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Globe Advisor’s Best of 2020: Top 10 stories on investment funds – The Globe and Mail

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Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds have an outsized place in many investors’ portfolios – and will continue to do so.

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When looking at the make-up of most portfolios that financial advisors build for their clients, investment funds – namely mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) – still play a massive role.

In many ways, that’s evident from recent Investment Funds Institute of Canada data. Total mutual fund and ETF assets under management (AUM) totalled $1.75-trillion and $250.1-billion, respectively, at the end of November.

But while mutual fund AUM still dwarfs that of ETFs, inflows into the latter were on pace to surpass those of mutual funds for the third year in a row, as ETFs are becoming the go-to investment vehicle for many Canadian advisors and investors.

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Nevertheless, mutual funds still have a key place in portfolios – and will continue to do so. Here are 10 articles on investing strategies using mutual funds and ETFs that were published on Globe Advisor this past year:

Six ETFs to play a post-pandemic economic recovery

Betting on an economic recovery may be difficult for investors, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in North America and new lockdowns in Europe. However, with a safe coronavirus vaccine on the way and China’s economy gaining strength, there’s room for optimism. We asked Daniel Straus at National Bank Financial Inc., David Kletz of Forstrong Global Asset Management Inc. and Alex Bryan of Morningstar Inc. for their top exchange-traded fund picks to play a post-pandemic recovery.

Why covered-call ETFs may be a great fit for income-seeking investors

ETFs that offer juicy distribution yields have proliferated amid paltry interest rates over the past decade. Namely, Canadian-listed covered-call ETFs have grown to 66 offerings totalling $8-billion in assets under management. Although earning extra cash on top of dividends by using an options strategy may be tempting, investors need to mindful of the risks in owning these equity or commodity ETFs – and that they aren’t always the best choice for everyone.

Two ETFs offer exposure to fast-growing robotics industry

Robots have been getting attention recently as health-care systems worldwide look for ways to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, robots are being used to clean hospital rooms and operating theatres, disinfect public areas and take temperatures and pulse as well as free up maintenance and medical staff for other tasks. For investors, it’s an area of opportunity as their uses are also expanding in sectors such as manufacturing and in e-commerce.

Advisors must become more familiar with liquid alternative funds as interest grows

Liquid alternatives funds – known as “liquid alts” – have been available to Canadian advisors and investors for just more than a year, but they have spared no time adding these products to portfolios. Driving liquid alts’ popularity is their ability to offer alternative strategies such as short-selling, derivatives, leverage and others that were previously available only via hedge funds to qualified, typically high-net-worth clients, to a wider audience through a mutual fund or ETF.

How ETFs have reshaped the financial services business

ETFs are among the fastest-growing financial products in Canada, driven by advisors – both human and robo – as well as interest among retail investors. It has now been 30 years since the first ETF – Toronto 35 Index Participation Units, which were known as TIPs and tracked the TSX 35 index – was listed in Canada on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They have reshaped how advisors put portfolios together, including a shift away from individual stock picking and toward low-cost, diversified funds as part of a broader wealth-management offering.

For Tom Bradley, diversification and compounding are the keys to investing success

Tom Bradley, chief investment officer at Vancouver-based Steadyhand Investment Funds Inc, which manages more than $900-million in investments for more than 3,000 Canadians and has a reputation for transparency, simplicity and low-fee equity and fixed-income mutual funds, has a strong opinion on how investors should prepare themselves for what lies ahead. “It’s a pretty boring answer,” says Mr. Bradley, who co-founded Steadyhand in 2006. “Stay diversified – and I mean really diversified.”

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‘Hybrid’ platform-traded funds slowly gaining attention

Platform-traded funds (PTFs), which launched in mid-2016 as hybrids between mutual funds and ETFs, are slowly showing up in more investors’ portfolios amid growing pressure for advisors to offer low-cost investment funds with an active management component. Yet, the relatively new hybrid investment fund still needs time to prove itself – and a wider selection of products – to attract more interest from financial professionals and investors.

