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Business Employees Should Beware of Rising Cybercriminal Activity

It is well documented that cybercrime attacks are rapidly on the rise, especially against small businesses.  And as cybercriminals continue to develop increasingly stealthy and sophisticated tactics, unsuspecting employees are among the most frequently targeted victims.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes, also known as CEO fraud, are a cybercriminal favorite.  Through a successful phishing scheme or by simply visiting a public domain, scammers typically familiarize themselves in advance with knowledge of a target business’ policies and management roles.  They will often then attempt to first gain the trust of an employee before eventually duping him or her into transferring fraudulent payments.

Using any inside information they’ve obtained, scammers will generate a fake email designed to appear coming from a senior management member requesting a financial transfer be made to a private account, while promising to send an invoice at a later time (which never comes).  The scammers will often even ask victims if they are in the office or sitting at their desk before engaging in a discussion on how to complete a transfer.  Once this occurs, the money of course does not get transferred within the organization, but rather into the accounts of online criminals.  According to the FBI, CEO scams have resulted in an estimated loss of $3.1 billion.

To avoid becoming a victim of business email fraud, always be suspicious of emails demanding action not in line with your company policy,including communication appearing to be sent and authorized by senior management.  Users are also urged to not click Reply if they believe the message looks suspicious.  Instead, write and send a new message directly to the known corporate address of the person claiming to have sent the original message.  This will remove any potential scammer from further communication.

Business Email Etiquette

Imagine finding yourself the guilty culprit of any of the following embarrassing, even humiliating, real-life situations…

  • Emailing confidential personal or salary information to your entire firm by accident.
  • Sending a job offer to the wrong person.
  • Making an inappropriate remark about a supervisor or a client and accidentally emailing your message to the maligned individual.
  • Typing a crude or off-color joke intended for a colleague, but mistakenly sending it to your entire department.
  • Inadvertently distributing an internal sales strategy to an outside email list which includes addresses of some of your firm’s competitors.

Though these are some extreme cases, it all still boils down to practicing proper email etiquette, an essentiality in today’s competitive business environment.  Here are some key points to consider when composing and sending emails:

  • Email communication vs. phone call.  Ask yourself if email is the most appropriate method of communication for contacting your desired recipient.  In other words, does the email contain sensitive or confidential information?  Would your manager, supervisor, or compliance office approve of the email if they were to see it?  Or would it be more prudent to simply pick up the phone and call the recipient directly?
  • Respond promptly.  It should go without saying that providing exemplary customer service requires responding to your client emails in a timely manner.  Most firms strive to reply to email inquiries within hours, the same business day, or by the following business day at the latest.  Slow response times not only can make you appear unorganized, uncaring, and/or negligent, but can also reflect poorly on your company and may lead to being outperformed by competitors that better understand the importance of high communication speed and efficiency.
  • Carefully consider the subject line.  It’s crucial to provide a clear, direct, and concise subject line for two main reasons: 1) It grabs the recipient’s attention, and 2) It helps summarize the email content and allows recipient(s) to better determine whether it’s worth their time to open the email and read further (i.e. “Meeting date changed”, “Quick question about your presentation”, “Suggestions for the proposal”, etc.).  Letting readers know how you are addressing their concerns or business issues should be clearly communicated in the subject line.
  • Use common courtesy.  All business related emails should open with an appropriate and courteous greeting (“Hello”, “Hi”, “Good morning/afternoon/day”, etc.) followed by the intended recipient’s name (unless it’s a group email).  The email should also conclude with a polite salutation (“Thank you”, “Sincerely”, “Best Regards”, etc.) followed by your name.  Not doing these simple things can lead to your emails being misinterpreted as demanding or terse in tone.  Make it a regular practice to imagine how the recipient might intend the tone of your message.
  • Keep messages clear and as concise as possible.  This includes keeping sentences short and to the point, while the body of the email should be direct and contain all pertinent information.  Unlike traditional written or typewritten letters, however, it costs no more to send several emails than it does to send just one.  So if you need to communicate with a colleague or client about a number of different topics, consider writing a separate email for each.  This not only can this help better organize your messages for future reference, but also allows your correspondent to focus and reply to each topic, one at a time.
  • Demonstrate professionalism.  Remember that your emails are a reflection of your professionalism, values, and attention to detail.  As an educated professional representing a company that’s providing products and services to paying clients, your email communication should reflect this.  This means typing complete sentences and using proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  Avoid abbreviating words… and always be sure to proofread and use spell-check!  Capitalize letters where necessary but never type in ALL CAPS as this can be misinterpreted as shouting.  Good communication instills further confidence in clients and encourages others to want to do business with you and your company.
  • Think twice about clicking “Reply All”.  Use this button with careful discretion and consider carefully whether everyone copied on the email really needs to be aware of your reply.  Remember, your colleagues already spend a significant portion of their day reading, composing, and sifting through emails.  No one wants to have to read multiple back-and-forth emails from multiple people over an issue that has nothing to do with them.  So please be respectful of these recipients’ time by not including them in group replies if no further action is needed from them.  Not to mention, refraining from using the “Reply All” button also helps prevent some potentially disastrous situations like the ones that began this blog!

