To The Pointwith Boris Bozic
Commentary, Opinions, Thoughts and Discussion on Current Events, Politics and The Mortgage Industry

0 Comments Euro 2016 – Final Thoughts

Article written by on the 24 Jun 2016 in Current Events,Euro 2016,Family,Travel,World Events

By the time last week’s blog was posted we had already been in France for a week.  So many lasting memories, and my word, so many games.  In total, in twelve days we went to seven matches. When asked by locals how many games we were going to they seemed to be genuinely surprised when we told them.  Their expressions gave away their thoughts, as in “you guys are nuts.” They could be right, but it’s like the old saying goes, go big or stay home.  So we decided to go big.

When looking back on this trip years from now I’m sure some details will fade away but some will stand the test of time.  Bravo to the French for putting on a magnificent event, under very trying circumstances.  I must confess that just prior to leaving for France,  I experienced some apprehension. Some forty eight hours prior to departing for France, the French Government released an app and the purpose was to notify you of an imminent terrorist attack or what to do in the event one occurred.  So we downloaded the app, and silently questioned our sanity.  The touch of angst and apprehension I was feeling prior to the trip lasted for approximately two days in France.  It’s strange to be sitting on a patio in an outdoor cafe, in the center of town, and there walking among the crowds is the French Militia.  They were in full uniform, with machine guns and other weaponry at the ready.  The visual was disconcerting, yet comforting at the same time.  The security and military presence sent a message, “you kill us…we kill you back.”  Here’s hoping the rest of the tournament goes without incident.

Truth be told that while we were there, there was a greater risk from soccer hooligans.  Ah, the hooligans were in fine form.  The Russians embarrassed themselves on and off the pitch. Their team was dreadful, and their supporters acted like punk thugs.  How bad were they? They made English fans look like victims. Then there were the twenty-five Croatian anarchists, who actually posted on Facebook that in the 85th minute of the next match they would disrupt the game by throwing flares onto the pitch.  Their intent was to have Croatia thrown out of the tournament.  Their “rationale” for doing this was that they don’t like who and how the Croatian Soccer Association is being run. Good lord, get a life.  Wait, they don’t have one, and that’s why they do these sorts of things.  So we were at the game when flares rained down onto the field.  The mental giants who perpetrated this act were lucky to leave the stadium alive. Their luck will run out.  Their names and pictures have been posted on Facebook.  That’s the problem when everyone has a mobile phone; it means everyone has a camera. Croatian authorities stated these individuals will be apprehended at the border, and turned over to French authorities.   What awaits these future Mensa Society members? Three Russian thugs who were arrested in France have already been convicted.  The sentences ranged from two years to twelve months, magnifique!

The acts of idiot petty criminals will soon be forgotten. What I will remember is that France really is a beautiful country. We travelled by train from city to city, and you can appreciate its natural beauty. Even while traveling at 306 kilometers an hour on a bullet train.  I’ll remember the quality of soccer played, especially the Croatia – Spain game.  The Irish soccer fans.  Win, lose or tie, their disposition does not change.  They celebrate and are happy just being there.  My Dad, at 78 years of age, what a champ! Always up for the next adventure.  Lastly, my brother Tom.  This trip doesn’t happen without his efforts.  He had a room in his house set up that looked like something from NASA.  Multiple computers, monitoring multiple accounts so that we could get tickets.  Without the tickets? We don’t go.

 So now it’s back to reality, watching the remainder Euro on TV.  Equally as compelling will be watching the insane versus the sane in Great Britain on TV.  Supporters of Brexit condemned England to a loss, by way of one goal.

Until next time.

Cheers,

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0 Comments Talent Is Overrated

Article written by on the 10 Apr 2015 in Book Review,Business,Merix Financial,Sports,World Events

That’s the title of a book I came across while wandering around an airport a few years ago.  The title of the book was such a contradiction of my own personal belief that I was left with no choice but to pick up the book and read the overview inside the book jacket.  I’m not sure if the author, Geoff Colvin, came up with the tittle or not.  Whoever it was, kudos.  It made me pick up the book, and eventually buy it.  It’s an interesting and fairly simple read.  The book is based on research, and Colvin’s interpretation of the data.  His findings and conclusions are based on empirical data, and there is not a single suggestion that to be great at what you do is easy.  On the contrary, Colvin concludes that to be great requires painstaking work and dedication. 

