Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ameriprise Financial Services - The Best Personal Financial Adviser

In today's growing consumer market, where one has plethora of options to choose from for almost all goods and services, many companies have managed to maintain their goodwill and win the rat race with a simple rule - consumer is the king!

Some companies have carved their niche with prompt and accurate customer services and support system. A leading name among financial advisory services today is - Ameriprise Financial Services or the AFS.

Ameriprise Financial Services initiated as a small company from a local office, and have managed to expand a fortune. They are best known for their online financial advisory services and personal consultation.

Their strategy for the same is to use a handy advisor locator. The best part of using this locator is that you do not need to give any personal details. On the company's web portal simply key in your zip code. The locator would automatically supply a list of Ameriprise Financial Services Advisors with in your vicinity. Be rest assured that you won't be contacted unless & until you yourself opt to call an agent.

Besides the regular functions of the web portals, Ameriprise Financial Services' website offers enormous wealth of information on all aspects regarding financial planning. An individual's financial planning primarily depends on their budget and the financial requirements. However, at the end financial planning remains one's personal decision. Yet, all of us need to have a clear understanding of our goals from the same.

The personal advisors at Ameriprise Financial Services understand these basics and hence their website details the very core information like:

i. The fundamentals of investment
ii. Tips for paperwork
iii. Information that we must put forward before the advisor to make the best of his services. This way he or she would give you the best possible recommendations for your personalized financial planning needs.

How the Ameriprise Financial Services' Advisor works?

Ameriprise Financial Services' personal financial planner initially offers a free consultation session. Here, he or she would help you identify your financial goals. He or she would present before you the realistic & concrete picture of your current scenario and your actual needs. That is your financial stand today and what it requires to meet what you want.

In the following sessions, the advisors would help you synchronize the goals, that is prioritizing the needs & wants. He or she would then prepare the information you need. Next, He or she would present this information in a way that it clarifies all your doubts. Hence the advisor would help you understand the best possible ways to achieve your financial goals.

Ameriprise Financial Services advisors are always there for you in order to answer your questions. Yet, they are just advisors and they would leave the final decisions for the client or customer.

Finally a written plan would be developed. As per your requisites and goals it would also be modified until completion.

That is not all. You advisor would also help you implement the plan with regular meetings. Ensuring that the customer stays on the track to achieve their financial objectives and goals, they would guide you through the required changes as well.

What are the other services provided by Ameriprise Financial Services?

1. Insurance

Ameriprise Financial Services also deals with insurance. They provide:

i. Life Insurance
ii. Health Insurance
iii. Disability Insurance
iv. Long Term Care Insurance
v. Home Insurance
vi. Auto Insurance

2. Banking & Lending Agency

Ameriprise Financial Services is also an efficient banking & lending agency so they help you through money management & financial planning in the practical terms.

3. Investment Products
Ameriprise Financial Services' investment products include the following:
i. IRAs
ii. Annuities
iii. Stocks
iv. Bonds
v. Mutual Funds

This implies that the clients could easily diversify the portfolios & try varied types of investments during working with the advisors

UBS Financial Services - What Do They Do?

UBS Financial Services is a global company that provides a full range of financial services to individual clients and companies all over the world. In an increasingly globalized world economy that the kind of international expertise that UBS Financial Services can offer is a distinct advantage to all types of client that need to manage their wealth. UBS offers a service that reflects the global nature of financial markets.

UBS Financial Services has offices on every continent. It operates in Switzerland, the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. If even this comprehensive network does not put you near a branch of UBS Financial Services you can use the banking online service. UBS Financial Services online banking offers the convenience of making decisions from the comfort of your own home and provides the same range of wealth management and investment services.

Individual customers can benefit from a complete range of financial services. UBS Financial Services offers annuities,401K plans, securities, mutual funds, fund management, wealth management, life and health insurance programs and trust funds. In addition UBS Financial Services can provide an attorney network, Roth IRA accounts, estate planning, account management, retirement distribution analysis, educational funds and fund management and lines of credit. In other word UBS Financial Services offers all the services you would expect to find in a worldwide financial service.

