Blockchain and Its Impact on Supply Chain Security

As our society has grown more digitized, there’s been an exponential increase in the complexity of our supply chains that makes security an even more pressing issue. Many believe that blockchain — the distributed ledger technology — holds substantial promise as a solution.

Cyber breaches cost the international community $2.1 trillion annually – and many subject matter experts believe those losses will only mount as hackers grow increasingly sophisticated in their capabilities.

Every link in the supply chain is susceptible to security issues. Cargo theft, for example, causes $30 billion in losses each year. But it’s in the growing importance of IT systems and interconnectedness where some of the most prominent dangers lie: With manufacturing systems linked to those for sales and operations that are in turn linked to transport management systems, if one is hacked, a lot of doors are likely to be opened.

Blockchain’s structure makes it an ideal platform for supply chains in a global digital economy where networks must be expanded to include more trusted partners – if success is to be scored. But the more players, the greater the security risks.

As a distributed ledger technology, blockchain mitigates much of that risk. It creates a shared and virtually unalterable record of events and transactions and gives real-time and trusted data to verified parties in the supply chain. This, in turn, enables more secure transactions that are less vulnerable to fraud and theft. And since data is distributed, residing on multiple PCs versus a centralized server, cyber attacks are virtually impossible to carry out.

Other security issues also stand to be mitigated with the blockchain solution.

Manufacturers, for example, expect reassurance that items used on their production lines have solid and traceable provenance and the products they ship out aren’t tampered with. Blockchain’s structure allows for precise and transparent product tracking, so that risk of fraudulent goods slipping into the system is reduced. Goods are registered on the ledger, providing a solid audit trail that also includes information like cost, location, date and production and transportation partners.

A variety of projects have been launched that show the various areas where blockchain could be beneficial in fixing some of the more persistent security issues on any number of fronts in the supply chain. IBM, for example, has a service where customers can track high-value items through complex supply chains via a cloud-based blockchain. The company had initially tested it for increased transparency in the diamond market – one that’s rife with criminal activity and violence.

These are exciting times — and challenging ones, too — for an increasingly vast and complex supply chain. Evolving technologies like blockchain promise a system that achieves higher levels of efficiency, transparency and security in the process.

Understanding the Differences Between Financial Advisors and Brokers

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Advisors Channel

As a fee-only financial advisor, I am surely biased to this type of advisor. I do think everyday investors are much better off if they have someone in their corner who is recommending a particular investment product because it actually is the best product for them, given their circumstances and life stage. Not because there’s a commission on the sale at the end of the day.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t be mindful of possible issues – and that’s for any financial advisor, whether fee-based or full-service brokers. For that matter, you also should be mindful of potential drawbacks to other options that may seem (superficially, at least) appealing.

Let’s look at the options.

Fee-only financial advisors are considered advantageous because there’s no inherent conflict of interest as there can be with full-service or commission-based brokers. Brokers often recommend investments owned by their company, which is an inherent conflict.  You simply have to consider whether the products recommended are going to be best for your personal financial goals.

What you pay for is financial guidance, planning and assistance. This may be a flat fee. Some advisors charge a percentage of your account’s assets. You may be able to negotiate the amount. But, the fees you pay do not fluctuate according to the type of investments that are being recommended. What you get with this approach is objectivity and investment advice that’s unbiased. Your interests and your advisor’s are aligned.

The commission-based approach to financial advisory services is less the norm today than in the past. You open an account or buy a stock or bond and your advisor gets a percentage. Recurrent trading may also be encouraged – which may not be good for investors with a longer-term perspective. This all can pose a conflict with your best interests and goals.

And on the do-it-yourself front? Well, as attractive as this might sound on the surface, consider the relevance of the saying about the attorney who represents himself. For investment purposes, you might find good information online, but it’s just as likely you’ll find speculative information, if not real fake news. Investing is a risky business; if you don’t have the time or the expertise to do an adequate job of qualifying research, get a professional to help. Your future – financial and otherwise – depends on it.