For advisor use only.

Time is Running Out: New SEC Rules to Be Implemented on October 14, 2016

This is an urgent reminder that new floating NAV rules, fees, and gates on certain money market funds will be taking effect on October 14, 2016…

Advisors and money managers must be in compliance with the SEC’s mandated reforms by this date and are urged to begin the necessary preparation process right away, if not currently underway.

As part of the process, advisors and managers may need to take into account the following:

• transition period
• shareholder approval
• evaluation of current investments
• regulatory impact
• potential alternative investments

As an added service to our business partners, Mid Atlantic Trust Company (MATC) has made available an alternative platform solution to help accommodate these new reforms…

DepositxChange™, an FDIC insured service, seamlessly connects 401(k) participants and banks to provide participants with a cash deposit within their retirement account, whether it is part of a qualified defined contribution plan space model or a standalone investment.

For more information about DepositxChange™, please visit our Benefits Administrators page. You may also contact Michael Fillmore, Director, at mfillmore@macg.com, or by calling (800) 693-7800.

MATC Joins Vertical Management System’s Retirement Revolution Ecosystem

Vertical Management Systems, Inc. (VMS) announced today that Mid Atlantic Trust Company (MATC) will be added to its list of advisors and third party administrators as a trading destination and custody provider.

This access to MATC’s wide array of funds, ETFs, and advanced tools such as ModelxChange™ offers plan sponsors, advisors, and TPAs who utilize Retirement Revolution a variety of investment options to best service their plans.

Please click here to see the official press release for more information.

MetLife Stable Value Solutions Fund Added to ModelxChange®

MetLife announced today the new addition of Wilmington Trust’s MetLife Stable Value Solutions Fund to Mid Atlantic Trust Company’s ModelxChange® platform.  MetLife Stable Value Solutions Fund will be the first stable value option available for ModelxChange®, one of the original platforms of its kind that enables 401(k) professionals to incorporate investment models into a retirement plan through a single interface.

Please click here to read the official press release for additional information.

Money Market Reform FAQs

By now, you are likely well aware that new SEC-approved money market reform rules will soon be implemented.  The regulatory environment is changing daily as new reforms and rules are expected to carry a significant impact on the qualified plan space and open architecture platforms.  These changing regulations create new and unique challenges and opportunities from a compliance, product, sales, operations, and technology perspective.

Even with the wall-to-wall financial news coverage regarding money market reform, you may still have lingering questions.  Michele Coletti, Sr. Vice President of Mid Atlantic Retirement Plan Services, recently compiled answers to some important and frequently asked questions concerning money market reform.  Please click the button next to the questions below to view a detailed explanation.

What is money market reform?

