As you may have noticed, there are several categories of investments, and many of those categories have thousands of choices within them. So finding the right ones for you isn't a trivial matter.
The single greatest factor, by far, in growing your long-term wealth is the rate of return you get on your investment. There are times, though, when you may need to park your money someplace for a short time, even though you won't get very good returns. Here is a summary of the most common short-term savings vehicles:
Short-term savings vehicles
- Savings account: Often the first banking product people use, savings accounts earn a small amount in interest, so they're a little better than that dusty piggy bank on the dresser.
- Money market funds: These are a specialized type of mutual fund that invests in extremely short-term bonds. Unlike most mutual funds, shares in a money market fund are designed to be worth $1 at all times. Money market funds usually pay better interest rates than a conventional savings account does, but you'll earn less than what you could get in certificates of deposit.
- Certificate of deposit (CD): This is a specialized deposit you make at a bank or other financial institution. The interest rate on CDs is usually about the same as that of short- or intermediate-term bonds, depending on the duration of the CD. Interest is paid at regular intervals until the CD matures, at which point you get the money you originally deposited plus the accumulated interest payments. CDs through banks are usually insured up to $100,000.
Fools are partial to investing in stocks, as opposed to other long-term investing vehicles, because stocks have historically offered the highest return on our money. Here are the most common long-term investing vehicles:
Long-term investing vehicles
- Bonds: Bonds come in various forms. They're known as "fixed-income" securities because the amount of income the bond generates each year is "fixed," or set, when the bond is sold. From an investor's point of view, bonds are similar to CDs, except that the government or corporations issue them, instead of banks.
- Stocks: Stocks are a way for individuals to own parts of businesses. A share of stock represents a proportional share of ownership in a company. As the value of the company changes, the value of the share in that company rises and falls.
- Mutual funds: Mutual funds are a way for investors to pool their money to buy stocks, bonds, or anything else the fund manager decides is worthwhile. Instead of managing your money yourself, you turn over the responsibility of managing that money to a professional. Unfortunately, the vast majority of such "professionals" tend to underperform the market indexes.
A number of special plans are designed to create retirement savings, and many of these plans allow you to deposit money directly from your paycheck before taxes are taken out. Employers occasionally will match the amount (or a percentage of that amount) you have withheld from your paycheck up to a certain percentage of your salary. Some of these plans let you withdraw money early without a penalty if you want to buy a home or pay for education. If early withdrawals are not permitted, you may be able to borrow money from the account, or take out low-interest secured loans with your retirement savings as collateral. Rates of return vary on these plans, depending on what you invest in, since you can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, or any combination.
- Individual retirement account (IRA): This is one of a group of plans that allow you to put some of your income into a tax-deferred retirement fund -- you won't pay taxes until you withdraw your funds. Withdrawals are taxed at regular income-tax rates, not at the lower capital-gains rates. All IRAs are specialized accounts (not investments) that allow the account holder to invest the money however he or she likes. If you qualify, some or all of your IRA contribution may be tax-deductible.
- Roth IRA: This retirement account differs from the conventional IRA in that it provides no tax deduction up front on contributions. Instead, it offers total exemption from federal taxes when you cash out to pay for retirement or a first home. A Roth can also be used for certain other expenses, such as education or unreimbursed medical expenses, without incurring a penalty -- although any earnings that are withdrawn are subject to income taxes unless you are more than 59 ½ years old. Not all taxpayers are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. You may be able to qualify if you participate in corporate retirement plans and don't qualify for deductible contributions to the conventional IRA.
- 401(k): A retirement savings vehicle that employers offer. It's named for the section of the Internal Revenue Code where it's covered. Given the tax advantages and the possibility of corporate matching -- those cases when your employer matches part of your contribution -- the 401(k) is well worth considering.
- 403(b): The nonprofit version of a 401(k) plan. Local and state governments offer a 457 plan.
- Keogh: A special type of IRA that doubles as a pension plan for a self-employed person, who can put aside significantly more than the contributions allowed for an IRA.
