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Conflicts of Interest in The Canadian Investment Industry

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Do you know what your investments cost? You would think that the collapse of worldwide markets would have provided a wake-up call to both governments and investors, but that’s not the case.

As a Portfolio Manager for private wealth individuals in Canada, I come across many intelligent and sophisticated individuals who have little, if any clue as to their all-in management fees with their current adviser. Truth be told, you’d probably need a forensic accountant to discover how much your investment adviser earns from managing your money.

The problem is that all-in fee structures are just not transparent, and the Canadian government (unlike other governments in the UK, U.S, Australia) has shown little interest in forcing the industry to simplify its communication of management fees.

The reality is that very few Canadians realize just how much degradation occurs within their investment portfolios as a result of profits being siphoned out via “management”, “trading”, and “trailer” fees into the hands of financial advisers and the financial institutions that they work for.

The biggest culprit of portfolio degradation is the Canadian mutual fund industry itself. Mutual funds became popular in the ’60s and ’70s as investors realized that they could access and tap into professional portfolio managers via a pooled set of funds.

Admittedly, the concept was a good one. The problem today is that financial institutions have bastardized the concept. Thanks to the large fees attached to most mutual funds, investors are almost guaranteed to underperform the market, while bearing most of the downside risk. Meanwhile, the mutual fund companies rake in their profits regardless.

Mutual funds are not the only ones offering fees that are out of proportion to the value of services received.

Many high nets worth investors turn to professional investment managers for tailor-made, customized investment solutions. Under this scenario, investors will often pay an investment fee to the firm. One immediate tax advantage that private wealth firms have over mutual funds is that investment management fees are tax-deductible whereas mutual fund management fees are not. The “tax-deductible” feature enables high net worth individuals who use portfolio managers, to presumably get better quality and service at lower costs.

These are difficult times for private wealth management firms, more so with the larger ones, as they have high operating costs and large overhead to maintain. A sharp depreciation in the value of portfolios and migration of assets from high-margin products to the safety of deposits, money market products, and government bonds, has eroded profits for many of these large firms.

Leave it to the financial services industry though to figure out innovative ways to disguise higher fee structures and market ill-conceived products.

At many large firms, an incentive exists for wealth managers to churn accounts to generate trading fees and commissions. These commissions often serve as a drag on the portfolio and directly convert client principal into fees and commissions for the broker and firm.

 

Higher trading commissions are often overlooked and downplayed by private wealth firms as simply small, immaterial costs within a ‘Buy and Hold’ portfolio. Make no mistake, high trading fees eat into profits over the long run. Furthermore, it compels portfolio managers to take a “Buy and Hold” philosophy even if the situation does not call for it. It is difficult enough for a portfolio manager to slim positions when the market is in free fall, but it’s that much tougher of a decision if he knows that the account will be further eroded by trading fees. Thus, clients are often left holding the bag much longer on poor performing stocks.

 

“Proprietary” or “Structured” products have become the next step in the evolution of financial offerings. Most of these are marketed by large financial institutions under the veil that an investor can somehow get the best of all worlds. In truth, these products represent one more way for financial institutions to surreptitiously filter money out of the hands of investors and into their pockets.

 

The Globe and Mail (“Why Investors Can’t Have It Both Ways” By John Heinzl) recently exposed one such structure product marketed by the Bank Of Montreal, called the BMO Blue Chip GIC. The bank marketed the GIC as a low-risk investment with the potential for large rewards — basically, a “too good to be true” offer. In fact, by the time, you go through all the fine print, an investor, in all likelihood is guaranteed to generate very low returns. The probability of there being some significant upside was highly remote yet the marketing materials focused on the absolute best-case scenario.

 

Structured products have become so bad that the Securities Exchange Committee (SEC) in the U.S. has launched an investigation into financial institutions that have overcharged individual investors for structured notes while failing to disclose fees, and potential conflicts of interest.

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What Is The Ownership Structure Like For Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:BEI.UN)? – Simply Wall St

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The big shareholder groups in Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:BEI.UN) have power over the company. Institutions often own shares in more established companies, while it’s not unusual to see insiders own a fair bit of smaller companies. Companies that used to be publicly owned tend to have lower insider ownership.

Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust has a market capitalization of CA$1.9b, so we would expect some institutional investors to have noticed the stock. In the chart below, we can see that institutional investors have bought into the company. Let’s take a closer look to see what the different types of shareholders can tell us about Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust.

See our latest analysis for Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust

ownership-breakdown

TSX:BEI.UN Ownership Breakdown February 28th 2021

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust?

Institutions typically measure themselves against a benchmark when reporting to their own investors, so they often become more enthusiastic about a stock once it’s included in a major index. We would expect most companies to have some institutions on the register, especially if they are growing.

