What Is The Difference Between Investment Management and Stockbrokers?

The investment services industry can be daunting and ambiguous for individuals who seek a return on their capital. After working hard earning your wealth, it is important to understand the different services offered by professionals and what solutions fit you personally. One of the main questions we get asked here is:

“What is the difference between investment management and stockbrokers?”

Firstly, let’s discuss what stockbrokers are – we all have a much better, clearer, idea of what they do and who they represent. Stockbrokers are regulated firms that offer financial advice to their clients. A stockbroker buys and sells equities and other securities like bonds, CFDs, Futures and Options on behalf of their clients in return for a fee or commission. A brokerage / stockbroker will receive a fee on each transaction, whether the idea is profitable or not.

A brokerage can specialise in any investment niche they wish for example:

  • FTSE All-Share stocks,
  • AIM stocks,
  • European Stocks,
  • Asian Stocks,
  • US Stocks
  • Combinations of the above
  • Straight equities,
  • Straight derivative trading (CFDs, Futures & Options)

The main reason why investors choose stockbrokers over any other professional investment service is simply down to control. Due to the nature of a brokerage firm, they can only execute a trade after you instruct them to do so. This means it is impossible for a brokerage to keep buying and selling securities without you knowing – known as churning for commission. This doesn’t however prevent stockbrokers providing you with several new ideas a week and switching your positions to a new idea.

However, there are natural flaws with the brokerage industry is that because trading ideas can only be executed after being instructed to list a few flaws;-

  • you may miss out of good opportunities due to moves in the market,
  • you may get in a couple of days later because you were busy and not make any money after fees,
  • you may receive a call to close a position but unable to without your say so.

The above are examples that can happen when investing with brokerage firms, but this is due to the reliance of gaining authorisation from their clients. So if you are ultra busy or travel a lot then you could potentially miss out on opportunities to buy or sell.

What are investment managers?

Now we understand what stockbrokers / brokerage firms are about, let’s discuss what investment management services can do for individuals.

Investment management firms run differently to brokerages. The core aspect to these services is that the professional investment managers use their discretion to make investment decisions. As a client of an investment management firm you will go through a rigorous client on boarding process (just like a brokerage firm) to understand your investment goals, understanding of the services being used, risk profile, angering to the investment mandate and allowing the service to manage your equity portfolio. The sign up with the service may seem long winded but it’s in your best interest to ensure the service is suitable and appropriate for you. In reality, it’s not a long winded process at all. Once you agree to the services offered then you will only be updated on the on-going account data and portfolio reporting in a timely manner. This means no phone calls to disrupt your day-to-day activities and allows the professionals to focus on your portfolio.

Investment management firms usually have specific portfolios with a track record, into which you can invest your capital according to you appetite for risk. These portfolios will focus on specific securities, economies, risk and type of investing (income, capital growth or balanced). All of this would be discussed prior or during the application process.

Another method used by investment management firms is different strategies implemented by their portfolio managers. These strategies are systematic and go through thorough analysis before investment decisions are made.

The fees usually associated with investment management firms can vary from each firm. There are three common types of fees and are usually combined, fees can be;-

  • Assets Under Management Fee – This is where you pay a percentage of the portfolio per year to the firm, usually an annual fee. E.g) 1% AUM Fee on £1,000,000 is £10,000 per year.
  • Transaction Fee – This is a fee associated with each transaction made through your portfolio – similar to the brokerage firm’s commission.
  • Percentage of Profits Fee – This is where any closed profits generated over a set time will be charged to the firm. E.g) 10% PoP Fee – the firm generates you closed profit of £10,000 in one quarter – you will be charged £1,000.

The main benefits provided from investment management firms is that after the service understands your needs and tailors the service around you, it is their job to build a portfolio around you. It is also the job of the investment management firm to adhere to the investment mandate you agreed on, we’ll take about this later, so you understand of the time frame given what you should expect. Another bonus why high-net worth individuals choose investment management services is because they are not hassled by phone calls every other day with a new investment idea.