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan: A special kind of Keogh-individual retirement account. SEPs were created so that small businesses could set up retirement plans that were a little easier to administer than normal pension plans are. Both employees and the employer can contribute to a SEP.
Investing in stocks
It's worth taking a closer look at stocks, because historically, they've had much better returns than bonds and other investments. Essentially, stock lets you own a part of a business. Dating back to the Dutch mutual stock corporations of the 16th century, the modern stock market exists as a way for entrepreneurs to finance businesses using money collected from investors. In return for ponying up the dough to finance the company, the investor becomes a part-owner of the company. That ownership is represented by stock -- specialized financial "securities," or financial instruments -- that are "secured" by a claim on the assets and profits of a company.
Common stock is aptly named -- it's the most common form of stock an investor will encounter. This is an ideal investment vehicle for individuals, because anyone can take part; there are absolutely no restrictions on who can purchase common stock -- the young, the old, the savvy, the reckless. Common stock is more than just a piece of paper; it represents a proportional share of ownership in a company -- a stake in a real, living, breathing business. By owning stock -- the most amazing wealth-creation vehicle ever conceived (except for inheriting money from a relative you've never heard of) -- you are a part-owner of a business.
Shareholders "own" a part of the assets of the company and part of the stream of cash those assets generate. As the company acquires more assets and the stream of cash it generates gets larger, the value of the business increases. This increase in the value of the business is what drives up the value of the stock in that business.
Because they own a part of the business, shareholders get a vote to elect the board of directors. The board is a group of individuals who oversee major decisions the company makes. They tend to wield a lot of power in corporate America. Boards decide whether a company will invest in itself, buy other companies, pay a dividend, or repurchase stock. Top company management will give some advice, but the board makes the final decision. The board even has the power to hire and fire those managers.
As with most things in life, the potential reward from owning stock in a growing business has some possible pitfalls. Shareholders also get a full share of the risk inherent in operating the business. If things go bad, their shares of stock may decrease in value. They could even end up being worthless if the company goes bankrupt.
Different classes of stock
Occasionally, companies find it necessary to concentrate the voting power of a company into a specific class of stock, in which certain set of people own the majority of shares. For instance, if a family business needs to raise money by selling equity, sometimes they will create a second class of stock that they control and has, say, 10 votes per share of stock, while they sell another class of stock that only has one vote per share to others.
Does this sound like a bad deal? Many investors believe it is, and they routinely avoid companies with multiple classes of voting stock. This kind of structure is most common in media companies and has been around only since 1987.
When there is more than one class of stock, they are often designated as Class A or Class B shares.
We hope this hasn't been the most painful thing you've had to read this week. You're now conversant enough in stock market matters to impress those who are very easily impressed. Although knowing the terms and general workings of the stock market is just the first step in your investing career, it's useful to know that each share of stock represents a proportional share of a business, and that the potential rewards are great, but that stocks are also riskier than putting money in the bank.
You're ready to get started -- what now?
Once you've figured out why you should invest, the next step is learning how. We'll break that question into two parts. First, we'll talk about how you can structure your financial life to make it possible to invest. Then, we'll delve into the mechanics of investing, such as opening a brokerage or mutual fund account.
What is investing?
Any time you invest, you're devoting your own time, resources, or effort to achieve a greater goal. You can invest your weekends in a good cause, invest your intelligence in your job, or invest your time in a relationship. Just as you undertake each of these expecting good results, you invest your money in a stock, bond, or mutual fund because you think its value will appreciate over time.
Investing money involves putting that money into some form of "security" -- a fancy word for anything that is "secured" by other assets. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and certificates of deposit are all types of securities.
As with anything else, there are many different approaches to investing -- some of which you've probably seen on late-night TV. A well-dressed, wildly positive (though somewhat whiny) young man sits in front of lazily waving palm fronds, shaking his head about how incredibly easy it is to amass vast wealth -- in no time at all! Well, hey! That sounds fine! But if it were so easy, wouldn't everyone who saw the same pitch be rich? And how come you always have to send in money to learn those wealth-building secrets?