 The reason the book came to mind was because of the Masters Golf Tournament.  Golf enthusiasts know that the Masters is being played this weekend, actually, Thursday through Sunday.  The Masters is a unique tournament.  Its mystique is unparalleled.    Augusta National, where the Masters is played, is sacred soil for golfers.  Golfers would pay a “stupid” sum of money for the privilege of playing that course, just once in a lifetime.  It would be the ultimate bucket list experience.  I’ve had the privilege of attending the Master’s on a few occasions.  The first time I walked on the grounds I was mesmerized.   It was one of those rare moments where you can say the experience was better than what you anticipated it would be.  So, what does this have to do with a book entitled Talent Is Overrated?  The author dedicated a chapter to Tiger Woods, who just happens to be playing at this year’s Masters golf tournament.

Tiger Woods is one of those rare athletes who transcends a sport.  People who don’t even like golf know who Tiger Woods is.  He is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.  Many people adore him, and many people dislike him.  But there’s no denying that everyone has heard of him, and can recognize Tiger Woods.    That’s a result of being a generational athlete, who is responsible for a transformational change of a sport.  Some know him more for his personal shortcomings, which I could care less about, but everyone knows him because he was that damn good at his chosen profession.  Colvin posed the question, “why was Tiger Woods that good?”  Is it a God given talent?  Does he possess a golf gene that no others have?  How many times have we explained extraordinary results by simply  saying, “he/she was born that way”.  Colvin debunks that myth, and I think he’s on to something.

SPOILER ALERT –  I’m going to share some of his findings so stop reading if you want to pick up the book and be surprised.  Tiger Woods was programmed to be a golfer, specifically by his father.  Earl Woods, Tigers father, served in the military.  He did two tours in Vietnam, the second tour as a member of the United States Army Special Forces.  In other words, a bad ass you didn’t want to mess with.  He knew all about structure and discipline.  He also had a teaching background.  His background was the perfect for molding and programming his son to become one of the greatest golfers of all time.  Example, when Tiger was an infant, his father would take him into the garage, put him in a high chair, and make him watch his golf swing for hours on end.  Tiger’s father loved golf, and he was determined to make his son love the game even more.  At four years of age Tiger and his father appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, a well-known TV Talk Show back in the day, to demonstrate his golfing prowess at such an early age.  Tiger’s entire life was golf and school. Apparently the focus on education was his mother’s doing.  Tiger was programmed to think, eat, drink and practice golf.  Thousands and thousands of hours dedicated to hitting a little white ball.  The dedication to practice, to sacrifice “normal” child experiences, created a golfing virtuoso.   So is Tiger’s mastery of the sport nature or nurture?  After reading Talent Is Overrated, I lean more towards nurture.

Everyone knows about Tiger’s personal challenges.  Golf fans know that Tiger’s body is breaking down, and his age is becoming a factor.  The hundreds of thousands of violent swings, which is the only I can describe Tiger’s golf swing, has to eventually take a toll.  The golf world so badly wants Tiger to be Tiger of old.  Everyone was surprised to see Tiger embracing other golfers  on the practice range at this year’s Masters.  Tiger joking around with the media, spending time with his children.  Everyone is saying it’s a new Tiger Woods.  The Tiger of old had little time for comradery, kibitzing with the press, and family was used as a prop.  Can he ever win again with this new found attitude?  I think it might be a matter of too little, too late.    As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”.  But perfect has a price. 

Until Next Time.

Cheers,

 

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1 Comments Time For A Deep Breath

Article written by on the 06 Feb 2015 in Canada,Current Events,Economy,World Events

One of the unfortunate by-products of the “information” age is that content is required, every minute of the day.  Be it 24 hour news stations, sports stations or online publications etc.  There’s no time to think things through.  In-depth research and analysis takes times, and nobody seems to have it today.  We live in a 24 hour news cycle, and the competition is fierce.  The more salacious or provocative a story is, the greater the chance that eyeballs will be directed to it.  Case and point, Alberta.  Our friends and colleagues in that province must feel like they’re under siege.  It’s a constant bombardment of the “sky is falling” narrative. This is not an “it’s not fair” sentiment an eight year old says that when you make them go to bed by 9:30 pm.  The shame is that there does not appear to be much balance in the news with respect to the price of oil, and the impact it will have in Alberta.  There are contrary opinions in this regard, but you have to look for it.

