Andy Hart Discusses Cybersecurity Risks with MarketCurrents

Family offices currently face a heightened vulnerability to cyberattacks. To help family offices tackle these threats, MarketCurrents recently sat down with Delegate Advisors President, Chief Advisor, and Managing Partner, Andy Hart, to discuss why family offices need to protect their data more meticulously than the average corporation, and the best ways to do it.

With substantial experience following cybersecurity best practices in the family office industry, Hart understands cybersecurity and cyberattacks well. During his Q&A with MarketCurrents, Hart explained how the issue of cybersecurity became a priority to him after witnessing a handful of sophisticated cyberattack attempts.

“Our first attack happened about six years ago and we were lucky to stop that one,” says Hart. “Ever since then, we have been vigilant and we feel we’ve done a pretty good job by strongly advising our clients to take certain actions on their side to button up the situation.” To protect yourself from cyber-related threats, Hart recommends simple actions to greatly reduce or eliminate the odds of future cyberattacks such as freezing credit, two-factor authentications, email security, and low balance alerts on credit cards.

In addition to explaining how families can minimize their chances of getting defrauded, Hart also discusses how to reduce the chances of internal breaches at family offices through extremely thorough background checks during the hiring process, weekly scrubs of data from all computers, filters that compel employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, and more.

The interview ends with Hart emphasizing that, unlike the rest of corporate America, family offices must go a step further when it comes to cybersecurity. As Hart tells MarketCurrents, “When you’re wealthy, you automatically become a target. Your travel plans, what you do, and where you are can all leave you vulnerable.”

To learn more about tackling cybersecurity risks, read the full Q&A here.

Andy Hart Discusses Cybersecurity in WealthManagement.com

Seven Tips to Defend Against Cybersecurity Threats

The multitude of high-profile data breaches over the past several years has caused concerns about cybersecurity for both advisors and their clients. According to WealthManagement.com, high-net-worth families are particularly at risk for individualized cybercrime because they tend to be a more visible target. 

 Delegate Advisors President Andy Hart recently spoke to WealthManagement.com and offered several actionable ways families and their advisors can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

“I used to think email was a secure way to communicate with our clients, but not anymore, especially after witnessing firsthand how sophisticated the criminals have become,” says Hart. “Thankfully, each of the attempts to defraud our clients have been prevented. By being more than a bit paranoid about money movement, we hope to defeat all future attempts as well.”

Hart shared the following tips to help protect wealthy families from cybersecurity threats:

  1. Place a permanent freeze on your credit: This ensures that your personal credit cannot be accessed by anyone who doesn’t have the personal PIN number, which is assigned when you freeze your credit.

  2. Use two-factor authentication for online accounts: Less than 1 percent of people use two-factor verification even though it is one of the best ways to protect yourself from hackers.

  3. Use a separate computer or device to log into all financial accounts:This prevents hackers from gathering login IDs and passwords through malware delivered by email or online advertising.

  4. Minimize your online footprint:Limiting who can see social media posts can prevent hackers from gathering useful information.

  5. Use a secure Wi-Fi network to access email or financial accounts:If the network is unsecure, only use email with an encrypted link.

  6. Establish low balance alerts:This ensures you are aware of potentially suspicious activity on credit and debit cards.

  7. Verify any wiring instructions received by email with a phone call:Hackers are known to secure access to an email account and wait for an opportunity to change wiring instructions.

To learn more, see the full WealthManagement.com article here. It includes a slideshow with more details on each of these tips.

 

How Can We Prepare Our Investments for The Next Market Correction And Impending Volatility?

FIRST

Selling everything and going to cash is generally a suboptimal investment decision. There is an old Wall Street saying that the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent. Many great investors have been humbled by acting too early, even if they were ultimately proven correct. Many great books on managing wealth for the long term explore this lesson. Timing the market is very difficult; thus, we encourage our clients to act when valuations are what we consider to be extreme, that is, around two standard deviations from the long-term average. When we develop a strategic allocation for our clients, each asset class or strategy has a target allocation and a range above and below the target. When valuations are at relatively high levels, we recommend that clients reduce exposures to the lower end of the appropriate range. We would likely only recommend that clients exit an asset class entirely when they would probably not be rewarded for taking risk in that asset class and that they may, in fact, stand to lose substantial value if they remained in that asset class.

SECOND

If reducing exposure is warranted, we recommend starting by selling the “easy things,” which we generally identify as the riskiest of an investor’s liquid assets. Ideally, these sales should be part of a general rebalancing plan. Systematic and intelligent rebalancing is one of the better practices an investor can establish and maintain. Outside of regular rebalancing, investors might consider reducing exposures to the most liquid of the riskier asset classes that are most overvalued. Downside volatility in previous market corrections may also be an indicator of assets to potentially sell, but history does not always repeat itself. Current examples of relatively more risky asset classes are domestic equities, international equities, emerging markets equities, high yield fixed income and REITS. Taxable investors should consider the tax friction of any sale before taking action. For positions with a long holding period, chances are good that a portion of your sales will result in realized gains, which may be taxed. Even with today’s relatively low capital gains rates, the tax friction can be material, depending on the relevant state and country of residence and how highly appreciated the positions are. Investors can typically can find some positions in a portfolio to sell with minimal tax friction. It may take some time to ferret out the relatively new positions or specific tax loss from an older position, but the search is worth the effort if you can sell riskier assets with minimal friction.

THIRD

If tax friction or other limitations prevents selling assets, consider a hedging program. We have explored both the purchase of out-of-the-money (“OTM”) put options and “cashless collars” (where OTM call options are sold to fund the purchase of OTM put options with minimal cash required to establish the position). The tax rules involved with such positions can be complex, so consulting your tax advisor is a necessary step when considering establishing a hedging program.