In 2014, the SEC approved new rules under the Investment Company Act of 1940, amending the operation of money market mutual funds.  The SEC is requiring Institutional money market funds to sell and redeem shares based on the current market-based valuation of the portfolio, rounded to the fourth decimal place.  The rule also allows fund boards new flexibility to control heavy redemption demands to protect remaining shareholders.  The goal of these new regulations is to preserve the integrity of money markets as instruments of liquidity and to ensure that the valuation of each fund is transparent to investors.

What are the new classifications of money market funds?

Effective on or before October 14, 2016, each money market fund will be required to classify itself as one of the following: Government, Retail, or Institutional.  The classifications are tied to the underlying portfolio.

Government funds must hold 99.5% or more of their assets in cash or government based securities.  Retail money markets will be restricted only to beneficial owners who are natural persons.  Institutional funds are funds that do not qualify as retail or government.

What is the effective date?

The rules go into effect on October 14, 2016, however many funds will be making the necessary changes prior to the October effective date.  Some funds have recently announced that they will begin compliance with the new rules in July or August.

What are the implications of the fund classifications?

Each fund’s classification has impact on shareholders, custodians, dealers, and recordkeepers.  First and foremost, the classification dictates the requirements for stable versus floating NAV (referred to as “FNAV”), as well as the imposition of liquidity fees and gates.

  Money Market Funds  
Retail Institutional Government
Floating NAV (FNAV) No Yes No
Liquidity Fee Yes Yes No
Redemption Gate Yes Yes No

Secondly, the classification impacts the types of entities that can hold a position within the fund.  Account eligibility is based on social code (account type), as compared to the money fund classification.  In the case of retirement plans, the SEC has ruled that participants are the beneficial owners and natural persons; therefore, retirement plans are eligible to hold Retail funds.  However, Retail funds are subject to fees and gates, making them potentially complex investments for daily valued defined contribution plans.

When will I learn the classification of each money fund?

Mid Atlantic is being notified separately by each issuer as the issuer’s board and portfolio managers evaluate accounts under management, portfolio composition, and future strategy.  Mid Atlantic is evaluating these notices and working with the fund companies to identify accounts that might require liquidation or mapping to alternative investments.  Your relationship manager will then be in touch to provide support.

Mid Atlantic has modified the TNS investment screener to validate prospective account setups against money market category and account social code to identify eligibility.  Mid Atlantic has also rolled out new reports to identify holdings that will require liquidation or transfer into alternate securities or products.

When will the new TNS money market categories be populated?

The NSCC security master files are being modified to contain the following fields: money market category, number of NAV strikes, and strike times.  To facilitate your need to have this information as soon as possible to triage problems with your advisor and broker networks and plan sponsors, Mid Atlantic will be manually entering values as provided via email or other fund notification, as soon as received.  Note that some funds will not be declaring a category as they intend to close and liquidate before 10/14/16.  If a specific close date has been provided to MATC, the date has been added to TNS and will appear on all money market reports.

What if my plans are holding positions in funds that will be ineligible on or before 10/14/16?

Since account eligibility is based on a comparison of social code and fund category, some existing accounts will become immediately ineligible to hold positions they have already funded.  In those scenarios, we see a variety of potential outcomes:

  • Some funds will make advance notice of force liquidations and then close the ineligible accounts on a set date.
  • Some funds will map ineligible accounts into a “like fund” that supports the social code.
  • Some funds will leave the account open but delist from NSCC, thereby creating a pseudo-close where no electronic trading, pricing, reconciliation, or dividend processing can occur, requiring voluntary liquidation of the account.  As Mid Atlantic is notified of funds taking this approach, we will get in touch quickly to allow you as much time as possible to wind down the position.  As of today, six issuers have delisted Institutional funds: Wells Fargo, Fidelity, Federated, JP Morgan, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs.  Those notices have been distributed as Service Announcements and are also posted on the MATC homepage under the Announcement section.

How many NAV strikes a day are permitted for floating NAV funds?

