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Hong Kong’s Rising Affluent Yearns for Information and Insights to Globally Diversify Investment Portfolio

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Hong Kong's Rising Affluent Yearns for Information and Insights to Globally Diversify Investment Portfolio

Charles Schwab Hong Kong Survey uncovers the city’s rising affluent investors’ attitude and sentiment towards diversification, international investment, financial planning and wealth management

Charles Schwab, Hong Kong, Ltd. today announced the findings from its first Hong Kong Rising Affluent Survey. The survey revealed that the rising affluent in Hong Kong have a strong willingness to achieve their financial goals on diversification and international investment, as well as put great importance on acquiring trustworthy sources and financial advisors to achieve these financial goals.

Engaging 2,000 Hong Kong and U.S. rising affluent[1], the Hong Kong rising affluent earns an annual income between HK$600K to HK$1.2M and own personal liquid assets between HK$600K and HK$5M; while the US rising affluent annual income amounted to US$100K-US$225K with personal liquid assets between US$100K-US$1M. Key findings include:

Nearly 80% of Hong Kong respondents are willing to diversify portfolio with international investments, and there is a stronger desire among Hong Kong rising affluent to learn about diversification and global investing compared to the US. However, they are hesitant to take the first step to invest in the international market.
Hong Kong investors tend to set an aggressive investment target, even they described themselves as “steady”[2] investors (45%). Compared with 32% of US respondents, 47% of Hong Kong rising affluent’s short term financial goals are focused on doubling investment yields. More Hong Kong rising affluent also look at investing more heavily both on and off shore.
Hong Kong rising affluent (58%) are facing more pressure on providing funds for elderly parents or family members than those in the US (25%).
The majority of Hong Kong respondents (78%) said that they feel more knowledgeable than a financial advisor. Among those that do not use a financial advisor, nearly 60% of them stated that they do not know where to find information or trustworthy financial advisors.
Michael Fong, Managing Director, Charles Schwab Hong Kong, said, “Unlike the rising affluent class in the United States, Hong Kong investors are more eager to invest internationally and diversify their portfolio. However, there is a gap in finding appropriate and reliable investment advice from financial experts. Their high expectation of return is also not aligned with their investment attitudes.”

Seeking to build broadly diversified portfolios lies at the heart of HK rising affluent’s goals

Considering the level of stability in international and domestic economies, Hong Kong’s rising affluent are two times more likely to prioritize international investing than the U.S. rising affluent in the next five years (32% vs. 16%) and identify real estate investments (43% vs. 27%) as their long-term investment goal.

The survey found that 76% of Hong Kong rising affluent are willing to diversify portfolio internationally, and only 60% (vs. 80% in the US) think their portfolio is adequately diversified. They also have a strong desire to learn about how to diversify investment portfolio (85%), and global market outlooks (81%). Even though there is a willingness to invest internationally and in a more diversified way, over 60% of Hong Kong respondents do not know how to begin and are nervous to take the first step. Among which, female investors especially see the importance of diversification and feel that they need more resources to diversify their portfolio than men.

Hong Kong rising affluent are more aggressive than they think they are

Regarding Hong Kong rising affluent’s investing personalities, the survey showed that 45% and 38% of Hong Kong respondents described themselves as “steady” and “progressive”[3] investors, respectively. Nevertheless, they tend to have more aggressive[4] financial goals, and aim at doubling investment yields (47%) in the short term and investing more heavily domestically (45%) and aboard (32%), provided that 67% of the rising affluent only hold domestic investments over international or a mix of both currently.

Compared with the China Emerging Affluent Index Study conducted by Charles Schwab early this year, Mainland Chinese emerging affluent are relatively risk-averse, setting their financial goals of achieving RMB$5-10 million through investment with a steady annual yield of 5-10%.

The Financial Needs of the Sandwich Generation

Additional findings of the survey indicated that rising affluent in Hong Kong tend to factor family into their financial and wealth management decisions. When asked about long term financial goals, more than half of respondents chose supporting or investing for their family members, which in detail includes setting aside funds for elderly parents (75%), investing in real estate for children (57%), and growing funds to pass onto their children (55%) in the next 10 years.

Interestingly, Hong Kong female rising affluent (63%) focus more on providing funds for taking care of elderly family members than men (54%).

