UK, information on current account services, or more simply banking services

Current account providers are publishing better information about the services they offer consumers and small businesses. This follows action by the FCA and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and a voluntary commitment by banks and building societies.

This information helps consumers and small businesses find the right service for them, get the most out of it, and get help if things go wrong. It will also help others such as comparison services and the media to compare current accounts.

Please find attached a link for the data, enjoy.

https://www.fca.org.uk/data/mandated-voluntary-information-current-account-services

Some banks will allow you to open an account, issue a debit card, take an overdraft in just 1 day. Or you can just start using crypto-currencies.

Old and not secure

Congrats, but you are in risk. The risk of losing your life, your money and your love-ones.

You need to keep fighting, it does not end until it ends.

Five Red Flags of Investment Fraud

Promises of High Returns with Little or No Risk.  The promise of a high rate of return, with little or no risk, is a classic warning sign of investment fraud.  Every investment carries some degree of risk, and the potential for greater returns generally comes with greater risk.  Avoid putting money into “can’t miss” investment opportunities or those promising “guaranteed returns.”  Remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Unregistered Persons.  Always check whether the person offering to sell you an investment is registered and licensed, even if you know him or her personally.  Unregistered/unlicensed persons who sell securities perpetrate many of the securities frauds that target older investors.  Researching the background of the individuals and firms selling you investments, including their registration/license status and disciplinary history, is free:

  • Search the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)’s BrokerCheck online database.

Red Flags in the Financial Professional’s Background.  Even if an investment professional is in good standing with his or her regulators, you should be aware of potential red flags in the professional’s background.  SEC, FINRA, and state securities regulator records can be used to identify red flags for potential problems, including: (1) employment at firms that have been expelled from the securities industry; (2) personal bankruptcy; (3) termination; (4) being subject to internal review by an employer; (5) a high number of customer complaints; (6) failed industry qualification examinations; (7) federal tax liens; and (8) repeatedly moving firms.

Pressure to Buy Quickly.  No reputable investment professional should push you to make an immediate decision about an investment, or tell you that you’ve got to “act now.”  If someone pressures you to decide on an investment without giving you ample time to do your research, walk away.

Free Meals.  Be wary of “free lunch” seminars.  The ultimate goal of free meal investment seminars is typically to lure new clients and to sell investment products, not to educate the public.  If you decide to attend one, commit to yourself before the seminar that you won’t purchase anything or open an account while at the seminar.  Even if the free meal does not come with a high-pressured sales pitch, you should expect the “hard sell” in subsequent contacts from the person selling the investment.

Distributing or selling contracts for differences (CFDs) to retail clients

According to ESMA statement it has serious concerns about firms’ marketing, distribution or sale of CFDs to retail clients and considers it necessary to remind CFD providers about some of the requirements connected with the offering of CFDs. 

ESMA has identified undesirable practices related to:

  • Professional clients on request; and
  • Marketing, distribution or sale by third-country CFD-Providers.

Ensuring investors are protected necessitates that all CFD providers respect all applicable requirements and do not circumvent them using professional client status or third country entities.”

Professional clients on request

ESMA is aware that some CFD providers are advertising to retail clients the possibility to become professional client on request. Investment firms should strictly refrain from implementing any form of practice that incentivises, induces or pressures an investor to request to be treated as a professional client. In this respect, any form of promotional language in relation to the status of professional client shall be seen as incentivising a retail client to request a professional client status. This includes providing a comparison between leverage limits available to different types of clients and the provision of any form of rewards for becoming a professional client.

In order to mask wrongdoing, in some cases, CFD providers will change the client categorization status according to their needs (first from retail to professional, and then from professional to retail once you lost your invested capital), with no compliance justifications.

ESMA is also aware that some third-country firms are marketing CFDs that do not comply with ESMA’s measures to retail clients.

ESMA notes that firms should not incentivise retail clients to start trading with an intra-group firm established in a non-EU jurisdiction.

You can control your faith, don’t be tempted to change your categorization status from retail to professional, and/or open an account with non-EU firms.

EU rules are here to protect you, and reduce your risk. Please rest assured that the regulator does not like it when you lose your invested capital. Protecting you is part of the regulator missions.

 

Broker-dealers or investment advisers, which one should I choose?

A retail customer that intends to buy and hold a long-term investment may find that paying a one-time commission to a broker-dealer is more cost effective than paying an ongoing advisory fee to an investment adviser to hold the same investment. That same investor might want to use a brokerage account to hold those long-term investments, and an advisory account for other investments.