With a floating NAV, each fund can set the number of strikes that will occur and these will be done at pre-defined times.  Each “strike” is the issuance of an execution price.  The NSCC files are being modified to allow up to 10 NAV strikes/execution prices per day, although many funds with floating NAVs have indicated they will likely set three to four strikes/execution prices per day.  The fund’s procedure for purchase and redemption pricing must be disclosed in the prospectus.  Mid Atlantic will provide a report of all strike times on TNS.

Will the Mid Atlantic price file contain multiple strike prices?

The Mid Atlantic file layouts will not be changed to accommodate multiple NAVs for a single trade date.  If you elect to pull prices intraday, you would receive the intraday prices as Mid Atlantic receives them from NSCC.  If you pull prices only after market close, then you will receive the last NAV for the trade date.   All intraday NAVs will be viewable on TNS for reporting and audit purposes.

So how do I know what price each money market trade will receive?

Each institutional money market trade with a floating NAV fund will receive the strike price of the next NAV computation after receipt of the trade.  For intraday trades, a strike price of 9:00 a.m. might be transmitted to NSCC at 10:30 a.m., and a strike price of 11:00 a.m. might be transmitted to NSCC at 12:30 p.m.  A trade received by the fund at 10 a.m. would receive the 11:00 a.m. strike price.

Institutional fund trades sent during the evening hours may receive either the end of day NAV strike or the first NAV strike of the next business day, subject to the rules of each individual fund per its prospectus filing.  That is why institutional fund strike times are also referred to as trade cutoff times.  For this reason, we highly urge you to NOT perform price-dependent processing for any institutional money market positions.

Government and retail funds will continue to price based on end of day NAV.

When would a liquidity fee or gate occur?

Under the new SEC rules, non-government money markets must maintain 90% liquidity based on weekly valuation reporting.  If the liquid value falls below 90%, a 1% liquidity fee will apply to sells only (not buys) unless the fund’s board determines that doing so is not in the best interest of the fund.   The fund’s board also has discretion to determine whether imposition of a lower or higher fee (not to exceed 2%) is warranted.  If the liquid value falls below 70%, a 2% liquidity fee will apply to sells only (not buys) as well as a redemption gate (up to 10 days in each 90 day period) unless the fund’s board determines that doing so is not in the best interest of the fund.   Gates may also be imposed on purchases, at each fund’s discretion.

How would I be notified of a fee or gate?

At this time, there is no automated mechanism for a fund to notify the industry of a fee or gate.  Notification to Mid Atlantic will occur via call or email from the fund.  Mid Atlantic will in turn send notifications and alerts as soon as the details of the fee or gate are confirmed with the fund.

The notice from the fund will usually be retroactive to prevent a run on the fund (i.e. an 11 a.m. gate could be announced at 11:30 a.m.), although funds can optionally announce an end of day effective time.

How do funds impose fees or gates?

When trading in funds that have fees or gates, the platform sets a flag on each sell order indicating to the fund whether the fund should impose the fee or gate or whether the intermediary will be calculating the fee and imposing the gate at the beneficial owner level.  Funds also retain the right to “hard gate” a fund and ignore the intermediary’s request, thereby rejecting all sell trades to prevent a run on a fund.

The imposition of a fee or gate is determined relative to the timestamp when the trade is “in good order”.  The definition of “in good order” is discretionary and determined based on who is assessing the fee or gate.

What timestamp will be used on money market liquidations?

Mid Atlantic is taking the position that all time stamps will be set by Mid Atlantic upon receipt of the trade from the underlying intermediary.  The timestamp of Mid Atlantic’s receipt of the trade will be passed through to NSCC and will be used by the fund to determine the appropriate FNAV to be used for trade execution as well as the imposition of a fee or gate.  All Mid Atlantic trades will be marked as “fund assessed”.

What happens if a fund assesses a fee?

Since all money market sell trades will be sent as “fund imposed”, if a fee is assessed, MATC would receive back the net settlement.  The liquidity fee will be disclosed in the confirmation and the net shares and dollars of the confirmation are net of the fee, similar to any fund assessment of a CDSC.