 Both of these strategies have positive and negatives aspects. OTM put strategies can provide downside protection, but only for a limited amount of time (the term of the put option). Additionally, depending on the length of term and how close the strike price is to the stock’s current price, these options can be expensive. “Cashless collars” are often considered more attractive by clients because the cash out of pocket at the inception date can be minimal. But, investors must remember that they may lose out on the appreciation of the position above the call option’s strike price. In our experience, clients like having downside protection but are less willing to give up the upside. Regardless, we have found that evaluating these types of hedging strategies is always informative, and clients generally find them useful.

Related to hedging strategies, another way to achieve downside protection is to add non-correlated or negatively correlated assets to the portfolio. For example, to protect against rising interest rates, we might add an investment strategy to portfolios which would do well if rates rose. Were we to do this today, we might employ a rather complex strategy that would act like an ordinary corporate bond yielding ~3% but would return ~15% if the 10-year U.S. T-note’s yield increased by 1% over a one-year period. The downside risk is that if rates on the 10-year U.S. T-note fell, the client’s return could be slightly negative. A small amount of this strategy in the portfolio could provide an outsized return offset to rising rates, thus allaying the fears of families regarding the fixed income portion of their portfolios. If, on the other hand, rates were to decline, we would expect that the slightly negative return of this strategy would be more than offset by the increase in the overall value of the bond portion of our clients’ portfolios. And, if rates remained relatively unchanged, this asset would provide a yield roughly equivalent to the current return on the bond portion of their portfolios.

Accepting market downside risk is a necessary part of being a long-term investor. Without downside risk, there is theoretically no upside reward. We do not believe that riskless arbitrage opportunities exist, and if they do, they only exist for short periods of time. The key is for families to understand and accept the right amount of risk and then stick to the plan, reducing risk as market valuations increase to what we believe to be historically high levels and by increasing risk when market valuations are what we believe to be historically low levels.

It’s worth saying again and again that the investors who get hurt the most in a market correction are usually the ones who hold on the entire way down and then panic only to sell at the bottom. We’ve found that by walking families through the actions we would take if markets were to decline or by looking at available protective actions that can be taken before a downturn, families are better prepared because they understand and accept market risks better than those who have not gone through such exercises. In the end, we feel that prior evaluation and preparation for what clients should do in a downturn is the ultimate portfolio protection plan.

 Andy Hart
Managing Partner, Delegate Advisors

A full PDF of this column is available here

How Do I Protect Myself From Security Threats?

In an age where security breaches and cyberattacks dominate the headlines, personal security is a concern for everyone. The good news is that if you take a few precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances that you will be a target for fraud. We recently met with a group of clients and colleagues for a discussion with former FBI agent and current VP of Fidelity Security Services, Gary F. Rossi, who shared several simple steps you can take to help keep your personal information secure online and keep your family safe at home and while traveling.

We’ve all seen the news accounts of the significant amount of personal information that has been stolen by hackers. Most of us know people who have gone through the extremely tedious and time-consuming exercise of recovering their identities once it’s been stolen. And some of us know individuals who have suffered financial losses from hackers who have accessed their credit cards and bank accounts. It’s more than enough to keep you awake at night!

We recently hosted our second Heard from Clients event where we heard from renowned security expert, Gary Rossi, who served as Fidelity’s Head of Corporate Investigations for nearly a decade. Corporate Investigations leads all customer fraud and identity theft matters, anti-money laundering cases and cyber-related investigations. Before joining Fidelity, Rossi was Chief of the FBI’s Undercover and Sensitive Operations unit at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. 

Rossi offered the following practical tips to keep your personal information safe:

  1. Place a permanent freeze on your credit with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. This ensures that your personal credit cannot be accessed by anyone who does not have your PIN number, which is assigned when you freeze your credit. If your personal information is ever stolen, it cannot be used to open new credit cards or fraudulent loans. The California Department of Justice explains how to do this here.

  2. Use two-factor authentication (secondary verification) wherever possible for online accounts. If your login ID and password are stolen, secondary verification can keep hackers from accessing your account. According to Rossi, less than one percent of people use secondary verification even though it’s the number one way to protect yourself from hackers.

  3. Use a separate computer or device (iPad, etc.) to log into all of your financial accounts. Do not use this same device for email, search, web surfing, social media or shopping. Malware delivered via email and in online advertising is a common tool used by hackers to gather your keystrokes which provides them with your login IDs and passwords. If you never use email or web surf on the device that is dedicated to your credit card, bank, brokerage and other financial accounts, hackers can’t gather your login ID and password via an email hack.

  4. Minimize your online footprint. Sophisticated syndicates use social media to gather information on wealthy individuals. They look for ways to access their social networks and to gain access. Be sure that your privacy settings limit who can see your posts, and be sure that the privacy settings on your children’s accounts are also set to limit access. Be sure to turn off the “location settings” while posting pictures on vacation. 

  5. Never log into your email or financial accounts from an unsecure Wi-Fi network. If you are not certain that the Wi-Fi network is secure, do not use it to access your financial accounts, and only use it for email if you are using an encrypted link.

  6. Establish low balance alerts for all credit and debit cards. So that you are aware of ALL activity on your credit and debit cards, wherever possible establish text alerts to your mobile phone for all charges exceeding $0.01.

