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What We're Reading This Week

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June 14, 2018

What We're Reading This Week

Author: Thad Schlaud

Topics: News, The Market, Industry Ideas

Robo-Advisors

Actually, a better term would be advisor robots; as one implies the robot acting as advisor and the other refers to a robot acting for an advisor. In the past, I’ve talked about Morgan Stanley’s plans to integrate automation into its client relationships. The robots are getting better!

Typically, in a traditional client-advisor relationship, one of the key functions of a financial advisor is to help their clients navigate turbulent markets. Historically, people are incredibly emotional when it comes to buying and selling, and a good advisor can help calm irrational fears and prevent them from selling during a decline. Alternatively, the robo-advisor can always just freeze trading but sometimes clients don’t like that.

Enter Morgan Stanley:

“Morgan Stanley is leveraging artificial intelligence to generate customized emails for its 16,000 financial advisers to send to clients when the markets go berserk.”

This is neat, specifically, because the emails are for advisors to send out; they don’t come directly from the “computer.” It’s especially neat because:

“What’s striking, however, is that the robots will add their own personal touch to the financial advisers’ emails. Gleaning information from a client’s social media and other public sources, emails would also be tailored to include personal details to make them appear more human-like.”

That is…troubling? Hey, I’m all for financial advisors sounding more human-like but conceivably the advisor themselves could add the human part. Maybe it’s because as a financial planner I feel tangentially related to the financial advisor community, and the thought of an algorithm managing me like a marionette lends itself to thoughts of job insecurity. At this point, what do you need the actual advisor for? Truthfully, this situation is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a robot performing white-collar work and if nothing else, it will be fun to read about.

Euribor

Euribor may sound like some type of exotic European boar but it is, in fact, an exotic European rate used in pricing derivatives and loans. After the initial investigations surrounding price fixing and Libor, I sort of lost interest in the whole thing. And to be honest, my interest was mainly in reading incriminating statements bankers were foolish enough to make in chat and email conversations.

Well, we’ve run out of Libor bankers to sue and we’ve moved on to Euribor.

Three Barclays traders have been charged, Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, and Sisse Bohart. Bermingham is the interesting one, because he managed the team making the rate submissions. Ostensibly, he would have been the person responsible for the group’s final Euribor price submission. He has two things to say on the topic.

One:

“It was never in my mind that this would ever be affecting every citizen in the euro zone or in Europe, not in a million years.”

His plea of not guilty seems to be rooted in the concept that he had no idea what he was doing. Considering that the rate is linked to trillions of dollars of securities, this is pretty egregious. However, I actually like this. It only really works because he retired in 2012. If he still had a role at Barclays, “I was terrible at my job” might get you out of court but it probably wouldn’t go over well at Barclays.

Two:

"There was nothing to say that I shouldn’t take a request into account," Bermingham said. "I didn’t think even a little bit that it was like cheating. I had a clear conscience."

This sort of flies in the face of number one. The logic here is “Hey, you never said I COULDN’T do what I did.” They used this argument in Air Bud (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Bud) - “Ain't no rules says a dog can't play basketball,” states one referee. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. There are lots of rules, especially in finance, that are broad in nature. Mostly because the people making them expect people to behave ethically. Granted, that’s not always the case, so in 2012 the rules for Euribor submissions were changed to specifically prohibit using trader submissions in 2010.

Anyway, I don’t think either one will work out but number one is at least plausible.

Other stuff:

There’s A Better Way to Use A Standing Desk

How Amazon Is Using Whole Foods in a Bid for Total Retail Domination

Price Is What You Pay; Value Is What You Get - Nifty Fifty Edition

The Bad Days Have Been Really Bad in 2018’s Stock Market

Fidelity, Bruised from Crises, Searches for Life After Mutual Funds

 

 

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