Real Assets Adviser

July 1, 2016; Vol. 3, Number 7

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From the Current Issue

The Espionage Advantage: Is it stealing, or a way to boost transparency and tech transfer?

I watched a news report a couple of years ago that shined a harsh light on China’s cyber espionage activities. It pointed out that China was so fastidious about copying the intellectual property it had stolen from networking giant Cisco Systems that the instruction manuals it created were exact replicas right down to the typographical errors Cisco had made.

Historic Day, Fateful Decision: Jack Markwalter revised his priorities and set an exalted mission for Atlantic Trust

On Sept. 11, 2001, John “Jack” Markwalter Jr. was doing what every wealth advisory executive deplores: Sitting at a computer taking an industry-mandated compliance test. He was working for Morgan Stanley at that time and commuting regularly between two offices, one in Atlanta, the other in the second tower of the World Trade Center. Markwalter was scheduled to be at his New York office that infamous Tuesday morning, but the compliance requirement kept him locked down in his Atlanta office because he had to take the exam on a specific computer there.

High-Touch vs. High-Tech: Financial advisers in the digital age are being challenged like never before

Now is a great time to ask, What is the future of financial planning in the face of digitally assisted advice?

A copious amount of data shows that financial advisers add value to the investing process. But the significant question is not whether financial advice helps, but whether advice from a human financial adviser is of greater value compared with advice provided by an impersonal algorithm interfaced only digitally.

Staving Off the Vanguard Juggernaut: How wealth advisories can protect their business against the onslaught from the behemoth's robo-advisers

Few professionals in the wealth management field have missed the transformational change that technological advancements and shifting consumer expectations are driving in our business. But even the savviest may have missed the threat that Vanguard has made to the adviser marketplace. The company is now seeing $1.6 billion in monthly inflows from its robo-adviser business, charging only 30 basis points, and has amassed a total $30 billion in planning assets.

DC Plan of the Future: BNY Mellon report finds that strategies exist for the so-called institutionalization of DC plans

Since the introduction of the first private pension plan by American Express in 1875, pensions have evolved into a highly sophisticated institutional industry. With the need to meet pension obligations, defined benefit (DB) plans and their sponsors have looked at many different ways to achieve these objectives, leveraging broad asset allocation, investment structures and other techniques. While acknowledging that maintaining DB plans was either too expensive or too burdensome, many of the interviewed sponsors wanted to be able to replicate some of the efficiencies they had utilized in running DB plans. Comparing the DB experience to the more typical approach on the defined contribution (DC) side, a number of shortcomings are often identified with DC plans:

Home Equity: The fiduciary standard may soon embrace reverse mortgages

It was 40 or so odd years ago that Bob Dylan wrote the prophetic words, “… admit that the waters around you have grown … you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.” Granted, Dylan wasn’t referencing the financial adviser back then, yet his sage advice somehow aptly applies to the new world of the fiduciary standard, which may soon encompass home equity and, consequently, reverse mortgages.

Homes as Investments: To rent or to own, that is the question

It is often argued that buying a home to live in is a good investment and generates “forced savings” for the homeowner. Although true, homes should not be considered as an investment unless the home is generating rental income. Nonetheless, there are advantages to owning compared to renting. Namely, homeowners are putting their monthly payment toward something of value, and that value generally rises over the long term. However, the rate of home appreciation is closely aligned with inflation, and ownership generally does not produce above-average returns unless the market is timed perfectly. As more investors acquire properties, home values are expected to fluctuate more like other investment vehicles based on supply and demand.

New Players on the Grid: Clean energy is soaring, but system capabilities might be lagging

Renewable energy is growing worldwide, with a six-fold increase in non-hydro renewables during the past decade, from 85 to 657 gigawatts.

This growth used to be limited to developed countries, but now it is happening in significant numbers in developing countries as well. Last year’s record-high investment in renewable energy ($286 billion) was the first time investment in developing countries topped that in developed countries. China, India and Brazil alone accounted for more than half ($156 billion) of that investment commitment.

The National Debt: Five myths that will not go away

When it comes to debt, most Americans hold a simple belief that debt is bad! After all, everyone knows that too much personal debt can wreck a household or business, and one should strive to pay off debt as soon as possible. While this is true for households and businesses, it not true when it comes to the U.S. national debt.

Global Liquidity Trap: The situation grows more treacherous as negative interest rates fail to stimulate growth

For the first time since the Great Depression, the world is in a liquidity trap.

The unintended consequence of many central banks pushing negative interest rate policy is conjuring deflationary headwinds, stronger currencies and slower growth — the exact opposite of what struggling economies need. But when monetary policy is the only game in town, negative rates are likely to beget even more negative rates, creating a perverse cycle with important implications for investors.

The Infrastructure President: All three candidates are talking big about rebuilding U.S. hardware

Donald Trump sounds like a Democrat when he says making America great again will require a huge federal investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

All three of the remaining candidates for president, in fact, have called for major investments in the transportation system, spurring optimism among advocates who warn that the nation’s infrastructure is deteriorating at a rapid rate. 

Hitting the Jackpot: What to do if you win the lottery

Now that Powerball will be more than $1 billion, the phone has been ringing over here at the Sudden Money Institute, as you might imagine.

Although some of what I’d advise is the same whether the amount is $1 million or $1 billion, there are also important differences. One of the differences is that the entire developed world is going to want to know who you are, particularly if you are the only winner. Frankly, a much better position to be in would be one of a large number of winners who don’t know each other. 

Climes of the Times: El Nino to La Nina are reasons to be bullish on U.S. agriculture

The weather condition known as La Niña could materialize in the second half of the year and have a negative impact on crop yields in the United States, Argentina and Brazil. This suggests upside for major crop prices, stabilizing U.S. farm profitability following the sharp decline observed in 2015. The world has been under the influence of a powerful El Niño since fall 2015, blamed for extreme weather events around the world. Interestingly, the ocean-warming phenomenon is essentially yield-neutral for U.S. agriculture. With El Niño progressively weakening and forecast to disappear by summer 2016, the situation is expected to be different.

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