  7. Never trust the wiring instructions you receive via email. Always contact the financial institution that provided you with wiring instruction by phone to re-verify the instructions you’ve received by email. And, before the wire is released, be sure that your financial institution reconfirms the final instructions with you by phone. Sophisticated fraud syndicates that secure access to an email account will wait for an opportunity to change wiring instructions. This type of fraud is called “man in the middle,” and it has become rampant. Billions of dollars are being stolen using this technique. The only way to stop this type of fraud is to re-verify the wiring instructions by phone.    

Recommended Reading
Our discussion with Rossi lasted over two hours with many stories and lessons learned from his years in the FBI and from his time spent protecting Fidelity’s clients. While we can’t do his stories justice, we can offer this resource Rossi provided called Personal Security from All Angles. It contains a wide array of suggestions for how you can be safer online, at home and when you travel.

As always, please give us a call if you’d like to learn more about keeping your personal information and family safe!   

How Do I Raise My Kids Amidst Wealth?

HEARD FROM CLIENTS: HOW DO I RAISE MY KIDS AMIDST WEALTH?

Heard from Clients Symposium: Findings from Our Conversation

We recently met with a group of clients and colleagues to discuss a challenge that many wealthy families face. We've all seen the worst: heirs of the wealthy and famous with everything who seem to value nothing. That may be typical, but we know it is never a goal, and we know many families who have successfully avoided that outcome. 

Below are some key discussion points from our recent lunch-and-learn that featured a panel of expert speakers who offered tried-and-true practices that help wealth creators prepare their heirs to be good stewards of wealth.

Intentionality makes all the difference.

The families that succeed are often the families that act with intention about how they want their children to behave and treat wealth. In other words, they succeed because they had a plan.

A great starting point is to take stock of what you may be doing unintentionally. What values are you displaying to your children by your current lifestyle? Are you teaching them the values you want?  Are you teaching them the values that helped you succeed? If not, what do you want them to learn from you? Once you have a list of the values you want them to have as adults, work to intentionally display and over-communicate those values to them. Remember that they won’t see the sacrifices you made earlier in life. For example, let’s say you want your children to know that nothing comes without working hard, but you also understand that you’ve made money by working hard for years and now you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  To do this, you can still create opportunities to let them see you working now.  For example, explain to them how much time you put into managing the family’s wealth.  Alternatively, you can share with them the stories of how hard you worked when you were starting your career. Parents should also remember that, just like when you asked them to clean up their toys, children will need to hear about your values more than once. Be intentional in how you build that into their daily lives. 

Focus on what matters.

Oftentimes, successful children report never feeling “rich” when they were growing up. They often knew there was wealth, but they firmly feel it wasn’t what was important to their family. Instead, their parents placed importance on school, family vacations and togetherness.

Wealthy families can proactively create this culture by speaking with children early on about the importance of education, saving money, living beneath their means and giving back to community and society. Parents can also actively demonstrate their own work ethic and modesty as an example of how to live.

Philanthropy is a cornerstone.

Philanthropy is about living with values in a physical, practical way. That’s why introducing children to the concept of giving is important in developing responsible stewards of wealth. For example, kids can donate toys to children in foster care here or orphanages overseas, allowing them to express the family’s ethos in a way that’s meaningful, tangible and age-appropriate.

Families can also use travel as a way to expose children to the realities of others and inspire them to act upon what they see. Including in the itinerary a visit to a local nonprofit or an afternoon of volunteering can bring the concept of giving closer to home.

When children learn they must use their money in three ways (spend, save and give), it sets them up for healthy money habits when there is more than a weekly allowance in their bank accounts. 

Protect them from themselves.

It’s important to know the consequences – intended and unintended – that your estate planning documents may have on your children. Parents often set up trusts that distribute at preset ages.

Successful families often avoid allowing children access to the money too early. Make sure they have a firm understanding of money, either through education or practical application, or by working with a financial professional. Family retreats and/or conferences are great way to learn about the practical application of wealth. The more educated your children are (at any age), the better they will be equipped to steward their inheritance and potentially create their own wealth as well.

As an added measure of protection, we recommend clients consider adding a discretionary standard, so the trustee has more power to course-correct if needed.

Communication is always key.

It’s an old belief in the US that you shouldn’t talk about money, but we have seen the opposite to be true.  Engage the entire family in discussions about budgets, major purchases such as homes, retirement and goals for the future. The more common this is, the less taboo it will be for your family in the future. When kids are young, these conversations should be kept to the basics. Young children should understand and see you apply discretion on spending in prudent ways. You might tell them that you were hoping to add another stop to a family vacation, but it would have been too expensive, so you decided not to. Or you could share with them that you have detailed plans for the home remodel, that you are working with everyone to make sure you spend only on necessary things and that all the expenses come under your budget. That could be a great way to say no when they ask to have a slide from their bedroom window directly to the pool.

As they get older, you can selectively begin to share more details with them. For example, you may actually review the remodel budget with a mature teenager or college-aged student. You still want to stress prudence and staying within your means, but you can probably be comfortable that your mature child won’t go running around the playground telling everyone how much your project is going to cost. Remember, the details are what matters to you, but it’s the values and messages that will matter most to your children.

One additional warning is that you need to remember that your children will fill in the blanks if you don’t. One person shared that his father used to play in a regular poker game and would regularly announce the results at breakfast the next day. His father would occasionally shake his head and gravely announce that he’d “lost big.” As a child, he figured this meant thousands of dollars and worried about their family’s well-being. Later as an adult, he nervously asked his father how much money he used to lose on those bad nights. His father laughed and said the most you could lose on any night was $40. Always remember you children will fill in the blanks, and they have better imaginations than you do.

Account for sibling differences.

Because kids are not all the same, they shouldn’t necessarily be treated the same way. This concept might go against parents’ first instincts, but it is often critical to the sustainability of family wealth. One child could be successful in his or her own right. Another could have a substance abuse problem. Another could have a disability. In many cases, “fair” may not mean “equal.”

