Opportunity Zones: Aligning Public and Private Capital
At the end of 2017, a potential $6.1 trillion in unrealized capital gains was available for reinvestment.
Throughout the U.S., unrealized capital gains have significant tax implications with enormous potential. Unrealized capital gains occur when the value of an asset has gone up on paper, but has not yet been sold for a profit. Taxes are triggered once the asset has been sold.
Investors can offset or defer these taxes in a few ways, including one new strategy: investing in opportunity zones.
Today’s infographic from Bedford Funds explains what opportunity zone funds are, their core benefits, and their potential impact across the country.
What is an Opportunity Zone?
Opportunity zones are U.S. Census tracts whose citizens experience economic distress.
Originating in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they offer the potential to connect long-term capital with low-income communities across the country to drive return and impact.
How are opportunity zones chosen? The initial base is low-income census tracts, which have:
- Poverty rates of at least 20%; or
- Median family incomes lower than 80% of the surrounding area
The state’s governor or chief executive then nominates up to 25% of these areas as opportunity zones. Nationwide, a total of 8,700 opportunity zones exist, and 7.9 million of the areas’ residents live in poverty.
Overall, 35 million people live in these opportunity zones. There are a number of disparities between opportunity zones and notional averages across key variables:
|Poverty Rate||Median Family Income||Education*|
*Adult with Bachelor’s degree or higher
It’s evident these cities could benefit from increased investment.
What is an Opportunity Zone Fund?
An opportunity zone fund (OZF) is an investment vehicle that provides tax benefits for private capital to help revitalize economically distressed communities. Both operating businesses and real estate are eligible for investment.
Many investor types may take advantage of opportunity zone funds:
- Corporations– Also includes partnerships
- Accredited investors– Defined as high net worth individuals, brokers, and trusts
- Nonresident foreign investors– Only on capital gains earned in the U.S.
- Retail investors– Through funds that have lower minimums, though options are more limited
In addition to their wide eligibility, OZFs have a number of potential benefits.
Tax breaks on capital gains can be organized into three tiers:
- Initial Tax Deferral– Once the previously-earned capital gains are channeled into a qualifying OZF, federal tax is deferred until December 31, 2026 or the date the investment is sold— whichever comes sooner
- Step-Up In Basis– 10% of the original capital gains will be excluded from federal taxes if an investment is held for five years
- Capital Gains Tax Exclusion– Federal tax on capital gains earned within the OZF is 100% eliminated if an investment is held for 10 years
All things being equal, OZFs realize after-tax outcomes that are over 40% higher than a standard portfolio investment. For example, the potential after-tax value of a $100 investment after a 10-year holding period would be as follows.
|Initial Investment||Net after-tax value|
|Standard portfolio investment||$76.20 ($100- 23.8% capital gains tax)||$132.36|
*Note: assumes long-term federal capital gains tax rate of 23.8%, no state income tax, and annual appreciation of 7% for both the OZF and alternative investment.
While it takes a few years to realize these tax benefits, OZFs have long-term horizons to encourage sustained investment with a lasting impact. The result is the potential for sustainable and equitable wealth creation.
Although real estate investments have captured significant attention, recent regulation has clarified that operating businesses are also eligible OZF investments.
By investing in businesses, OZFs can have a direct impact on economic growth and job creation.
Ultimately, OZFs have the potential to catalyze collective impact through their scalable operating company and real estate investments. Working directly with community leaders, OZFs can help drive long-term rejuvenation from within, versus gentrification from outside forces.
Opportunity zone funds are projected to raise $44 billion in capital designed specifically to invest in this future growth.
Bridging the Gap: Wealth Isn’t Just for the Wealthy
The UK has a financial adviser gap, leaving about 51 million adults without advice. Learn how wealthtech makes investing accessible for everyone.
In the UK, money is the #1 cause of stress—ranking above physical health, work, or family.
When people begin investing, they see immediate emotional benefits compared to non-investors. In fact, investors are 16 percentage points happier, and 23 percentage points more positive about their well-being.
However, only 37% of Brits hold market-based investments. So why aren’t more people taking steps to invest? Today’s infographic from BlackRock outlines the barriers people face, and how wealthtech can help address these issues at scale.
The Wealth Problem
A variety of hurdles keep people from taking control of their finances.
- Lack of Resources: 59% of Brits feel they don’t have enough money to invest.
- Lack of Knowledge: 39% say a lack of knowledge holds them back.
- Fear of Failure: 34% are afraid of losing everything if they invest.
All of these factors culminate in insufficient investing. In fact, 50% of the €26 trillion European wealth market is currently in uninvested cash, earning zero interest.
What’s the Current Solution?
Traditionally, investment advisers helped tackle these issues. However, investors have faced challenges accessing professional advice in recent years.
A shortage of UK advisers is a main contributing factor:
- There are only 26,700 advisers, who can service an average of 100 clients each.
- This leaves over 51 million adults without professional advice.
Among available advisers, many impose investment minimums or fees that create barriers for lower-income populations. Financial advisers charge an average of £150/hour, and half of all surveyed advisers turned away clients with less than £50,000 to invest.
With so many hurdles to overcome, how can Brits take charge of their investments?
A Modern Solution
Wealth technology—or simply wealthtech—helps address these issues at scale, offering four main digital-first solutions:
- Helps investors build better portfolios.
Gone are the days of rudimentary spreadsheets. With the help of algorithms and machine learning, investors can now automatically build sophisticated portfolios.
