August 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) is gaining traction as an important and necessary part of investors’ portfolios. Superannuation funds are fielding increased enquiries and pressure from members to be transparent as to how their money is invested around ESG matters. ESG has evolved from mere acknowledgement now to the specific demand for positive social investment outcomes such as investment in health infrastructure and climate change mitigation technology.

Giles Gunesekera, CEO of Global Impact Initiative, indicated that “ESG has been implemented and integrated into the investment process in Europe. They are now moving to deliberate investible impact themes aligned with the values of their investors.”

ESG raises moral questions around comparative value. Certain ESG considerations are absolute, for example the use of child labour. Whereas the lines are more blurred in coal production where thousands are employed. The world agrees that we should be moving towards a greener future, but a good example of where that has got complicated is the recent Australian federal election where the state of Queensland swung away from the Labor party who had a stronger environmental policy, in favour of the Liberals who were keener to support mining.

There has been some debate as to how ESG data can be quantified to be understood in a way that allows investment managers to make informed decisions? Man Group, like many other asset managers, has taken steps towards this goal and have built a proprietary analytics tool that takes ESG data from a number of sources and creates scores for Man’s portfolio managers to assess ESG risk. It seems paradoxical that social, environmental and governance issues could be broken down to numerical signals, given they are almost exclusively issues related to human action and interaction with each other and with the environment. However, as ESG becomes more mainstream in the investment industry, wider and more robust data sets will probably become available making an analytical tool such as Man Group’s more effective.

The simple point is that ESG is not going away. As data becomes more available and more easily analysed, ESG outcomes should gradually become more acceptable. Giles Gunesekera notes, “We’ve already got quite a lot of European interest in ESG. The Europeans don’t need as much convincing that this is possible, whereas Australian investors are conservative.”

July 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

Australian banks have been digitising for decades now, with branches becoming almost obsolete, and every major bank offering a mobile app. Neobanks take digital banking one step further. Neobanks are 100% digital and look more like a tech company than a bank to many. Capitalising on the low level of trust Australians have in the big banks since the Royal Commission, Neobanks are looking to disrupt the industry and increase competition – and it seems to be working.

There are a few key players in the Australian Neobank industry: Xinja, Volt, Douugh and Revolut. Their models are similar – no branches means low overheads, so they can offer lower interest rates. Neobanks also market themselves to younger, tech-savvy consumers as well as those running small businesses, who have arguably been somewhat overlooked by the big banks. Significantly, Volt was made an Authorised Deposit-Taking Institution (ADI) license in January and Douugh is planning on being the first Neobank to list on the ASX later this month.

It’s a similar story in Hong Kong, with virtual banking licenses becoming more commonplace. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority issued three licenses in March and suggested that more are expected to be granted later this year. As recently as May this year, Singapore’s MAS was reviewing allowing neobanks into The Lion City.

Whether or not Neobanks will really take off in Asia-Pacific remains to be seen. While some consumers will no doubt jump on board, traditional banks will likely still hold a large proportion of business for the moment. This is where the approach of ‘coopetition’ will be key to the success of Neobanks. The more prominent Neobanks have agreed to avoid poaching customers from each other, as this will do little to assist them in making a dent in the market. This favoured approach is a united front against big banks to allow more players to enter the game. It’s definitely an area to watch.

June 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

With every election we hear similar things from our clients: “We’re just waiting to see what happens after the election.” It’s common for people to be wary around election time. A new budget and a new government always has various implications for the financial services sector, even more so in the wake of increased scrutiny from the Royal Commission.

But the election is over and the dust has settled, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition will govern for another term, and Anthony Albanese has replaced Bill Shorten as leader of the opposition. So what does that mean for the financial services sector?

The overall sentiment from analysts and journalists is that things should mellow out for the sector. No change in government means Josh Frydenberg’s budget will be implemented and amendments to negative gearing and franking credits won’t go forward. Particularly for the SMSF industry, this is welcome news. More general market responses were also positive, with major banks seeing a boost in share prices in the week after the election.

For our clients, the increase from $25k to $30k of assets able to be immediately written off will be a nice bonus, and for candidates and clients, income tax cuts will help pad wallets in the coming months.

With all that said, we’re not out of the woods as far as economic uncertainty goes. As expected, the Reserve Bank cut rates earlier this week and unemployment crept up last quarter. Wage growth continues to stay low and we’re officially in per capita negative GDP growth. While punters might feel slightly more secure for the next few months, it’s unquestionably still rocky territory.

May 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

Singapore has enjoyed rapid urban development and economic growth in the past few decades. This sort of swift progress can often lead to serious damage to a country’s natural wilderness. However, a sustained policy push towards green space and quality living has transformed one of Asia’s most densely populated and vibrant cities.

Singapore’s policy makers and urban planners have taken a very forward step in ensuring that natural habitat and park land is not completely removed from the Singapore landscape. Singapore is a very small place with nearly 6 million people squeezed in, and an ever-expanding high-rise urban sprawl.