I came across an article which suggests that the price for a barrel of oil has hit bottom.  This is not a lone opinion, and one individual who is suggesting this has a wee bit of knowledge and credibility in this regard.  (more…)

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0 Comments 2015, A Fresh Start

Article written by on the 09 Jan 2015 in Current Events,World Events

A belated Happy New Year – here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2015. The beginning of a new year brings freshness and hope that “things” will be better.  It would be nice if we could bundle up the previous year’s trials and tribulations and say, “abracadabra…disappear”.  Don’t bother trying, it doesn’t work.  Flipping the calendar over doesn’t mean there’s no carryover of issues and problems.  Don’t know about you but to me the world seemed to become a nastier place in 2014.  We Canadians will always remember the terrorist attack on Parliament Hill in 2014. The carryover from that incident into 2015?  I think most of us believe it will happen again, it’s just a matter of when; and now we deal with the images in Paris.  Innocent people were slaughtered because of political cartoon in a newspaper.  I think it’s going to take a real effort in 2015 to maintain a positive outlook, and shut out the madness and evil. 

The New Year is all about a positive outlook. Resolutions are made, only to be abandoned by mid-February. I don’t make any resolutions because I know February is coming. No, what I do is go into every year with a theme. That gives me a lot of wiggle room.  It’s a macro approach versus micro.  Example, contemplating losing 15 pounds, while elbow deep and family sized bag of Lay’s salt and vinegar potato chips, is a fool’s errand. The resolution shouldn’t be to lose 15 pounds…the theme should be “overall wellness”.  See – all kinds of wiggle room.

Since there’s no way to shut out the world you’re left with no choice but to look at the issues through a dispassionate lens.  Fact – China’s economy is contracting, as is Brazil’s and India’s.  Not long ago the emerging markets were going to be our economic saviors; today, not so much.  Fact – Europe is once again a bit of a mess.  The Greeks, they’reeeeeeee back, are talking about leaving the Euro Zone.  Empress Merkel of Germany said that it’s okay if the Greeks leave. That means we can all raise a glass of Ouzo, and toast the Greeks a safe avito (Greek for goodbye). If Merkel says Auf Wiedersehen, it’s time for the Greek’s to put on their Sunday best Lederhosen, and look smartly when exiting. Fact – Russia’s economy is in a mess.  Putin still has popular support in Russia, but let’s see what happens when cells phone, Benz’s and Prada bags started being repossessed with greater frequency in Russia.  And what happens if Putin gets really mad?  We just might find out in 2015.

Closer to home, the giant is back. The U.S economy is arguably one of the most robust economies in the world today. The U.S greenback is soaring, Americans are spending, which helps Canadian exports. The price of oil impacts both the American and Canadian economy. The way it’s going now it’s just a matter of time that our credit cards will be credited 10 cents a liter at the pumps. As for interest rates?  I now believe we’ll see a rate increase in the U.S. in 2015.  Will Canada move in lock-step?  Doubt it, the Canadian economy is still too fragile, but who can say with any certainty. 

So, there are a lot of issues – hot spots – in the world that will impact us in 2015.  Hopefully 2015 won’t result in us looking back on 2014 with fondness.  Time will tell. 

Until then, anyone want a salt and vinegar chip?  Oh, sorry, all that’s left are those tiny little pieces in corner of the bag.

Until Next Time,

Cheers.

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1 Comments Bright Lights

Article written by on the 10 Oct 2014 in Business,Canada,Current Events,Merix Financial,New York City,US Politics,World Business Forum,World Events

Just coming back from New York, and I’ll spare you the cliché.  New York – bright lights, the city that never sleeps, blah, blah.  All true, but the bright lights I’m referring to is a select group of loyal supporters of Merix Financial.  We  had the pleasure of hosting a number of mortgage brokers in New York to attend the World Business Forum.  The event is held over  two days and attendees at the conference are leaders and executives from around the world.  The lineup of speakers have diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It’s the diversity of the speakers which provoke thought and critical thinking.  The two day event allowed all of us to exit the echo chamber that we all find ourselves occupying.  That is a critical element of professional development.  Thought provocation forces you out of your comfort zone.