Because the default option is to split the pot with the children evenly, our experts strongly advised parents who are choosing a different method of distributing their wealth to communicate their decision early. The earlier this concept is shared within the family, the more successful the message will become. For example, you may want to acknowledge to your children that one of the siblings needs additional resources due to a health challenge that might limit his or her ability to work and that you are structuring your estate to make sure that child is taken care of and does not create a burden on the other siblings. If you repeat this message often, your children will understand your intentions when the distribution breakdown is revealed.

If you don’t tell your children why you did something, they may never know. Conjecture is very hard on families. Transparency about how everyone is being treated leads to better outcomes. Lack of communication leads to conflicts and even litigation, which often damages the family forever. If you are not comfortable speaking directly with your children about these issues, enlist help and support from your advisors, or write each of your children a letter to be opened in private before the full will is read.

It’s all about the legacy.

Start by instilling early the lessons and values you wish to pass on. As your children get older, often around college age, begin to provide more information, but keep the focus on the family’s wealth and what that means to you. Try not to focus on each child’s personal inheritance because personalizing wealth should be avoided. It’s also the time to ask them what roles they want to play in the family. Family foundations are an excellent way to get children involved, as inheritance is part of the foundation model.

One expert recommended documenting the family wealth – the legacy, the story, the lessons learned on the wealth journey, history of the wealth journey, etc. This will help future generations explain who they are as a family and what the parents and grandparents hoped for the succeeding generations to have.

Interfamily Transfers.

Not all gifts are from parents to children; we have seen children gifting to their parents, or sibling-to-sibling, nieces or nephews. Communication around these gifts is critical to both enhance the gift and to be sure they are received in the proper way.

If you intend to give funds to another family members’ children, communicating with the parents is very important. We have seen many well-intentioned gifts received negatively. For example, let’s say Charlie is going to surprise his sister Sally’s two kids with paying their college tuition when they are 18. Meanwhile, Sally and her husband have been saving and sacrificing for their kids’ college education and could have had family vacations and sent their kids to private school with the funds they had saved for college. The gift, while amazing, would have been nice to know early on so they could use their savings for other costs. Other parents might simply see it as an intrusion. Others may want to use the funds for something else, such as paying down debt or using it as a down payment for a better home. Just like any surprise, it could be received in a number of ways.

The other piece of wisdom around all gifts is, once you make the gift, never speak of it again.  It could be awkward if someone says, “Did you use that money to buy the boat?” Once the gift has been given, it is the recipient’s decision to do whatever he or she wishes to do.

It’s never too late to start.

While it’s best to start early, it’s never too late to start the conversation, even if you’re already experiencing problems among family members. Every family has problems. Wealth just amplifies some of them. With a good plan, though, you can turn things around. Experts are available to help reboot and find a way to pivot. 

 

A PDF of this column is available for download here.

Yield Curve Moves Toward Inversion, Traditionally Signaling Recession

As we commented in our last quarterly letter, the yield curve has been flattening, and is moving toward becoming inverted. An inverted yield curve occurs when long-term yields fall below short-term yields. The difference in these yields is measured by a spread. When the spread lowers to below zero, the yield curve is inverted. As of 7/26/2018, the spread on 10-year U.S. Treasurys over 2-year US Treasurys was 28.5 bps, down from a 2018 high of ~75 bps in early February and the lowest since the last recession. 

Additionally, as illustrated below, the yield curve tends to flatten while the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) is in a tightening cycle, which is the current environment. When the Fed increases rates, it does so by affecting the federal funds rate, an overnight rate that moves the short end of the yield curve higher.

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Numerous Fed officials, economists and market pundits have opined that a flattening of the yield curve is a major phenomenon to watch, as it has frequently preceded recession in the post-war era. Inversions of the yield curve have preceded the last seven recessions, with only two “false positives” (i.e., the yield curve inverted and a recession did not occur until after the next inversion). A flattening yield curve often portends recession because short-term rates have risen to a point where the bond market believes that GDP is going to slow and perhaps be negative (i.e., recession). Markets anticipate that inflation pressures would be lower, increasing the likelihood that the Fed would lower rates in the future to stimulate the economy and generate GDP growth.

While an inverted yield curve often portends recession, the actual inversion is not generally a signal to sell equities immediately. According to Bank of Montreal, a recession (i.e., two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth) follows the inversion of the yield curve by 15 months on average. In this regard, Scott Minerd, the Chief Investment Officer at Guggenheim Investment Management recently noted that current data were in line with their model, forecasting a recession in 2020. Additionally, former Fed chief Janet Yellen opined in June that trade policy (discussed below) and high valuations have created an environment ripe for shocks. She also noted that a long period of stability (the current expansion is almost the longest in US history) can, over time, induce instability, and that the Fed may continue to raise rates to test the limits of tightening. Thus, we are closely monitoring the yield curve and are currently advising our clients to trim public equity positions when appropriate, potentially to below policy targets. Thus, we revise our posture on global public equities to underweight, and we may recommend more aggressive selling if the yield curve does, in fact, invert.

Trade War Intensifies

In our last quarterly update, we discussed the implementation of tariffs and barriers to trade involving the U.S. and its trade partners including China, the EU, Canada and Mexico. Since then, the brewing trade war has only intensified, and the economy is beginning to feel the effects.

Since the initial tariff announcements, the Fed has found and noted (in the Beige Book) that manufacturers have seen an increase in industrial input prices, including steel and aluminum. A number of U.S. companies has expressed that tariffs and trade barriers pose a direct risk to their operations and industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, some businesses already have plans in place to pass tariffs onto customers by raising the prices of goods they sell. Additionally, corporate earnings in certain sectors are beginning to suffer. For example, Whirlpool’s stock had its worst day in over 30 years (down almost 15%) on July 24, citing the increased cost of steel.