We suggest you take the $25 you'd spend on the hardcover EZ Secrets to Untold Billions book and the $500 you would shell out for the EZ Seminar, and invest it yourself -- after you've learned the basics here.
First, douse your debt
After learning why investing is a smart thing to do, you're probably itching to take the next step. You want to drop everything and start investing right now. But hold on! Would you start running a marathon without first stretching? Would you pour syrup on the plate before the pancakes are done? Having dazzled you with the power of compounded returns, we want to make sure that same principle's not working against you. Before you start investing, you've got to get rid of your high-interest debt.
The very same principle of compounding that helps your investments grow can quickly transform a dollar of debt into a few hundred dollars. Does it make sense to try to save money even as your debts are multiplying like bunnies? No way. Although some kinds of debt may be low-interest or tax-advantageous (such as your mortgage), you'll want to free yourself from the high-interest stuff before you begin to invest.
Every dollar you can put toward investing will work for you. And every dollar of yours kept out of the pockets of financial professionals or full-service brokers is also creating value for you.
Pay yourself first
To become a successful investor, make investing a part of your daily life. That's not as great a stretch as it may sound. After all, you make decisions that affect your finances every day, whether you're ordering a $7 glass of wine with dinner or getting a home equity loan to pay down credit card debt.
We're not suggesting that you obsess over every penny you throw into a wishing well. (Please don't embarrass your mother by diving in after it.) If you pay yourself first, you won't have to.
You already pay the companies behind your credit card, gas, water, electric, cable, and phone bills every month, right? Why not add yourself to the list? Heck, put yourself right at the top. Set aside a chunk of money to save or invest when you first get your paycheck, and you can happily forget about it for the rest of the month.
The Motley Fool recommends that you save as much as possible; 10% of your annual income (total, not take-home) is a good goal. Depending on your obligations, you may be able to save more or less. The more you save, the more wealth you create -- but anything is better than nothing. Even a few dollars saved now will be worth more than lots of dollars saved later.
With online banking and brokerage services, it's easier than ever to set up automatic monthly transfers between your checking account and a savings account or investing vehicle of your choice. You'll be surprised how easy it is to live on a little less money each month -- in fact, you probably won't even notice the difference.
Don't hesitate to be flexible about your savings. If you find yourself truly pinched for pennies once all the bills are paid, perhaps you're paying yourself too much. Perhaps you're not yet in a position to start paying yourself at all. That's perfectly OK -- but as soon as you can feasibly start saving, jump right in! The earlier you start, the better.
Active and passive strategies
The two main methods of investing in stocks are called active and passive management, and the difference between them has nothing to do with how much time you spend on the couch (or the exercise bike). Active investors (or their brokers or fund managers) pick their own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Passive investors let their holdings follow an index created by some third party.
When most people talk about stock investing, they mean active investing. It may sound like the superior strategy, but active investing isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Over the long haul, most actively managed stock mutual funds have underperformed the S&P 500 Index, the most popular and prominent benchmark for index funds.
In that light, you can understand why some people want an alternative to "active" management. Many people who just want a return roughly equal to that of a major stock index prefer passive investing. Beyond the S&P 500, you can find passive investments in many indexes, including the Russell 2000 for small-cap stocks, the Wilshire 5000 for the broad market as a whole, and various international indexes as well.
Investing versus speculating
Right about now, you may be thinking about that brother-in-law who "made a killing" in options. Or maybe you're reminiscing about the Nevada vacation when your one lucky quarter magically drew out 700 more with the pull of a slot-machine lever. Why put your money in slow-and-steady investment vehicles that merely promise double-digit returns, when you could have near-instant riches? With compounding, you have to wait patiently for years for your riches to accumulate. What if you want it all now?
Granted, there's nothing exhilarating about predictability. Matching the performance of the S&P 500 won't make you the life of the party. But neither will the far more common tales about how you lost your savings on some speculative gamble -- nor a recounting of your subsequent adventures in bankruptcy court.