Our invited guests embraced the opportunity to listen and learn from speakers whose subject matter expertise may have appeared to have only a subtle correlation to their daily actives.  But, they came open minded and prepared to see where the experience takes them.  I got a big kick watching our guests as the event evolved.  Here was a small group of people who for the most part were strangers to each other or know by name only.  However, in a short period of time small micro groups were formed to talk about issues that each individual faces each and every day at work.  It’s remarkable how quickly trust was built among the group, and it was a safe environment to say “I got a work problem, and I don’t have an answer”. Assistance and suggestions from peers was immediate, and no one held back for competitive reasons.  I can’t tell you how cool it is to watch a team come together. Make no mistake, this is a team.  As of today they know they can pick up the phone and reach out to one of their peers from across the country to help them solve a problem.  Sometimes business can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

In my humble estimation, the event was a success, and here’s why.  First and foremost, our guests wanted to be there.  That was demonstrated by their support of Merix to ensure they were invited. Also, our guests are all focused on building a business, and not just a job. That’s an important distinction. Secondly, Merix set the right expectations.  It was learning first, party second.  Don’t get me wrong, there was time to have fun.  Like the night we all went to Madison Square Gardens for a Fleetwood Mac concert.  Our seats we on the floors and we were swept up by the music and the New York audience.  Even though there was bit of a “generational” gap for some of our guests, all danced, had a few libations, and allowed themselves to be swept up by the event and the masses.  But come 8:30 am the next morning, all were ready to begin a new day.

An extraordinary amount of time and effort is put into planning one of these events.  I can never really be sure if our guests will find a benefit in attending, while leaving their business for a few days.  After the wrap up dinner we hosted on the final night, one of our guests sat next to me and gave me a book.  She wanted me to have the book because she thought I would enjoy the read.  She mentioned that she wrote a note on the inside of the cover but asked me not to read it at the table.  She said she didn’t want to become emotional.  I smiled and said I would respect her wishes.  After three hours of the book being by my side, I finally made it back to my hotel and I read her note on the inside of the cover.  It was heartfelt, genuine and so sincere.  It was right then that I knew the effort in putting this event together was worth it.

So to Gerry, Tim, Scott, Shawn, Karen, Richard, Brenda, Tracey, Sandy, Paul, Sarah, and Elisseos, if you don’t mind…let’s do it again.

Until next time.

Cheers,

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2 Comments Scotland Votes

Article written by on the 19 Sep 2014 in Current Events,World Events

The eyes of the world were on Scotland yesterday. An election took place which would have far reaching effects, well beyond Scotland’s boarders. Everyone waited with baited breath as club secretary Peter Dawson announced that for the first time in the 260 year history of the R&A, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, would now permit girls to tee it up with the boys. By an overwhelming majority, 85% of the 2,400 members, voted in favour allowing female members at the R&A, I don’t believe the R&A issued an electronic or a paper press release. My understanding is that press release was chiseled on a cave wall, and members of the press were invited into the cave for viewing. (Read more here)  Oh yeah, there was that other vote in Scotland… You may have heard – Scotland held a referendum whether to secede from the UK.

The polls indicated that it was too close to call. But after all the ballots were counted a majority of Scottish citizens decided to maintain the status quo.  The UK will remain unified, but at a cost. In a desperate attempt to buy Scottish loyalty, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, made numerous concessions.  The fallout being that both Wales and Northern Ireland will now say, “enough about Scotland, what do we get?”  That will have to be addressed, as well as the fact that 45% of the population wanted to break away from the UK. Scotland is divided, that’s the reality.

Breathing a big sigh of relief is the Prime Minister. If the “yes” vote had triumphed there is little doubt that Prime Minister Cameron would have to resign. If you lose five million citizens and a large swath of land on your watch, you don’t have much choice but to offer your resignation. Cameron dodged a bullet, but now he will have to govern a much different United Kingdom.

There was the tremendous amount of speculation about what would happen if Scotland decided to part from the Union. From financial ruin to Armageddon…it was all bad, and you know what, it worked for the “no” side. What might have also worked for the “no” side is that Scotland lowered the voting age to 16 for this referendum.  Interesting, most 16 year olds I know are not responsible enough to make their bed every day, never mind determining a countries sovereignty. I guess 16 year olds in Scotland are much further advanced intellectually.

Canadian’s know all too well what Scotland just went through. Thankfully there is not an updated play book for separatists in Canada to follow.

Until next time,

Cheers.

