A former London investment adviser could face professional discipline over his alleged involvement in a pyramid scheme.
A former London investment adviser could face professional discipline over his alleged involvement in a pyramid scheme.
Sean Nother, who had worked for CIBC World Markets Inc. since 2001, was dismissed in January for his alleged involvement in the so-called gifting club between May and August 2018, according to documents filed with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.
An unnamed organizer introduced Nother to the gifting club in May 2018. The club had multiple groups, known as clouds, each consisting of various levels. The top level, the birthday position, was occupied by one person, while the levels beneath had two, three and four members, says a notice of hearing posted on the regulator’s website.
The four bottom members were required to give $5,000 each to the birthday position holder, and had to bring in two new members to move up the ladder, the documents allege.
The organizer offered to sponsor Nother to join the club, the documents allege, noting the Ontario Securities Commission previously had banned the organizer from selling investments for past misconduct involving clients.
Nother brought his lawyer to a meeting with the organizer in May 2018, and the lawyer said the club was legal from a tax perspective, the documents allege.
According to documents filed by the regulator, Nother was barred by his employer from outside business activity and asked his wife to join the club. She was elevated to the next level in summer 2018, despite not bringing in any new members, the documents allege.
Nother discussed the gifting club with seven clients, five of whom joined, and other non-clients, four of whom signed up, the documents allege.
According to documents filed by the regulator, Nother didn’t disclose his involvement in the gifting club to his employer and said new members were required to meet with the organizer and pay $5,000. But one of Nother’s clients and another non-client reported paying him the fee directly, with the understanding that he’d then pay the organizer, the documents allege.
According to the regulator, Nother says his wife quit the club in summer 2018 after the couple became uncomfortable with it. He also reported trying unsuccessfully to contact the organizer and get the money back for his clients and two non-clients, the documents allege.
According to documents filed by the regulator, Nother says he tried to reach the organizer again in November 2018, after reading a news report of London police charging two people for their alleged involvement in a gifting club. Nother had met one of the accused, Bernard Baratta, at a social event with the organizer in May 2018, the documents allege.
Baratta, 73, and Shakila Bayat, 52, were charged jointly with conducting or managing a pyramid scheme. They were sentenced Nov. 5 to 12 months’ probation under a conditional discharge, an outcome in which an admission of guilt is made but no conviction is registered.
Nother, who was not charged, maintained his club was separate from the one involving Baratta, the documents allege.
The organizer put an end to the club in December 2018, leaving the members brought in by Nother out $45,000, the documents allege, noting Nother reimbursed one person.
Nother is to appear before a hearing panel Jan 14 in Toronto. If the panel concludes the regulator’s allegations are true, it may impose penalties ranging from being reprimanded or fined to losing his licence or being barred from working in the finance industry.
Investment industry faces widening skills gap around big data and ESG – The Globe and Mail
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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.
The investment industry in Canada has a somewhat vexing problem.
It will need to retrain and reskill – with some sense of urgency – a sizable cohort of midcareer, and middle-aged workers, and nudge them into the age of technology.
“There has been a disruption in the industry, especially with respect to a demand and supply gap in skills,” says Viveck Panjabi, 32, a research associate at National Bank Financial. “The recent trends I have noticed across the investment management industry have been around Fintech, blockchain, machine learning and environmental, social, and governance (ESG). In the next five years, I believe fund managers and investment management firms will pivot more toward ESG-centric companies and look to integrate more of clean energy stocks as a percentage of their portfolios.”
When there’s sufficient data around ESG, these are integrated into the investment process.
Mr. Panjabi works in sell-side equity research covering 16 publicly listed companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange focused on the sustainability and cleantech sector, and he admits big data technologies will soon become an important driver.