Thematic ETFs provide exposure to hot trends, but they’re not for the faint of heart

In the world of thematic ETFs, recent offerings are aiming to ride the COVID-19 tailwind. But while hot trends may be enticing, investors need to tread carefully before buying niche ETFs to avoid overexposure to stocks they may already own – or wind up in money-losing funds. The benefit of thematic ETFs is that they can give exposure to names not represented in broad market indexes and also reduce risk from making “a bet on a single company,” says Daniel Straus, vice-president of ETFs and financial products research at National Bank Financial Inc.

Liquid alts demonstrated their value during recent market turmoil

Liquid alts have only been available to many Canadian advisors and their clients since January 2019, but it hasn’t taken long for these products to prove their worth in investment portfolios. Their recent strong performance in March, when stock market losses were at their deepest, is likely to lead to increased demand among advisors and investors who seek all-weather returns, downside protection and diversification from traditional asset classes such as stocks and bonds.

Will the upcoming ‘halving’ event lead to another surge in bitcoin?

Decentralized cryptocurrency assets are still in their infancy and prone to hyper-volatility. Nonetheless, institutional and higher-net-worth investors are starting to pay attention to bitcoin for portfolio diversification. “We look at it as digital gold,” says Arthur Salzer, chief executive officer and chief investment officer at Northland Wealth Management Inc., a family office and advisory firm in Markham, Ont. “It’s a valuable addition as an alternative asset like private equity, private real estate and private debt. We also own physical gold through a Canadian fund.”

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Is investing in crowdfunded real estate a wise choice? – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion by Mark Ting, a partner with Foundation Wealth who helps clients reach their financial goals. He can be heard every Thursday at 4:50 p.m. on CBC radio as On the Coast’s guide to personal finance. This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.


The high cost of real estate is often cited as the main barrier to entry into Vancouver’s housing market. As a result, some determined Canadians have turned to crowdfunding.  

In North America, there are several real estate crowdfunding companies that divide investable properties into fractional shares. I recently bought a fractional share of a rental development in Mission, B.C. This project’s crowdfund goal was $500,000 consisting of 500,000 shares at a dollar each.   

In total, about 1,000 people invested an average of nearly $500 to raise the half million. It is a longer-term holding with the developer building 105 units which include 11 affordable rental units over the next two years, then renting them out for three years before selling the units and dividing the profits among the investors.  

The reason I got involved in the Mission rental property crowdfund was two-fold. First, I agree with the crowdfund procurement team’s assessment about Mission — it has great capital appreciation and rental income potential — and second, I’m using this investment as a learning experience for my children.  

Investors need to make sure they know what fees they are paying for crowdfunded real estate, says Mark Ting. (Shutterstock/Roman Makedonsky)

A learning experience 

For every ‘A’ my kids earn at school on their report cards, I give them $100. This year they decided to invest their earnings in real estate via crowdfunding. We chose the Mission project as it is local, which means we can visit the development, monitor its progress and experience, albeit in a small way, the sense of pride that often accompanies home ownership.

On behalf of my children, I invested $500 in the crowdfund which projects an annual return of 14 per cent. In dollar terms, if achieved, our investment would double in about five years. Yielding $500 in five years isn’t going to dramatically change my life, however, for my kids it’s likely to be much more impactful. My hope is that they continue to invest the money they earn for good grades into more projects, essentially building a small pipeline of investments with different risk profiles that pay out at different times. My goal for them is to form good financial habits which, if accomplished, is worth several times more than the potential $500 profit created by this investment.

Some funds involve developers building a project and then renting out units. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When doing due diligence on crowdfunding, pay attention to the fees. Many offerings, in my opinion, overcharge or take an excessive cut of the profits. Before I invested, I compared the fee structures of various crowdfunding companies and ultimately went with a company that didn’t charge fees but instead were compensated via a subscription model. 