 

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0 Comments World Cup 2014: Ouch, That Stung

Article written by on the 25 Jun 2014 in World Events

I’ve been to a number of soccer matches in foreign countries, but nothing compares to the hostile atmosphere I experienced Monday night in Recife, Brazil.  The stadium was awash with green, the colour of the Mexican soccer jersey.  With the Brazilians in attendance supporting the Mexicans, this was like a home game for Mexico.

They were in full voice, and my dad and I were left with no choice but to grimace (sorry, there could be no grin) and bear it. The Mexican fans showed little in the way of imagination, but I have to hand to them, they sure are perseverant.  On every opposing free kick they would wave their hands and chant the same thing over and over again. They start as the player is setting up, and when he kicks the ball they yell out “puto.”  It goes something like this: “Oooooooooooooooooo, Putoooooooo!”

I don’t think there’s a need to provide a definition of the word “puto.”  It’s an international word, the pronunciation being fairly close in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. Suffice it to say, it’s not nice.  Now, to be fair, Croatian fans have some nasty chants.  But when you’re a thousand, amongst forty thousand in attendance, there’s no getting even.

Being serenaded all night by the Mexican fans, while witnessing a meltdown by the Croatian soccer team in the second half of the game, had me thinking about taking the long journey home a tad early.  The game was puzzling. The Croatian team dominated play in the first half and I got the sense it was just a matter of time before they scored. Yet, for some unknown reason the Croatian coach decided to change tactics and formation in the second half. What a stroke of genius it was. The Croatian players looked totally confused and surrendered 3 goals in a matter of 10 minutes.  Alex, I’ll take “oops” for $1,000. Final score, Mexico 3 – Croatia  1.  Full measure to Mexico.  On this night they were the better team.

The result of the game did not produce an indelible memory of the game itself.  But the experience getting to the game was a highlight.  There were so few Croatian fans attending the game that we became a novelty.  I giggled watching my dad being constantly asked to pose with Mexican fans for a picture.  On the bus, the metro and at the game. It was constant.  I started calling him Hollywood.  He graciously accepted every request for a photo and was happy to do it.

I chuckled at some offers made to me be some Mexican supporters, like the man in the picture wearing a mask. He asked if I would trade my commemorative Euro 2008 cap, from Austria, for his homemade, papier-mâché, Lucha Libre  Mexican wrestling mask. As difficult as the decision was, I respectfully declined.  Or the woman who approached me on the platform at the metro. She wanted to exchange the jersey she was wearing for the one I had adorned.  I had to think that through.  First of all, she was a size minus 3 and I was wearing a jersey that had enough material to make a duvet for a king size bed.  Secondly, I wasn’t feeling the love for Mexican fans.  For 90 minutes during the game you kept calling me a puto, and now you want my jersey?  Thirdly, it was a Mexican jersey! I passed on the offer.

It was a great trip but now it’s time to flip the switch.  I see the condo market is rather buoyant, and prices have increased some 285% in the last three years.  Okay, so I’m referring to the condo market in Recife, Brazil.  Try as might I couldn’t find a single article about a looming condo bust there. No worries, I’ll get plenty of that as soon as I touch down in Toronto.

Until next time

Cheers

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0 Comments Greetings From 2014 World Cup: The Madness of Manaus, Brazil

Article written by on the 20 Jun 2014 in World Events

Unless you’re from this region or a geography major, the likelihood that you’ve heard about Manaus would be somewhat remote – just like it’s location.  It’s an industrial city, in the middle of the Amazon.  How and why this location was chosen to host matches during the World Cup, is a mystery, at least to me it is.   A beautiful new stadium was built specifically for the World Cup in Manaus.  It’s seats forty thousand, and has all the amenities that we’re used to in North America, including beautiful hospitality suites.  But here’s the thing, there’s no local team that plays in the Brazilian top league. Evidently Manaus has a team that plays in the third division, and a few of the locals I spoke to about the future of the newly built monument indicated that hundreds, not thousands, of people attend these games. So what does one do with a brand new shinny stadium in the middle of a jungle?  No one seems to know.  It appears the stadium was built to host four games during the World Cup, period.  In an odd way it’s comforting to know we haven’t cornered the market on wasteful spending.