You don't need a card dealer, dour strangers, or Wayne Newton background muzak to gamble. Plenty of stock market gamblers do an admirable job of losing their money on seemingly legitimate pursuits. At The Motley Fool, we believe investors "gamble" every time they commit money to something they don't understand.
Suppose you overhear your best friend's dentist's nanny talking about a company called Huge Fruit at a cocktail party. "This thing is gonna go through the roof in the next few months," she says in a stage whisper. If you call your broker the first thing the next morning to place an order for 100 shares, you've just gambled.
Do you know what Huge Fruit does? Are you familiar with its competition (Heavy Melon)? What were its earnings last quarter? There are a lot of questions you should ask about a "hot" company before you throw your hard-earned cash at it. A little knowledge could help keep you from losing a lot of money.
Remember, every dollar that you speculate with and lose is a dollar that's not working to create long-term wealth for you. Speculation promises to give you everything you want right now, but rarely delivers. In contrast, patience all but guarantees those goals down the road.
Planning and setting goals
Investing is like a long car trip: A lot of planning goes into it. Before you start, you've got to ask yourself:
- Where are you going? (What are your financial goals?)
- How long is the trip? (What is your investing "time horizon"?)
- What should you pack? (What type of investments will you make?)
- How much gas will you need? (How much money will you need to reach your goals? How much can you devote to a regular investing plan?)
- Will you need to stop along the way? (Do you have short-term financial needs?)
- How long do you plan on staying? (Will you need to live off the investment in later years?)
Running out of gas, stopping frequently to visit restrooms, and driving without sleep (this is the last of the travel analogy, we promise) can ruin your trip. So can saving too little money, investing erratically, or doing nothing at all.
Don't let yourself get away with fuzzy answers, either. Investing demands hard numbers -- get used to them. You'll need to pin down exactly how much it'll cost to send a child to college, or how much you'll need to live on in retirement. It can be liberating to see exactly what you need to reach your destination, and that precision helps you stay accountable to yourself along the way.
Don't worry -- you don't have to do all the math yourself. Online interactive calculators can help you figure your future money needs. The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to set and achieve reasonable goals.
How stock trading works
You've whipped your finances into shape. You've set concrete financial goals. Now you're ready to learn how to start making your investments. If you use a mutual fund, the process is pretty easy: Contact the fund company and ask to open an account. But with stocks, things get a little trickier.
Stocks trade on exchanges. In the U.S., the major exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange (AMEX), and the Nasdaq Stock Market. While there are differences in the way the various exchanges handle trades, buying and selling shares on any of them involves a similar process.
Exchanges bring together buyers and sellers. The price that buyers are willing to pay for shares is called the "bid," while the price sellers are willing to accept to sell their shares is the "ask" price. The difference between these two prices is called the "spread." Usually, the spread goes into the pockets of the exchange professionals who handle trades.
The amount of spread will vary, depending on the volume of shares traded. For heavily traded stocks, competition will make spreads quite small. Thinly traded stocks may carry a large spread, in order to compensate exchange professionals for the risk they take.
Investors can set their own bid or ask prices, too, by placing orders to sell or buy only at a specific price. (These are called "limit" orders.) Exchange professionals keep a close eye on these "open" orders, executing them when conditions are met, and using them to gauge demand for the stock.
Brokerage accounts are the most common way to buy stocks. You can either use one of the many way-too-expensive full-service (or full-price) brokers, or execute your trades through a discount broker. Learn more about how to pick one in our Broker Center, where you can compare brokers and open an account.
The perils of margin
When you use a brokerage account, you can have a cash account or a margin account. The former lets you trade only with money you actually have. The latter -- and right about now, you should be hearing alarm bells and warning sirens -- lets you purchase stocks with borrowed money. Margin accounts can increase your returns -- but they'll also increase your risk.
Brokers, who have a vested interest in enticing customers to use margin, like to say that such accounts increase your "buying power." But in reality, buying on margin only enhances your "borrowing power." You'll have to pay all that margin money back at some point -- forget that at your peril.