Mr. Panjabi’s observances are in line with the findings of a CFA Institute report, which says the largest gaps between interest in learning and supply of expertise is in the area of emerging technologies in Canada. The sector needs tech-savvy professionals comfortable around artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and decentralized finance. Also, Canada needs investment professionals who are adept at analyzing data related to future pathways for getting Canada to net zero by 2050, but their numbers are small.
No greenwashing, just facts
“ESG has introduced a level of complexity into investing that I haven’t seen before in my career,” noted a CFA Institute expert who was surveyed. “That complexity comes principally from two sources: the values introduced and the materiality differences by sub-sector. It is the latter source that introduces the opportunity for a skill-based investment approach.”
Sustainable investing is built on the idea that ESG/climate considerations are significant to both investors and society and that we need to develop sustainability accounting for both purposes.
But to incorporate ESG/climate into the investment industry, the sector will need to develop and refine the skills and abilities of its work force. It will not only need new talent, but may have to create new learning pathways for its current workers.
AllianceBernstein, a New York based global asset management firm, in partnership with Columbia University established a Climate Change and Investment Academy. The academy delivers climate-aware investing learning for its clients and partners so they are aware of the science of climate change and its impact on investment decisions.
More than a third of CFA Institute members surveyed acknowledged their roles would be significantly altered over the next five to 10 years. And the biggest disruptive factors will be new analytical methods, including AI and ML.
“The good news is that most investment roles are going to be changed in an interesting way because you will have data feeds that are much more reliable,” noted Rebecca Fender, head of strategy and governance for Research, Advocacy and Standards at CFA Institute and lead author of the report. “As a result, professionals will have more time to do in-depth analysis.”
Soft skills such as the ability to influence, persuade, manage time effectively and communicate remain critical. Hiring managers said finding candidates with T-shaped skills remains an ongoing challenge. ‘T-shaped skills’ refers to qualities that make an employee valuable. The vertical bar in the ‘T’ represents deep subject matter expertise, while the horizontal bar is the ability of that individual to connect to cross-disciplines and bring it all together.
Road ahead – training, reskilling
Fewer than half of survey respondents in the CFA Institute report said they receive support from employers to develop the new skills they need. And that may be the stumbling block to introducing reskilling initiatives. Reskilling appears to be the antidote for the skills gap.
In 2018, Guardian Life, a U.S. insurance company, partnered with General Assembly to create a data science curriculum and gave the actuaries on its payroll time away from work to learn.
Similarly, Verizon’s upskilling program offers free technical and soft skills training to its employees. The program was developed in partnership with Generation USA, a non-profit. The 10-to-15 week online programs are for roles including cybersecurity analyst, IT support specialist and junior cloud practitioner.
Investment bank JP Morgan has earmarked more than $350-million for its upskill plan, New Skills at Work. As part of this plan, the company will spend $200-million to train people for new, in-demand tech jobs; invest some $125-million to improve existing training courses through community colleges; and it will direct $25-million toward research initiatives to understand current and future labour market trends.
“One of the things that’s interesting when you compare our 2017 report to the current one is that there were a lot of skills that people were thinking of acquiring, but in the last few years we have seen more people take action,” said Ms. Fender. “The action to aspiration ratio has changed and that’s good.”
What I’m reading around the web
- A recent Microsoft Work Trends Index 2022 report found the average Microsoft Teams user now sends 42 per cent more chats per person after hours. And weekly meeting time has increased 148 per cent since February, 2020. Some key findings are employees have now found a new “worth it” equation; managers are caught between leadership and employee expectations.
- In this article Sam Dogen, 45, an investment professional, shares how he negotiated a severance package with his employer in 2012 and decided to retire, thanks to income from his rental properties, stock dividends and e-book sales. But one year into it, he realized a life of leisure wasn’t for him. Today, Mr. Dogen considers himself a “fake retiree” because he now takes on side-hustles to fill his time.