American farmers are also beginning to feel the burden of tariffs. On July 24, the Trump administration announced plans to offer $12 billion in aid to farmers whose revenues and profits have been severely negatively affected by the loss of certain traditional export markets. Soybean farmers, in particular, have faced plummeting demand from China after China introduced a retaliatory tariff on soybean imports from the US. Pork farmers have begun to feel pressure as well, as exports from the U.S. declined by 18% in the first half of 2018 largely due to tariffs imposed by pork importers, including China.

The job market, while still strong, is beginning to show cracks. In March, as the tariffs were just beginning to be discussed, the President stated that putting tariffs in place will help protect manufacturing jobs. According to a Wall Street Journal article from May 22, 2018, however, non-farm payrolls in the top 10 steel-producing communities in the U.S. grew at a pace that was slower than the broader national rate. In fact, four of the communities saw non-farm payrolls shrink following the announcement and implementation of tariffs.

President Trump has repeatedly maintained that the implementation of tariffs is a temporary tactic to put pressure on the U.S.’s trade partners in order to negotiate better trade deals. That may indeed be the case, as shown by the potential deal struck with the EU on July 25, but the short-term effects of a reduction in corporate earnings in certain market segments cannot be ignored.This is yet another reason to maintain a cautious posture with respect to global equities. Should the trade war intensify further or if it becomes clear that the promise of better trade deals will not materialize, we will recommend a further reduction in equity positions.

Delegate Advisors' Asset Class Perspectives

Below are our asset class perspectives:

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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and for the use of the recipient. Under no circumstances is it to be considered an offer to sell, or a solicitation to buy any investment referred to in this document. Although we believe our sources to be reliable and accurate, we assume no responsibility for the accuracy of such third‐party data and the impact, financial or otherwise, it may have upon any client’s conclusions. Delegate Advisors, LLC, has not audited or otherwise verified this information and accepts no liability for loss arising from the use of this material. The information contained in this document is current as of the date indicated. Delegate Advisors, LLC, undertakes no obligation to update such information as of a more recent date. Any opinions expressed are our current opinions only. Nothing herein should be construed as investment, legal, tax or ERISA advice. You should consult with your independent lawyer, accountant or other advisors as to investment, legal, tax, ERISA and related matters to which it may be subject under the laws of the country of residence or domicile concerning the acquisition, holding or disposition of any investment in the account. Past performance is not indicative of future results. All investments involve risk including the loss of principal. Any investments discussed within this material may be subject to various fees and expenses, which will have a negative impact on performance.

Delegate Advisors Recognized by Financial Advisor Magazine

Delegate Advisors has been included once again on Financial Advisor Magazine’s Registered Investment Advisor Survey and Ranking for 2018, which is based on assets under management (AUM). The list ranks more than 700 independent RIA firms across the country. This is the third year Delegate has been named on the list. 

This year’s Financial Advisor special report explores the growth of the RIA channel and how firms are navigating this growth while also remaining nimble amidst the changing industry environment.

“The RIA channel eclipsed $70 trillion in registered assets under management in 2017, according to a study sponsored by the Investment Adviser Association. In the 17 years the IAA has tracked RIA growth, AUM has grown by a cumulative 220% and at a compound annual growth rate of 8.1%,” writes Financial Advisor. “RIAs find themselves forced to keep up with a world changing on many fronts—an evolving client base, shifting regulations, new technological possibilities and demand for new services. Even as financial markets provide a tailwind for their firms, new technologies and new business models are surfacing to continuously challenge them.”

“We are honored to be named on this year’s Financial Advisor list” comments Delegate Advisors President Andy Hart. “Our dedication to building long-lasting wealth management relationships based on trust is at the core of what we do, and it’s rewarding to have our commitment to our clients recognized by the financial media.”

The complete 2018 Financial Advisor Magazine list is available here.

 

To be eligible for the Financial Advisor Magazine RIA ranking, firms must be independent Registered Investment Advisors, file their own ADV statement with the SEC, provide financial planning and related services to individual clients, and respond to a Financial Advisor Magazine survey. Eligible firms are ranked by total assets under management.

Andy Hart Comments to Bloomberg on the Success of the Walton Family

One of the world’s wealthiest families, the Waltons, whose patriarch Sam Walton founded Walmart, Inc., has built a fortune of more than $152 billion. Bloomberg recently wrote a profile piece about the family, discussing topics such as their philanthropy in the small Arkansas town where the company is headquartered and their strategy for successful succession planning.

As an advisor to families of great wealth, Delegate President Andy Hart commented to Bloomberg, providing context for the size of the family’s fortune.

“Outside of monarchies, this is one of the greatest fortunes ever amassed,” said Hart. “Monarchies and kingdoms came by birthright. This was earned.”

So how did the family successfully grow their business while also maintaining control of it?

“Their continued control reflects unusual prescience on the part of Sam Walton, who started preparing for succession in 1953, when he passed 80 percent of the family business to his four children: Alice, Rob, Jim and John,” reports Bloomberg. “That minimized estate taxes and helped the family retain control even as the company grew into the world’s largest retailer.”

As the third generation is rising in leadership, their influence has become noticeable in Bentonville, Ark. Among the family’s many philanthropic contributions to the town is a series of new bike trails, a project led by the Walton grandchildren who are making efforts to attract young talent to the area.

“Sam Walton would approve,” observes Bloomberg, citing his personal mantra of “operate globally, give back locally.” 