According to the China Index Study, although family is a key driver for both Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong rising affluent, the former put a higher priority on their next generation by investing in children’s education funding (69%).

A lack of trust in financial advisors, yet lacking information to find trustworthy resources

The survey also found that Hong Kong rising affluent have a strong distrust of financial advisors compared to rising affluent in the U.S. (24% vs. 45%) when making investment decisions, while only 34% (vs. 60% in the U.S.) of Hong Kong respondents work with a financial advisor or mix of personal/advisor management when it comes to managing portfolios.

More importantly, 78% of Hong Kong rising affluent believe that they are more knowledgeable than a financial advisor, while 59% admitted that they do not know where to find information on trustworthy financial advisors.

Under such circumstances, the majority of Hong Kong rising affluent heavily rely on their family/friends (71%), as well as media/social media (70%) as sources for investment decisions.

Unlike Hong Kong rising affluent, 45% of Mainland Chinese rising affluent use financial advisor to access to financial information, and 38% consulted with financial advisors over the past 12 months. Half of Mainland Chinese rising affluent stated that consulting investment advisors can provide more professional investment recommendations to them, while 47% said it saves time and improves efficiency.

“We believe the distrust is a clarion call to Hong Kong’s financial advisors,” concluded Fong. “However, the strong appetite of rising affluent for obtaining trustworthy information when they make investment decisions reflects a growing opportunity for investment experts and financial advisors to close the gap and take concrete steps to provide reliable information and advice to this group of people. Therefore, financial advisors should put more efforts in investor education and focus on building trusted relationship with their clients. They should also help clients understand investing principles, financial planning, and market landscape, which would help them globally diversify their portfolios and achieve their financial goals.”

[1] Charles Schwab Hong Kong Rising Affluent Survey defines rising affluent as the top 25% of individuals (excluding the top 5%) aged 18 or above in terms of net worth (household income and liquid assets). They are currently holding a savings account, among other investment vehicles, primary or joint decision-maker on financial decisions in household, and employed full or part time.

[2] A steady investor is described as “I focus on asset security and expect stable returns within the risk control” in the questionnaire.

[3] A progressive investor is described as “I diversify investment products, to obtain greater returns, therefore am able to take greater risk when market fluctuates” in the questionnaire.

[4] An aggressive investor is described as “I am comfortable with investing money in products with greater risks/ volatility to achieve greater returns” in the questionnaire.

About Charles Schwab Hong Kong Rising Affluent Survey

Charles Schwab Hong Kong appointed an independent third-party research agency to conduct the Charles Schwab Hong Kong Rising Affluent Survey. The online survey took place in February 2018, among 2,000 people across Hong Kong and the United States. Survey participants are currently holding a savings account, among other investment vehicles, primary or joint decision-maker on financial decisions in HH, and employed full or part time, with an income between HK$ 600K-HK$1.2M (for Hong Kong respondents)/US$100K-US$225K (for U.S. respondents), and personal liquid assets between HK$600K-HK$5M (for Hong Kong respondents)/US$100K-US$1M (for U.S. respondents).

About Charles Schwab Hong Kong

Charles Schwab, Hong Kong, Ltd., is a subsidiary of Charles Schwab Corporation and is registered with the Securities & Futures Commission (“SFC”) to carry out the regulated activities in dealing in securities and advising on securities under CE number ADV256. The company currently provides services via its Hong Kong office, its telephone system (+852 2101-0511) and web site (www.schwab.com.hk).

About Charles Schwab Corporation

The Charles Schwab Corporation (NYSE: SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 345 offices and 11.1 million active brokerage accounts, 1.6 million corporate retirement plan participants, 1.2 million banking accounts, and US$3.31 trillion in client assets as of February 28, 2018. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of wealth management, securities brokerage, banking, money management, custody, and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. More information is available at www.schwab.com and www.aboutschwab.com.

Important Disclosure

Investment involves risk. Past performance is no indication of future results, and values fluctuate. International investments are subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, political instability and the potential for illiquid markets. Investing in emerging markets can accentuate these risks.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market, economic or political conditions. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Diversification and rebalancing a portfolio cannot assure a profit or protect against a loss in any given market environment. Rebalancing may cause investors to incur transaction costs and, when rebalancing a non-retirement account, taxable events may be created that may affect your tax liability.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only, may be based upon proprietary research and are developed through analysis of historical public data. (0518-8G00)

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Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape

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Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape 1

By Charles Southwood, Regional VP – Northern Europe and MEA at Denodo

The wide-spread digital transformation that has swept the financial services (FS) sector in recent years has brought with it a world of possibilities. As traditional financial institutions compete with a fresh wave of challenger banks and fintech startups, innovation is increasing at an unprecedented pace.