The Lion City’s government has implemented an incentive program to encourage green space to be incorporated into new developments. Many of the large building projects in the city, including public housing developments, have parks and gardens for residents, and animals, to enjoy.

These days green space is understood as a way to create efficiency and health in the economy, as happy people tend to work better. Better work and happier people create more successful businesses. Singapore has a tough work culture with many people working long hours, so the ability to enjoy parklands and gardens with children and animals is a much-needed accessory to a busy modern life.

Land is at a premium in such a small city state so some new development sites have been reclaimed from the sea. The now famous Marina Bay Sands precinct not only contains a quality hotel and office development but also one of the largest fresh water city reservoirs in the world. The beautiful Gardens by the Bay provides much-needed greenery and a fantastic large space for recreation and is a major tourist attraction.

Many other densely populated cities could take a leaf out of Singapore’s very green book. A unique mixture of government foresight and action, combined with developers’ understanding of the expectations of the population, has created a city where buildings without some form of greenery are now less common. From a city that was once full of swamps and urban slums, Singapore is now an urban powerhouse with a natural green breathing heart.

April 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

Marie Kondo and her Konmari decluttering technique are all the rage. The Netflix series renewed interest in her self-help book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and people around the world are thanking their possessions before letting them go and living a less cluttered life. While the process is primarily applied to tidying up your home, Kondo emphasises the benefits of tidying up all aspects of your life. Here we’ve considered three ways to declutter your professional life.

1. Tackle Your Overflowing Inbox

Many of us receive hundreds of emails every day and it’s easy to let them pile up, particularly if you have a day full of meetings or a week out of the office. While it might seem like a daunting task, clearing out your inbox and establishing a system to maintain order in the future will save you plenty of time and stress long term. Remember, folders are only effective if you use them. Set up rules to automate the filing of incoming emails and establish group inboxes if they will be beneficial to your team.

2. Declutter Your Calendar

Executives and founders have for years touted the benefits of reducing the time you spend in meetings to ensure you genuinely get your job done. While not all of us can simply cancel meetings, it can be worth discussing with your team and manager the value of meetings that are called. Only organise meetings that are truly necessary, and ensure you have an established agenda to stop things getting off track and wasting time. There should of course be room to move and discuss ideas as they arise, but having a clear goal of what you’re there to achieve can prevent people leaving feeling like they’ve wasted their time and staying back late to answer emails and finish time sensitive work.

3. Refine Your Network

LinkedIn has well and truly contributed to the never-ending buzz around networking. Of course networking can be extremely valuable. Personal connections can be integral in securing a new role or making the best new hire for your team. However, many of us have informal networks of hundreds, if not thousands of people that we rarely reach out to. Take the time to consider your professional network, and understand who is most valuable to you in the present, as well as over the next few years. Foster these relationships and actually utilise your network to get the best returns.

March 2019

Posted by Anton Murray Consulting on . Posted in 2019

The state of Australia’s banking and financial services industry is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Following the recent Royal Commission, how can we understand and process the possible ramifications for industry participants?

It’s clear that some participants have acted with recklessness across many sectors within the industry, but what may be more alarming is the institutionalisation of that behaviour, along with the failures of compliance regimes and the systemic failure of organisations to identify and remove those actors from their organisations.

Further, the failure of governance authorities to enforce already relatively strong regulations has not helped. Financial Services Institute of Australia (FINSIA) CEO Chris Whitehead highlighted this point, noting that stronger enforcement along with cultural reform and the elimination of conflicted remuneration models made up the core themes of the final Royal Commission report.

FINSIA and other industry bodies are in an important position after the Royal Commissions’ findings as they are committed to continuing education qualifications and professional ethics from all levels of participant seniority. FINSIA has long advocated for increased education and professionalism and industry bodies like FINSIA are extremely important to the rejuvenation of the whole industry.

Conflicted remuneration models and suspect fees have been a significant thorn uncovered by the Commission, with Commissioner Kenneth Hayne stressing that the cultural toxicity of many organisations to uphold sales and commissions over quality client servicing and observance of the law and standards is a key negative of the industry. Commissioner Hayne stated, “Rewarding misconduct is wrong. Yet incentive, bonus and commission schemes throughout the financial services industry have measured sales and profit, but not compliance with the law and proper standards.”

In a commitment to cleaning up the industry, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg noted the Government would follow up the Royal Commission with an independent inquiry in three years to ensure recommendations and guidance had been followed. With the Government and industry bodies committed to change, we shall wait to see the real response from industry participants beyond their initial public statements. Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO Anna Bligh has stated in no uncertain terms that the banking industry takes full responsibility for its actions and is committed to rectifying the deep issues within its structures and behaviour.

Simply put, we will only know with time whether change brings better client experience, and a fairer fee environment. The importance of the failure of regulatory agencies to impose their powers, prosecute and monitor the industry must not be overlooked. Regardless of the value of self-regulation and best practice industry standards, without proper governance, the industry lost its way. It is possible the government needs to look further into these regulatory agency failures given that the framework already in place was relatively robust.

Our clients include

* Prior invoiced clients across the region.