The full Bloomberg article is available here.

Chicago Tribune: Andy Hart on the Success of the Walton Family

The Chicago Tribune recently profiled one of the world’s wealthiest families, the Waltons, whose patriarch Sam Walton founded Walmart, Inc. The family has built a fortune of more than $152 billion. As an advisor to families of great wealth, Delegate President Andy Hart commented to the Chicago Tribune, providing context for the size of the family’s fortune.

“Outside of monarchies, this is one of the greatest fortunes ever amassed,” said Hart. “Monarchies and kingdoms came by birthright. This was earned.”

The article, titled “Waltons 3.0,” describes what makes the family unique, from their philanthropy in the small Arkansas town where the company is headquartered to their strategy for successful succession planning. So how did the family successfully grow their business while also maintaining control of it? 

“Their continued control reflects unusual prescience on the part of Sam Walton, who started preparing for succession in 1953, when he passed 80 percent of the family business to his four children: Alice, Rob, Jim and John,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “As with other multi-generational fortunes, the family’s challenge is ensuring its wealth doesn’t dissipate between generations. It helps that many family members’ lifestyles aren’t lavish.” 

As the title suggests, the third generation of the Walton family is rising in leadership and their influence has become noticeable in Bentonville, Ark. 

“The younger generation’s increasing influence is apparent in downtown Bentonville,” the Chicago Tribune reports. The article cites a recent example: a new eatery backed by two Walton brothers that hosted a temporary outpost of Rapha, a high-end British cycling brand that the pair bought for a reported $225 million in 2017. The siblings are also behind the bicycle trails that crisscross the town’s outskirts according to the publication.

“Sam Walton would approve,” observes the Chicago Tribune, citing his personal mantra of “operate globally, give back locally.” 

The full Chicago Tribune article is available here.

Andy Hart in FundFire: Family Offices Drive Down External Asset Management Fees

FundFire reports that “family offices are putting ‘relentless pressure’ on external management fees as they seek to offset higher costs they face in other areas, according to a survey from Family Office Exchange.” The study found that family offices surveyed reduced their spending on external management fees by 10% between 2014 and 2017.

FundFire interviewed family office executives, who point to a growing focus on lowering fees in order to boost returns for families. Andy Hart, president of Delegate Advisors, was among the advisors interviewed.

“There are multiple ways family offices are going about reducing fees paid to external managers,” saysHart. For example, in the private markets, family offices are increasingly looking to cut out the middleman by engaging in direct deals. “Larger family offices are pooling assets to go direct and using the expertise that families have in various sectors to identify and directly invest in private opportunities, cutting out the layer of private fund fees,” he explains.

Hart explains that as family offices are starting to become more skeptical about the value added by active managers over time, they are increasingly turning to passive strategies in vehicles like ETFs. However, managers that can provide outsized returns in markets where there is a large spread between top-quartile and lower-quartile managers can still command a premium.

“If you’re going to spend on manager fees, they would rather do it in a place that they have a much higher confidence that they’re going to get paid well for the fees they’re spending and the difference in quality is significantly different,” Hart says.

Ultimately, both managers and advisors need to demonstrate they are adding value to justify their fees.

“I think the only way you’re going to be paid well for advice is if you can prove that your advice adds real value over time and that it’s worth paying you for that advice,” Hart says. 

To read more, see the full FundFire article available to subscribers here.

Heard from Clients: Can I take advantage of falling investment markets?

In general, we feel it’s pretty rare for investors to have opportunities to make outsized returns. Doing so typically requires you to “walk into a burning building and write a check.” We use that phrase with clients all the time because we think it captures the feeling of buying into a falling market quite well. When the market is crashing and people around you are panicking, it can feel like the craziest thing in the world to talk about pulling money from safe investments and investing in the very thing that is falling, but in many cases, that is exactly what you should do.

Warren Buffett once said that as an investor it is wise to be “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

HOUSTON, 1987: A CASE STUDY

In 1987, the country was in the midst of the savings and loan crisis, and the Houston economy had plummeted. The apartment complex down the street from where I was living had been converted into condos and was more than half empty. Still, the owners of the complex were asking $80,000 for a 2-bedroom unit on the second floor with a view of the parking lot, and rumor had it that the developer had gone bust.

About a year later, a young woman moving to the area let me know she had bought one of the condos for $14,000 at a foreclosure sale. She laughed and added that she probably could have paid for it using her credit cards. Several thousand “credit-card condos” were sold at auction over the next few years. In fact, over the next five years, thousands of foreclosure sales were held all across the country.

Before all those auctions got rolling, however, a California real estate developer cobbled together funds from friends and bought as many half-empty apartment complexes and foreclosed condos in Houston as he could. His average purchase price was approximately two years of rental income. Other wealthy families and eventually larger institutions quickly caught wind of this opportunity and prices rebounded, but not before the developer had purchased some 40,000 units. He is a great example of someone who benefitted by walking into a burning building and writing a check.

When we think about Warren Buffett, the take-away from his famous statement is that valuation matters, and it matters more than you might think. This is true for most asset classes. Even though many investors are generally hard-wired to stay with the herd, we know that if valuations are high when compared to history, investors shouldn’t expect relatively high returns in the future. Many investors rely on the good returns of the most recent few years to justify the prices they are willing to pay. And, many investors capitulate when valuations are lowest because they can’t stomach the losses. But often, the best opportunities exist when valuations are lowest.

We teach our clients that you cannot successfully time the markets. That said, investors can often take advantage of mispriced assets.