Emerging technologies – alongside the ever-evolving concept of online banking – have provided a platform in which the majority of customer interactions now take place in a digital format. The result of this is a never-ending stream of data and digital information. If used correctly, this data can help drive customer experience initiatives and shape wider business strategies, giving organisations a competitive edge.

However, before FS organisations can utilise data-driven insights, they need to ensure that they can adequately protect and secure that data, whilst also complying with mandatory regulatory requirements and governance laws.

The regulation minefield

Regulatory compliance in the FS sector is a complex field to navigate. Whether its potential financial fraud or money laundering, risk comes in many different forms. Due to their very nature – and the type of data that they hold – FS businesses are usually placed under the heaviest of scrutiny when it comes to achieving compliance and data governance, arguably held to a higher standard than those operating in any other industry.

In fact, research undertaken last month discovered that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had a greater impact on FS organisations than any other sector. Every respondent working in finance reported that the changes made to their organisation’s cyber security strategies in the last three years were, at least to some extent, as a result of the regulation.

To make matters even more confusing, the goalpost for 100% compliance is continually moving. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, there was a 500% increase in regulatory changes in developed markets. So even when organisations think they are on the right track, they cannot afford to become complacent. The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), the requirements for central clearing and the second Payment Service Directive (PSD2), are just some examples of the regulations that have forced significant changes on the banking environment in recent years.

Keeping a handle on this legal minefield is only made more challenging by the fact that many FS organisations are juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is often complex and of poor quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. FS organisations can find it extremely difficult just to find out exactly what information they are storing, let alone ensure that they are meeting the many requirements laid out by industry regulations.

A secret weapon

Modern technologies, such as data virtualisation, can help FS organisations to get a handle on their data – regardless of where it is stored or what format it is in. Through a single logical view of all data across an organisation, it boosts visibility and real-time availability of data. This means that governance, security and compliance can be centralised, vastly improving control and removing the need for repeatedly moving and copying the data around the enterprise. This can have an immediate impact in terms of enabling FS organisations to avoid data proliferation and ‘shadow’ IT.

In addition to this, when a new regulation is put in place, data virtualisation provides a way to easily find and access that data, so FS organisations can respond – without having to worry about alternative versions of that data – and ensures that they remain compliant from the offset. This level of control can be reflected even down to the finest details. For example, it is possible to set up access to governance rules through which operators can easily select who has access to what information across the organisation. They can alter settings for sharing, removing silos, masking and filtering through defined, role-based data access. In terms of governance, this feature is essential, ensuring that only those who have the correct permissions to access sensitive information are able to do so.

Compliance is a requirement that will be there forever. In fact, its role is only likely to increase as law catches up with technological advancement and the regulatory landscape continues to change. For FS organisations, failure to meet the latest legal requirements could be devastating. The monetary fines – although substantial – come second to the potential reputation damage associated with non-compliance. It could be the difference between an organisation surviving and failing in today’s climate.

No one knows what is around the corner. Whilst some companies may think they are ahead of the compliance game today, that could all change with the introduction of a new regulation tomorrow. The best way to ensure future compliance is to get a handle on your data. By providing total visibility, data virtualisation is helping organisations to gain back control and win the war for compliance.

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TCI: A time of critical importance

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TCI: A time of critical importance 2

By Fabrice Desnos, head of Northern Europe Region, Euler Hermes, the world’s leading trade credit insurer, outlines the importance of less publicised measures for the journey ahead.

After months of lockdown, Europe is shifting towards rebuilding economies and resuming trade. Amongst the multibillion-euro stimulus packages provided by governments to businesses to help them resume their engines of growth, the cooperation between the state and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters has perhaps missed the headlines. However, this cooperation will be vital when navigating the uncertain road ahead.

Covid-19 has created a global economic crisis of unprecedented scale and speed. Consequently, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of support from national governments. Far-reaching fiscal intervention, job retention and business interruption loan schemes are providing a lifeline for businesses that have suffered reductions in turnovers to support national lockdowns.