Why will Mid Atlantic not permit recordkeepers to use their own timestamping and calculate their own fees?

The new rules impose considerable compliance oversight if a contracted dealer such as Mid Atlantic allows underlying firms to timestamp orders and to independently compute liquidity fees or assess gates.  Liquidity fees must be estimated on trade date, before the next NAV strike, with proceeds to be delivered to the funds via wire (outside NSCC settlement) on the next business day.  Due to the extremely manual processes of liquidity fee management, and the extensive oversight by the funds of any fees not computed by the fund, Mid Atlantic is standardizing all trades as fund-assessed.

Each underlying Mid Atlantic client performs recordkeeping on many different software systems and many versions/releases of those systems.  Given the potential variances across underlying firms based on software systems and internal controls, allowing an underlying firm to monitor fees and gates is not feasible since Mid Atlantic will be subject to very stringent audit controls and oversight by the funds specific to money market trading.

What is the impact to same day/cross family transfers and exchanges?

If a client does a same day exchange and the sell side is a money fund subject to a fee or gate, the potential exists for the settlement to be less than projected due to a fee, or for the trade to be fully rejected due to a gate.  Please keep in mind that you must make Mid Atlantic whole for any settlement shortfalls if you support same day exchanges for your underlying plans.   While the frequency of any liquidity fees or gates should be minimal, allowing money market funds to be treated as same day exchange eligible increases your risk of a settlement shortfall.

Will Mid Atlantic custody or trade money markets in a super omnibus account?

Mid Atlantic will leave all retail and institutional money market funds fully disclosed on the books of the transfer agent.  Due to the specific rules regarding social code eligibility, as well as the timeliness of trading within NAV strike windows, Mid Atlantic will not aggregate money fund positions.

What if my firm is a bank/trust with omnibus positions?

Expect increased 22c-2 requests or other transparency inquiries from the funds as they review beneficial owner eligibility within each fund position.  Some funds are requiring Mid Atlantic to perform attestations that buys and sells will not be netted for any institutional money fund accounts.   Additionally, funds will be auditing for compliance with the updated prospectus provisions of money funds, as well as the non-prospectus provisions of Rule 2a-7.  Funds may request 2a-7 certifications from any underlying firm that maintains an omnibus position that does not clearly indicate eligibility of underlying beneficial owners.

What is the impact to fee disclosures and fact sheets?

Additional language will be needed in fact sheets and fee disclosures to indicate that retail or institutional funds may entail fees or might not be redeemed in the event of a liquidity issue.  Participant 404(a)(5) disclosures must clearly indicate to participants that while money markets provide liquidity within a portfolio, there is the risk of a liquidity fee being assessed or that a position might not be redeemable in the event of a liquidity shortfall at the fund.

What other system changes should I anticipate with money market reform?

Note that money market NAVs can now run to four decimal places, thereby impacting calculations throughout all trading, transfer agency, and sub systems for confirmations, dividends, transfers, and other activity.  Reports will also require updating to accommodate the longer price precision.

All account valuations will be performed at end of day NAVs, but accounts with FNAVs may have specific trades performed at values not reflective of the end of day NAV.

Mid Atlantic will not edit any inbound or outbound client file layouts.  Some systems already read the “fee” field in a confirmation record and others do not.  If you remain in funds subject to fees and gates, please consult with your system vendor to determine if your confirm import will recognize a liquidity redemption fee in a confirmation or settlement record.

What happens next?

Mid Atlantic will continue to roll out additional reporting and notifications to help you scrub your holdings and facilitate transition of positions as needed.  Please understand that there is little standardization across funds.  Some funds will be filing updated prospectuses as late as September for final declaration of position.  We will work as quickly and diligently as possible to assist you during this very challenging time.

