And just like that, the year 2021 has come to an end. The world looked both different from a year ago and very much the same. It amazes us to see how some of the basic tricks of financial planning, which can make a huge impact on anyone’s life, are taken for granted.
Living with Covid-19: 2021 brought us a long way back to normal. Despite the Delta wave in the first half of the calendar year, the country remained open for the major part of the year, and the economy started to gain traction. Consumer spending bounced back, and businesses remained confident.
As we enter 2022, there is a mounting risk from the new Omicron variant. The pandemic can end in one of the two ways, either we achieve “zero Covid-19” or the disease becomes an ongoing part of the infectious diseases coterie. We believe societies will have to adapt to living alongside Covid-19. Thereby, having a contingency fund kept aside for emergency purposes is of utmost necessity, now more than ever.
One of the methods that Central banks had resorted to was by reducing interest rates to raise demand. This, along with the major disruption in logistics (from chip shortages to shipping route disruptions), has resulted in a rise in inflation. One of the major factors – other than fresh waves of the pandemic, would be interest rates hardening as Central banks focus on taming inflation.
Here are the top four investment avenues for 2022.
1. Model Portfolios
- Volatility is here to stay – As markets correct after touching the highs and losses start to loom, it becomes difficult to avoid taking emotional decisions to cut these losses. This behavioral mistake can be detrimental to creating long-term wealth. Your first defense against these mistakes is to craft a diversified portfolio across different asset classes that match your investment horizon and risk tolerance. During times of market volatility, while your risky investments – equities (domestic/global) may fall, the overall portfolio performance may not be so badly impacted. A diversified portfolio built of complementary assets helps you smoothen out the returns in volatile times and helps mitigate risk in the portfolio.
Model portfolios curated on investors’ risk-return profiles are best suited in volatile market conditions. The portfolios can be built with different weightage between cyclical and non-cyclical stocks. The returns of the portfolio are average weighted returns, i.e. the returns tilt towards the sector that has more weightage in the portfolio. Model portfolios are backed by strong research and advisory and focus on the below aspects while investing:
- Sector Diversification – Model portfolios are diversified among various cyclical sectors like banking and finance, auto, metals, infrastructure, and real estate. Non-cyclical sectors consist of IT, pharma, FMCG, and consumer goods.
- Market Cap Diversification – Market Capitalization is another factor that needs to be considered while picking stocks. These portfolios are well balanced between large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap stocks. Large-cap stocks are stable and generate moderate returns. Mid-cap and small-cap stocks are more volatile and have the potential to generate higher returns.
- Portfolio Rebalancing – Equity portfolios require rebalancing since the risk and returns are highly associated with market volatility. Portfolio rebalancing helps to book profits in outperforming stocks and invest in underperforming stocks that have the potential to generate higher returns.
2. Advised Baskets of Stocks and ETFs
Avoid buying a single stock. When markets rise, it is easy to have FOMO and rush in on the next “hot” stock, be it an IPO or a “value” stock someone tells us about. Instead, look at investing in baskets. A basket is a set of multiple securities that can be traded in a single order. The components of the baskets are selected based on a particular strategy or theme. They are curated and are based on research done by professionals whose day job is to do just that. An investor can select a pre-defined basket or create a custom one based on her preferences.
A few baskets are described below based on various risk-return profiles:
- Low Risk – Multi-asset Basket
Investors with a low-risk appetite can choose to invest in a multi-asset basket. This can be a combination of equity, debt, and ETFs. Rebalancing this basket helps to combat concentration and volatility risks. A periodically rebalanced multi-asset basket can earn slow and steady returns to meet long-term financial goals.
- Medium Risk – Diversified Sector Rotation
Various sectors come into the limelight based on the economy. Sometimes Pharma may do well, and at other times defensive stocks may do well. Being able to go over-weight (or under-weight) on a sector works wonders on generating an Alpha (out-performance). Having a curated basket that has a sector rotation strategy would do very well in volatile conditions.
3. Global Investments
Let’s face it. More than 50% of all brands that you know of – whether it is Google, or Pepsi, Zoho, or Nike, that we know of well and consume in our daily lives are not listed in India. Making them a part of our portfolio is not only good for diversification but also provides us opportunities to participate in the global economy. Globalization and digitization have made the world a small place, and they are here to stay. Making a part of our portfolio strategy would probably be one of the best things that you could do.
There are various ways to make this happen. One of the best routes is through the LRS route.
Liberalised Remittance Scheme or the LRS allows us to make international investments in assets like shares, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), etc. The remittances of such transactions can be done through authorized dealers as per RBI guidelines.