Nonetheless, whether a you chooses a broker-dealer or an investment adviser (or both), the recommendation or advice is required to be for your best interest. Moreover, broker-dealer or an investment adviser cannot place their own interests before yours.

Neither investment advisers nor broker-dealers are required to recommend the single “best” product. Many different options may in fact be in your best interest, and what is the “best” product is likely only to be known in hindsight.

In the U.S. The broker-dealer must comply with the below component obligations:

  • The Disclosure Obligation, which requires full and fair disclosure of all material facts about the scope and terms of its relationship with the customer, including material facts relating to conflicts of interest associated with its recommendations.
  • The Care Obligation, which requires brokers to exercise reasonable diligence, care, and skill, to understand the potential risks, rewards, and costs associated with the recommendation, and to consider those risks, rewards, and costs in light of the customer’s investment profile in order to make a recommendation that is in the best interest of the retail customer and does not place the broker-dealer’s interests ahead of the retail customer’s interest.
  • The Conflict of Interest Obligation, which requires firms to implement policies and procedures to mitigate (and in some cases, eliminate) certain identified conflicts of interest that create incentives to make recommendations that are not in the retail customer’s best interest.
  • The Compliance Obligation, which requires firms to implement policies and procedures.

Similarly, an investment adviser has an obligation to act in the best interest of its client—which is an overarching principle that encompasses both the adviser’s duty of care and duty of loyalty.

Conclusion: it is clear why we can be confused about the differences between brokers and investment advisers. Nonetheless, choose at least one, and make sure it is register.

Therefore, you can use the SEC website at https://www.investor.gov/ in order to find what you need and consult.

Buying a franchise? Know the risks

If you’re thinking about buying a franchise, it’s important that you understand whether it’s right for you before making a final decision or signing a franchise agreement.

Just like any business, there are risks when running a franchise. If you buy a franchise business and it goes badly, you could lose all your money and any assets, such as your house, that you have borrowed against.

Franchising is a model for doing business. When you enter into a franchise agreement, the franchisor controls the name, brand and business system you are going to use. The franchisor gives you the right to operate a business in line with its system, usually for a set period of time. It’s important to understand that there will be some things you can and can’t do in a franchise compared to another type of business.

A franchise business can fail, just like any other business, therefore, please consider the following:

Supplier restrictions

Some franchise systems require their franchisees to buy certain products from them or their specified supplier, known as supply restrictions. You might have no choice about where to buy some products.

Price vs. costs

The upfront price of a franchise may seem like a good deal, but there are also costs that you may have to pay to set up and run a franchise. It’s important to understand the total costs you may have to pay.

In Australia, there are laws that must be followed when franchising in Australia, like the Franchise Code of Conduct (the Code) and the Australian Consumer Law. But these laws cannot ensure the success of the business or that your money is always protected.

In the UK there is no authority responsible for enforcing franchising laws and requirements, given that there are no franchise-specific laws.

In the U.S franchising is a heavily regulated industry. On a federal level The Franchise Rule gives prospective purchasers of franchises the material information they need in order to weigh the risks and benefits of such an investment. The Rule requires franchisors to provide all potential franchisees with a disclosure document containing 23 specific items of information about the offered franchise, its officers, and other franchisees.

Should you transfer your defined benefit pension? Should you invest your pension?

Should you take more risk with your pension funds?

There are no easy answers to those questions. Moreover, the answers can be very risky. You may ,therefore, consider the following:

The FCA is concerned that firms are recommending that large numbers of consumers transfer out of their defined benefit pension schemes despite the FCA’s stance that transfers are likely to be unsuitable for most clients.

Megan Butler, Executive Director of Supervision, Wholesale and Specialists at the FCA said:

‘We have said repeatedly that, when advising on DB transfers, advisers should start from the position that a transfer is not suitable. It is deeply concerning and disappointing to see that transfers are still being recommended at the levels we have seen.

The FCA surveyed 3,015 firms and found that between April 2015 and September 2018:

  • 2,426 firms had provided advice on transferring their DB pension.
  • 234,951 scheme members had received advice on transferring.
  • Of those 162,047 members had been recommended to transfer out and 72,904 had been recommended not to transfer.
  • The total value of DB pensions where transfer advice had been provided was £82.8bn with an average value of £352,303.
  • 1,454 firms had recommended 75% of more of their clients to transfer. One reason a firm may be recommending a large number of clients to transfer is if the firm has a robust initial guidance service triaging clients. 1,346 firms reported data on the total number of clients who had not proceed past the firm’s initial guidance. The total number of clients reported as not proceeding to advice was 59,086. When these triaged clients are factored in 55% of clients were recommended to transfer.