Speaking of your financial future, it’s never too early to start planning for it. That means Millennials – and even the oldest Generation Zs who are just entering the workforce – should be putting money aside as they think about their long-term financial goals. It’s a challenge, of course, especially for those who are still trying to pay off college. Retirement is maybe too much to think about, right?

With that said, I’ve developed a service package to make it less painless. My new Robo-Advisor Professional service package is specifically targeted to the needs of Millennials and utilizes an in-depth financial data collection sheet, as well as a plan discussion with myself, to collect essential information about your financial background and goals.  This provides a strong base of understanding for clients to invest in ETFs through WealthSimple with a superior portfolio manager with a track record of beating the index.

ETFs are ideal for those with more limited resources, as a “wrapper” around a group of securities. They have a cost advantage over individual stocks and can be traded commission free. They’re similar to mutual funds, but with more flexibility as they can be traded throughout the day, not just once.

Ed Rempel Org

What is The Cash Flow Dam?

What Is The Cash Dam and How Does It Work?

 The Cash Dam (sometimes referred to as a “cash flow dam”) is a simple but powerful concept, and it’s an especially attractive option for those who are familiar with the Smith Manoeuvre or other tax minimization strategies. Cash Dam can help you with tax optimization if you have a mortgage and own either a small business or a rental property.

What is cash damming?

 The Cash Dam allows the owner of a small business or rental property to more quickly pay down their non-deductible mortgage on their home. It’s a variation on the Smith Manoeuvre, but without additional investing. The Cash Dam is essentially an expedient way to change bad debt into good debt.

For someone who’s using the Cash Dam, what it involves is using a line of credit to pay for business expenses. Then, while using the increased business cash flow, you pay down a non-deductible mortgage or loan. This, in turn, produces an increasing tax-deductible business loan, while paying down a non-deductible mortgage or loan. Be advised that the Cash Dam as described above will only work for those who own a non-incorporated personal or partnership-based small business or a rental property.


 If you own a small non-incorporated business that has $2,000 in expenses each month and you also have a readvanceable mortgage, then the $2,000 per month expense would be paid by the home equity line of credit (HELOC). You then use the additional $2,000 you have in your business expense account to make a payment on your non-deductible mortgage. Interest paid on money that’s borrowed for business expenses is tax-deductible; by using the Cash Dam, you’ll be left with a tax-deductible business loan and a non-deductible mortgage that’s been quickly paid down.

One of the keys to the Cash Dam, however, is capitalizing the interest on the business line of credit. That way, you avoid using any of your own cash flow and you keep the business line of credit tax-deductible.

How does the Cash Dam differ from the Smith Manoeuvre?

The Cash Dam relies on using a tax-deductible business loan to allow you to pay down a non-deductible debt, while the Smith Manoeuvre allows you to buy investments. Investing from your credit line is why the Smith Manoeuvre has much higher risk and return than the Cash Dam.

Potential applications

 Say that you’re a rental investor, instead of using your own cash flow to pay for rental-related expenses, you can use the Cash Dam and a line of credit. In this instance, using the Cash Dam would help you pay for your personal mortgage and help you satisfy your tax obligations as well.

And if you are a small business owner, the Cash Dam can be extremely advantageous. The strategy gives you a way to quickly pay down your non-deductible mortgage and convert that debt into a tax-deductible business loan.

Ed Rempel Org

Ed Rempel – Not Sold on ETF’s and Index Funds

Why I Won’t Own an Index Fund or ETF

 Skilled Fund Managers

Many investors are skeptical that there exist fund managers who have skill and who can beat the index over the long-term. Other investors believe that there are fund managers who have skill, but that it’s impossible to identify them ahead of time.

There are skilled fund managers that can be identified ahead of time. I know quite a few of them. You just have to look using the right criteria.

Identifying Skill

When looking at funds, many investors take an objective approach and study recent returns, look at ratings or statistics, or try to forecast which sectors will perform well.