We can see that Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust does have institutional investors; and they hold a good portion of the company’s stock. This implies the analysts working for those institutions have looked at the stock and they like it. But just like anyone else, they could be wrong. If multiple institutions change their view on a stock at the same time, you could see the share price drop fast. It’s therefore worth looking at Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust’s earnings history below. Of course, the future is what really matters.

earnings-and-revenue-growth

TSX:BEI.UN Earnings and Revenue Growth February 28th 2021

Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust is not owned by hedge funds. The company’s largest shareholder is Boardwalk Properties Company Limited, with ownership of 19%. Cohen & Steers Capital Management, Inc. is the second largest shareholder owning 9.2% of common stock, and CIBC Asset Management Inc. holds about 4.5% of the company stock.

We also observed that the top 10 shareholders account for more than half of the share register, with a few smaller shareholders to balance the interests of the larger ones to a certain extent.

Researching institutional ownership is a good way to gauge and filter a stock’s expected performance. The same can be achieved by studying analyst sentiments. Quite a few analysts cover the stock, so you could look into forecast growth quite easily.

Insider Ownership Of Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust

While the precise definition of an insider can be subjective, almost everyone considers board members to be insiders. Management ultimately answers to the board. However, it is not uncommon for managers to be executive board members, especially if they are a founder or the CEO.

I generally consider insider ownership to be a good thing. However, on some occasions it makes it more difficult for other shareholders to hold the board accountable for decisions.

Our most recent data indicates that insiders own less than 1% of Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust. We do note, however, it is possible insiders have an indirect interest through a private company or other corporate structure. Keep in mind that it’s a big company, and the insiders own CA$4.4m worth of shares. The absolute value might be more important than the proportional share. It is always good to see at least some insider ownership, but it might be worth checking if those insiders have been selling.

General Public Ownership

With a 35% ownership, the general public have some degree of sway over Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust. This size of ownership, while considerable, may not be enough to change company policy if the decision is not in sync with other large shareholders.

Private Company Ownership

It seems that Private Companies own 19%, of the Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust stock. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from this fact alone, so its worth looking into who owns those private companies. Sometimes insiders or other related parties have an interest in shares in a public company through a separate private company.

Next Steps:

While it is well worth considering the different groups that own a company, there are other factors that are even more important. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we’ve spotted with Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust (including 2 which are potentially serious) .

If you would prefer discover what analysts are predicting in terms of future growth, do not miss this free report on analyst forecasts.

NB: Figures in this article are calculated using data from the last twelve months, which refer to the 12-month period ending on the last date of the month the financial statement is dated. This may not be consistent with full year annual report figures.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
*Interactive Brokers Rated Lowest Cost Broker by StockBrokers.com Annual Online Review 2020

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

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Financial Focus: A primer on different investment accounts – Airdrie Today

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There are so many different investment types that it can make investing seem overwhelming. Here’s a high-level overview of what you need to know. Don’t forget, your financial advisor is here to understand your financial goals and guide you on a path to financial success.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan

The Canadian government offers various options to people who want to achieve particular saving goals through registered accounts, such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). An RRSP is the government’s way of encouraging you to save for retirement by giving a tax deduction on the money that you save in this type of account. When you’re ready to retire, the funds you’ve accumulated can be converted into a steady stream of retirement income.

There are two major benefits to RRSP contributions – paying less income tax and tax-sheltered growth. Your RRSP contributions are deductible from your taxable income, which means you receive either a larger tax refund or a smaller tax bill when you file your taxes. While you will have to pay tax when you eventually withdraw the money from your RRSP at retirement, it will likely be at a lower rate because of your reduced income.

The second benefit is that an RRSP means your savings and interest grow sheltered from tax. You can gain a lot of financial momentum by contributing to your retirement plan early, in your 20s or 30s.

If you want to know more, The Co-operators has put together a simple explanation of what RRSPs are all about at cooperators.ca.

Tax-Free Savings Account

A second registered account you should have is a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Similar to an RRSP, a TFSA allows you to save money without incurring any taxes on gains you may receive through your investments or interest, up to the $6,000 annual contribution limit. Any Canadian aged 18 or over who has reached the age of majority in their province can open a TFSA.

Withdrawals from your TFSA are tax-free, your contribution room is restored the year after you make a withdrawal and income-tested credits and benefits, such as the GST credit, Employment Insurance and Old Age Security, are not affected by withdrawals from your TFSA.

Furthermore, Canadians aged 18 or older in 2019 who have not yet contributed have $69,500 of contribution room in 2020.

The Canada Revenue Agency will advise you each year of your current TFSA contribution room.

Registered Education Savings Plan

If you have kids or are interested in pursuing post-secondary education, a third registered investment account to consider is a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). This type of plan allows you to save for your child’s post-secondary education tax-free, with added funds contributed by the government.

