Changing times calls for more attention to investments

As markets experience another round of volatility, the need for the average investor to be informed has become ever more crucial.

girl piggybank invest 88 (photo credit: )
girl piggybank invest 88
(photo credit: )
As markets experience another round of volatility and with recent changes in the local financial sector aimed at fostering greater competition in capital markets, the need for the average investor to be informed has become ever more crucial. "There has been a huge restructuring of financial services and products," says Mark Goldblatt, director of Pioneer Global Funds Limited, a financial advisory company with $1.5 billion under management. Among those changes are plans to allow Israeli citizens to manage their own retirement funds and move them freely without paying a fee. "The main objective of the government is to protect the public," says Goldblatt. "There will be a lot of confusion for the average citizen." These changes were largely propelled by the Bachar Committee reforms in 2005 that required banks sell of their asset management units. All the banks, including the two largest, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, were given a four-year window to sell off their provident funds and mutual funds because the government was concerned they were acting solely in their own interests. The market reacted almost immediately and many of the funds were sold off within a few months. With this restructuring, banks are no longer the only players in the field and there are more foreign banks and small brokerages popping up especially from insurance companies, according to Goldblatt. Some of the biggest changes include the financial institutions created by some of the largest insurance companies, such as Clal, Migdal and Excellence, which was created by Phoenix. Today, financial advisors in banks offer all mutual funds for a flat rate distribution fee. "[The idea is to] demolish the monopoly of the two largest banks," Goldblatt says, who believes the move is working for the most part. But Doron Green, Pioneer's senior financial planner, says there also was something in it for the banks. Even though they no longer have mutual and pension funds, Green claims the banks still push investments in their own structured products, despite Israeli law requiring that only certified individuals in a bank or institution give out financial advice. This move was geared towards protecting the investor from pushy bank workers, Green says. Even as the finance sector adjusts to the changes, Goldblatt notes that there is a shortage of financial advisers in the country, although the exams for financial advising have been flooded with applicants in recent months. Along with all these changes, investment portfolios are also going global. Foreign investments are gaining percentages in portfolios on a small and large scale, they say, noting that the government is pushing insurance companies and other financial institutions to invest a portion of their funds in companies abroad. "The idea is to not keep all your eggs in one basket," Green says. He speculates that people also will focus more on investing in alternative strategies such as hedge funds, secondary life products and other alternative strategies.