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Europe’s investment bankers fend off bleak backdrop to scoop up bonuses – Financial Times

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European investment bankers are set to enjoy increased bonuses after a bumper year for trading and dealmaking amid the coronavirus pandemic, while their counterparts in other parts of the business see their payouts cut or cancelled altogether.

Credit Suisse and Barclays — the first of the region’s major investment banks to disclose their plans — this week boosted payouts and justified their decisions by citing “pay for performance” policies, and the need to stop staff defecting to more generous Wall Street rivals.

By contrast, staff at Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo and Germany’s Commerzbank have had their payouts cut by as much as half. Lloyds Bank in the UK cancelled bonuses altogether.

More big global lenders will reveal their plans soon, with HSBC and Standard Chartered reporting full-year results on Tuesday and Thursday, and UBS releasing its annual report on March 5.

European bank bosses face a tricky balancing act between rewarding staff who capitalised on a boom in trading, listings and dealmaking last year, while acknowledging the bleak macroeconomic environment and seeking to avoid tarnishing the improved public image they have fought hard to rebuild since the financial crisis. 

Thomas Gottstein, chief executive of Credit Suisse, told the Financial Times investment bankers at Switzerland’s second-biggest bank by assets received “double-digit” payouts, while the bonus pool for the whole group shrank by 7 per cent.

“That’s the essence of pay of performance,” he said, alluding to the investment bank’s 18 per cent annual increase in revenues.

Barclays increased its bonus pool by 6 per cent to £1.6bn after its investment bank produced its highest annual revenue since at least 2014.

While bonuses were cut in its corporate and consumer divisions where profits fell, they rose at the investment bank, where three-quarters of the pool was allocated to staff outside the UK, notably in New York. The bank’s traders were the main driver of profits last year and “we have to be responsive to that”, said Barclays chief executive Jes Staley.

Investment banks across the world generated a record $124.5bn in fees last year as companies raced to raise cash in order to survive the pandemic. Traders benefited from extraordinary levels of market volatility and unprecedented liquidity support from central banks, which drove clients to reposition their portfolios and sent stocks to record highs.

Regulators have been clear they will watch bonus payments closely. Last week the European Central Bank shot down Deutsche Bank’s plans to increase its bonus pool by more than a third, to more than €2bn, after Germany’s largest lender reported a small profit for the first time in six years. 

When the ECB and Bank of England allowed lenders to restart dividend payments in December, they urged managers to use a “high degree of caution and prudence” when deciding on bonuses. This reflected the uncertain outlook and need for banks to deploy capital to the wider economy.

“Significant bonuses will be frowned upon,” said a senior British regulator. “It is always a nightmare when you have an investment bank — can you pay bonuses when the economy is doing badly?”

Carlo Messina, chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo, said in an interview that Italy’s largest bank by assets was reducing its bonus pool by 30 per cent after its executives donated €6m of their own pay to healthcare initiatives last year.

“It is not only a decision of the organisation, but it is also something coming from the regulators,” he said. Intesa reported a €3.1bn profit for 2020 and benefited from an accounting gain after buying domestic rival UBI last summer.

Commerzbank, Germany’s second-biggest listed bank by assets, halved its bonus pool to €100m after recording a €2.9bn loss last year, its worst since the financial crisis.

Supervisors must “put the brakes on” excessive remuneration, said MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA. “Admittedly, banks did not cause the crisis this time. But they owe their successful year 2020 less to the genius of their managers than to the massive state support measures for the entire economy.”

Bank bosses are also coming under pressure from their shareholders to make sure bonuses do not draw too much negative attention. “Banks should be sensitive,” said Sacha Sadan, director of investment stewardship at Legal & General Investment Management, the UK’s biggest fund manager by assets.

“They should get bonuses if they have done a good job but they should be sensitive of the societal issues and mindful of why they have had a good year.”

A poll of 2,752 retail shareholders by Interactive Investor, the trading platform, showed 89 per cent would vote against “excessive remuneration” for bank executives at AGMs this year, down from 11 per cent last year.

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Outdoor Ballet Experience Receives Government Investment – 91.9 The Bend

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The provincial and federal governments are investing over $362,000 in the Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada’s, Ballet by the Ocean experience.

Created in an effort to combat the restrictions caused by the pandemic, Ballet by the Ocean is an outdoor spectacle located on the Northumberland Strait.

“All of us at Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada are incredibly grateful for this significant contribution to our company and our newest experience. Ballet By The Ocean,” said Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, Co-Founder and CEO, Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada.

The funds committed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency will support marketing, promotion, and brand development.

Investments contributed by New Brunswick’s Regional Development Corporation and the Department of Canadian Heritage will focus on upgrades for the experience.

“That allows us to purchase a new stage, a sprung dance floor which is specialized for professional ballet and a rubberized dance floor that can withstand the outdoors and also the venue seating,” said Chalmers-Gauvin.

Ballet by the Ocean prioritizes a focus on local, with meals prepared by Chef Emmanuel Charretier and wine from a local winery.

Guests are provided with the exact location of the performance just two days before the event occurs. Upon arrival, guests witness the breathtaking backdrop that makes the experience unparalleled.