Here’s what I can tell you about Manaus, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing city, unless of course you’re into the industrial rough edge look.  The rules of the road? There are none.  It’s amazing to drive around in cabs and laugh, cry and gasp, all in about 30 seconds.  After one ride my dad commented on the size of the tip I gave.  I replied, “We’re alive, it’s worth every penny”.  What the city lacks in looks, it makes up for in its citizens.  They’re also pleasant, and tolerant of us tourists invading their space and city.  I was taken aback by the service levels we received at the hotel.  One evening I was in the restaurant having a look at the menu, while waiting for my father to join me. I was really struggling with the font size on the menu so out comes out my iPhone, and my Flashlight App.  Out of nowhere the waiter appears with a step latter, he climbs it to the top wrung so that he can adjust the track lighting on the ceiling to give me more light so help read the menu. I was somewhat embarrassed, and I said “no, no, no, it’s not necessary”. Unfortunately I didn’t know how to say that in Portuguese, so I shrugged my shoulders and said, “orbigado”, thank you in Portuguese.  He nodded and moved on to serve another customer, the only time the waiter cracked a smile was when he saw the size of the tip I left.  Based on his reaction I may be an honorary family member, not sure, but he said a lot in Portuguese, and he seemed to be really happy.

Speaking of happy, pops and I were overjoyed by the result of the game we went to see.  Croatia 4 – Cameroon 0.  That was a good old fashion spanking.   We both commented that this was the least stressful game we’ve ever watched together.  We know it’s going to be short lived; the next game against Mexico is do-or-die. If Croatia wins they move on, if they don’t, they go home.  Very shortly my dad and I will be heading home, but first we head to Recife, Brazil, a coastal town that that will host the Croatia versus Mexico game.  So, muito obrigado Manaus, and Oi, Recife!

Until next time

Cheers

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0 Comments Interpreting The Numbers

Article written by on the 16 May 2014 in Business,Canada,Current Events,Economy,Merix Financial,US Politics,World Events

Is the glass half full or half empty?  Are the measures that we’re taken to modify the real estate market balanced or have policy makers over reached?  Numbers are supposed to be black and white.  Shades of grey come into play depending on the side of the argument you’re on.

The Canadian Real Estate Association, (CREA) released data this week which will make all sides of the Canadian real estate market argument happy.  Example, according to the MLS Home Price Index, home prices have increased by 7.6% from a year ago.  Now if you take Vancouver and Toronto out of the equation, the increase was 4.6% on a year over year basis.  So are we on the cusp of a potential real estate bubble or is it simple supply side economics?  The number of homes sold came in slightly lower than a year ago.  So is demand outpacing supply, causing prices to increase?  And oh my god, condo sales increased in Toronto as well. Red Rover, Red Rover, Doom Sayers come on over.  There’s a little something for everyone. The teeth nashers and those predicting Armageddon are fist bumping each other.  Others, justifiably so, are saying it’s a balanced market.  Should the price of a real estate never rise? If that we’re the case we would all be squatters, living in tents.  The commentators I love are the ones that sit firmly on the fence.  An economist for one major bank said their analysis suggests that we all experience a 10% decrease in home values, and there could be further risk if sales activity was to increase. They were so concerned with the “risk” that they matched the 2.99% five year rate that one of their competitors came out with.  That fence post must really be uncomfortable to sit on.

Sifting through all the commentary can be confusing, and let’s be honest, depending on the amount of skin you have in the game will influence the argument and opinion you support.  To combat human nature it’s important to seek contrary opinions, and I force myself do that, almost daily.  It takes some effort to find commentary which is not self-serving, like those selling newspapers, hedge funds that are shorting the Canadian economy or politicians playing politics.  Here’s a couple names to look out for when you want broader viewpoint, economists Nouriel Roubini and David Rosenberg.  What’s their bona fide? They predicted the financial collapse of 2008. So what are they saying today?  According to Rosenberg, “Nattering nabobs of negativity – stop knocking yourself out. First, there are a host of reasons why I see inflation rising moderately, and the wage process is but one of them. There is a very interesting development taking place that is not garnering a lot of attention. The U.S. commercial banks are loosening their purse strings. As for the U.S. economy, it is looking as though Q2 real GDP growth will come in close to a 4% annual rate. Why I turned bullish on the U.S. consumer.”  Clearly he’s refereeing to the U.S. Economy, but like it or not, when America sneezes we look for a tissue.  In good times and bad.

Until next time!