To participate in the Mission development, I had to first pay $25 for an annual subscription. Something to consider if you are only planning on making a small investment. For example, it doesn’t make financial sense to pay a $25 annual subscription fee if you only plan to invest $100 into a project. Aim to invest at least a couple hundred dollars —ideally a couple thousand dollars, into various projects throughout the year. 

Other factors to consider:

  • The crowdfunding company’s management team experience and track record.

  • The minimum investment amount which can be range from $1 to more than $250,000. 

  • The expected returns of the investment versus the risk of the project.

  • The time horizon of the project which usually ranges from two to five years and more.

Overall, I feel that real estate crowdfunding can be a viable tool for those who want to invest in real estate but are restricted due to a lack of money or credit. Small investments in multiple projects add up over time. That makes it appealing for young people who want to get in the habit of investing — which now can be done in real estate for as little as the cost of a daily cup of coffee.

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Breaking Down The Barriers Preventing Millions From Investing In Companies That Do Good – Forbes

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In the age of sustainability impact investing and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), the non-financial factors that investors apply to identify material risks and growth opportunities, have become buzz terms. But not for everyone. According to research from new investment fund manager DUGUUD, this industry jargon leaves many people mystified and this is holding them back from investing in businesses that help the environment and society.

The survey of 3,000 adults found that just 10% were aware of the term impact investing and could explain it, yet when it was explained to them 60% agreed that it could create positive change in the environment and society. And three times more people agreed than disagreed that if they had funds to invest, they would want to invest in this area.

“It’s time for the whole financial services industry to ditch terms like impact investing and ESG and to start talking in a language everyone can understand,” says DUGUUD’s CEO and serial entrepreneur David Scrivens.

DUGUUD, the trading name of Amberside Capital, is an FCA-regulated fund manager launched this month, with a focus on climate change, increasing biodiversity, improving public health, reducing inequality, and improving education. It was born out of a need to create a platform that allows the general public to invest in companies that make a genuine and positive difference to the world.

“It is difficult and costly to create a fund that’s open to the public, and it takes a lot of marketing spend to reach them,” says Scrivens. “Most fund managers get institutional investors, such as pension funds, to meet the minimum investment level required to launch a fund, but this route is often to the exclusion of the general public.”

The research also revealed a significant level of cynicism, with 58% of respondents of the opinion that most businesses claiming to be doing good are actually spending more time and money marketing their environmental and societal intentions than on taking tangible actions. Two-thirds (67%) also agreed that there are now so many businesses claiming to run their business in a way that is better for the environment and society that they find it difficult to trust the real impact of most of their claims.

“It is extremely difficult to prove environmental and social change, and comparing organizations is also tricky,” says Scrivens. “There is no easy solution to this without government intervention to create tools for measuring impact.”

However, he insists that DUGUUD will not allow the companies it invests in to focus on just the one area of good they may be doing, but will hold them to account for all aspects of their business. They will also show investors tangible examples of what companies are doing, for example, how the company has moved to greener energy, not just by paying an electricity supplier to certify that they are getting green energy when it just comes through the grid, but by building additional green energy generation.

The team has already invested in several projects, including £17 million in Sterling Suffolk, which produces tomatoes in what has been dubbed ‘Europe’s cleverest greenhouse’. The semi-closed hydroponic glasshouse is considered 25% more energy efficient than a traditional one and allows for greater carbon absorption, and potentially creates better-tasting crops.

Wildanet is a Cornwall-based fiber company aiming to bring much-needed high-speed internet to rural communities in the region to improve digital inclusion. DUGUUD has raised the company around £50 million to help them achieve this goal.

Other investments include Virti, which trains medical staff remotely using virtual reality, and which has been incredibly valuable during the pandemic, and Ateria Health, which has developed a way to improve gut bacteria in humans that could help with common issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Another key finding of the research was that 67% of adults who were asked about investing would expect independent financial advisors (IFAs) to understand this area and supply options as part of the funds they discuss with customers, while 59% would also expect any pension provider to consider these kinds of investments in how they manage, invest and report on the pension fund.

