We all have heard that one of the big culprits in the credit crisis was the collateralized debt obligation (CDO). CDOs are notes backed by baskets or cohorts of different types of receivables. The notes can be backed by residential mortgages, or commercial mortgages, or student loans, or credit card receivables or auto loans, etc (or a mixture of all the above). It is the cash flows from those receivables, not some end borrower, that services the CDO notes, i.e. pays interest and amortizes the principal on the notes.

I don’t want to go into the details about CDOs here or their role in the credit crisis because many other writers have gone into this exhaustively elsewhere. Suffice to say CDOs (or asset backed financing/securitizations) are actually very important and effective ways of financing certain receivables pools (of effecting what is known as ‘non-recourse’ finance). And yet there were fairly obvious issues with many CDO structures before the crisis: their excessive structural complexity (the notes were broken into too many tranches); the questionable credit quality of the underlying assets; the use of too many different types of underlying receivables; the fact that those rating the notes (the rating agencies) were effectively in bed with the originators of the notes; the overly aggressive selling methods of CDO tranches by swarms of brokers; etc. (read more…)

President Barack Obama traveled to the heart of Silicon Valley on Friday to lay out his vision for improved cybersecurity in a digital age that has seen high-profile cyberattacks make headlines in recent weeks. Joining leaders from various industries at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University, Obama stressed the importance of enhancing the public-private partnership already in its infant stages.

“We are just getting started,” Obama explained. “We are only 26 years into this internet age. We’ve only scratched the surface.”

Obama marked the event (scroll down for full video) by signing an executive order that calls for the establishment of industry hubs and a common set of information standards to facilitate greater collaboration in combating cyberthreats. Obama also outlined the four basic principles he sees as paramount to success in the fight against cyberthreats:

  1. Shared Mission – Government cannot perfect cybersecurity on its own, nor can the private sector.
  2. (read more…)

When do you advise clients to start thinking about death planning? Have you broached this subject with your own loved ones? Not easy questions to process, are they?

As with many things, understanding the appropriate time to have these discussions with clients is both personal and widely varied depending on client preferences and generational differences. A recent Bloomberg article got me thinking about this topic specifically as it highlighted that many millennials aren’t currently purchasing life insurance, nor do they consider it a priority. Of course, this is partially due to younger generations marrying and starting families later in life; however, it also serves as a reminder of the role social media plays in helping financial professionals educate and advise certain consumer segments, particularly those who that may not be actively looking to make a purchase.

A new viewpoint for a new generation

What if firms viewed social media not as a chance to sell to younger prospects, but instead an opportunity to educate and build a relationship with them? (read more…)

The Milken Institute is working to give policymakers, media, and the academic community a deeper base of knowledge when it comes to global banking issues. The Institute’s recent launch of GlobalBanking.org offers users a new and unique way of accessing information on banking systems worldwide and their regulatory environment. The site aggregates World Bank data from 180 countries in addition to its own independent research and analysis on an open platform that is accessible to anyone.

“Never before has this kind of information been collected and presented in such an easy-to-use way,” said Staci Warden, executive director of the Milken Institute’s Center for Financial Markets. “We are confident that it will be a tremendous resource for anyone working in this area.”

The aim of GlobalBanking.org is to build a database of international banking facts and figures, increasing transparency regarding the worldwide banking environment. Key features include ease of use and the ability to incorporate data into independent research by users; interactive charts and maps; up-to-date news and expert commentary, and global banking reports. (read more…)

While its creation was lamented by some and championed by others, industry experts say the performance thus far of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been a mixed-bag. The Financial Services Roundtable assembled thought leaders as part of its “How is the CFPB Doing? The Advocates’ Perspective” panel discussion in Washington, D.C. A few of the key highlights included:

  • Georgetown University Law Professor Adam Levitin was the most outspoken member of the panel, saying the CFPB may yet be finding its sea legs as experienced staff complete their “regulatory tourist stints” and depart the Bureau, leaving behind an undetermined culture. Levitin said the CFPB has enjoyed the benefits of a “we had to do this” kind of approach while it has tackled rule-makings many viewed as “mandatory.” However, going forward the Bureau will be dealing with discretionary issues that may find it “swimming in deeper waters.” One unique outcome Levitin noted is the money is the “disgorgement” of funds for misdeeds, also known as money going back to consumers.
  • (read more…)