Cheers,

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4 Comments Faith in Mankind – Tested yet again

Article written by on the 18 Dec 2012 in Current Events,World Events

It plays an important role for many in our society.  I bristle at those who condemn people of faith because “science” can’t prove the existence of what they believe in.  Of course I’m not referring to people who bastardize or prostitute their faith in the name of war or violence.  The people who do this are nothing more than charlatans and con artists, irrespective of religious doctrine.  I have great respect for people who frequent their house of worship, and truly feel better for doing so.  The fact they feel spiritually uplifted is reason to applaud them.  If faith causes people to treat each other with respect, kindness and human decency, then these people should be admired and not mocked.

There’s also another kind of faith, our faith in mankind.  Regrettably our faith in mankind is being tested with far too much regularity.  Our faith was tested, yet again, when evil visited Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newport Connecticut.  I have no idea how to categorize the actions of the mass murder other than pure evil.  The killing of innocent babies leads me to set aside reasoning or any form of rationale.  Gun laws will be debated, as will mental health treatment, but in my mind clinical terms cannot be used to describe the actions of the cold blooded murderer at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He possessed a human shell but he was devoid of humanity.

As shocking as the barbaric act was, I’m equally shocked at how compassionate and forgiving people can be.  The father of one the slain babies held a press conference and said that his prayers were with the murderer’s family, for they too are grieving.  This man had not even buried his six year old daughter, and yet his faith in religion and mankind leads him to embrace the murderer’s family in their time of grief.  My reservoir of compassion runs too low to be able to do the same.  What I also can’t do is watch the endless news coverage.  How much heart ache is enough?  CNN posted pictures of all the victims, which included the boys and girls who were slain.  I can’t look at the pictures because when I do I think how they were systematically executed.  The son of b!t$& who murdered these babies had to reload to finish what he had set out to do.  I can’t imagine how the parents of the slain children are dealing with this.

I know the cable news channels have to fill time, and this is news.  But enough is enough.  One of the most simple and moving tributes came from, of all places, Saturday Night Live; for a TV show that has no boundaries they exhibited extraordinary dignity and simplicity.

Until next time,

Godspeed.

 

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0 Comments Global Financial Crisis – Five Years And Counting

Article written by on the 26 Jul 2012 in World Events

Global-Financial-Crisis-5-Years_laterWe are quickly approaching a significant date, a date which had a profound impact on the global economy and our physchy.  This August is the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis, yes, it started a half decade ago.    What were you doing five years ago?  I suspect you were reading the headlines of the day wondering what does it all mean to me?  It was unfathomable to think back then that sub-prime mortgages, ARM teaser rates, and new terms to the general public like derivatives and swaps, could nearly bring down the global economy.  And yet here we are five years later, dealing with a fragile economy because aftershocks are still being felt because of the GFC, Global Financial Crisis.

Plenty has been and will continue to be written about the Global Financial Crisis and its aftershocks, example being the state of the U.S. economy and the European crisis.  However, little has been written about the lingering affects of the crisis will have on our collective physchy.   I see examples of it everywhere. You don’t have to look any further than the deep distrust and vitriol people have towards banks, and bankers.  Mention Wall Street, executive compensations packages, stock markets and the like and most people will speak of these in contemptuous terms.  That to me will be one of the most significant fallouts of the Global Financial Crisis; the demonization of success.

It has become fashionable to disparage and criticize success.  What was once admired and encouraged is today scorned.  You’re successful?  You make a large sum of money? Shame on you.  It really has become open season for those who are successful.  Politicians and journalists have been exploiting this sentiment for the last five years and will continue to do so until consumer confidence returns in force.  To be clear this not an attempt to justify million dollar comp packages.  But I will say this, if it doesn’t bother you that Shea Weber of the NHL’s Nashville Predators just signed a 14 year contract for $110 million, why are we bothered by what business leaders  earn?    I understand the argument that the wealth gap between middle class and the affluent is widening but its too easy to suggest that fairness would be severed by simply making the affluent pay more.  But it’s becoming fashionable to suggest that because if you’re successful, wealthy, well, you must have done something wrong to earn that wealth.  And if you ‘re legit, you should have to pay  more for the sins of your business brethren.