Other kinds of skill evaluations are more subjective and rely on insider judgments, e.g., doctors assessing other doctors, or even actors judging performances of their peers.

The evaluation of a fund manager falls somewhere in between those two approaches, the objective and the subjective. I believe that, to find the best fund managers, you have to study them, not the fund.

Start by finding fund managers that have beaten their index over their career or long periods of time. This could be in more than one fund. They do not need to beat the index every year – just over time. Then study them to find out how they do it. Is it because of stock-picking skill?

Outperforming the appropriate indexes is just one factor in the criteria. Top fund managers are usually not trying to secretly follow the index–they’re more likely to have an effective style (like value investing), and have high “active share,” which means that they’re investing in a way that differs from the index; they also often have great experience and have their own money invested in the funds that they manage, i.e. “skin in the game”.

My All-Star Fund Managers

One of my special skills is identifying all-star fund managers — it’s essentially my main focus related to investments. I’ve found around 50 fund managers over the years who I would characterize as having superior skill, and all of them have beaten their index over long periods of time.

Most of those 50 managers are on my “watch list”. I own only a handful of those funds. Although I’m resistant to the idea of sharing statistics about my own personal investments, mostly because my investment style may not be suitable for every investor, I want to emphasize that it’s possible to identify skilled fund managers early and ahead of time.

Why I Will Never Own an ETF or Index Fund

I won’t ever own an ETF or an index fund because I’m not happy with below-index returns. I choose investments based on the fund managers–I want to invest with the Albert Einstein of investors, the absolute best. ETFs and index funds don’t have fund managers, so I’m not interested. The goal of investing is to obtain the highest long-term return after fees, and a skilled fund manager provides enough value to pay for those fees and more.

Above-Index Returns

There are really two options when you’re pursuing above-index returns: one, you can find yourself an all-star fund manager, or, second, you can choose a portfolio manager who’s paid by performance fee. When portfolio managers are paid by performance fee, they’re motivated to beat their index. If they don’t beat the index, the fees are similar to ETFs. If they do beat the index, the fee pays for itself.

Getting above-index returns is all about finding skill.

Ed Rempel CFS

Ed Rempel Top Key Note Speaker at The Canadian Financial Summit

Ed Rempel is a well known Canadian “Financial” Keynote Speaker and shares his enthusiasm and many years of experience to primed financial audiences that want, need and deserve more and better insight and information. Join Ed Rempel a senior financial industry expert with a host of other top speakers at the Canadian Financial Summit. September 13-16 Online Event.



On Organizational Silos and How to Surmount Them

It’s been 25 years since Jack Welch, the iconic former leader of General Electric, encouraged a different way of looking at how businesses are organized and managed.

He advocated for the “boundary-less” organization, marked by faster decisions, greater employee engagement and stronger collaboration. He brought it to life as the “GE Work-Out Process,” and the underlying philosophy – the need to remove the hierarchies and silos and fragmented processes and cultures – has been popular among management gurus ever since.

Still, 25 years later, everyone seems to have a recipe for making the Kool-Aid. But why aren’t more organizations drinking?

From my perspective, Jack Welch is an excellent role model and this particular flavor of Kool-Aid is one that should go down well. In growing a 200-plus employee organization that’s a leader in construction and construction management, my firm, MBM Consulting, couldn’t have earned its reputation for innovation and quality had we been mired in a rigid and controlled environment with a trickle-through communications style.

That isn’t to say that organizational silos don’t have their place. Especially in larger organizations, they offer structure. They provide a place for specific areas of expertise to flourish. And they allow some measure of control to be exerted over the flow of information up and down the organization.

But, when the walls are too high, there’s a price to be paid. Alignment of priorities goes off-kilter. Bottlenecks occur and stifle the information flow. And decision-making in a vacuum occurs, with long-term negative implications for the business.

So, how can organizations do a better job of, if not dismantling their silos, at least reducing the height of the dividers between them?

Here are three suggestions that I’ve adapted to my own organization’s purposes.

