Technology allows new markets and alleviates risk

With its investment in technology in April 2012, Canadian Western Trust (CWT) has opened up a new market: high net worth clients.

“We discovered a few years ago that if we wanted to get into that market, we were going to have to make an investment in technology,” says Matt Colpitts, vice-president and general manager of the investment custody firm.

“Our previous technology didn’t allow us to meet the needs of those customers,” he says. “An investment manager with 500 clients wants to be able to view across all of their accounts at the same time,” he explains. “We weren’t able to offer that—all our services were geared to individual or corporate clients with a small number of accounts.”

This new technology has also allowed clients to view their accounts in real time, which is an enhancement from CWT’s previous system.

And, CWT’s internal processes have benefited.

“With our previous technology,” explains Colpitts, “we were having to do a lot of things manually. Our system had limitations.” For example, the former system did not show accrued income, so if a dividend on a stock had been declared and not paid, the system wouldn’t pick it up and reflect it on a client account. CWT had to calculate that manually and post it to the client’s account. “You introduce a level of risk when you’re doing calculations manually and posting them to accounts,” says Colpitts.

With its “significant investment” in technology, says Colpitts, CWT is minimizing that risk, using a more efficient process and maintaining lower pricing for its customers.

“As you continue to grow in your business with your existing technology, eventually the ability to do all of these manual calculations is going to bog you down and service is going to suffer,” says Colpitts. “We made the conscious decision to invest early before there was an impact to our clients.”

Mobile use

When Benefits Canada polled 100 delegates about their mobile habits at the 2013 DC Plan Summit, the response garnered mixed results.

  • 23% do not and would not like to use mobile devices to access personal investments or other financial accounts
  • 44% use mobile devices to access entertainment, restaurant options or reviews
  • 55% use mobile devices to access news, weather or sports-related websites
  • 29% would like to but don’t currently use devices to access their personal employer-sponsored retirement savings plan; surprisingly, 24% do not

Predicting the market

They say you can’t predict the rise and fall of the stock market, but recent research may prove it possible.

Researchers found that using changes in the frequency of search volume as the basis of a trading strategy investing in the Dow Jones Industrial Average could have led to substantial profit.

In their paper, “Quantifying Trading Behavior in Financial Markets,” the researchers demonstrate that trading based on the number of queries on Google using the keyword debt could have brought in returns of up to 326%. “

We found that changes in the volume of certain Google search terms could be used as early warning signs of subsequent stock market movement,” said Dr. Tobias Preis, associate professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School in the U.K.

The researchers also found that changes in how often financially related pages were viewed on Wikipedia could have been linked to subsequent movements of the Dow.

Social impact

In a world filled with compassion fatigue, how do plan sponsors vie for attention? An Australian superannuation fund had the bright idea to socialize corporate social responsibility. Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World Initiative, which is about doing something positive for the community, invites people to send online suggestions for how they would spend $5,000 if they had it. The idea is posted on Facebook, and users vote by “liking” the best idea. The highest number of likes wins $5,000 toward realizing their dream.

In February, a group of knitters asked if they could have $5,000 for wool. Enough people voted for them and they won, says Sunsuper’s CEO, Tony Lally, about the group that knits beanies for babies and cardigans for the homeless. Sunsuper receives 10 to 15 applicants for the grants every month, and the page is getting more than 12,000 likes for each of the ideas, says Lally. “We’re reaching out to the community, and we’re spreading the word about Sunsuper.”

This month in numbers

40% of organizations believe using mobile technology to promote employee health engagement is a top priority for future adoption or expansion, yet only 11% measure return on investment on mobile apps — Buck Consultants’ Emerging Technology in Health Engagement Survey

Product corner

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) is going mobile with the launch of My HRPA. It’s a cross-platform app—meaning it’s available for BlackBerry, Android or iPhone—that will inform members of upcoming educational programs, member savings and other promotions, and links to the latest HRPA social media posts. It also provides access to a new service called HR Hotline, which gives instant access to experienced Certified Human Resources Professional volunteers.

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