One alternative platform solution available through Mid Atlantic Trust Company (MATC) to help accommodate these new reforms is DepositxChange™, an FDIC insured service.  DepositxChange™ seamlessly connects 401(k) participants and banks to provide participants with a cash deposit within their retirement account, whether it is part of a qualified defined contribution plan space model or a standalone investment.

For more information about DepositxChange™, please visit our Benefits Administrators page.  You may also contact Michael Fillmore, Director, at mfillmore@macg.com, or by calling (800) 693-7800.

Mid Atlantic Hosts Its 2016 National Conference in Braselton, Georgia

Recently, Mid Atlantic held its 2016 National Partner Conference at the elegant, award-winning Château Élan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Georgia.  In addition, Mid Atlantic went “pedal to the metal” by undertaking a race car theme to help make this year’s conference a truly high octane event for all attendees!

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Among this year’s featured presenters was Bruce Johnstone, Managing Director of Fidelity Investments.  Bruce literally illustrated his take on current economic and market conditions by intertwining it with his famous cartoon drawings which proved to be quite a crowd pleaser!  Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel Crosby, Executive Director of The Center of Outcomes, coached the audience on some of the finer points of behavioral finance, including how financial professionals can effectively communicate and fine tune their message so that it is easily recalled and stands out from competitors.

Many thanks to Bruce, Daniel, and all of our valued speakers, sponsors, and business partners for helping produce another successful Mid Atlantic annual conference.  We hope to see everyone again next year!

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A Recordkeeper’s Perspective on Money Market Reform

We invite you to read an excellent article written by John Humphrey, COO of July Business Services, a valued business partner of Mid Atlantic, discussing the new SEC-approved Money Market Fund rules taking effect on October 14, 2016.

In the article, Humphrey urges advisors and plan sponsors to not delay with choosing a new money market fund or cash investment solution prior to the effective date.

(Click here to read Money Market Rules for 401(k) and Other Qualified Plans.)

As an alternative solution, MATC now provides an FDIC insured service called DepositxChange™, which seamlessly connects 401(k) participants and banks to provide a cash deposit solution within the participants’ 401(k) accounts.  This can be used as part of a qualified defined contribution plan space model or as a standalone investment.

Please click the hyperlink below for additional details:

DepositxChangeTM

If you have any questions, you may contact your Mid Atlantic relationship manager by calling (800) 693-7800.

Mid Atlantic Welcomes Gaudreau Wealth New England

We are pleased to welcome Gaudreau Wealth New England to the Mid Atlantic family.  The firm is a multi-line insurance and financial services agency established in 1921 and based out of Wilbraham, MA.  It is now structured as a result of a merger between the Gaudreau Group’s financial division and Wealth New England Insurance & Financial Planning Group.

Gaudreau Wealth New England is currently one of the largest independent insurance offices in the New England region and headed by Jules Gaudreau, President of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA).  Jules also acts as a Director for the wealth management firm.  Meanwhile, Danny Kates (MACC/MAFM) heads the registered investment advisor team and is joined by colleagues Mark Zacek (MACC) and Alan Stearley (MACC).

Geaudreau Wealth New England primarily focuses on qualified plans and high net worth clients.  The firm is looking to increase its wealth management customers through Mid Atlantic Trust Company’s platform in addition to its own customized programs designed to grow, protect, and conserve client wealth.

MATC Featured in Article on Offering SMAs in 401(k)s

ma_401kSpecialistcoverMid Atlantic Trust Company is very excited to be featured in the latest issue of 401(k) Specialist Magazine, the only publication exclusively dedicated to retirement plan advisors.  In it, John Humphrey, COO of July Business Services, has penned an article discussing the latest technology currently available for efficiently offering separately managed accounts in 401(k) plans, including Mid Atlantic’s ModelxChange® platform.

Mid Atlantic is proud to share an outstanding partnership with July Business Services as well as 3D Asset Management, a portfolio manager also highlighted in John’s informative article.

Please click here to read the article in its entirety.

Also, if you are not yet a subscriber to 401(k) Specialist Magazine, we invite you to become one by clicking here.