1.     Establish a top-down culture of communication and collaboration. It takes leadership commitment, people at the top who walk the talk. I try to personify the behaviors that I want to see in my teams. It takes time and commitment to grow a culture where opinions and input from across the aisle are solicited and valued. To a significant extent, that also takes articulating that commitment in meaningful vision and mission statements that everyone trusts.

2.     Borrow from Jack Welch’s “work-out” process. The bigger the organization, the more difficult it is, of course, to coordinate across a fragmented and geographically dispersed structure and functions. A fairly simple solution is to fashion your initiatives as regular forums designed to improve cross-functional and hierarchical communications and, ultimately, push for faster decision-making. Team leaders for a tech company, for example, successfully brought together its R&D and business areas, whose combined input led to a faster process for product commercialization.

3.     Share the successes. When you’ve surmounted the barriers and joined disparate teams and disciplines together to tackle the big challenges that can affect your productivity, growth and financial performance, give credit where it’s due. You’ll strengthen the bonds of your organizational fabric and also motivate others to want to play a role in this collaborative environment.

The fact is that whether you’re the chief executive or project manager or IT troubleshooter or marketing specialist, everyone has shared goals in pushing for the future success of your organization. The more effectively you can remove the barriers from collaboration and communication, the greater your measure of success will be.   

Is Your Leadership Training Working? Here’s How to Look at It

What many organizations fail to come to grips with is the fact that “leadership” is more than just the here-and-now team that currently occupies the executive suite.

Studies by Deloitte, in fact, speak to the problem. While 86 percent of business leaders understand an effective leadership pipeline is critical to their organizations’ future, 87 percent lack confidence in their succession plans. In fact, more than half say a shortage of future leaders has hurt their business. When businesses spend over $15 billion on leadership training, something is clearly out of kilter.

A leader has more than a fancy title and a corner office. A leader is someone who can inspire and motivate others and make them eager to follow, who actively seeks advice and perspective in order to make the hard decisions, is authentic and trustworthy, thoughtful and empathetic and communicates well. A “leader” can just as easily be found on the factory floor as that corner office.

The challenge is to recognize those who have the potential and help them develop it. And then make sure that the training is working.

The problem lies in several areas.

One problem comes in the form of training initiatives styled in the one-size-fits-all manner. Further, required competencies are typically neither specific, nor necessarily aligned with what the business needs. Do you really need innovators – whatever those are – when your organization is so siloed that its future lies instead with skilled bridge builders who can bring people together?

Your culture and long-term strategy are among the most important indicators of the types of skills, capabilities and mindsets that need to be fostered in your leaders. As a result, leadership training should be grounded in the specific competencies your particular organization needs to ensure it moves forward. That way a culture of leadership can embed in your organization and ;any the foundation for success.

From there, another issue needs to be tackled: that of ensuring your program is mindful of the time-honored axiom: What isn’t measured isn’t managed. And so it goes with your leadership training. How effective is yours?

Ideally, you should use two approaches to evaluate your progress: one qualitative, the other quantitative. These approaches should tie back to your results-oriented, leadership training goals, and they should be evaluated against solid benchmarks.

Qualitative, of course, has to do with non-numeric outcomes, or impressions and feelings. To that end, feedback is key. How do your developing leaders feel they are doing? Can they identify areas where they’re falling short or exceeding expectations? And how do others who work with them feel? Are they seen as authentic leaders? This is how – through quizzes and surveys – you monitor behaviorial change so you know what skills are taking and where reinforcement might be needed.

Quantitative measures are more-by-the-numbers, hard-and-fast indicators that your program is working…or not. These can include tracking retention rates or engagement levels. Specific achievements can be monitored, as well.

Talent is a terrible thing to waste. The way to keep that from happening is to apply more rigor to your leadership training program and how you measure its outcomes. Remember that an investment in leadership training is not simply taking a product out of the box, but rather thinking about who you are as an organization and what you need. Only then can you thoughtfully program and deliver the kind of training that will impact your culture and your success for years to come.