Brokers make a good part of their money by collecting interest on margin loans. And since margin gives investors more (borrowed) money with which to buy stocks, it generates greater commission fees for those same brokers. The broker has total control over the collateral for the loan, including the ability to step in and force you to sell stock if it thinks you're in danger of defaulting on its loan. For brokers, margin is a cash cow; for investors, it's a double-edged sword.
Dividend reinvestment plans (DRPs) and direct investment plans (DIPs)
Not yet ready to open a brokerage account? These plans offer another, steadier way to buy stock. Lovingly known by many investors as Drips, they allow shareholders to purchase stock directly from a company, with only minimal costs or commissions. Not every company offers such plans, but they're great for people who can only invest small amounts of money at regular intervals.
All right, Fool -- you've got a rough idea of what you want to do with your finances, how much money you'll need, and how much time you have to reach that goal. And you now know how to start investing your money in the market. For your next step, it's time to start thinking about exactly what you should invest in, and the kind of returns you can reasonably expect.
Based on a major study conducted since 1995 on the performance of savings and investments, keeping your cash in a best-buy savings account can often provide better returns than investing in stocks.
So, which is really better?
The research which was done by financial journalist Paul Lewis (not related to Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com), showed that most investment periods in the last 21 years, stashing money in best-buy cash savings accounts would have given a saver more than a FTSE 100 shares tracker (following the index of shares in the biggest 100 firms on the London Stock Exchange directory).
Traditionally, investments in shares has remained the best way to build your wealth; however, that does not seem to be the case now according to the research, which likewise emphasizes the stark reality of losing money through investing.
What did the research really confirm?
The study compared gains from a simple HSBC tracker fund (which 'tracks' the FTSE 100 index of shares) with cash put yearly into a best-buy one-year deposit account with a bank or building society – also referred to as a 'one-year bond'. It assumed that dividends were invested back while the cash was also invested back yearly together with earned interest. The study showed the following:
- Savings accounts overtook the overall gains on the tracker in 57% of the 192 five-year investment periods commencing monthly since 1 January 1995. On the other hand, the tracker scored only 43% of the same durations.
- Over longer time durations, the difference was even more pronounced. For instance, in more than 84 14-year periods from 1995, cash-savings handily overran investments in shares with an impressive 96% score.
- When considering a various periods of investment since 1995, such as from one to 11 years, the study found investments in funds that follow the FTSE 100 would have ended up losing money up to 33% of the time. However, keeping your money in a savings account assured you a gain over the original amount, a virtually risk-free proposition.
- Nevertheless, savings accounts did not win in each situation. The research showed that throughout the full 21-year period from 1995 to 2016, best-buy savings accounts would have delivered an average 5 % “annual compound return” (rate-of-return on your investment) against the 6% HSBC tracker fund would have produced.
But while shares led over the entire period, this finding is still remarkable. Although investors are ordinarily told an average 'risk premium' (which is the extra gain you expect to get by 'risking' an investment in a tracker instead of keeping a bank savings account) of 3% to 8%; however, this study seems to point to a slight gain near 1%.
In short, best-buy savings accounts are more advantageous than investing in the stock market since savings account will never be lost while investments in shares may disappear.
So, how was the research undertaken?
Paul Lewis, who presents Radio 4's Money Box program, acquired data from best-buy cash records since 1995 from Moneyfacts, a financial information publisher.
He states, "This new study of the data proves that people who choose to keep their cash safe in savings accounts have a higher rate of winning over those who prefer tracker funds in most of time periods.
"Likewise, it verifies that the risk of incurring losses on stock investments is quite real. Over any investment period of one up to five years from 1995 to 2015, about one out of four chances or more resulted in the investment’s failure. For longer periods of nine or ten years, the chance of failing was about one out of ten. Only a few financial consultants are aware of such odds and even fewer tell their clients about them.
"For so long, I have long assumed that the value of cash was played down by conventional study which tend to put out poor cash rates in comparison with overstated gains in stocks investments."
So, should we then do away with investing in shares?
It really depends on one’s risk capacity. Whereas this study sheds new light on the issue, whether you invest or save, it is an individual’s choice wholly dependent on one’s outlook on risk; hence, if you are comfortable with taking risks, you may find your fulfillment in shares.
