There’s no YOU in UIT (Unit Investment Trust)

UIT CartoonDear Mr. Market:

Have you ever bought a product or service and afterwards felt like you had been taken to the cleaners? Consumers look for superior products and they also want a great deal. Imagine buying a top of the line computer only to find out that you need to buy another one every year or two and to top of it off you have to pay a commission to the salesperson each time…who would possibly want that scenario?!

It might be a very nice computer but at what point do you question your purchase and stop the sales/commission cycle? As we’ve discussed in several of our letters to Mr. Market the financial services industry is littered with products and services that do little for the individual investor but benefit companies and commission driven brokers by lining their pockets. We’ve covered annuities, life insurance products and loaded mutual funds, but today we will look at a product that is making a come back after declining in popularity over the last few years….Unit Investment Trusts or UITs.

The name itself sounds a bit intimidating but the product itself is fairly simple and easy to understand. Essentially a UIT is a fixed unmanaged portfolio with a set maturity in the future (usually one to two years). They are comprised of equities, bonds or a combination of the two with a focus on broad market, specific strategies or sometimes sector specific. At first glance they appear very similar to a mutual fund or ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) but when you pull back the covers the differences are glaring.  Continue reading

Robo-Advisors: What are they and why should you care?

RoboAdvisor4Dear Mr. Market:

The financial services industry is notorious for creating new terms and services in an effort to meet the ever-changing needs of investors. Often these ‘solutions’ are quickly adopted and become broadly used while others simply fizzle away only to be quickly forgotten. Unless you’re inside the industry you won’t hear the term “Robo-Advisor” but with advertising and slick marketing you will soon be solicited by one.

As with any new service or product there are many different models that companies are using as they rush to be part of a new fad. The basic definition of a Robo-Advisor is:  a class of financial adviser that provides portfolio management online with minimal human intervention. You might not be aware of these offerings but with several large firms introducing new strategies this year it is a safe bet that you will hear about Robo-Advisor’s in the coming months.

The vast majority of these firms have only been in existence the last five years but the growth they have experienced is dynamic and catching the attention of many large national firms. Currently there are over 15 established Robo-Advisor firms – the average account size is just over $20,000, each firm has over 20,000 clients and $200 million in assets. According to the research group Corporate Insight, they posted over 36% in asset growth in just four months last year (April to July). The growth of these firms has been impressive but should it really be that surprising? Continue reading