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Financial Planning > College Planning

Unchartered Investing Territory

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As we went to print in mid-January, Bitcoin-related headlines are constant. The cryptocurrency slumped 25% on Jan. 16, for instance, over growing fears of regulatory crackdowns worldwide.

Meanwhile, interest in blockchain, the digital ledger behind Bitcoin transactions, continues to expand. Different industries, including financial services, see the technology as a way to reduce friction and costs.

Writer Ginger Szala tackles the ins and outs of these issues in this month’s cover story, while wirehouse firms’ views on Bitcoin are summarized in Broker-Dealer Beat. We greatly appreciate the time and perspectives that experts like Joe Duran of United Capital shared with us for this important coverage.

Broader global investing issues facing financial advisors and wealth managers today are tackled by Michael Finke in his feature story. In 2018, there are the standard challenges of portfolio management to be faced, says the dean and chief academic officer of The American College of Financial Services; plus — thanks to Amazon, Netflix and other innovators — clients are expecting rising levels of personalized service.

In Washington Watch, Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell describes the results of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’ efforts to improve the diversify of its arbitrators, which are impressive. Female arbitrators now account for 25% of the total group arbitrator pool of about 7,300 individuals.

This month, we introduced a new section, ESG Horizons, to focus on issues concerning investing and products that adhere to environmental, social and governance standards. Advisors are hearing from more and more clients about this topic.

In fact, BlackRock Chairman & CEO Larry Fink just said in his Jan. 16 letter to chief executives, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. … Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate. Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential.”

BBVA Compass bank, for instance, recently announced a project in Austin that included awarding Goodwill $250,000 to help build a financial literacy facility, which could serve some 1,100 people a year. “This partnership will serve as a model for our efforts to establish a network of financial education centers throughout the bank’s footprint,” said BBVA Compass Austin Market CEO Joe Petet, in a statement.

In other news, I’m looking forward to mingling with several thousand financial professionals at the Inside ETFs conference near Miami in late January. Speakers like tennis great Serena Williams and music legend Quincy Jones should be inspirational and educational, of course, as will economists Mohamed El-Erian and Alan Krueger, and U.S. Army Gen. Stan McChrystal.

This annual event does an excellent job at showcasing trends in the industry and balancing attention paid to both big and small ETF manufacturers. In the past, I’ve also enjoyed meeting not only advisors but other financial pros who strive to give financial planning students and investors of all ages the research and opinions they need to succeed.


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