Decoding the Financial World

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1 Decoding the Financial World The collapse of Lehman Brothers heralded the beginning of 2008 financial crisis that affected every one of us directly or indirectly. Yet, mystery of the financial world remains for many of us. This article seeks to paint a simplified picture of the financial world so that a basic understanding of it can be attained, after reading this article. This article groups various financial institutions in terms of the main functions they serve or primary roles they play. The financial world mainly consists of the sell-side, buy-side, financial regulators and the various products that are produced and traded by the industry. The sell-side: Investment banks are the major sell-side in the market. Typically, investment banks have three broad divisions, the Investment Banking (IB) division, Sales and Trading (S&T) division and Research division. Before further explanation of the three divisions, a common misunderstand between investment banks and commercial banks need to be addressed. Commercial banks are those, such as POSB, banks that deal with retail banking, namely accepting deposits from us and extend loans to us when we are in need. In summary, these banks deal with individuals. On the other hand, Investment banks are banks that provide financial services to companies. They provide services such as underwriting initial public offerings (IPOs), facilitating potential mergers and acquisitions (MAs) between large firms. The underwriting of IPOs and MAs are normally done by the IB division of investment banks. IB division will first help firms that plan to go public to figure out an ideal IPO price of their shares. Thus a majority of personnel at IB division does modeling and due diligence to evaluate firms and thus derive a reasonable IPO price. Then, they will help marketing the shares to various potential buyers which normally culminate in a road show by the head of the firm to potential investors. From the total amount of share revenue that they help firm raised from investors, they will charge a fixed percentage commission that has been agreed upon at the very beginning. Moreover, IB division also helps to facilitate potential MAs between firms. For example, their clients will normally ask them to evaluate potential mergers and acquisitions in terms of benefits of buying or selling price. Firms will then rely on information they provided to make their decisions whether to proceed with the potential merger or acquisition. If they do choose to proceed, they will then normally ask IB to be their advisors in the actual MA process. A commission, normally a fixed percentage of the final deal value, will be earned by IB. Thus, these are the two major ways that the IB division of investment banks makes their profits.

2 Besides IB division, investment banks typically has an S&T division as well, they mainly execute trades on behalf of the bank or their clients who has put their money with the banks. Besides having professional traders at S&T division, there are also sales persons at the division, whose job responsibility is to source for potential investors who are willing to put their money with the bank and keep in touch with existing clients. Sales persons daily routine is to get trade ideas from the traders across to existing investors and get back to traders with trading requests from investors, if there is any. Thus, how S&T division makes its money is through charging commissions from trading executed on their clients behalf, and profits earned from trading their own money. Last but not least, some investment banks have a separate research division while some choose to keep it within S&T division. The research division, many deem as not revenue generating for investment banks, does what is clearly reflected by its name, research. They conduct research on public listed companies in various industries; they then publish reports which normally come with a suggestion of buy, sell or hold. These reports are widely used by professional investors, and analyst s consensus are widely deem as an important indicator of the market s future trend. Moreover, sell-side also includes independent brokerages. They are the middle-man who facilitates buying and selling of shares, they normally charge a fixed amount commission per trade or a fixed percentage of total transacted amounts per trade. The Buy-side: The buy-side is entities that normally use the services provided by the sell-side, and in layman terms, they are the ones with money. Mutual funds are a long-established form that investment entity takes. Its funding rationale is to reap profits from the growth of various financial product markets, though mainly stocks. They usually have a pool of money, contributed by investors, to invest. Moreover, mutual funds are characterized by their tendency to hold stocks for long period of time, and thus benefitting from picking the companies with the largest potential in years to come. The long period of time is usually unable to be defined clearly, because it typically ranges from a few months to a few years. Thus mutual funds are in sharp contrast with hedge funds in terms of strategies taken. Hedge funds are a popular form that investment entity takes in recent decades. Its fund funding rationale is evident in its name, to hedge. It employs various hedging techniques to hedge against market risks and thus promising absolute returns. It tend to hold stocks for long, but more often than not, it also buys and sell stocks in extremely short periods of time. Moreover, the financial products that hedge fund trades tend to be more diversified compare to mutual funds. Hedges fund trade on foreign exchange markets, commodities futures market and stock markets. However, we rarely see a hedge fund that trades all,