5 Tips For AWS Savings

Many companies struggle with the cost of websites and cloud storage in this technological era, but businesses can still find many ways to save money and lower their costs. Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) can offer several cost savings and a great return on investment if you use AWS correctly.

Image via Flickr by Bruce Clay, Inc

Automate Processes

Whether autoscaling groups, automatically terminating resources, or using spot pricing, you can usually automate certain business processes. Autoscale groups by tagging resources by role or environment and setting a scheduled job to turn off and on all development and staging environments at a specified time.

By tagging resources correctly, a scheduled job can stop resources without the required tags. Spot pricing can allow a customer to use on-demand pricing for better savings.

Use Continual Optimization

In order to optimize costs in the AWS cloud, take only what you need and use automated processes to turn off what you don’t.

Scale up at the end of each month by deleting unused, unassociated, expired, and old content. Verify that you are using the instance type that best matches resources required by the application to leverage services. Try to avoid interruption by web crawling and bidding above the on-demand price. Don’t forget to add caching to optimize performance.

Understand the Economics of IT Infrastructure

AWS is constantly lowering prices for computing, storage, caching, and database services for all customers. These adjustments alone can help make AWS a more cost-effective investment. You can calculate your savings using an AWS Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator.

If you understand the economics, you can use systems such as automatic backups and easy restoration to extend site capabilities, increase the capacity for hosting in the cloud, and improve internal process while still lowering costs. The value of saved time cannot be overstated and can lead to significant savings.

Avoid Mismanagement of AWS Costs

Whether you choose the wrong pricing option, neglect to play the market, or don’t keep up with frequent changes on AWS, costs can easily be mismanaged. Using too many instances or choosing the wrong instance model can also lead to cost mismanagement. Although having automatic backups is critical, too many can increase storage costs. Evaluate your needs to make sure you’re always keeping costs down.

Properly Configure Identity and Access Management to Meet Security and Compliance Requirements

Although Amazon provides access control services to AWS customers, customers must take responsibility to properly configure identity and access management (IAM) to manage users, groups, roles, and permissions.

You can do this configuration by restricting the root account to certain tasks and creating an IAM account for day-to-day tasks. Avoid sharing account credentials and use AWS policies to assign permissions instead of creating your own. To avoid data breaches and compromised accounts, only grant the minimum required privileges. Finally, regularly review privileges to promote compliance with security measures.

By implementing any of the five tactics above, you could save money on your website and allow your company to gain its greatest return on investment possible.

Stock Market Corrections Are Beautiful… When

A correction is a beautiful thing, simply the flip side of a rally, big or small. Theoretically, even technically I’m told, corrections adjust equity prices to their actual value or “support levels”. In reality, it’s much easier than that.

Prices go down because of speculator reactions to expectations of news, speculator reactions to actual news, and investor profit taking. The two former “becauses” are more potent than ever before because there is more self-directed money out there than ever before. And therein lies the core of correctional beauty!

Mutual Fund unit holders rarely take profits but often take losses. Additionally, the new breed of Index Fund Speculators over-react to news of any kind because that’s what speculators do. Thus, if any brief little market hiccup becomes considerably more serious, new investment opportunities will become abundant!

Here’s a list of ten things to think about doing, or to avoid doing, during corrections of any magnitude:

1. Your present Asset Allocation should be tuned in to your long-term goals and objectives. Resist the urge to decrease your Equity allocation because you expect a further fall in stock prices. That would be an attempt to time the market, which is (rather obviously) impossible. Asset Allocation decisions should have nothing to do with stock market expectations.

2. Take a look at the past. There has never been a correction that has not proven to be a buying opportunity, so start collecting a diverse group of high quality, dividend paying, NYSE companies as they move lower in price— Investment Grade Value Stocks. I start shopping at 20% below the 52-week high water mark— the bargain bins are filling.

