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Archive for the ‘Financial commentary’ Category

Maybe an ETF

As a category of options for individual investors, ETFs have become increasingly popular since the dawning of the new millennium.

An ETF, or Exchange Traded Fund, offers opportunity to be exposed to a vast array of segments of the marketplace, including uncommon and emerging.  Part of their flashy appeal comes from availability at relatively minimal cost, i.e. management fees.

There is greater transparency than with traditional mutual funds, concerning both fees and underlying holdings.  As much of financial reporting emphasizes, lower costs to the investor (other things being ‘equal’) translates to a higher compounded return over time for a given investment profile.

As with other categories of investments, such holdings are eligible for tax-preferred treatment, such as in TFSAs (Tax Free Savings Accounts) and RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans) in Canada.

While numerous ETFs provide index-type returns for common asset types, such as stocks, bonds, and balanced portfolios, with the ever-expanding spectrum of niche markets has come an expanding horizon of specialty ETFs.

For example, one Canadian provider offers ETFs focused on companies fitting themes of innovation, cyber-security, and even gender diversity.

You would think that, with such cutting age savvy, ETF marketers would be leaving few marketing stones unturned.

But, in a world of ever widening market niches, what about the following potential openings for ETFs…

  • Recycling of non-recyclable materials
  • Superhero endowment control centres
  • Abandoned facilities restoration guilds
  • Emotional baggage storage facilities and rental agencies
  • Devices for the head providing both virtual reality and gravitational resistance
  • Mirror image replacement technology
  • Unclaimed mint quality memorabilia, produced for championship runner-up teams
  • Static and outdated bricks and mortar locations
  • Advocacy groups for entrepreneurial pitches
  • Agencies specializing in esoteric collections
  • Climate resistance qualified, road structure contractors

Perhaps ETFs should also be an acronym for Everything That Fits (somewhere).

Couching Coaching

A column in the current edition of the Insurance Journal brings up the issue of coaching, albeit within the parameters of insurance versus investment advising. 

The author is a long-time coach, author, and keynote speaker, outgrowth of a highly successful career as an insurance advisor and executive manager.  His view is that coaching advice for insurance agents and insurance-based financial advisors needs to differ from that offered to investment advisors.  In practice, many of the former group are exposed to coaching designed for the latter. 

The ‘homogenization’ of financial advisor coaching links to the tenet that “a financial advisor is a financial advisor”.  However, there are key differences in the needs of the two advisor categories.

The ongoing ‘client maintenance demand’ is lower for life insurance agents, due to fewer policy reviews as opposed to portfolio reviews each year.  As a consequence, agents can handle, and require for income, far more clients and client families.  Life agents have ‘a much greater prospecting urgency’ than investment advisors (especially established ones), in order to grow their business to any comparable extent.   These realities need to be addressed in the coaching focus that insurance professionals receive.

Naturally, on a wider sociological scale, not to mention an economic one, coaching means a disparate category of necessary qualifications.   The simple fact of some activities not directly relating to paychecks makes professional grade coaching non-universal.

Take one of the highest profile sub-groups, sports and athletes.  Here, the levels of coaching needed correspond to fairly well-defined factors, including professional vs. amateur, experienced vs. novice, young vs. adult vs. older adult.  In the lower echelons, there’s the issue of paid vs. unpaid – and insofar as the latter, what degree of voluntary effort is reasonable to expect. 

In all cases, there is question about the degree of expertise and capacity to apply while relating to different human ‘pressure points’.  How much should be harnessed from within (the coach) as opposed to without (the one being coached)? 

A tangential issue is how much the mentality, and so approach, of coaching is influenced by the affluence of so many professional athletes, especially the top tiers.

Outside the public arena, one suspects that the preponderance, and omnipresence, of social media means that the practice of being a school teacher means being increasingly confronted with opinionated (therefore, somewhat self-coached) students at earlier stages than in the past.  The reality of student ‘pressure points’ shifting, the adaptability of teaching and the teacher are challenged.  

Back in the business perspective, as my own past experience attests, the manner and effectiveness of presenters providing coaching messages in meetings can be all over the map.  To some extent, impactful circumstances include those beyond a presenter’s control, such as time of day, ambient distractions, and how effective was one’s lead-in.  This is where a clear and adhered-to agenda can be a big help: if attendees are unable or unwilling to focus equally on all parts of a meeting, at least they will be in a position to have their energies maximized for those segments perceived to be of greatest personal value. 

When one combines this physical and mental reality of people, with the inevitable competing attention-grabbers, such as deadlines or commitments awaiting them, not to mention the ripple effects of home life, one can understand the challenge to coaching distracted targets.

Finally, consider the significance of ‘common’ versus ‘uncommon’ counselling.

Common coaching attempts to cover more than one discipline, assuming their similarities are sufficient for transferrable-level advice to be effective.  Often, as in the example of insurance and investment advisors, this may not equate.

Uncommon coaching relates directly to one’s business or activity; its inherent greater efficiency is an engine to greater achievement by the one coached.

‘One size fits all’ is a limited business and social mode of operation.  The same translation is apropos for coaching.

Wishful Tax Deductions & Credits

As we move into another February, it’s getting to that time for many of us to look at our income tax status for the previous year. 

We can pat ourselves on the back for the good actions we took to help lower taxes (such as make regular tax-deductible contributions to a retirement savings plan or contributions to charities eligible for tax credits).  We may also have some time left for catch-up opportunities, such as the 60 days grace period for contributions to an RRSP (in Canada). (more…)

A Wider Range of Employee Benefits

To what extent might we see the landscape expand in what are deemed to be ‘employee benefits’, in relation to being potentially taxable?

Take the case of the electric automobile. (more…)

What is ‘Independent Advice’?

An article in the current edition of The Insurance & Investment Journal raises the age-old conundrum of receiving ‘independent advice’. It should be noted that the report is in support of the idea.

Why has this been such a prevailing issue, frequently a hot topic of reportage? (more…)

Adding Value

The proposition of ‘adding value’ has been an underlying foundation for success in service-oriented businesses for many years.

If one wants to generate a positive, lasting and loyal, relationship with customers, providing those extra ingredients of value is vital. This could be indirectly related to business, i.e. taking clients to lunch, paying for tickets to events, etc., or more directly, such as keeping in regular contact, or going the extra mile in solving problems quickly, or obtaining more helpful data for decision making. (more…)

Charitable Rewards

According to a recent report from the Fraser Institute, using tax data, the percentage of Canadians giving to charities has diminished to about 21% from a level of 25% ten years earlier. It has also gone down as a percentage of income.

Americans compare more favourably on this particular scale, with nearly 25% contributing and at a much higher rate of income than Canadians. (more…)