The difference…

The main difference between investment management and stockbroking firms is:

  • Investment Managers offers discretionary services; no regular phone calls about stock ideas.
  • Stockbrokers give you more control as you can personally filter out ideas you think won’t work.
  • Investment Managers offer an investment mandate; this is where the investment management service provides a document of what they are offering you in return of managing your portfolio. You will understand what exactly they are targeting over the year, based on what risk, and should they achieve it – then they have fulfilled their service. E.g) the mandate could state that the strategies used and based on 8% volatility (risk), they seek to achieve 14% capital return.
  • Stockbrokers do not offer an future agreements but look to deliver growth during the time you are with them. They are not bound by their performances like investment managers.
  • Investment management firms have a track record for all of the strategies and services used, stockbrokers do not.

Which to choose?

Both services provide professional approaches to investing in the stock markets. Stockbrokers are chosen over investment managers by people who like to be in control and receive financial advice. Stockbrokers generally do not have a systematic approach to the markets but use selective top-down approaches to select stocks.

Investment managers are chosen by investors who want an agreement on their performances over the year and understand the risk up-front. Usually more sophisticated investors that wish to take advantage of the track-record and gain an understanding of the systematic approach used by the investment management firm.

Feel free to learn more.

DISCLAIMER: The above is not considered financial advice or any endorsement to use any particular service. If you wish to use any of the services mentioned, please seek independent advice.

RISK WARNING: Spread betting, CFD, futures and options trading carries a high level of risk to your capital and can result in losses that exceed your initial deposit. They may not be suitable for everyone, so please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. Past performance of a managed service is not a guide to future performance.

Making Investment Plans

Steps In Investing

Step 1: Meeting Investment Prerequisites-Before one even thinks of investing, they should make sure they have adequately provided for the necessities, like housing, food, transportation, clothing, etc. Also, there should be an additional amount of money that could be used as emergency cash, and protection against other various risks. This protection could be through life, health, property, and liability insurance.

Step 2: Establishing Investing Goals-Once the prerequisites are taken care of, an investor will then want to establish their investing goals, which is laying out financial objectives they wish to achieve. The goals chosen will determine what types of investments they will make. The most common investing goals are accumulating retirement funds, increasing current income, saving for major expenditures, and sheltering income from taxes.

Step 3: Adopting an Investment Plan-Once someone has their general goals, they will need to adopt an investment plan. This will include specifying a target date for achieving a goal and the amount of tolerable risk involved.

Step 4: Evaluating Investment Vehicles-Next up is evaluating investment vehicles by looking at each vehicle’s potential return and risk.

Step 5: Selecting Suitable Investments-With all the information gathered so far, a person will use it to select the investment vehicles that will compliment their goals the most. One should take into consideration expected return, risk, and tax considerations. Careful selection is important.

Step 6: Constructing a Diversified Portfolio-In order to achieve their investment goals, investors will need to pull together an investment portfolio of suitable investments. Investors should diversify their portfolio by including a number of different investment vehicles to earn higher returns and/or to be exposed to less risk as opposed to just limiting themselves to one or two investments. Investing in mutual funds can help achieve diversification and also have the benefit of it being professionally managed.

Step 7: Managing the Portfolio-Once a portfolio is put together, an investor should measure the behavior in relation to expected performance, and make adjustments as needed.

Considering Personal Taxes

Knowing current tax laws can help an investor reduce the taxes and increase the amount of after-tax dollars available for investing.

Basic Sources of Taxation-There are two main types of taxes to know about which are those levied by the federal government, and those levied by state and local governments. The federal income tax is the main form of personal taxation, while state and local taxes can vary from area to area. In addition to the income taxes, the state and local governments also receive revenue from sales and property taxes. These income taxes have the greatest impact on security investments, which the returns are in the form of dividends, interest, and increases in value. Property taxes can also have a significant impact on real estate and other forms of property investment.

Types of Income-Income for individuals can be classified into three basic categories:

1. Active Income-This can be made up of wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, pension, and alimony. It is made up of income earned on the job as well as through other forms of noninvestment income.

2. Portfolio Income-This income is from earnings produced from various investments which could be made up of savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, and futures, and consists of interest, dividends, and capital gains.