There are two types of RESP – a family plan for any of your children who are under 21 years old, and an individual plan for anyone of any age, including yourself. For the family plan, contributions can be made until the beneficiary is 31 years old.

The main benefit of an RESP is that the account allows you to access government grants. The government will match up to 20 per cent of the funds that you put into your child’s RESP if they are under 17 years old, and there are additional benefit programs based on your income level and province.

Also, contributions to an RESP may qualify you for the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) until the year your child turns 17. Through the CESG, the federal government will contribute an additional 20 per cent of your annual RESP contribution to a maximum of $500 a child, per year. In addition to the CESG, you may also qualify for the Canada Learning Bond.

Another benefit of an RESP is tax-deferred investment growth, as contributions made to an RESP can accumulate and grow tax-free over the life of the plan. When you withdraw money to pay education-related expenses, only the additional earnings and grant portions of the plan are taxable. Because the child will likely be reporting a low level of income while attending school, the amount of tax they can expect to pay should be minimal.

Registered Retirement Income Fund

Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are simply a continuation of your RRSPs. The only difference is that you must withdraw a minimum legislated amount of money each year.

The value of your retirement income fund and how long it will last depends on the investments you choose, how they perform and how much you withdraw each year.

The latest possible date to convert an RRSP to an RRIF is Dec. 31 of the year you turn 71. At The Co-operators, the minimum opening deposit for an income account is $10,000. You’ll enjoy drawing a steady income while continuing to accumulate interest and investment gains while deferring taxes on the invested portion.

Locked-in retirement income funds can differ by province, plan type, and withdrawal limits. Along with potential estate value in the event of premature death, the flexibility of withdrawal amounts and investment options have made retirement income funds a popular choice.

While RRIFs are by far the most popular, we also offer other options for retirement income funds if you have specific needs that a RRIF can’t fulfill. Ask your financial advisor for more details.

Life Income Fund

A Life Income Fund (LIF) is similar to a RRIF, except it’s specifically designed for locked-in pension funds. LIFs are only available in certain provinces for those with locked-In RRSPs, Locked-in Retirement Accounts (LIRAs), Registered Pension Plans (RPPs) and Locked-in Retirement Income Funds (LRIFs).

Non-registered Investments

A non-registered plan is an account that holds investments, which are taxable to you on an annual basis. If you’re saving for a vacation, a wedding or any other short-term goal, a non-registered plan is an excellent choice. It’s also a great way to increase your retirement savings if you’ve reached your RRSP contribution limit.

Although a non-registered plan does not offer the same tax advantages as an RRSP or TFSA, many benefits make a non-registered plan worth considering, such as fewer restrictions, more flexible age limits, contribution amounts and withdrawals.

Annuities

An annuity is an alternative for those who want guaranteed payments for their lifetime. An annuity will pay you a set amount per month based on a plan that we design together. We offer various types of annuities to fit your lifestyle.

While there is a lot to consider when it comes to investments and your financial future, The Co-operators’ financial advisors are able to help with every step of the way.

—Submitted by The Co-operators

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Chinese Investment in Australia Plummets Amid Tensions – VOA Asia

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SYDNEY – Chinese investment in Australia fell by 61% in 2020 to the lowest level recorded by the Australian National University in six years, coinciding with a worsening diplomatic dispute.    

The annual tracking study from the university’s East Asian Bureau of Economic Research recorded A$1 billion ($783 million) of Chinese investment in 2020, consisting of real estate (45%), mining (40%) and manufacturing (15%) deals.  

The fall was larger than the 42% decrease in foreign direct investment globally measured by the United Nations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Shiro Armstrong, the bureau director. 
  
“It reflects the effects of COVID but also more scrutiny of foreign investment by the Australian government, particularly that from China,” he said.  

Australia announced a shakeup of its foreign investment laws in 2020 to give the government the power to veto, or force the sale of a business if it creates a national security risk.  

Treasurer Josh Frydenburg said in June the national security test would be applied to telecommunications, energy and utilities firms, and businesses that collect data.  

Chinese company Mengniu abandoned a deal to buy the Australia dairy firm Lion Dairy and Drinks from Japanese company Kirin in August, after the Australian government indicated it would block the sale.  
 
The Chinese Embassy said in November that 10 Chinese investments had been blocked in Australia on national security grounds, among a list of 14 grievances Beijing had about Australian government policy.    

China has since imposed dumping tariffs on Australian wine and barley, and restricted the unloading of Australian coal at Chinese ports.  

FILE – A staffer and visitor speak near a display of Australian wines at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2020. China raised import taxes on Australian wine, stepping up pressure on Australia over several disputes.

 Chinese investment in Australia peaked at A$16.5 billion in 2016, spanning agriculture, transport, energy utilities, healthcare, mining and property, the ANU study showed.  

By 2020, 86% of Chinese investment in Australia came from the Australian subsidiaries of Chinese companies. 

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