As with Indian stocks, we recommend investing in baskets – especially sector/country rotation baskets – as this part of your portfolio is definitely for the long term.
4. Corporate Fixed Deposits
Corporate Fixed Deposits are term deposits offered by several companies and NBFCs. They offer higher interest rates compared to savings accounts and term fixed deposits. Corporate FDs are periodically rated by rating agencies to review the financial stability of the issuer. It is recommended to invest in high-rated corporate FDs to reduce the credit risk. Corporate FDs diversify the portfolio towards debt investments.
The advantages of these investment avenues are:
- Low minimum investment value makes them best suited for retail investors. Investments can be done through SIP or lumpsum mode.
- Since there are no lock-in periods, investors can withdraw funds as per their financial goals.
While all these investment avenues look well suited for 2022, it is recommended to make investment decisions after consulting your financial advisor.
THE CRYPTOVERSE-Teenage bitcoin throws an interest rate tantrum
Bitcoin is growing up. The original cryptocurrency turns 13 this year and is showing signs of becoming a more mature financial asset – but watch out for the teenage tantrums.
This drift towards the mainstream, driven by the big bets of institutional investors, has seen bitcoin become sensitive to interest rates and fuelled a sell-off in the coin this month as investors braced for a hawkish Federal Reserve policy meeting.
The cryptocurrency, born in 2009, was still on the fringes of finance during the Fed’s previous tightening cycle, from 2016 to 2019, and was barely correlated with the stock market.
Times have changed.
Bitcoin has been positively correlated with the S&P 500 index since early 2020, according to Refinitiv data, meaning they broadly move up and down together. Their correlation coefficient has risen to 0.41 now from 0.1 in September, where zero means no correlation and 1 implies perfectly synchronised movement.
By contrast, that coefficient was just 0.01 in 2017-2019, according to an International Monetary Fund analysis published this month.
“Now that bitcoin is not entirely held by early adopters, it’s sitting in a 60/40 type portfolio,” said Ben McMillan, chief investment officer of Arizona-based IDX Digital Assets, referring to the institutional strategy of allocating 60% of a portfolio to relatively risky equities and 40% towards bonds.
“It’s not surprising that it’s starting to trade with a lot more sensitivity to interest rates.”
Bitcoin closed below the $40,000-mark for the first time since August 2021 on Friday, some way off its November peak of $69,000.
GRAPHIC: Bitcoin SPX correlation, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/klpykqanlpg/Pasted%20image%201643021234862.png
HEDGE AGAINST INFLATION?
The crypto market is increasingly being characterised by big investors, rather than the smaller retail players who drove its early movements.
The total assets under management of institutionally focused crypto investment products rose in 2021 from $36 billion in January to $58 billion in December, according to data provider CryptoCompare.
On top of this, there was bumper buying from the corporate likes of Tesla and MicroStrategy, plus hedge funds adding crypto to their portfolios.
“The cryptocurrency ecosystem grew from a total market valuation of $767 billion at the start of the year to $2.22 trillion by the end of the year,” CryptoCompare said.
The drift towards mainstream finance raises broader questions in 2022 and beyond about whether bitcoin can retain its role as a diversification play and hedge against inflation.
IMF researchers said that bitcoin’s increasing correlation with stocks limited its “perceived risk diversification benefits and raises the risk of contagion across financial markets”.
Bitcoin is also often regarded as a hedge against inflation, mainly due to its limited supply akin to gold, the more-established store of value in an inflationary environment. However, its correlation with stocks has seen it become increasingly roiled along with broader markets by the largest annual rise in U.S. inflation in nearly four decades.
“In the current case, bitcoin is not acting as an inflation hedge. Bitcoin is acting as a risk-proxy,” said Nicholas Cawley, strategist at DailyFX, based in London.
Jeff Dorman, CIO at digital asset management firm Arca in Los Angeles, added: “It is also a tad ironic given that the bull case for many digital assets in spring 2020 was expectations for higher inflation. Now that we actually have inflation, it is weighing on prices.”
GRAPHIC: Bitcoin and traditional inflation hedges, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lbpgnjkjwvq/Pasted%20image%201643025317392.png
‘WAITING FOR HIGHER PRICES’
Evidence of investors increasingly holding onto bitcoin for the long-haul https://www.reuters.com/technology/bitcoin-investors-dig-long-haul-staggering-shift-2022-01-17 is growing.
Kraken Intelligence, a research blog from cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, said that about 60% of all bitcoin in circulation hadn’t changed hands in over one year, the highest level since December 2020.