Any customer who has concerns about the advice they received when transferring out of DB scheme should first off contact the firm which gave them the advice.

You should take action if you are among those people who transfer their defined benefit pension based on an advice received from an adviser.

Regulators are here to prompt innovation

FCA, for instance, is placing a limit on investments in P2P (peer-to-peer) agreements for retail customers new to the sector of 10 per cent of invest-able assets. This is an important means of ensuring that retail customers do not over-expose themselves to risk. The investment restriction will not apply to new retail customers who have received regulated financial advice.

In addition, P2P platforms should have the following:

  • More explicit requirements to clarify what governance arrangements, systems and controls platforms need to have in place to support the outcomes they advertise, with a particular focus on credit risk assessment, risk management and fair valuation practices.
  • Strengthening rules on plans for the wind-down of P2P platforms if they fail.
  • Introducing a requirement that platforms assess investors’ knowledge and experience of P2P investments where no advice has been given to them.
  • Setting out the minimum information that P2P platforms need to provide to investors.
  • Applying the Mortgage and Home Finance Conduct of Business sourcebook and other Handbook requirements to P2P platforms that offer home finance products, where at least one of the investors is not an authorised home finance provider.

On the other side of the ocean, the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, plays an important role in facilitating the SEC’s active engagement with innovators, developers, and entrepreneurs.

As part of a continuing effort to assist those seeking to comply with the U.S. federal securities laws, FinHub published a framework for analyzing whether a digital asset is a security. The framework is not intended to be an exhaustive overview of the law; rather, it is a tool to help market participants assess whether the federal securities laws apply to the offer, sale, or resale of a particular digital asset. Additionally, the Division of Corporation Finance issued no-action response to a market participant in connection with the proposed offer and sale of a digital asset.

In case your intentions are good, regulators are open for business. Moreover, a productive government is a great deal.

The SEC’S “CryptoMom” and exchange-traded fund (“ETF”)

According to the SEC’S Commissioner Hester M. Peirce some people call her “CryptoMom”, and they may be right.

The below is just few highlights from her full speech.

Despite interest from sponsors and investors, the Commission has yet to entertain an exemptive application for an ETF or approve an exchange rule allowing for the operation of crypto ETFs or other ETPs. The Commission has expressed a number of concerns from market manipulation to custody to retail investor protection. We need to do a better job of fostering open dialogue about the first two topics. On the third issue—retail investor protection—the reality is that retail investors will get access to these products, even if we do not allow them to do so through SEC regulated products and venues. Again, it is not the Commission’s role to be the arbiter of what constitutes an appropriate investment or to act as an investment adviser.

In disapproving a proposed rule change to list and trade shares of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, the Commission focused on the underlying characteristics of bitcoin and the spot markets in which it trades. Instead of focusing on the merits of bitcoin as an investment, the Commission should have considered how the exchange-traded wrapper would work and how increased participation by institutional investors in the bitcoin market could have led to bolstered defenses against theft, greater investment in custody solutions, and lower likelihood of market manipulation.

All that said, it is important to remember that, if the SEC were to permit a Cryptocurrency ETP to trade in our markets, it would not be a seal of approval. In other words, investors would still have to do their own homework, study the product disclosures, assess their own appetites for risk, determine how much of a loss they could stomach, and—if those losses materialize—learn from them and refrain from coming to the SEC asking to be made whole.

Well, the above may or clearly justified the nickname “CryptoMom”.

Only time will tell if Cryptocurrencies is a bubble or not, until then we may need to give it the benefits other assets are enjoying.

Disclosures, are we getting the data and information needed?

The future of enhanced investor’s information is out there. It is not really clear if we are getting all the data needed in order to make a wise investment decision.

Examples:

Cyber-related disclosures and a new auditor’s report which may provide investors with more meaningful information about the audit, including significant estimates and judgments, significant unusual transactions, and other areas of risk at a company. Moreover, auditors could offer their views on corporate culture, diversity, or cybersecurity preparedness. Moreover, the auditor could offer assurance to a company’s audit committee about the fair presentation of non-GAAP measures, KPIs, or a host of other information communicated to investors. For more information please read the SEC staff speech enclosed herein.