However, it’s becoming clear the worst is still to come. The unintended consequence of government support measures is delaying the inevitable fallout in trade and commerce. Euler Hermes is already seeing increase in claims for late payments and expects this trend to accelerate as government support measures are progressively removed.

The Covid-19 crisis will have long lasting and sometimes irreversible effects on a number of sectors. It has accelerated transformations that were already underway and had radically changed the landscape for a number of businesses. This means we are seeing a growing number of “zombie” companies, currently under life support, but whose business models are no longer adapted for the post-crisis world. All factors which add up to what is best described as a corporate insolvency “time bomb”.

The effects of the crisis are already visible. In the second quarter of 2020, 147 large companies (those with a turnover above €50 million) failed; up from 77 in the first quarter, and compared to 163 for the whole of the first half of 2019. Retail, services, energy and automotive were the most impacted sectors this year, with the hotspots in retail and services in Western Europe and North America, energy in North America, and automotive in Western Europe

We expect this trend to accelerate and predict a +35% rise in corporate insolvencies globally by the end of 2021. European economies will be among the hardest hit. For example, Spain (+41%) and Italy (+27%) will see the most significant increases – alongside the UK (+43%), which will also feel the impact of Brexit – compared to France (+25%) or Germany (+12%).

Companies are restarting trade, often providing open credit to their clients. However, there can be no credit if there is no confidence. It is increasingly difficult for companies to identify which of their clients will emerge from the crisis from those that won’t, and whether or when they will be paid. In the immediate post-lockdown period, without visibility and confidence, the risk was that inter-company credit could evaporate, placing an additional liquidity strain on the companies that depend on it. This, in turn, would significantly put at risk the speed and extent of the economic recovery.

In recent months, Euler Hermes has co-operated with government agencies, trade associations and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters to create state support for intercompany trade, notably in France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. All with the same goal: to allow companies to trade with each other in confidence.

By providing additional reinsurance capacity to the trade credit insurers, governments help them continue to provide cover to their clients at pre-crisis levels.

The beneficiaries are the thousands of businesses – clients of credit insurers and their buyers – that depend upon intercompany trade as a source of financing. Over 70% of Euler Hermes policyholders are SMEs, which are the lifeblood of our economies and major providers of jobs. These agreements are not without costs or constraints for the insurers, but the industry has chosen to place the interests of its clients and of the economy ahead of other considerations, mindful of the important role credit insurance and inter-company trade will play in the recovery.

Taking the UK as an example, trade credit insurers provide cover for more than £171billion of intercompany transactions, covering 13,000 suppliers and 650,000 buyers. The government has put in place a temporary scheme of £10billion to enable trade credit insurers, including Euler Hermes, to continue supporting businesses at risk due to the impact of coronavirus. This landmark agreement represents an important alliance between the public and private sectors to support trade and prevent the domino effect that payment defaults can create within critical supply chains.

But, as with all of the other government support measures, these schemes will not exist in the long term. It is already time for credit insurers and their clients to plan ahead, and prepare for a new normal in which the level and cost of credit risk will be heightened and where identifying the right counterparts, diversifying and insuring credit risk will be of paramount importance for businesses.

Trade credit insurance plays an understated role in the economy but is critical to its health. In normal circumstances, it tends to go unnoticed because it is doing its job. Government support schemes helped maintain confidence between companies and their customers in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.

However, as government support measures are progressively removed, this crisis will have a lasting impact. Accelerating transformations, leading to an increasing number of company restructurings and, in all likelihood, increasing the level of credit risk. To succeed in the post-crisis environment, bbusinesses have to move fast from resilience to adaptation. They have to adopt bold measures to protect their businesses against future crises (or another wave of this pandemic), minimize risk, and drive future growth. By maintaining trust to trade, with or without government support, credit insurance will have an increasing role to play in this.

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What Does the FinCEN File Leak Tell Us?

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By Ted Sausen, Subject Matter Expert, NICE Actimize

On September 20, 2020, just four days after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a much-anticipated Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the financial industry was shaken and their stock prices saw significant declines when the markets opened on Monday. So what caused this? Buzzfeed News in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released what is now being tagged the FinCEN files. These files and summarized reports describe over 200,000 transactions with a total over $2 trillion USD that has been reported to FinCEN as being suspicious in nature from the time periods 1999 to 2017. Buzzfeed obtained over 2,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and over 2,600 confidential documents financial institutions had filed with FinCEN over that span of time.