This highlights the role that IFAs and pension firms have to play in creating more clarity for their clients around investing for positive change. “We believe that all professionals should be helping to spread the word about investing to make an improvement for society, and we aim to work with as many of them as possible,” says Scrivens.

Looking ahead, the plan is to create a fund that draws on the investment team’s infrastructure experience to make larger environmental and social projects come to fruition, and to launch a science-based fund focused on investment in technologies that can make a huge difference to the planet or society, but preferably both.

Scrivens adds: “We are also considering whether to offer a small part of our own company for individuals to invest in so that people can join us on our journey to make a real positive difference and help more companies that do good get the investment they need.”

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The best investment I ever made – Shreveport Times

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I started in the investment advisory business in January 1987. My timing was great as I experienced my first “market crash” in October of that year. Today that correction in the market is barely a blip on the screen. I was numb to bumps in the road at that stage in my life. Having just spent 6 years at an aggressive independent oil and gas company had prepared me well – especially when they turned the lights out on the entire industry in 1986.  I found myself “earning” $205/week on unemployment! It was a very inspirational time during which many of us reflected on our professional future. Regardless of the events of 1987, it was one of those character building periods that added to my survival instincts.

As my title above suggests, I’m frequently asked my opinion regarding this investment or that opportunity in which they (or more likely, their friend) might pursue their fortunes.

True confession: It seems all the “good stuff” always eluded me. No one ever even approached me with any of the local scams that sounded awfully good at the time and sent some folks to jail. Apparently, I was “out of the loop” on the juicy deals. Full disclosure, some dear friends of mine did offer to have me join them in Tulsa to form a new oil and gas company.  I declined. They did get rich and built and sold numerous oil and gas companies. Not even Warren Buffett gets it right every time!

One more aside, before I answer the question about my “best investment”! I have had what I consider to be real success with some of those filthy, dirty, expense laden variable annuities. Due to a selection heavily into their stock sub-accounts they have outperformed most of the popular indices. If the bottom ever falls out, I sleep well knowing their guarantees will pay me for life. Other than that, just because you might be curious by now, I’ve found comfort with Exchange Traded Funds and Mutual Funds managed by my Harvard/Stanford educated, brilliant friend and partner in Birmingham, Rick Wedell. He’s the best! Not to be out done, I also cling to a group of blue-chip, high-dividend paying stocks I lucked out and bought last year on March 20th – three days before the market hit the bottom. I promise, it was luck – not great timing on my part. At those low prices the dividends were just so high I couldn’t resist any longer.

My best investment, however, was in a little-known guy named Tommy Williams. In 1997 I formed a totally unknown company aptly called Williams Financial Advisors. That was accomplished with the guidance and advisory contribution of more mentors than I can name in this writing. I dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship. Along the way I established key relationships with the best (in my opinion) broker/dealer in the country, some wonderful and supportive clients, and ultimately some very bright – and much younger – partners. That next generation ultimately, over time, bought bits and pieces of the firm.  One day in November of 2020 they asked me what I wanted to do with my furniture! It was a real win-win and my wonderful desk, credenza, etc. are still in storage awaiting something… To anyone reading this who asks for advice due to their similar role in a startup venture I would say this. You already know all the cliches – never give up, work hard, try to establish a win-win with everyone you come across, don’t burn bridges, etc., etc. But you may not be thinking about valuation. That is, the value of your enterprise to a successor(s). I was fortunate – I had that type of advice years before and it changed the way I viewed the Company – thus creating enterprise value and becoming my best investment ever! Only in America. I’d recommend an investment in yourself to anyone.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. Performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

RFG Advisory and its Investment Advisor Representatives do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal, and accounting professional for guidance on such matters.

Visit us at www.williamsfa.com. Tommy Williams is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional with Williams Financial Advisors, LLC. Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory products and services offered by Investment Advisory Representatives through RFG Advisory, a Registered Investment Advisor. RFG Advisory, Williams Financial Advisors, LLC and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities. Branch office is located at 6425 Youree Drive, Suite 180, Shreveport, LA 71105.

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