- Helps advisors scale their services.
The automation of time-consuming processes allows advisers to service more clients.
- Reaches more people.
Wealthtech is accessible for all, not just the wealthy. For example, micro-investing apps allow investors to make small, regular contributions without paying a commission.
- Modernises infrastructure.
Wealthtech updates old legacy systems with more streamlined, automated systems. As a result, paper-based processes are replaced with mobile transactions that can be done with the click of a button.
These benefits can be applied across various branches of wealth management.
The Wealthtech Ecosystem
Investors can choose one of three main paths, based on their level of knowledge and interest.
“Do It Yourself” Investing
Confident investors who enjoy managing their own money can trade securities through self-directed online platforms.
“Do It For Me” Investing
Novice investors can use platforms that execute trades on their behalf, such as micro-investing or robo-advisers.
“Do It With Me” Investing
For investors in the middle of this spectrum, certain platforms offer a hybrid of digital transactions and professional advice.
With a wide variety of solutions available, investing has never been easier.
It’s clear Brits are open to the shift: 64% say new technology would help them be more involved in their investments.
As wealthtech evolves, it will be seamlessly integrated into daily life as part of a holistic financial services offering. Traditional barriers will be broken down, empowering individuals to take charge of their financial future.
Structured Notes: The Secret to Improving Your Risk/Return Profile?
Structured notes provide some downside protection, while allowing investors to participate in market upswings. Learn all about them in this infographic.
Structured Notes: The Secret to Improving Your Risk/Return Profile?
Structured notes are gaining momentum in the market, with a whopping $2 trillion in assets under management (AUM) globally.
So why haven’t more investors heard of them?
Traditionally, structured notes had a $1 million minimum investment. They were only available to high-net-worth or institutional investors—but they are now becoming more accessible.
Today’s infographic from Halo Investing explains what structured notes are, outlines the two main types, and demonstrates how to implement them in a portfolio.
What is a Structured Note?
A structured note is a hybrid security, where approximately 80% is a bond component and 20% is an embedded derivative.
Structured notes are issued by major financial institutions. Since they are the liability of the issuer, it is critical that the investor is comfortable with the issuer—as with any bond purchase.
Almost all structured notes have four simple parameters.
- Maturity – The term typically falls within 3 to 5 years.
- Payoff – The amount the investor receives at maturity.
- Underlying asset – The note’s performance is linked to the price return (excluding dividends) of an asset, such as stocks, ETFs, or foreign currencies.
- Protection – The level of protection the investor receives if the underlying asset loses value.
As long as the underlying asset does not fall lower than the protection amount at maturity, the investor will receive their initial investment back in full.
This is the primary draw of structured notes: they provide a level of downside protection, while still allowing investors to participate in market upswings.
Types of Structured Notes
There are a variety of structured notes, providing investors with diverse options and a range of risk/return profiles. Structured notes generally fall into one of two broad categories: growth notes and income notes.
Investors receive a percentage—referred to as the participation rate—of the underlying asset’s price appreciation.
For example, a growth note has the following terms:
- Maturity: 5 years
- Participation rate: 117%
- Underlying asset: S&P 500 index
- Principal protection: 30%
Here’s what the payoff would look like in 4 different scenarios:
|S&P 500 return||Growth Note Return|
The S&P 500 can return a loss of up to 30%, the principal protection level in this example, before the note starts to lose value.
Over an income note’s life, investors receive a fixed payment known as a coupon. Income notes do not participate in the upside returns the way a growth note does—but they may generate a higher income stream than a standard debt security or dividend-paying stock.
This is because protection is offered for both the principal and the coupon payments. For example, say a note’s underlying asset is the S&P 500, and it pays an 8% coupon with 30% principal protection. If the S&P 500 trades sideways all year—sometimes slightly negative or positive—the note will still pay its 8% coupon due to the protection.
Income notes have another big advantage: their yields can spike in tumultuous markets, as was demonstrated during the market volatility near the end of 2018.
Why did this spike occur? Banks construct the derivative piece of an income note by selling options*, which are more expensive in volatile markets. Banks then collect these higher premiums, creating larger coupons inside the structured note.
Investors can diversify their return profile by using a combination of growth and income notes.
*Option contracts offer the buyer the opportunity to either buy or sell the underlying asset at a stated price within a specific timeframe. Unlike futures, the buyer is not forced to exercise the contract if they choose not to.
Structured notes are powerful tools that can accomplish almost any investment goal, and investors commonly use them as a core portfolio component.
- Step 1: Select a portfolio asset class where downside protection is desired.
- Step 2: Reallocate a portion of the asset class to a structured note
- Step 3: Improve risk/reward performance.
The asset class will demonstrate an enhanced return profile, with less downside risk.
A Global Market
While relatively small in the Americas, the structured notes market is growing on a global scale:
|Region||AUM (2019 Q2)|
In the first half of 2019, assets under management in the Americas was up by 4%. It’s clear the asset class presents enormous untapped potential—and investors are taking notice.
Lowering Barriers Through Technology
Technology is becoming more ingrained in wealth management—empowering investors to access structured notes more easily through efficient trading.
The market is already becoming more accessible. By 31 October 2019, the average transaction size had decreased by almost $500,000 over the year prior.
Technology also offers other benefits for investors:
- Improved analytics
- Investment education
- Risk information
- Increased competition = lower fees
- Improved secondary liquidity
As more investors take advantage of this asset class, they may be able to improve their return potential while limiting their risk.
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