- A study by the Oxford Internet Institute of 39,000 video gamers found “little to no evidence” that time spent playing affects their well-being. The results contradict a 2020 study by the same department, but with a smaller test group, which suggested those who played for longer were happier. “Common sense says if you have more free time to play video games, you’re probably a happier person,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, in a BBC News article. He worked on both studies. ”But contrary to what we might think about games being good or bad for us, we found [in this latest study] pretty conclusive evidence that how much you play doesn’t really have any bearing whatsoever on changes in well-being.”
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UK's government investment fund largely backed 'zombie businesses' – Financial Times
The UK government’s Covid-19 venture capital fund has been mostly invested in what one director overseeing the portfolio called “zombie businesses”, leaving it with “a significant tail of dormant companies”, according to documents seen by the Financial Times.
The Future Fund, a £1.1bn portfolio set up by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak and managed by the state-owned British Business Bank, invested in 1,190 mainly early-stage companies at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minutes of a BBB audit committee meeting in June 2021, seen by the FT, reveal that Dharmash Mistry, a non-executive director, said that “most of the companies in the [Future Fund] portfolio had . . . limited chance of growth to a sufficient scale for success” and would therefore become “zombie businesses”.
Minutes from a BBB audit committee meeting in February 2022 included a warning from Mistry, an experienced early-stage investor with several non-executive positions, that the portfolio was “likely” to have “a significant tail of dormant companies and it would be helpful if this could be signalled in advance to manage expectations”.
The minutes also reveal that the BBB initially assumed in March 2021 that the probability of default by the companies that received Future Fund convertible debt from the government was 54 per cent.
The scheme, which was open to applications from May 2020 to January 2021, matched funding of up to £5mn raised by companies from third-party investors if they met certain conditions. The government did no commercial due diligence, but relied on the judgment of co-investors.
The Future Fund was aimed at not-yet-profitable businesses which were not served by other government Covid support programmes. Sunak said in May 2020 the fund would help “to power the growth and innovation we will need as we recover from this crisis”.
But the BBB audit committee minutes from June 2021 record Mistry as saying the open process for Future Fund applications created “natural adverse selection”.
The scheme attracted companies who wanted “either to accumulate as much funding as possible because prospects were excellent, or because funding could not be obtained through other investment channels”, the minutes quote Mistry as saying. Mistry did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the BBB said: “Due to the early-stage nature of venture capital investments, write-offs are relatively high, with financial returns driven by a number of high-performing outlier companies.”
The BBB highlighted data published by Horsley Bridge, a private equity investor, showing that typically more than half of early-stage investments made a loss. More than 60 per cent of returns came from just 6 per cent of investments.
While the government has sought to highlight technology investments by the Future Fund, it has also attracted attention for backing some unusual businesses, including a jazz-streaming service, a cannabis products company and a hedonistic party planner.
Funding took the form of a three-year convertible loan — debt that the government may convert into equity when companies next raise private investment. So far, BBB loans to 400 companies have been converted into shares.
The BBB spokesperson said: “Given the convertible loans are designed to convert into equity over three years, it is encouraging that a third of Future Fund companies have now gone on to raise further private-sector capital.”
In cases where businesses are unable to raise new investment, they can be required to repay their Future Fund loans at a premium, an issue that will become more acute as companies hit the end of the three-year term.
In February 2022, the minutes of the BBB audit committee record one official warning that “the probability of default [for companies yet to convert] would increase . . . as we came closer to the first maturity in June 2023”.
These concerns were expressed prior to a BBB warning in June that tech valuations were falling, at a time when the UK economy appeared more robust than now.
Demanding full repayment of BBB loans could mean insolvencies among businesses the Future Fund was intended to support.
The BBB audit committee minutes were released under a Freedom of Information Act request. Officials had marked certain passages for redaction on the grounds that they could harm the commercial interests of the bank or its partners. However, officials neglected to remove the redacted text from the document prior to release.