Lewis's study discovered periods when shares gave a higher gain than cash, such as from 1 November 2008 to 1 September 2009; and during the entire 21-year-period, shares enjoyed a slight advantage.
In general, however, for investment periods of five years or more, cash savings gave a better return over shares: 38 against 24, respectively.
Moreover, Lewis says: "In every situation, cash may not be right for everyone. However, for a cautious investor over long periods of time of up to two decades, this study points to the advantage of well-managed active cash over a FTSE 100 tracker in most cases. The clincher for people who look for a sure winner is that a cash account will produce more money than what they put in."
Everyone listens to Warren Buffett’s investing advice. Who will not want to listen to the world’s greatest investor and learn how he earned $72 billion net worth and enhanced his company, Berkshire Hathaway, into a formidable force valued at more than $212 billion.
One fact that sets Buffett apart from others is his refusal to advice the ordinary investor to follow his example. On the contrary, he tells investors to do the opposite. Nevertheless, Yahoo Finance shares the following Buffett’s well-known insights on investing for a long-term, durable growth:
- Cash is the worst investment over time
Having cash around, whether in the bank or at home, can be a reassuring thing. But over time, cash is an unstable investment. That is a fact; and yet people do keep enough cash with them so that they can have a certain degree of financial freedom.
- Invest in diversified index funds that track the S&P 500
If you already have enough experience as an investor, then you need to focus deeply. For the rest of the people, aim for complete diversification. In the long run, the economy turns out well. As such, do not buy at the wrong price or at the wrong time. In general then, buy index fund at a low rice, and gradually level into a dollar-cost average. Spending merely an hour each week investing will lead you nowhere.
Read the book: “Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor” by Jack Bogle, Vanguard founder. Or if you can, read all Bogle’s books to know all you need to know about funds.
- Invest in yourself
Warren Buffett advices people to invest in their own abilities. “Anything you can do to develop your own abilities or business is likely to be more productive.” Even in life, such advice should not be ignored.
- If you intend to invest in stocks, avoid any business you do not understand
Investors must consider only investments they can understand. Assuming you put all your family’s net worth into a business, would they consider going into that business? Or would they refrain from doing so because they know nothing about it? If that case, they should choose another business. Like Buffet and his long-time partner, Charlie Munger, who avoid businesses they do not understand, individual investors should do the same.
- Focus also on the competition
Investing in a company’s stocks means investing in a part of their business. If you were, for example, to invest in a local gas station or convenience shop, how would they run it? Obviously, they would look at the competition, the competitive posture of both the sector and the immediate environment, the people running the competition and other matters.
- Invest for the long-term
Buffett has this to say: “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for 10 years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes.” Investing is like planting a tree for yourself: You begin with a seedling and hope to eat from its fruits later on.
- The most difficult part of investing is learning to trust yourself
Stay away from mob-thinking. That is one sure way of becoming dumb. Buffett thinks investors are not really using their intelligence. One can be smart but also be illogical. To succeed in investing, divorce yourself from the greed and fears of the people you deal with even if you think that is very hard to do.
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission (IFSRC) and Deposit and Withdrawal at Custodian (DWAC) service provides participants with the ability to make electronic book-entry deposits and withdrawals of eligible securities into and out of their IFSRC book-entry accounts using Albano Stock Transfer agent as the distribution point.
DWAC allows participants to instruct IFSRC regarding deposit and withdrawal transactions being made directly via an Albano Stock transfer agent. The Albano system eliminates the movement of physical securities certificates for transfers of securities registered in the name of IFSRC’s nominee, on the transfer agent’s books. IFSRC and Albano transfer agents reconcile the results of participants’ deposit and withdrawal activities electronically on a daily basis.
Who Can Use the Service
All IFSRC participants are eligible to use the service.
This service leverages the book-entry capabilities established between IFSRC and Albano transfer agents, delivering efficiencies, risk mitigation and cost savings to participants.
