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Investment industry faces widening skills gap around big data and ESG – The Globe and Mail

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This is the weekly Careers newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Globe Careers and all Globe newsletters here.

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.

T-shaped skills

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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Top 3 investment bets for millennials to beat market volatility and make money – Economic Times

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There is a thrill for many to do things that are so-called out of the ordinary. As mentioned in the first part of this story, millennials are the impatient investor class who are all up to ignore the stereotypes, bet even on riskier investments.

On that note, in the first part we talked about three new-age investments that go beyond the ordinary for the millennials or the digital natives. To know more about millennials and more about the investment options, you can read the first part here:
Top 3 new-age investment bets for millennials looking to take risk and earn big

Nonetheless, it is never bad to be cautious. A roller coaster ride is fun at the amusement parks but when it comes to using the hard-earned money, no one will be keen to lose their savings. It is often said volatility is the daily crux of the market. Experts also opine it can be a motivation to capitalize on the imbalances.

“Volatility is the ghost that haunts you only if you look at it. The best way to avoid volatility is to ignore it; don’t trade into a market when there’s euphoria or out of it when there’s panic. Instead, constrict and hold a diversified portfolio for the long term, or better still, a mutual fund, which isolates individuals from volatility shocks,” Utkarsh Sinha, managing director at boutique investment bank firm Bexley Advisors said.

The economy too is at a volatile juncture with slower-than-expected growth recovery and galloping inflation. For stocks, the plausibility of earnings growth is diluting and valuation is said to trade below the long-term average. So, what could be better than to have some safe options even during a volatile period, enjoy the thrills of new-age investments and still achieve the monetary goals?

Girirajan Murugan, the chief executive officer at FundsIndia, lists more instruments that will help millennials to avoid some volatility:

InvIT – Infrastructure Investment Trust

This involves a trust channeling investments from individuals/institutions toward infrastructure projects. In a developing country like ours, the demand for good infrastructure is huge and perennial, in my opinion, Murugan said, adding that an investment in an InvIT with a good management will be a fruitful investment for the long term.

However, most infrastructure projects are subject to government regulations and interference. Change in the political space could affect such investments. Lack of choices to choose from is a severe disadvantage. Being a budding avenue, the participation in this investment is comparatively low. This means that selling them in the current market could be difficult. However, if the market for this type of investment takes off, then this concern will be void.

REIT – Real Estate Investment Trust

Similar to InvITs, REITs pool resources to invest in real estate assets. “Real estate investment has not lost its flair even today, despite being a conventional investment. That’s exactly why I’d like to call this a “grandfather-approved investment,” Murugan said.

By enabling part ownership, REIT has made real estate more accessible for all sections of people. REIT investments buy you ownership to the property in question, proportionate to the investment made. The income from this asset shall also follow the same proportion.

There are 2 categories of REIT – tradable and non-tradable. Some non-tradable REITs disclose the share values only after 18 months. Non-tradable REITs also carry the disadvantage of less liquidity.

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Investing

In this mode, the investment is directed toward the development of businesses that toil for the betterment of the world. One can either invest through readily available ESG Mutual Funds, or they can identify the right companies and invest in their stocks.

“As far as ESG investing is concerned, it’s a thumbs up from me, and I say this from an ethical standpoint. The reason is that a good planet and a harmonious society are something we can’t survive without. When it boils down to it, man will eventually be forced to choose survival over profitability. If you choose to do it for the purpose, rather than for profitability, this may be one of your best investments,” Murugan said.

ESG assets are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025 and represent more than a third of the $140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management (AuM), according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Bexley Advisors’ Sinha said millennials are at the best point of their lives currently to invest, as they have the bulk of their lives ahead of them. With these options explained, the millennials perhaps have better insight on the options available. Remember how we introduced the generations in the first part of the story and talked about an angry young man from Bollywood? Well, keep the swag and invest with prudence.

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How rising interest rates impact insurers' investment decisions – Canadian Underwriter

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Recent interest rate hikes aimed at curbing inflation, and the potential for more rate hikes next year, has the insurance industry keeping an eye on its investment returns.