3. Passive Income-Income gained through real estate, limited partnerships, and other forms of tax-advantaged investments.

Investments and Taxes-Taking into tax laws is an important part of the investment process. Tax planning involves examining both current and projected earnings, and developing strategies to help defer and minimize the level of taxes. Planning for these taxes will help assist investment activities over time so that an investor can achieve maximum after-tax returns.

Tax-Advantaged Retirement Vehicles-Over the years the federal government has established several types of retirement vehicles. Employer-sponsored plans can include 401(k) plans, savings plans, and profit-sharing plans. These plans are usually voluntary and allow employees to increase the amount of money for retirement and tax advantage of tax-deferral benefits. Individuals can also setup tax-sheltered retirement programs like Keogh plans and SEP-IRAs for the self-employed. IRAs and Roth IRAs can be setup by almost anyone, subject to certain qualifications. These plans generally allow people to defer taxes on both the contributions and earnings until retirement.

Investing Over the Life Cycle

As investors age, their investment strategies tend to change as well. They tend to be more aggressive when they’re young and transition to more conservative investments as they grow older. Younger investors usually go for growth-oriented investments that focus on capital gains as opposed to current income. This is because they don’t usually have much for investable funds, so capital gains are often viewed as the quickest way to build up capital. These investments are usually through high-risk common stocks, options, and futures.

As the investors become more middle-aged, other things like educational expenses and retirement become more important. As this happens, the typical investor moves towards more higher quality securities which are low-risk growth and income stocks, high-grade bonds, preferred stocks, and mutual funds.

As the investors get closer to retirement, their focus is usually on the preservation of capital and income. Their investment portfolio is now usually very conservative at this point. It would typically consist of low-risk income stocks and mutual funds, high-yield government bonds, quality corporate bonds, CDs, and other short-term investment vehicles.

Investing In Different Economic Conditions

Even though the government has different tools or strategies for moderating economic swings, investors will still endure numerous changes in the economy while investing. An investment program must allow the investor to recognize and react to changing conditions in the economy. It is important to know where to put your money and when to make your moves.

Knowing where to put your money is the easiest part to deal with. This involves matching the risk and return objectives of an investor’s plan with the investment vehicles. For example, if there is an experienced investor that can tolerate more risk, then speculative stocks may be right for them. A novice investor that wants a decent return on their capital may decide to invest in a growth-oriented mutual fund. Although stocks and growth funds may do well in an expanding economy, they can turn out to be failures at other times. Because of this, it is important to know when to make your moves.

Knowing when to invest is difficult because it deals with market timing. Even most professional money managers, economists, and investors can’t consistently predict the market and economic movements. It’s easier to understand the current state of the market or economy. That is, knowing whether the market/economy is expanding or declining is easier to understand than trying to predict upcoming changes.

The market or economy can have three different conditions: (1) recovery or expansion, (2) decline or recession, (3) a change in the general direction of its movement. It’s fairly easy to observe when the economy is in a state of expansion or recession. The difficult part is knowing whether the existing state of the economy will continue on the course it’s on, or change direction. How an investor responds to these market conditions will depend on the types of investment vehicles they hold. No matter what the state of the economy is, an investor’s willingness to enter the capital market depends on a basic trust in fair and accurate financial reporting.

Stocks and the Business Cycle

Conditions in the economy are highly influential on common stocks and other equity-related securities. Economic conditions is also referred to as the business cycle. The business cycle mirrors the current status of a variety of economic variables which includes GDP, industrial production, personal disposable income, the unemployment rate, and more.

An expanding business cycle will be reflected in a strong economy. When business is thriving and profits are up, stock prices react by increasing in value and returns. Speculative and growth-oriented stocks tend to do especially well in strong markets. On the flip side, when economic activity is diminishing, the values and returns on common stocks tend to follow the same pattern.

Bonds and Interest Rates

Bonds and other forms of fixed-income securities are highly sensitive to movements in interest rates. The single most important variable that determines bond price behavior and returns is the interest rate. Bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions. Lower interest rates are favorable for bonds for an investor. However, high interest rates increase the attractiveness of new bonds because they must offer high returns to attract investors.