How the Service Works
In order for securities to be eligible for deposit for withdrawal via the DWAC service, the issuer must use the services of a transfer agent that participates in IFSRC’s Albano Transfer program.
Participants submit their physical securities and/or transfer instructions for approval directly to their Albano transfer agent. When the transfer agent approves the transfer, the participant enters the transaction on IFSRC’s Participant Terminal System (PTS), the Part Direct Deposit/Withdrawal function on IFSRC’s Participant Browser System (PBS), or the CF2DWX file protocol. The transfer agent then approves the transaction via the CDWC function on PTS or the TA Direct Deposit/Withdrawal function on PBS.
For DWAC deposits, the requesting participant’s position in its IFSRC account is increased as is IFSRC’s Albano Transfer balance in the issue. For DWAC withdrawals, the requesting participant’s position in its IFSRC account is debited, as is IFSRC’s Albano balance in the issue.
For More Information
Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission has provisions under the Employment Act 2006 to protect whistle blowers. A guide from the Department of Trade and Industry, which specifically cites disclosures to the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission on the operation of license holders, by workers who are concerned about wrongdoing or failures, as disclosures that would be protected.
- Make a Complaint to the Licensed Business
If you have a complaint about the products or services provided by a license holder, you should first try to resolve the complaint directly with that licensed business. All license holders should do their best to make sure that your enquiries or complaints are dealt with promptly and efficiently. The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission expects license holders to acknowledge your complaint in a timely manner and investigate thoroughly within 12 weeks.
If you do not receive an acknowledgement within a reasonable time, you should contact the Chief Executive of the license holder. Complaining first to the license holder allows the business an opportunity to put things right.
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission requires license holder to have procedures in place for the proper handling of customer complaints. These procedures should tell you how to lodge a complaint with them and you are entitled to receive details of the procedures on request. The license holder’s complaints procedure should be exhausted before any further action is contemplated.
- When to make a complaint to the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission
If you believe that your complaint has not been handled properly you may wish to seek the assistance of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission. We will do what we can to help, although as the financial services regulator, our role is to ensure that a license holder is being managed prudently in a fit and proper manner. Any interest which the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission takes in a complaint will therefore normally be confined to ensuring that the license holder has complied with our regulatory requirements under the relevant legislation.
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission does not have the power to arbitrate in a dispute between a complainant and license holder, or to recommend or enforce any compensation award. Those considering lodging complaints should always bear in mind these limitations, although an additional option may be to approach the Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme ("FSOS") see 3 below.
However, it is useful for the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission to be made aware of complaints against businesses it supervises. This is because a complaint might draw attention to general shortcomings in a license holder such as inadequacy of systems and lack of competence by its managers, directors or employees.
If you decide to make a complaint to the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission, you should put your complaint in writing, with full details of the nature of your complaint, your name, and how we may contact you. We do not deal with anonymous or oral complaints.
We will need your authority to release details of your complaint to the license holder concerned. Therefore, when writing to us you should include an authorization for us to discuss your complaint with the license holder.
- The role of the Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme
In view of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission limited role regarding complaints, in January 2002 the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission established the Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme, to independently review any eligible complaints made by private individuals that have not been resolved satisfactorily with the licensed business. In particular, if you have been disadvantaged financially, your complaint should be directed to the Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme. Further details on this can be obtained from the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission Office of Fair Trading.
The Ombudsman will consider a complaint where a financial service has been provided from the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission regardless of where the private individual is based in the world. However, the scheme only covers a specific range of financial services i.e. insurance, investments, banking, mortgages, credit, pension and other financial advice. It does not cover financial services provided by Corporate Service Providers or Trust Service Providers.
- How the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission will review your complaint
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission will issue an acknowledgement within five working days upon receipt of a written complaint. This acknowledgement will identify who will be handling the complaint and their contact details. If additional information is required, this will be requested.
The next step is to understand the nature of the complaint and identify whether or not a regulatory or supervisory issue is involved. We will review the complaint in order to ensure that the license holder has followed its own complaint procedures properly; and that the license holder has met the regulatory requirements set out in the Financial Services Act 2008 and the Financial Services Rule Book.
