Investing is complicated. Today’s investment landscape is substantially more complicated than a short generation ago. Investment choices, the institutions that offer investments, and globalization have all contributed to the dramatic changes that investors must contend with to invest successfully.
Stocks today are classified in many ways that can determine their potential value. Company size, industry, geographic location, and growth/value labels are just some of the considerations that can affect performance and long-term values. Bond choices have also expanded from straightforward obligations of the U.S. government and the best-rated public companies to encompass lower credit quality asset pools that offer higher returns in exchange for higher risk.
Many institutions today offer investment services, complicating choices for investors. Brokerage firms, banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, and intermediaries such as accounting firms are all offering investment advice.
Meaningful conflicts of interest exist when investment firms offer advice and invest in the same securities as their clients. It is important to note that some of these firms compete directly with their investors, changing the nature and value of the advice given to clients.
Globalization has a direct impact on investments and the institutions that offer them. As evidenced during the recent recession, the condition of the global banking network and the financial condition of sovereign nations can have a major impact on the investment markets. The opportunities available for investors in this expanded global marketplace are robust and quite extensive, yet the need for professional and impartial advice is essential.