In some aspects I understand the cynicism towards business leaders, and bankers in particular.   Why wouldn’t there be?  Where are the indictments for those who perpetrated the Global Financial Crisis?  Prosecutors made Bernard Madoff pay, and deservedly so.  But his was school yard compared to those who nearly brought down the global economy.  This injustice fuels the mistrust and demonization of those who are successful.  I hope this doesn’t result in future generations saying to their children, “dream big, be average”.

Until next time.

Cheers.

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0 Comments The Australian Broker Market

Article written by on the 24 May 2012 in Mortgage,Travel,World Events

The one significant difference between the Australian and Canadian broker market is broker market share.  CMHC just reported that in Canada, broker market share is 27%.  In Australia, it’s 42%.

 

Attending the MFAA Conference has accorded me the opportunity to garner insight into the Australian broker market.  The stakeholders in Australia are as passionate and committed to their industry as we are in Canada.   I am struck by the market similarities we share, as it relates to the overall economy, and the broker market specifically.   One similarity we share is negative press. The issues are different but the press in Australia is as committed to fear mongering as it is in Canada.  There’s no talk of too much consumer debt here, yet their average mortgage balances are no different than in Canada. Here the primary focus is all that could go wrong beyond Australia’s boarder, which in turn will lead to the destruction of the Australian economy.  

Europe’s an issue; however, the press in Australia is casting its worrisome gaze in China’s direction, which on the surface is laughable.  China is Australia’s largest trading partner.  The Aussies distanced themselves from the U.S. market years ago.  They decided to hook their wagon to an emerging market like China, and fortuitously decided to distance themselves from the world’s largest sub-merging economy, the US.  Ah, but gory headlines are needed, so the focus is on China’s slowing economy.  It appears that 7 1/2% growth is no reason to celebrate or feel comfortable.  The talk is will China have a soft or hard landing, which ultimately will impact the Australian economy.  Can you imagine,  if the US was forecasting 7 1/2% growth, and what that would mean for the Canadian economy?  Yet somehow 7 1/2 % growth in China could have a negative impact in Australia.  Just wondering what part of 71/2 % growth produces a hard landing?    I guess the old saying about the press is no different in Australia – “if it bleeds…it leads”.  

The one significant difference between the Australian and Canadian broker market is broker market share.  CMHC just reported that in Canada, broker market share is 27%.  In Australia, it’s 42%.  I’ve asked every Aussie I’ve spoken to at the conference the following: “how did brokers grow their market share to 42%”?  As I suspected, there was no one definitive answer, but there were some underlying themes.


It appears that the psyche of the average Aussie plays a part in those market share numbers.  Aussies have a deep distrust of the banks and animosity towards their profits. Many Aussies believe the higher cost of borrowing has contributed to those bank profits.  Yet, banks in Australia have a 90% market share of all broker business.  So that distrust and anger has not resulted in less business for the banks. In large part that is due to the lack of competition, but it appears also that consumers look to brokers to provide them with the best of the least tasteful option.  Interesting, to say the least.

Another critical factor which contributes to the success of the broker channel is the investment that the large firms make towords advertising.  I had the pleasure to speak to Michael Russell, CEO of Mortgage Choice in Australia, about this very subject.  Without getting into specifics, Mortgage Choice invests multiple millions of dollars in advertising.  Their individual franchises advertise on their own, which collectively exceeds the dollar amount committed to advertising by Mo rtgage Choice corporately.  Throw in Aussie Hone Loans, and number of other firms which advertise, and it’s easy to see why an Aussie consumers would chose a mortgage broker.  Some of the larger broker firms in Australia spend more on advertising than the banks do, as it relates to mortgages.  The messaging is choice, service, quality of broker, trust and yes, pricing.  Since the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), Aussies are far more focused on price.  However, price alone is not enough.  The Aussie borrower is looking for utility and competency.  

There’s plenty to learn from the Australian broker experience.   Volumes speak, like $90 billion a year in origination.  I’m looking at a rate sheet from Westpac, one of the major banks in Australia, and their 5 year fixed rate is 6.99%, and the good news is their ARM pricing has been reduced to 7.09%.  You may be surprised to learn that 60% of all mortgages in Australia is ARM.  The most recent MFAA Home Finance Index, which measures consumer sentiment, indicates that the percentage of consumers who would chose a broker first, as compared to those who would chose a bank first, is almost identical.  We share many similarities with the Aussie broker market, yet some of the differences are profound.

Until next time

Cheers

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