When Schwab announced its acquisition of TD Ameritrade in November 2019, there was a big and sustained surge of consternation among RIAs. TDA had long been known as specializing in RIAs, especially on the smaller end of the spectrum. Schwab had exactly the opposite reputation. That has left a general void for the smaller advisor looking to go independent for the first time. However, Goldman is apparently ramping up its new custody unit and clearing platform for RIAs. The move is still in its early stages, but the firm is hiring several executives to lead the charge and seems to be aiming to compete with Schwab, Fidelity, BNY Mellon etc.
FINSUM: Advisors may recall that Goldman acquired United Capital in 2019. United was an RIA consolidator, so this seems like a natural step for the bank. In our view, it would be great for the industry to have more competition on the custodial front.
By any reasonable measure, high yield bond markets look very scary right now. The way that yields have plummeted, the way that covenants have weakened, and the general ease of accessing credit are all reminiscent of 2005. Spreads over Treasuries have fallen to just 300 bp. A year ago they were at 600 bp. Companies have successfully weakened investor protections in new issues without penalty, and crucially, default rates will likely fall below 1% this year. The picture was the same in 2005.
FINSUM: By the Crisis, default rates hit 14% and high yield investors got killed. However, a big correction in high yield would take a catalyst. Is it a sooner-than-expected Fed pullback?
Many investors are worried that the huge growth in ESG assets might be causing a bubble in the most common stocks in ESG funds. However, the reality is that they are not. According to Bridgewater Associates: “The shift to ESG appears to be still in its early innings. Investor positioning in sustainable equities is not yet overextended … The US ESG index looks very similar to the aggregate market, and much less frothy than stocks that have been most popular with retail investors where we think valuations are most stretched”.
FINSUM: In other words, despite all the hype about ESG asset growth, overall valuations are in line with the broader market so there is no specific risk to ESG funds.
Most advisor attention as it regards Biden’s tax plan has been about increased capital gains taxes and the unwinding of the “step-up basis” in the inheritance of assets. However, there is another major risk and complication on the horizon. That has to do with state level inheritance laws and how they interact with Biden’s plan. The federal government has no formal inheritance tax, but rather an estate tax. States, by contrast, often have inheritance taxes. The big difference between the two is that the estate tax is levied on the estate itself, whereas inheritance taxes are levied on the beneficiaries. That means that each individual is subject to a different level of taxes based on their income.
FINSUM: To be clear, the implications of this are quite large for HNW individuals, as they could face much higher federal estate taxes in addition to high state level inheritance taxes.