So how do you know when to walk into the building? Start by adjusting your thinking, viewing market corrections as potential buying opportunities. As an example, we typically use March 2009. If you listened to any major news network around that time, you may have heard that the financial system was on the verge of collapse and that we all might be going back to the barter system at any moment. Although it wasn’t clear that the worst days of the liquidity crisis were behind us, investors who had the confidence to remain in the market through the crisis fared well, and those who chose to invest at this point did very well.

We believe that there are two key ways to conquer fear of investing in times of a downturn. First, you need to look beyond the moment. Remember that we all still need food and places to live and that those key facts can provide excellent indicators of where to find returns. Second, invest the time to learn about the valuation drivers for each asset sub-class. There is nothing that dilutes fear as much as knowledge. Having the facts and data to make an informed decision gives you the confidence and conviction you need to enter into a distressed market.

Finally, remember that the next market crisis (or opportunity) will likely look very different from the previous ones. For example, if you’re looking for an opportunity in high-yield credit because it performed well after the last downturn, you might miss an opportunity in bank loans or master limited partnerships (“MLPs”). Allow yourself the freedom to search for opportunities and react to what the market has to offer.

CASE IN POINT: EXAMPLES OF MISPRICED ASSETS

Master Limited Partnerships

From their lows in January 2009 through May 2014, oil prices had been rising, but in May 2014 they started to fall, and they fell quickly. As oil prices dropped, the price of midstream natural gas MLPs also began to fall. What does the price of oil have to do with the prices of pipelines that transport natural gas? Answer: not as much as the market seemed to think. Yet, prices for midstream MLPs continued to fall until January 2016, when the price of oil finally bottomed. This wasn’t the first time that this mispricing had occurred. In June 2008, oil prices peaked at over $150 per barrel. As the price of oil fell to the mid-$50s per barrel by January 2009, the price of midstream MLPs dropped by more than 50%, despite the fact that most of the midstream MLPs were forecasting increased distributions in the coming year. In both of these instances, and in four other cases dating back to the mid-1990s when oil prices dropped significantly, the price of midstream MLPs followed. Yet, in each case, the prices of midstream MLPs recovered quickly because their earnings and distributions had less to do with the price of oil than many investors realized. Investors who understood that this was a case where MLPs were mispriced were able to reap the rewards by buying midstream MLPs in early 2009 and again in January of 2016.

High Yield Bonds

The option-adjusted spread on high-yield bonds reached 250 basis points (“bps”) in June 2007, and by December 2008 it widened to almost 2,200 bps. In the dark days of the Great Recession, almost all forms of credit instruments were deeply discounted. Investors were spooked, and the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury were taking unprecedented steps to add liquidity to the banking system. Investors who were willing to take the risk of buying lower grade bonds were well rewarded for doing so. Spreads tightened by over 1,500 bps within the year. For a portfolio with an average duration of seven years, a 1,500 bps spread tightening equated to a gain of almost 100%. This phenomenon had occurred previously. In fact, when high yield spreads exceeded their U.S. Treasury equivalent by more than 650 bps, investors were generally well paid for the risk of this type of asset.

The bottom line is that there is plenty of opportunity to make outsized returns if you are aware that such opportunities exist and are on the lookout for them. Of course, we recommend you work with an independent advisor who can help guide you through these kinds of investments.

Andy Hart
Managing Partner, Delegate Advisors

 

A PDF of this column is available for download here.

Andy Hart Discusses MLPs in U.S. News & World Report

As interest rates rise, many investors are re-considering if MLPs, master limited partnerships which invest in American energy infrastructure, still belong in their portfolios. Delegate Advisors President Andy Hart shared his views on the role of MLPs in a portfolio in a recent articlein U.S. News & World Report. 

“MLPs were popular holdings for income-starved investors when interest rates were at rock bottom and equity markets delivered higher yields than much of the investment grade fixed income universe. Depending on the investment, MLPs could kick off yields of 6 or 8 percent or even more, making them good alternatives when U.S. Treasury notes yielded 1 percent or less. But with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, yields on U.S. Treasury notes are starting to rise too,” U.S. News & World report explains. “Because of rising rates, many market strategists say it’s time to get rid of investments like MLPs. Other experts, however, tell investors not to overreact.”

Hart is on the side of not overreacting. He tells U.S. News & World Report that he’s less concerned about the Fed raising rates because short-term interest rates don't affect MLPs as much as long-term rates. The difference in yields between 10-year U.S. Treasury notes and MLPs, known as the spread, is attractive, Hart says. Historically, the spread between the two instruments has ranged between 280 and 300 basis points. The MLPs he likes yield 8 percent versus the nearly 3 percent yield from Treasurys. That 500-basis-point difference “is a very nice spread and has a lot of cushion.”

Rising interest rates aren’t the only reason some investors are losing interest in MLPs – there is also confusion among investors about how they are taxed. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently said that certain interstate MLP pipelines are ineligible for some tax breaks, Hart explains. But investors misunderstood the situation as the MLP's most important feature, its tax status as a pass-through instrument, remains intact. Pass-through investments don't pay corporate taxes. Instead they "pass through" profits and losses to the owners and investors, who are responsible for paying taxes on their individual portion of the MLP.

To read more about MLPs see the full U.S. News & World Report article here.

 

Canaries in the Coal Mine

In our last update, we noted that the theme of 2018 was to be coordinated global growth. In the past quarter, however, three indicators have caused us to become more cautious more quickly due to the increased likelihood of a correction or worse: increased volatility, a flattening yield curve and the ballooning federal deficit.

Increased Volatility

Volatility has historically risen near the end of a protracted expansionary cycle and often serves as a warning sign of a bear market. The S&P 500 Index has already experienced daily moves of more than 1% (either positive or negative) than it experienced in all of 2017. At the current pace, 2018 would experience 92 days of these 1% moves. This figure is elevated compared to recent averages and would be the most 1% days in the last several years, as illustrated below.