3 rather, individual hedge fund usually pick only one type of market and few or even just one trading strategy. This resulted in differing types of hedge funds, for example, if a hedge fund is called stocks long-only, it means the hedge fund specializes in trading stocks and it only employs long strategy instead of short or both long and short strategy. Though hedge funds promise absolute returns, the performance of hedges funds are still fluctuating between great losses and great gains with only a few constantly achieving decent profits over past few years. Another type of investment form in the buy-side is private equity. Private equity s funding source is similar to that of mutual funds and hedge funds, but they bet differently. Private equity firms normally bet on start-ups with great potential. Private equity firms will invest money to help speed up the building and expansion of the start-up in exchange for a certain stake in the firm. Hopefully, the start-up business will eventually grow big enough to go for initial public offering, and then private equity firms can sell their stake in the firm. Otherwise, private equity can always sell their stake in a growing start up which is not yet public listed to another private equity firm. Besides, private equity also employs the strategy of buying a significant stake in companies that are already public listed. The companies tend to be either performing very well, thus private equity firms would want to benefit from their growth in income, or performing very badly, thus private equity firms would want to take over control and implement major overhaul to ramp up the company and then gain from its rising share price. However, recently, there is an emergence of firms that can be deemed as a hybrid of hedge/mutual funds and private equity, these are investment firms who employs both hedge fund strategies, thus trading financial products in various markets, but also finances start up and buying significant stake in public listed firms. Increasing, these hybrid funds are becoming popular as it has the kind of flexibility in terms of allocating investors-contributed capital, compare to that of hedge funds, mutual funds and private equity firms. Moreover, similar to hybrid fund, there are institutional funds, too. Some institutional funds tend to operate similar to mutual funds while others tend to operate similar to private equity, but most often than not, institutional funds are hybrid in nature. The only unique characteristic of institution funds is its funding source which solely comes from the government of the respective country. Last but not least, a very unique type of investment entity, that is a result of the proliferation of mutual and hedge funds, is the fund of funds. Their unique strategy is not to trade financial products themselves, but invest their money into various mutual funds and hedge funds that they deem will perform well. Financial regulators in major financial hubs: USA:

4 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission protects investors by maintaining a fair and orderly market. It mains consists of several divisions. The Division of Corporation Finance oversees corporate disclosure of important information to the investing public. The Division of Corporation Finance reviews documents that publicly-held companies are required to file with the Commission. These documents disclose information about the companies' financial condition and business practices to help investors make informed investment decisions.. The Division of Investment Management is responsible for investor protection through overseeing and regulating America's $26 trillion investment management industry. This includes mutual funds and the professional fund managers who advise them; analysts who research individual assets and asset classes; and investment advisers to individual customers. The Division of Enforcement serves its law enforcement function by recommending the commencement of investigations of securities law violations, by recommending that the Commission bring civil actions in federal court or as administrative proceedings before an administrative law judge, and by prosecuting these cases on behalf of the Commission. Commodity Futures Trading Commission: The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates futures and option markets. The stated mission of the CFTC is to protect market users and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to the sale of commodity and financial futures and options. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA's mission is to protect America's investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. UK: Financial Services Authority: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is a responsible for the regulation of the financial services industry in the United Kingdom.

5 On 19 December 2012, the Financial Services Act 2012 received royal assent abolishing the FSA with effect on 1 April Its responsibilities will be split between the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority. Panel on Takeovers and Mergers: The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers (the Panel ) is an independent body, supervising and regulating takeovers. Specifically, the Panel regulates takeover bids and other merger transactions for companies which have their registered offices in the United Kingdom, Singapore: Monetary Authority of Singapore: Monetary Authority of Singapore serves as the central bank of Singapore. It manages Singapore's exchange rate, foreign reserves and liquidity in the banking sector. MAS is also an integrated supervisor overseeing all financial institutions in Singapore -- banks, insurers, capital market intermediaries, financial advisors, and the stock exchange. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Monetary Authority: Hong Kong Monetary Authority, abbreviated as HKMA, is the government authority in Hong Kong responsible for maintaining monetary and banking stability. Its main functions are: Securities and Futures Commission: The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong is the independent statutory body charged with regulating the securities and futures markets in Hong Kong. They essentially oversee many different types of participants in the securities and futures markets, including investors. Specifically, they regulate brokers, investment advisers, fund managers and intermediaries who carrying out activities such as dealing in securities, dealing in futures contracts, leveraged foreign exchange trading, advising on securities, advising on futures contracts, advising on corporate finance, providing automated trading services, securities margin financing, asset management, providing credit rating services and investment products In conclusion, the simple picture of the financial world includes buy-side, who are with the money, sell-side, who provide services to buy-side, and the regulators who oversee all financial activities. The world of finance is indeed simple and logical, and mostly importantly, it affects every one of us directly or indirectly.

6 Many people fervently follow politics, because who gets elected affects every one of us. So is the financial world, it affects every one of us, daily. Having an understanding of what it is made of and how it works is crucial in the 21 st century. Wang Fangwei This research material has been prepared by NUS Invest. NUS Invest specifically prohibits the redistribution of this material in whole or in part without the written permission of NUS Invest. The research officer(s) primarily responsible for the content of this research material, in whole or in part, certifies that their views are accurately expressed and they will not receive direct or indirect compensation in exchange for expressing specific recommendations or views in this research material. Whilst we have taken all reasonable care to ensure that the information contained in this publication is not untrue or misleading at the time of publication, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness, and you should not act on it without first independently verifying its contents. Any opinion or estimate contained in this report is subject to change without notice. We have not given any consideration to and we have not made any investigation of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of the recipient or any class of persons, and accordingly, no warranty whatsoever is given and no liability whatsoever is accepted for any loss arising whether directly or indirectly as a result of the recipient or any class of persons acting on such information or opinion or estimate. You may wish to seek advice from a financial adviser regarding the suitability of the securities mentioned herein, taking into consideration your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs, before making a commitment to invest in the securities. This report is published solely for information purposes, it does not constitute an advertisement and is not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. No representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is provided in relation to the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information contained herein. The research material should not be regarded by recipients as a substitute for the exercise of their own judgement. Any opinions expressed in this research material are subject to change without notice NUS Invest

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