Similar such leaks have occurred previously, such as the Panama Papers in 2016 where over 11 million documents containing personal financial information on over 200,000 entities that belonged to a Panamanian law firm. This was followed up a year and a half later by the Paradise Papers in 2017. This leak contained even more documents and contained the names of more than 120,000 persons and entities. There are three factors that make the FinCEN Files leak significantly different than those mentioned. First, they are highly confidential documents leaked from a government agency. Secondly, they weren’t leaked from a single source. The leaked documents came from nearly 90 financial institutions facilitating financial transactions in more than 150 countries. Lastly, some high-profile names were released in this leak; however, the focus of this leak centered more around the transactions themselves and the financial institutions involved, not necessarily the names of individuals involved.

FinCEN Files and the Impact

What does this mean for the financial institutions? As mentioned above, many experienced a negative impact to their stocks. The next biggest impact is their reputation. Leaders of the highlighted institutions do not enjoy having potential shortcomings in their operations be exposed, nor do customers of those institutions appreciate seeing the institution managing their funds being published adversely in the media.

Where did the financial institutions go wrong? Based on the information, it is actually hard to say where they went wrong, or even ‘if’ they went wrong. Financial institutions are obligated to monitor transactional activity, both inbound and outbound, for suspicious or unusual behavior, especially those that could appear to be illicit activities related to money laundering. If such behavior is identified, the financial institution is required to complete a Suspicious Activity Report, or a SAR, and file it with FinCEN. The SAR contains all relevant information such as the parties involved, transaction(s), account(s), and details describing why the activity is deemed to be suspicious. In some cases, financial institutions will file a SAR if there is no direct suspicion; however, there also was not a logical explanation found either.

So what deems certain activities to be suspicious and how do financial institutions detect them? Most financial institutions have sophisticated solutions in place that monitor transactions over a period of time, and determine typical behavioral patterns for that client, and that client compared to their peers. If any activity falls disproportionately beyond those norms, the financial institution is notified, and an investigation is conducted. Because of the nature of this detection, incorporating multiple transactions, and comparing it to historical “norms”, it is very difficult to stop a transaction related to money laundering real-time. It is not uncommon for a transaction or series of transactions to occur and later be identified as suspicious, and a SAR is filed after the transaction has been completed.

FinCEN Files: Who’s at Fault?

Going back to my original question, was there any wrong doing? In this case, they were doing exactly what they were required to do. When suspicion was identified, SARs were filed. There are two things that are important to note. Suspicion does not equate to guilt, and individual financial institutions have a very limited view as to the overall flow of funds. They have visibility of where funds are coming from, or where they are going to; however, they don’t have an overall picture of the original source, or the final destination. The area where financial institutions may have fault is if multiple suspicions or probable guilt is found, but they fail to take appropriate action. According to Buzzfeed News, instances of transactions to or from sanctioned parties occurred, and known suspicious activity was allowed to continue after it was discovered.

Moving Forward

How do we do better? First and foremost, FinCEN needs to identify the source of the leak and fix it immediately. This is very sensitive data. Even within a financial institution, this information is only exposed to individuals with a high-level clearance on a need-to-know basis. This leak may result in relationship strains with some of the banks’ customers. Some people already have a fear of being watched or tracked, and releasing publicly that all these reports are being filed from financial institutions to the federal government won’t make that any better – especially if their financial institution was highlighted as one of those filing the most reports. Next, there has been more discussion around real-time AML. Many experts are still working on defining what that truly means, especially when some activities deal with multiple transactions over a period of time; however, there is definitely a place for certain money laundering transactions to be held in real time.

Lastly, the ability to share information between financial institutions more easily will go a long way in fighting financial crime overall. For those of you who are AML professionals, you may be thinking we already have such a mechanism in place with 314b. However, the feedback I have received is that it does not do an adequate job. It’s voluntary and getting responses to requests can be a challenge. Financial institutions need a consortium to effectively communicate with each other, while being able to exchange critical data needed for financial institutions to see the complete picture of financial transactions and all associated activities. That, combined with some type of feedback loop from law enforcement indicating which SARs are “useful” versus which are either “inadequate” or “unnecessary” will allow institutions to focus on those where criminal activity is really occurring.

We will continue to post updates as we learn more.

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