“The birds are flying overhead there might be a hare, there might be an eagle, so you’re witnessing the water, the wetlands and nature while you’re watching a beautiful ballet performance,” She said

She adds that their location required help from the Department of Environment to maintain the wetlands.

Tickets for the Ballet by the Ocean 2021 season were in high demand, with all 11 shows selling out. However, with New Brunswick set to remove all pandemic restrictions, there may be a seat for you after all.

“Now that we’re going to green, I’m thrilled to announce that performances on July 31st, September 4th,11th and 18th have reopened because we can have more capacity,” said Chalmers-Gauvin.

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Investment in rural broadband internet helps rural life – Toronto Star

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The Alberta government announced a $150 million investment to expand and improve broadband internet services for Albertans living in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities throughout the province.

Premier Jason Kenney, along with Minister of Service Alberta Nate Glubish, Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development and Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, Chief Billy Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation, and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely made the announcement on Thursday, July 22.

“In a lot of our small towns we’ve seen houses fly off the shelves, some of the lowest householdings in some of our little towns are right now post pandemic, and no one is asking any questions but ‘How is the internet,’” Associate Minister Horner tells the Mail.

He says this is something not isolated to his Drumheller-Stettler riding, and adds the investment will have the “potential to change things in a big way” across the province.

The need for better rural broadband connectivity has been an ongoing topic of discussion at both the provincial and federal levels of government, and Horner says the COVID-19 pandemic really “shone a light” on several of the concerns rural residents face when trying to connect online.

“We had kids going to at-home, online learning, and the calls I took from school divisions and families who didn’t have reliable enough (internet), or fast enough, to come close to what the schools were asking of them,” Horner said.

Horner notes the investment will help rural life in a number of ways, including in the agriculture industry where many farmers use wireless internet connections from everything to operating machinery to controlling moisture levels in grain bins.

Although the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has set targets for internet speeds across the country–at 50 megabits per second for downloads, and 10 megabits per second for upload speeds–Horner says this is simply not the case in many rural areas.

He says he is “fortunate” to be so close to an internet tower, but even in his close proximity–of about a mile–he says his internet is “just good enough” to allow him to connect virtually over Zoom meetings and his internet speeds are much lower than the CRTC targets.

Currently no announcement has been made as to which projects will receive part of the $150 million funding. Horner says there are some 800 projects before the Universal Broadband Fund in the province and the provincial government will need to “dig through those closely.” Each project will need to maximize private investment, reach as many households and small businesses as possible, and come under some form of regional fairness or equality, though Horner notes the first two points may at times contradict the third.

Horner also notes no federal deal has been finalized at this time, but it has been in conversation for “quite some time,” and is confident of federal participation.

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Segregated funds: an often-overlooked option for estate planning – Investment Executive

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Segregated funds may be a lesser-known option for estate planning, but they’re versatile instruments for clients with specific concerns, says John Yanchus, a tax and estate planning consultant with Canada Life.

A segregated fund is an insurance contract issued by a life insurance company. Seg funds have two parts: a pooled investment component (similar to a mutual fund), plus an insurance policy that protects against the loss of the invested capital when a contract matures. By law, a seg fund must guarantee a return of at least 75% of the original capital, and many provide guarantees for 100%. Seg funds are defined as life insurance policies under the Income Tax Act.

Yanchus said segregated funds have numerous advantages over other investments in an estate-planning context — particularly when it comes to avoiding probate and protecting privacy.

“They can provide the ability to determine how your beneficiary gets paid,” he said. “You can bypass the estate, and bypass probate. You can take advantages of liquidity and timing of the payment, protect those funds from creditors, and also accomplish your philanthropy goals, all in one action.”

When it comes to privacy, clients may not realize that wills are considered public documents, and anybody can obtain a copy for a small fee. Segregated funds, on the other hand, generally do not become public documents.

“Your affairs will remain private,” he said, but noted that in Saskatchewan, the provincial government must be made aware of life insurance policies and segregated funds that are handled by an estate executor.

Charitable donations can also be easily accommodated and dispersed through seg funds by naming a charity as the beneficiary of the policy.

Yanchus, who called seg funds one of estate planning’s best kept secrets, added that seg funds can allow the owner to name up to 20 beneficiaries.

He also explained that a seg fund can be structured as an annuity, allowing a beneficiary to receive scheduled payments instead of a lump sum after the insured dies.

Yanchus said estate planning can be a complicated process, and without a clear plan for avoiding pitfalls, clients usually end up creating more headaches than they solve.

“I think of probate planning as one of those areas where clients willfully engage in self-destructive hell,” he said. “Many, many people love the idea of avoiding probate. The problem is they lack the knowledge on which avenue to use.”

Yanchus said that using seg funds’ beneficiary designations can be quite powerful.

“You have the ability to name the estate, if that’s where you want the funds to flow for liquidity purposes. Or you have the ability to pass these assets outside of the estate, thereby avoiding probate, avoiding contestation, and avoiding other potential creditors of the estate,” he said.

“It’s almost a way to control from the grave.”

**

This article is part of the Soundbites program, sponsored by Canada Life. The article was written without sponsor input.

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