuses and commissions for brokers are being trimmed or eliminated at those levels.
- From a regulatory standpoint, advisors are getting ready for the phasing in of the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires advisors to act in clients’ best interest. The current standard just requires that they offer products that are suitable.
- The industry shift away from clients with assets from $50,000 up to $1 million is one of the four critical trends we identified when we initially defined the business model for Entasis. We believe everyone should have access to investment advice.
- All of our portfolios, including our GenerationTechTM portfolios, which are specifically designed for investors beginning to accumulate wealth, are accessible to clients with lower household asset balances.
- All of our founders are CFA charterholders. We adhere to the asset manager code of professional conduct and are fiduciaries. We do not need regulation for us to move in this direction. It is our duty to act in the best interest of our clients.
- If you are an individual that has never worked with a financial advisor, does not believe you have enough assets to work with a financial advisor or have been directed to a call center by an advisor, please reach out to us.
Article Link: http://blogs.barrons.com/focusonfunds/2016/06/07/ab-ceo-kraus-active-managers-should-impose-capacity-constraints-to-boost-performance/
- In a recent interview, the CEO of AllianceBernstein Holding, Peter Kraus, told Bloomberg that he believes the entire active management industry has grown too large and may need to shrink by one-third if active managers want to beat industry benchmarks.
- He comments that assets in actively-managed products grew significantly for an extended period of time without much restraint and the subsequent performance of active managers (relative to their benchmarks) largely disappointed.
- He attributes the poor subsequent performance to the actively-managed portion of the asset management industry being too large and the diversification of holdings as active managers see an increase in the amount of assets under management. He believes the combination of those two factors has led to a decrease in the ability of active managers to produce the good results that contributed to the growth in assets in the first place.
- Kraus believes that every active manager should place capacity constraints on themselves.
- Although Kraus spoke in generalities about the active management industry that were admittedly guesses, we agree with his underlying point. At the individual portfolio level, extreme asset growth or “asset bloat” impairs the ability of an active manager to beat its benchmark.
- We have witnessed the negative impacts of “asset bloat” in a number of actively-managed products over our careers. Eventually “asset bloat” tends to force active managers to adjust how they manage their portfolio and the securities they select for the portfolio. This may include changes such as increasing the number of holdings, reducing the percentage of assets invested in their highest conviction ideas, extending the time frame to enter or exit a position or increasing the market-capitalization of companies they target for inclusion in the portfolio.
- In our experience, there isn’t a simple threshold where assets under management becomes too large. However, the amount of assets that an active manager can effectively manage without suffering from “asset bloat” can be understood through an analysis of their investment process, the market segment in which they invest and the underlying portfolio characteristics. For example, an equity manager with $10 billion in assets that focuses on large- and mega-cap equities would most likely be able to invest that level of assets with minimal impact on its intended portfolio structure. However, if an equity manager with that same $10 billion in assets focused on small- and micro-cap stocks, it would have to significantly expand the number of equity holdings in its portfolio. Without an expansion in the number of holdings, it would be hard to establish meaningful positions in companies without greatly impacting liquidity, among a number of other factors.
- We have a strong belief that “asset bloat” can adversely impact future returns. As a result, it is one of many factors that we closely monitor for our recommended asset managers. If we determine that a manager has taken on too many assets to manage its portfolio effectively and as originally designed, we will recommend that the manager be sold.
Article Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadepfau/2016/05/19/understanding-how-financial-advisors-are-compensated/#660841a67a8b
- Wade Pfau, a professor at the American College of Financial Services, provides a brief summary on the different classifications of advisors and how they are compensated.
- Job titles such as “financial advisor” or “financial planner” are not regulated. Anyone can use the terms without oversight of their qualifications, education, training or competency.
- Financial planners or advisors generally fall into one of three main types: registered investment advisor, stock broker or insurance agent.
- Brokers and insurance agents are generally treated as salespeople. They are required to use a “suitability” standard of care with their customers. This means that any recommended financial product must be “suitable” for the purchaser’s situation, but the recommendations do not necessarily need to serve the best interests of the purchaser.
- Investment advisors are the only ones required to serve as “fiduciaries,” which requires them to act in the best interest of their clients and disclose any material conflicts of interest to their clients. “Fee-only” advisors are paid directly and only by their clients. They do not receive any commissions or other financial incentive for getting their clients into any particular investments.
- There is a need for much better transparency into how financial representatives are compensated for their services. In addition, there needs to be a much higher level of scrutiny placed on titles and the requirements necessary to use those titles.
- Many individual investors do not fully understand the fees they are being charged (directly or indirectly through commissions or kickbacks) by their financial planner or advisor.
- We believe financial planners or advisors should be required to act in their best interest of their clients and provide clients with a clear understanding of how (and how much) they are compensated for their services.
- We are a registered investment advisor. We act in the best interest of our clients and believe strongly in fee transparency. See how we are different. Contact us today. We will share our fees and the questions you should ask your advisor about their fees.
Article Link: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/170-000-investment-pros-are-about-to-take-wall-street-s-toughest-test-190327310.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory&soc_trk=ma
- Investment management professionals in 91 countries sat for one of three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, which the author referenced as the “Mount Everest of Finance.”
- The Chartered Financial Analyst designation requires passing three levels of exams (the first level is offered twice per year, while the second and third levels are offered once per year). In addition to passing all three levels (each exam is six hours), candidates must meet career qualifications (four years or more in finance).
- Pass rates for each level of the exam typically ranges between 30%-50%. Recommended self-study time ranges from 250-300+ hours per level. Curriculum covers micro-/macroeconomics, ethics, equity analysis, fixed income analysis, financial statement analysis, quantitative analytics, portfolio management, option pricing/strategy, among others.
- Lisa Plaxco states that, “It is the global gold standard for competency and integrity through the investment management industry, both for professionals and their clients.”
- Ethics are heavily tested. CFA charterholders are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics, or risk having their charters revoked.
- At Entasis Asset Management we remember the first weekend of June all too well. All three founders (Bob Batchelor, C.J. Batchelor and Mike Peters) are CFA charterholders.
- We are passionate about investing and have a high level of respect for the CFA Institute’s focus on ethics.
- One of our core beliefs is that everyone should have access to an experienced investment professional and high quality asset management. Our account minimums, fees and portfolios reflect this conviction.
- Your wealth wasn’t created overnight. You’ve worked hard. You’ve saved. Understand the experience and credentials of your financial advisor.