Meanwhile funding rates for perpetual swaps across major exchanges – indicative of sentiment among investors betting on bitcoin’s future price movements – were fairly flat, hovering around 0.01%, as per data platform Coinglass.
Positive rates imply that traders are bullish, as they must pay to hold a long position, while negative rates mean traders must pay to hold a short position, or bet on the price falling.
Investors are displaying a notable unwillingness to spend coins, according to blockchain data provider Glassnode.
“In the face of tumultuous and unconvincing price action, this signals that this cohort of holders are patiently waiting for higher prices to spend their respective supply,” it said.
(Reporting by Lisa Pauline Mattackal and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and Pravin Char)
Toronto market pares decline as technology rallies
Canada’s main stock index on Monday fell to a five-week low as fears of a Russian attack on Ukraine and aggressive policy tightening by the Federal Reserve weighed on investor sentiment, but the index clawed back much of its earlier decline.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended down 50.09 points, or 0.2%, at 20,571.30, its lowest closing level since Dec. 20.
“Momentum to the downside has been picking up over the last couple of weeks,” said Philip Petursson, chief investment strategist at IG Wealth Management. “You always get a reset in valuations when interest rates are going up.”
The Toronto market gained 22% in 2021, its best yearly performance since 2009, but has since been pressured by the prospect of faster U.S. rate hikes.
The Bank of Canada is also expected to begin tightening, with the first move potentially coming at a policy announcement on Wednesday.
NATO said it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets in what Russia denounced as an escalation of tensions over Ukraine.
Geopolitical risk “is one more thing on the list that investors are already concerned about,” Petursson said.
Still, the TSX closed well above an intraday low of 19,912.59. It was helped by a rally in technology shares, including a 7% gain for Shopify Inc as the company proposed changes to its fulfillment network.
In the United States, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also ended higher, bouncing back from a steep sell-off late in the session.
Energy shares on the Toronto market fell 1.5%, pressured by a drop in oil prices. U.S. crude prices settled 2.2% lower at $83.31 a barrel.
Heavily weighted financial shares lost 0.8%, while the materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, also ended 0.8% lower.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick; Editing by Richard Chang)
After the acquisition spree – Investment Executive
CI will continue to look for acquisitions and invest in product innovation in 2022, he said, while not straying from its strategic principles.
MacAlpine said CI now offers services beyond the traditional wealth management space and can therefore materially improve its clients’ financial lives. “I think there are more opportunities for us to do so in the high- and ultra-high-net-worth space,” he said.
After taking over in September 2019, MacAlpine outlined a strategy of modernizing CI’s asset management business; expanding its wealth management platforms; and globalization, looking to turn around a firm beset by net fund redemptions and a lack of focus.
As of the third quarter of 2021, CI’s wealth management assets stood at more than $200 billion, about $50 billion more than its asset management business, historically the firm’s biggest business line. Net redemptions turned into net flows last year.
MacAlpine wouldn’t say whether CI will maintain its accelerated pace of acquisitions in the U.S. Last year the firm acquired 15 registered investment advisors (RIAs), growing its U.S. assets from US$23 billion to approximately US$115 billion.
Today, CI’s U.S. wealth management business represents the firm’s largest business, exceeding core asset management and Canadian wealth management.
MacAlpine also didn’t provide a target in terms of total assets CI is looking to acquire.
“If 2022 was just as busy as 2021, I’d be thrilled,” MacAlpine said. “If 2022 was a fraction as busy as 2021, I’d be just as thrilled, because we’re not compromising on quality.”
CI’s goal is to have the “leading high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth wealth management platform” in the U.S., he said.
Scott Chan, director of research for financials with Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. in Toronto, believes CI will remain active in the acquisition market, but not at the same pace. “My view is that the [RIA] consolidation is going to slow down, especially with the [equities market] volatility that we’re seeing and the number of deals CI has already closed.”
RIA valuation multiples remain high, Chan said.
CI has released few metrics related to its U.S. acquisitions so far, but Chan suggested CI faces at least a short-term risk of having overpaid for RIAs. “Transaction multiples did increase across the board, so CI would have probably participated in higher transaction multiples last year than the year before,” he said.
Daniel Gonzalez, financial analyst with California-based Javelin Strategy & Research in Toronto, agreed: “The risk for CI is paying the highest valuation in every market and then the market drops by 10%, 20% or 30%.”
However, Gonzalez said CI’s U.S. long-term strategy remains sound as the firm is positioning to take advantage of an expected wealth transfer: “Ultimately, this is a good way to increase [assets under management (AUM)], while diversifying the business model for CI.”