But while the transition from a low-interest-rate environment to a higher-rate environment will create short-term challenges, it also creates a long-term opportunity, noted Gord Dowhan, CFO at Wawanesa Insurance in a recent Canadian Underwriter interview.

“Over time…higher interest rates can create an opportunity for us to increase our yield moving forward,” Dowhan said. “As bonds mature, it gives us the opportunity to invest at a higher rate.

“You’ve seen this experience in Europe and elsewhere, where they were at zero percent and negative interest-rate environments in some cases. Having higher rates is healthier than being in that environment [of extremely low or negative interest rates], and there’s definitely an opportunity for us to pick up yield and investment returns within our investment portfolio as those instruments mature.”

For an insurer’s portfolio, Dowhan noted a rising interest rate environment makes certain investment instruments more attractive. And his firm has some of these in place, including preferred shares, limited recourse capital notes, and floating-rate or variable-rate debt.

“We’re also looking at real estate and infrastructure investments. From a rate-reset, preferred-share perspective, this gives us the opportunity to increase our yield; the dividend yield resets regularly based on five-year government bond yields,” he said.

“In a rising rate environment, this gives us an opportunity to increase our returns. Floating-rate, or variable-rate, debt has become increasingly attractive as rates rise. We’ve invested in and will continue to invest in floating-rate debt and look for opportunities to grow our portfolio there.”

What’s more, Dowhan said that during high inflationary periods, real estate and infrastructure tend to outperform other asset classes.

“The underlying instruments within these products, leases and other revenues that produce revenue streams linked to inflation, is one reason why they typically outperform other asset classes during periods of high inflation,” he told CU. “So, opportunities exist for us to enhance our yield in the long term and continue to deliver value for our policyholders.”

This article is excepted from one that appeared in the August-September issue of Canadian Underwriter. Feature image by iStock.com/porcorex

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Landa Sees More Growth, EPac Gets New Investment And More | Label and Narrow Web – Label & Narrow Web Magazine

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Demonstrating its commitment to supporting its growing customer base and interest from future customers, Landa Digital Printing is aggressively expanding its global team and business development infrastructure with the appointment of several new sales professionals.

New Landa appointments include:

  • Bill Lawver, Inside Sales Representative
  • Michael Weyermann, Regional Sales Manager – Northeast
  • Steve Smith, Regional Sales Manager – Southeast
  • Danny Green, Regional Sales Manager – Mideast
  • Michelle Weir, Regional Sales Manager, Southwest

Sharon Cohen, chief business officer, Landa Digital Printing, comments, “We are delighted to have secured the talent and experience of Bill, Michael, Steve, Danny and Michelle. Their highly relevant backgrounds will be instrumental in supporting our growth plans across North America, while also supporting the wider team to ensure continued high customer satisfaction, innovation and success.

Meanwhile, Amcor has announced a further strategic investment of up to $45 million in ePac Flexible Packaging. The investment will increase Amcor’s minority shareholding in ePac Holdings LLC.

Amcor’s executive vice president of strategy and development, Ian Wilson, comments, “This additional investment reflects our confidence in ePac’s entrepreneurial team and their proven ability to rapidly scale in the high growth, often higher value short run segment. Since our initial investment last year, we have been deeply impressed with ePac’s focused and innovative business model centered around deploying a very high level of digitalization and customization. ePac’s proven digital technologies enable the delivery of exceptional service levels and significantly reduced lead times. These specializations are designed to meet the unique speed to market and service needs of locally based small to medium customers, skill sets that are highly transferable to areas of Amcor’s core business.

Here are the highest-trafficked news items for the week ending on September 23:

1. Landa announces five senior additions to NA sales team
2. Amcor expands investment in ePac Flexible Packaging
3. FLAG enjoys productive Labelexpo Americas
4. Mondi invests in new research and development center in Germany
5. S-OneLP recognized as Global Label Award winner

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