Other SEC’s staff member concerns with unclear fund disclosures, generic risk disclosures, Mutual fund summary prospectuses that are much longer than the brief documents the Commission intended, individual sentences that contain over 70 words, explanations of tracking error with more than 1,000 words, “summary” risk disclosure that is identical to the full-scale risk disclosure in the statutory prospectus, and passages so full of jargon that even experience staff – who review fund disclosures for a living – pull out the reference guides.

Our last example concern exchanges, according to the “The State of America’s Stock Markets” speech, we may need to get an answer for the following questions:

  • The reason is that exchanges offer controversial payments—they call them rebates, to brokers based on the volume of customer orders that broker sends to that exchange?
  • When a broker places an order on behalf of a customer, we expect the broker to send the order to the exchange that is likely to get the best price for their customers. But to nobody’s surprise, research shows that brokers very often send their orders to the exchange that gives the broker the biggest rebate. No doubts we need to inform about such practices.

The 2008 crisis and transparency

Few words about the crisis according to Brian Quintenz Commodity Futures Trading Commission at the ICDA 39th Annual European Summit:

On September 16, 2008, exactly ten years ago this past Sunday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided an emergency $85 billion loan to keep AIG, a global company with about $1 trillion in assets prior to the financial crisis, from a liquidity insolvency. When all was said and done, AIG lost $99 billion in 2008 and received over $180 billion in taxpayer funds to prevent its default.

AIG found itself in such dire financial straits through the activities of one division within the company, AIG Financial Products. That division wrote credit default swaps (CDS) on over $500 billion of assets, including $78 billion on collateralized debt obligations relating to residential mortgages of which $63 billion had exposure to subprime mortgages. When AIG established this directional CDS position, it did not post any initial margin with its counterparties or otherwise set aside capital for future potential losses. Instead, under the terms of these bilateral contracts, AIG was only required to post margin in the event the market value of the underlying mortgage-backed securities dropped, or if AIG itself suffered a credit downgrade. In fact, for an insurance company, AIG’s collateral situation was somewhat unique. Many of AIG’s competitors, including monoline financial guarantors, were not required to post any collateral until actual losses occurred.

In July 2007, after the credit ratings agencies downgraded their ratings of mortgage-backed securities, AIG received its first collateral call from Goldman Sachs. Surprisingly, up until these collateral calls, top AIG executives – including the CEO and Chief Risk Officer – were unaware of the collateral provisions in AIG’s CDS agreements that required AIG to post collateral if the market value of the underlying securities dropped. It soon became apparent that the Office of Thrift Supervision, which supervised AIG on a consolidated basis, also was not aware of the collateral provisions in these contracts.

From July 2007 onward, AIG disputed its requirements to post collateral with counterparties, arguing that AIG’s models showed no long-term losses on the underlying mortgage-backed securities. Counterparties countered that the contracts required AIG to post collateral if market value fell, regardless of the fact the losses were so far unrealized. And yet, even while these potentially crippling collateral disputes were ongoing, AIG’s CEO, Martin Sullivan, who would eventually step down as the company’s billion dollar losses mounted, continued to focus publicly on only the temporary capital effect of unrealized losses and the low probability of realized losses, describing the CDS contracts as so “carefully underwritten and structured … [that] we believe the probability that [the business] will sustain an economic loss is close to zero,” and stating in a November 2007 presentation that the underlying CDOs “would have to take losses that erode all of the tranches below the ‘Super Senior’ level before AIGFP would be at risk.”

What he did not describe, however, was AIG’s precarious liquidity position should margin calls be triggered by either mounting mark-to-market losses or a downgrade of the firm’s credit rating. This potential liquidity drain was further exacerbated by AIG’s securities lending activity, which invested a substantial portion of its cash collateral in illiquid mortgage-backed securities that became trapped in the credit freeze. Shockingly, despite that existential liquidity risk, AIG stated flatly in February 2008 that, “AIGFP…has the ability and intent to hold its positions until contract maturity or call by the counterparty.”

By June 2008, AIG had posted $13.2 billion of collateral with counterparties, causing a severe liquidity strain on the company. Then, on Monday, September 15, all three ratings agencies downgraded AIG, triggering an additional $13 billion in cash collateral calls. AIG was unable to meet these collateral calls, amassing a $12.4 billion unfunded exposure to its counterparties, and prompting the Federal Reserve to offer assistance.

If we want to avoid the next crisis, transparency is a must have.