MacAlpine said he also sees opportunity for CI’s U.S. wealth platform to work more closely with the Canadian wealth business, particularly when providing coordinated cross-border advice and services.
“The Canadian advisor is overseeing [a client’s] Canadian assets, and the U.S. advisor is overseeing U.S. assets, and you’re collectively working together,” MacAlpine said. “Through that shared approach to planning, we see and share and incorporate best practices overall, so I think it’s just made us better.”
MacAlpine said he’s just as interested in acquiring “high-quality, dynamic, well-run” Canadian wealth firms as he is those in the U.S. However, he doesn’t anticipate CI will make as many deals in Canada.
“In the U.S., you have a highly fragmented RIA marketplace with thousands of RIAs,” MacAlpine said. “In Canada, you have a concentrated market dominated by a handful of large financial services firms.”
Nonetheless, CI announced on Jan. 11 that it had struck a deal for Toronto-based Northwood Family Office, a multi-family office firm with $2.2 billion in AUM serving ultra-wealthy clients. Northwood will be added to the firm’s CI Private Wealth platform.
The deal for Northwood represents CI’s first acquisition of a Canadian wealth management firm since it took a majority stake in Aligned Capital Partners in August 2020.
After completing the transaction for Aligned late that year, the focus shifted in 2021 to incorporating the firm into CI’s broader Canadian wealth business alongside CI Assante Wealth Management, MacAlpine said. Both Christopher Enright, president and managing director of Aligned, and Sean Etherington, president of CI Assante, sit on CI’s Canadian wealth management committee.
“The [Aligned and Assante] businesses themselves are growing very, very nicely — independently,” MacAlpine said. “Over time, you’re going to see us sharing more knowledge, resources, support. We’re going to be tapping into the collective scale of Assante and of Aligned in a way we haven’t been able to.”
One way to take advantage of CI’s increased scale is by leveraging its distribution networks to market its products.
In the second quarter of 2021, CI finally broke its stubborn multi-year streak of net redemptions, posting $356 million in net asset management flows compared to $1.9 billion in net redemptions a year earlier. In the third quarter of 2021, CI’s net flows rose to $821 million, compared to $2 billion in net redemptions in the third quarter of 2020.
However, a banner year for the Canadian fund industry “was probably the main contributor to CI returning to positive net sales,” Chan said. In 2021, Canadian mutual fund net sales were $111.8 billion, as of Nov. 30, compared to $23.6 billion in the same period in 2020. Meanwhile, ETF sales were $53 billion as of Nov. 30, compared to $37.6 billion.
Nevertheless, Chan also credits CI’s asset management turnaround to changes the firm made to the business since MacAlpine took the reins, including consolidating its myriad fund families under one CI brand umbrella and the addition of investment management capabilities.
“Kurt has done a really good job at setting up partnerships [with third-party managers], specifically on the alternative [asset management] side,” Chan said.
In November, CI announced it had taken a minority stake in Ohio-based GLAS Funds LLC, an alternative investment platform and alternative asset management firm, with a long-term option to take majority ownership. “GLAS essentially allows us to seamlessly offer alternatives to our high- and ultra-high-net-worth clients,” MacAlpine said.
MacAlpine attributes the fund sales turnaround to a combination of factors, including incorporating data and analytics into the sales and marketing process; introducing new products in categories such as cryptocurrency and environmental, social and governance (ESG) to meet evolving client demand; adding talent in-house, including hiring Marc-André Lewis as the firm’s first-ever head of investment management in September; and improving fund performance. According to CI, as of Sept. 30, 67% of its mutual fund assets were outperforming peer averages on a three-year basis, compared to 39% in 2020.
CI’s consolidation of fund names under the CI brand may have given the firm an opportunity to re-introduce itself to advisors who had given up over the years on the firm’s legacy fund families, said Dan Hallett, vice-president and principal with Oakville, Ont.-based HighView Financial Group.
“If the results aren’t there, that’s going to put people off,” Hallett said. “When you start to take some action to remedy a situation, you can gain confidence back among advisors, and that’s what translates into sales.”
MacAlpine said that CI remains in the “first inning” of implementing its asset management strategy, with plans to be “first to market and pushing new innovation” in alternatives, fixed income, ESG, cryptocurrency and other thematic products.
“If there’s a demand for clients that need it, if we can solve that particular demand and do it in a more seamless way that’s linked to the advice they’re receiving, to me that’s a great outcome,” MacAlpine said.
THE CRYPTOVERSE-Teenage bitcoin throws an interest rate tantrum
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