3. Don’t hoard that “smart cash” you accumulated during the last rally, and don’t look back and get yourself agitated because you might buy some issues too soon. There are no crystal balls, and no place for hindsight in an investment strategy. Buying too soon, in the right portfolio percentage, is nearly as important to long-term investment success as selling too soon is during rallies.

4. Take a look at the future. Nope, you can’t tell when the rally will resume or how long it will last. If you are buying quality equities now (as you certainly could be) you will be able to love the rally even more than you did the last time— as you take yet another round of profits. Smiles broaden with each new realized gain, especially when most Wall Streeters are still just scratchin’ their heads.

5. As (or if) the correction continues, buy more slowly as opposed to more quickly, and establish new positions incompletely. Hope for a short and steep decline, but prepare for a long one. There’s more to Shop at The Gap than meets the eye, and if you are doing it properly, you’ll run out of cash well before the new rally begins.

6. Your understanding and use of the Smart Cash concept has proven the wisdom of The Investor’s Creed (look it up). You should be out of cash while the market is still correcting— it gets less scary each time. As long your cash flow continues unabated, the change in market value is merely a perceptual issue.

7. Note that your Working Capital is still growing, in spite of falling prices, and examine your holdings for opportunities to average down on cost per share or to increase yield (on fixed income securities). Examine both fundamentals and price, lean hard on your experience, and don’t force the issue.

8. Identify new buying opportunities using a consistent set of rules, rally or correction. That way you will always know which of the two you are dealing with in spite of what the Wall Street propaganda mill spits out. Focus on Investment Grade Value Stocks; it’s just easier, as well as being less risky, and better for your peace of mind. Just think where you would be today had you heeded this advice years ago—

9. Examine your portfolio’s performance: with your asset allocation and investment objectives clearly in focus; in terms of market and interest rate cycles as opposed to calendar Quarters (never do that) and Years; and only with the use of the Working Capital Model (look this up also), because it is based upon your personal asset allocation. Remember, there is really no single index number to use for comparison purposes with a properly designed portfolio.

Unfortunately, only Self Directed 401k and IRA programs are able to use Market Cycle Investment Management.

10. So long as everything is down, there is nothing to worry about. Downgraded (or simply lazy) portfolio holdings should not be discarded during general or group specific weakness. Unless of course, you don’t have the courage to get rid of them during rallies— also general or sector specifical (sic).

Corrections (of all types) will vary in depth and duration, and both characteristics are clearly visible only in institutional grade rear view mirrors. The short and deep ones are most lovable (kind of like men, I’m told); the long and slow ones are more difficult to deal with. Short ones (those that last a few days, weeks, or months) are nearly impossible to deal with using Mutual Funds.

So if you overthink the environment or overcook the research, you’ll miss the party. Unlike many things in life, Stock Market realities need to be dealt with quickly, decisively, and with zero hindsight.

Because amid all of the uncertainty, there is one indisputable fact that reads equally well in either market direction: there has never been a correction/rally that has not succumbed to the next rally/correction—

Think cycle instead of year, and smile more often.

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Andex Chart – Free Canadian Andex Chart

The Andex Chart is probably the single most important investor – advisor learning tool and education wonder when first seen by anyone. The Canadian economy at a glance, what happened when and how things are related and can change often and without notice or comprehension.

One can analyze the information in hundreds of ways and enjoy seeing the big picture of Canada’s capital markets. There is no doubt the value of these important charts that explain a lot and allow the imagination to research and drill down from macro-economics to the local pocket book.

MONEY.CA online – Money Magazine and Money Media are excited to offer Canadian’s who buy Money Membership at $30.00 which includes Money Magazine to the door step and the monthly Money Newsletter to the desktop. When you buy a Money Membership you will receive a 2014 Canadian Andex Chart Handout and you will have caused a 2013 Canadian Andex Chart to be given away free to a child, student or teenager for a first time, eye opening experience right in the palm of their hands; and because of you. Just to let you know one Andex Chart alone will cost over $16.00 + tax.

Let’s promote financial literacy with a buy one and give one Andex Chart that makes sense and pays dividends.