Despite Bold Investment, Only Gavi Has The Messi Qualities Barcelona Craves – Forbes
If you minus the squad investment controversy, and the need for Barcelona to reestablish itself as king in Spain and Europe again, there is another dimension to its sizeable summer transfer spending. It’s still trying to plug an 18-year-old gap: Lionel Messi’s time in the Blaugrana first team.
18 years. That’s the age of perhaps its most valuable young player: Gavi. For all the talk of striker Robert Lewandowski, defender Jules Koundé and the other major Camp Nou signings, it’s the young Spanish midfielder set for arguably the defining spell at the club. It should determine whether he and Barcelona come of age.
Going by some indicators, Gavi already has. So far, Barcelona has fended off any interest in him, with Liverpool among the European heavyweights supposed to have eyed the teenager, whose liveliness and trickery have captured many people’s imagination.
Where he wishes to play is still anyone’s guess, with some rumors that a highly anticipated contract renewal depends on whether another player, Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva, becomes yet another blockbuster addition. That is despite it not yet registering signings with La Liga. In any case, the idea that Barcelona could make him second fiddle to the Portuguese could be a dealbreaker for the academy graduate. As good as Bernardo is, his employer would do worse than listen to its talent, as his stock at 18 indicates just how precious a player he is, even now.
Barcelona, though, is under pressure. Failure to turn big dollars—also spent on Vegas clásico match-winner Raphinha—into success quickly could see the board flailing around even more next year. While everyone has to pull their weight, if Gavi makes the telling difference from midfield, that will tell us a lot about him and Barcelona moving forward.
Holding onto him and similarly revered Pedri is more vital than ever. If this spending operation doesn’t work out, it will need to—at least—have its young stars committed to the longer-term project. Sportively and commercially, they could prove trump cards in the future, with their marketability and commercial value likely to boom in the coming years, as Messi’s did.
Keeping these players happy and, crucially, ensuring it can afford to keep them—which finally snapped with Messi—will mean it has two valuable assets down the line. As the Financial Times cited, 19-year-old Pedri is the CIES Football Observatory’s fourth-most valuable player worldwide.
Gavi is not Messi and never will be. Nor will anyone, for that matter. But on previous evidence, Barcelona benefits from players in the Gavi mold—agile, precise passers and tricky to dispossess when on the ball. Barcelona must keep a successful Gavi at all costs, assuming its curious financial operations and La Liga’s vigilance permit it.
That’s especially pertinent when you consider the man nurturing him pitch-side. Xavi perfected the same central midfield role during Barcelona’s golden days, understanding the position inside-out. Despite his lack of experience coaching in Europe, one key benefit to recruiting Xavi was his tactical nous and appreciation of the game—clear to see during his playing days at the team he now manages.
At a juncture when Barcelona is selling more of itself for short-term gain, the diminutive teenager epitomizes what many soccer romantics associate with the Blaugrana at its best—a side with a clear identity thanks to players in the Gavi-Pedri mold. Losing that would be a blow.
By no means has Barcelona deserted its youth during this mammoth spending spree. Ansu Fati, another promising Spaniard, is a cog in Barcelona’s plans and hopes for an injury-free run when the action resumes. Nico González, who accrued more experience last campaign, is another.
But if Barcelona’s business hasn’t finished, it risks impulsivity over sustainability. Barcelona’s seasonal acquisitions are all 25 or over and may be used as quick fixes, replacing a more considered plan. Get the balance right, and everything can click. Albeit a season-opening game, Lewandowski’s seller Bayern Munich is fresh off dismantling Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to a blend of top recruit Sadio Mané and—more so—its nurtured young midfielder Jamal Musiala. That’s the mix Barcelona needs.
For all the hype surrounding the fresh faces, there is no player like Gavi. And there is no closer imitation of Messi than the youngster either. And it’s timely, with a growing clamor for his return in some capacity. In the meantime, Barcelona should focus on recreating the Argentine’s spirit with the crop it already has. That’s not easy to buy.
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