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As we explained in our 2018 Global Economic Outlook and Asset Class Assumptions presentation (available upon request), market volatility tends to be low during extended expansionary periods of an economic cycle. In the current cycle, January of 2018 marked the 107thmonth of expansion since the 2009 market bottom, which is almost three times as long as the average duration of 41 months. The recent uptick in volatility may be temporary, but it may also be a warning sign that post-crisis bull market is coming to an end. 

Flattening Yield Curve

In an expansionary period, the yield curve is usually upward sloping, meaning that yields on the “long end” of the curve (longer maturities) are greater than on the “short end” (shorter maturities). This environment indicates that interest rates are expected to rise as a result of normal inflationary pressures resulting from a growing economy. Recessions, however, are often preceded by a flattening yield curve, when the yield for all maturities is roughly the same, or an inverted yield curve, when yields on the short end are greater than yields on the long end. An inverted yield curve usually indicates that interest rates will likely fall in the future as a result of an economy in contraction or recession, lacking inflationary pressure.

A flattening yield curve can be measured by the difference in yields between 2-year and 10-year US Treasury bond yields (the 2/10 spread). When the difference in the 2/10 spread nears zero, the yield curve is flattening. A negative 2/10 spread is a strong indicator that the yield curve is inverting. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.01.20 AM.png

As illustrated above, the 2/10 spread has been declining for some time now and is approaching levels reached in or shortly prior to the bursting of the “dot com” bubble in 2000 and the global financial crisis of 2008. The possibility of an inverted yield curve, which has historically portended a recession or contraction, is yet another reason to be cautious in the current environment.

Ballooning Federal Deficit

On April 9, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) reported that the federal deficit is projected to be $804 billion in 2018 (a 21% increase from 2017) and that it will top $1 trillion per year by 2020. The CBO noted that a primary reason for the increased deficit is the recent tax cut package pursued and passed by President Trump, which the CBO has calculated will add $1.3 trillion to the deficit through 2028. Supporters of the tax cuts stressed that the simulative effect of the new law on the economy would outweigh the growing deficit. The CBO, however, projected that the bill would not boost domestic GDP as quickly as the deficit will increase. In 2017, the deficit as a percentage of GDP was 3.5%. This number is projected to grow to 5.1% from 2022-2025 and to remain near 5% thereafter.  

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.03.21 AM.png

While a large and growing deficit might not have an immediate impact on financial markets, the long-term effects could be substantially negative for domestic economic growth. Deficits can metastasize, as larger deficits require larger interest payments, especially in periods of rising interest rates. A larger deficit will eventually have a dampening effect on economic growth as government spending shifts more towards debt service from programs and services that are accretive to domestic GDP.

Trade Wars Brewing

On March 1, 2018, President Trump announced via Twitter that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Soon thereafter, the White House floated the idea of a 25% tariff on all imported steel and 10% on all imported aluminum to disadvantage imports and support the domestic industry. The rationale had three main components, all of which align closely with President Trump’s campaign platform:

  • Creating leverage for the US in renegotiating NAFTA; 
  • Protecting national security; and 
  • Protecting US metal production jobs. 

Economists, government officials and corporate leaders generally disagreed with the President’s position and proposal with little hesitation. Their basis was that tariffs would likely be met with retaliation from other nations, which would add more barriers to global free trade (a net negative on the local and global economy). This would likely cause ripple effects throughout the economy, including rising input prices for a variety of goods eventually affecting individual consumers by way of higher prices (i.e., inflation).

President Trump’s announcement induced substantial backlash across the globe. Domestically, many US companies, industry associations and trade associations opined that tariffs would negatively affect business. Even some congressional Republicans, usually free market/business friendly advocates, urged Trump to reconsider. The announcement was also at odds with views expressed by the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who testified to Congress that free trade is a net positive to the economy. Even Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor, announced his resignation on March 6, allegedly due to his disagreement with the policy. Internationally, the EU, Canada, Mexico and China all quickly responded to the rumors with announcements that they were actively evaluating retaliatory tariffs on US goods.

President Trump ultimately signed a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% tariff on imported aluminum on March 8, keeping a campaign promise to be more aggressive on trade policy. These tariffs took effect on March 23, 2018. He did walk back the initial announcement somewhat, as Canada and Mexico were exempted. Trump explained that the tariffs were an early step in renegotiating many of the US’s trade deals, including NAFTA. Then, on March 22, 2018, President Trump signed an executive memo placing tariffs on goods from China in aggregate of $50B on over 1,300 products. This was done as part of a string of actions against China on the basis that China is stealing American intellectual property. China retaliated by matching the US dollar for dollar by placing $50B in tariffs on 128 products. An end to this dispute, which has already affected hundreds of companies and will likely affect more, does not appear imminent.

While it is difficult to predict the potential effects of what appears to be, at the least, increased protectionist policy and, at most, a global trade war, the momentum towards global free trade over the past several decades is subsiding and potentially reversing.Many prominent market strategists believe that this may have negative consequences for the coordinated global growth that the world has recently experienced. Ray Dalio, founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, recently noted that, due to China’s extensive holdings in US government bonds, a trade war could become an “uglier” capital war. Additionally, Jeffrey Gundlach, founder and CEO of DoubleLine, reminded investors in a recent interview that tariffs were one of the primary causes of the Great Depression. While Delegate does not believe that a depression is in the cards, we are advising our clients to be underweight versus policy targets in most public risk assets, as we believe the downside potential is currently greater than the upside.