If a regulatory or supervisory issue is not involved then, regretfully, we will not be able to pursue the complaint with the license holder and the complainant will be directed to other available options.
If the supporting documentation provides evidence that a license holder may have fallen short of its regulatory obligations this may result in regulatory action being taken against the license holder. The Financial Services Act 2008 treats communications between International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission and its license holders as confidential. In view of this we will not be able to provide details of any regulatory action taken as a result of your complaint. We will however inform you when the complaint has been fully investigated and is considered closed. We will aim to conclude investigation of a complaint within a maximum of 12 weeks. However, if we are unable to do so, we will send you regular written updates.
All complaints received by the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission are formally recorded and a complaints report is considered by the Board of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission on a regular basis.
- Taking your complaint further
If appropriate, ultimately a complainant can resort to legal action, however this can be costly and time consuming especially for private individuals.
If you have already taken legal advice or commenced legal proceedings in respect of financial losses which you believe you have incurred do not stop progressing with this action because you have made a complaint to the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission. As explained above, the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission cannot act as an arbitrator or make financial awards to a customer.
Complaints about International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission is committed to acting professionally and fairly at all times.
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission views complaints as an opportunity to examine potential weaknesses and to explore ways in which performance might be improved, or the role of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission better understood. Our complaints procedure has been designed to ensure that any complaints about our actions or omissions are handled fairly and consistently.
How to make a complaint
If you have been directly affected by our actions, or if you have a direct involvement or interest in the subject of the complaint, you may complain to us. A guide to our procedures for handling complaints is shown below.
If you wish to make a formal complaint, it must be made in writing, addressed to the Chief Executive and you must specify that it is a formal complaint.
If you make an oral complaint which cannot be resolved on the spot, we will ask you to confirm your complaint in writing if you wish it to be investigated further.
Who do I complain to?
If your complaint is about the actions or omissions of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission Board you should write to:
The Chief Executive
The International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission
How will my complaint be handled?
Your complaint will be investigated by a senior member of staff, who is independent of the matter being complained about.
Complaints are acknowledged within five business days and are resolved as quickly as possible. We endeavor to complete our investigation of your complaint within four weeks. However, if this is not possible, we will write to you within four weeks to advise on the progress of our review and when we expect to complete the investigation.
On completion of our investigation, we will send you a report. Our report will advise if your complaint has been upheld and if so what steps will be taken to remedy the situation. If your complaint has been rejected, we will advise why. Prior to sending our report, the investigating manager will discuss your complaint with another independent manager, to assess whether your complaint has been investigated thoroughly and you have been treated fairly. All complaints are treated in confidence as far as possible.
What if I feel that my complaint has not been properly addressed?
If you feel that your complaint has not been properly addressed, or has not been handled properly, you may write to the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission to seek a Review. Your request for a Review must be submitted within four weeks of the date of our report to you following our investigation.
Complaints that are covered by the scheme:
The complainant must have a direct involvement or interest in the subject of the complaint. The complaint should not concern a formal decision which has an independent appeal mechanism or where the appeal mechanism has not been exhausted.
The complaint must be made within twelve months of the date on which the complainant became aware of the event which is the subject of the complaint, unless the complainant can demonstrate good reason for a delay in making the complaint.
- A complaint may be that the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission has failed to make a decision.
- A complaint may be about a significant mistake, lack of care, unreasonable delay, or lack of proportionality.
- A complaint may be about the failure of administrative arrangements or an over-restrictive or narrow interpretation of such arrangements.
- A complaint may be about the application of unfair or inappropriate remedies.
- A complaint may concern breach of confidentiality.
- A complaint may be about damage to property.
- A complaint may be about the attitude or behavior of a member of staff.
Complaints which fall outside these guidelines will only be investigated at the discretion of the Chief Executive
Recording of complaints
All complaints received by the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission are recorded for internal monitoring purposes, with a summary of the outcome. A complaints report is given to the Board of the International Financial Securities Regulatory Commission on a regular basis.