For businesses of all sizes UBS Financial Services offers a comprehensive range of services. UBS Financial Services can provide a customized package consisting of employee stock ownership management, retirement services, corporate cash management, consulting and a global expansion option. Whatever size of business you run UBS Financial Services has something to offer.

If your business already operates globally then UBS Financial services can offer specialized services including rates and currency calculators, equities, fixed income, investment options and help with employee benefit and retirement packages

Non-profit agencies can benefit from UBS Financial Services because the company is sensitive to the specialist needs of this sector. UBS Financial Services is aware of the regulations that effect the disbursement of funds in the non-profit sector. Government agencies, banks and other other lending agencies work with UBS Financial Services enabling the company to develop a unique expertise in this field that can benefit large or small non-profit agencies.

UBS Financial Services operates a specialised online trading system that allows the client to input trades directly. A client who needs advice can work with a financial advisor to develop a portfolio of investments using the expert knowledge of UBS Financial Services. Both companies and individuals can take advantage of this service. This can be done in one of two ways. A brokerage account can have a flat rate fee on each trade or can be charged on the assets in the account. An individual or company that have a high number of trades will benefit from the second type of fee structure if they keep an steady balance in their asset account.

Financial Services Help Manage Money

Financial Services #1 Wealth Management

Frequently individuals who are wealthy need financial services in order to manage their money and stay wealthy. Many wealthy individuals who do not use financial services for wealth management see their money slipping out the window. However, those who use wealth management financial services not only maintain their wealth and enjoy it, but also see it increase.

Financial Services #2 Investment Banking

Investment banking is another offering of financial services that many individuals enjoy. This is because investment banking financial services focus on creating capital through client investments.

Financial Services #3 Asset Management

Financial services offer asset management for individuals who cannot or prefer not to manage their own assets in the form of cash, property, bonds, and stocks. Fortunately, financial services are able to handle asset management competently.

Financial Services #4 Business Banking Services

Business banking financial services are also an option for businesses that need help in managing accounts, income, payments, loans, and any other types of financial services needed. Business banking services are a very important part of the financial services sector.

If you are interested in financial services helping you manage your wealth, assets, make investments for you, or manage your business banking, and then you should contact several financial services providers in order to compare services and fees so you can find the one that is best for you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

CI to contribute to revision of UN’s consumer protection guidelines

Indrani Thuraisingham, Head of CI Office for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, reports on activities from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

I was very pleased to be part of CI’s delegation to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently. 

This was an important moment for consumer rights - when CI was named to give input into the revision of the UN’s Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP).

The decision to revise the guidelines was the major outcome of the UNCTAD Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection: The interface between competition and consumer policies. Its proposals are to be tabled at the General Assembly in July 2014. 

The CI delegation to UNCTAD included myself as the head of the Asia Pacific and Middle East Regional Office and lead on the global coordination of CI’s Consumer Justice and Protection priority programme; Jeremy Malcolm who leads CI’s Consumers in the Digital Age priority programme; and Robin Simpson, CI’s senior policy officer from London who spoke on financial services, another of CI’s priority programme areas. 

We were accompanied by Connie Lau, retiring CEO of the Hong Kong Consumer Council who gave the key note address; and Pradeep Mehta from CI member CUTS India.

A number of ideas for areas in which the Guidelines could be improved were discussed, including the need to strengthen enforcement activities, and the addition of provisions on financial services, energy, consumer representation, and access to knowledge. 

CI also highlighted the need to add “access to basic needs” as part of the legitimate needs in Article 3 of the Guidelines as well as to have a clear definition of ”consumer” in terms of addressing the needs of poor and vulnerable consumers.
The agreed conclusions of the meeting specify that UNCTAD is to collaborate with CI, as well as with other relevant bodies such as the OECD, in developing the content of potential revisions.  

To this end, the next step in this process will be for CI to consult with its members on the areas that should be covered and to develop some suggested text for submission to UNCTAD that will be tabled at the upcoming 13th Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) meeting in July 2013 during which the process of negotiations will begin and be approved by July 2014.

This is an exciting time. It means that all CI members will have the opportunity to comment and bring their experience in consumer rights to bear on the Guidelines. I for one look forward to being a part of this important step for consumer rights.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

UN’s consumer protection guidelines must reflect the digital age

CI’s Jeremy Malcolm looks at why it’s imperative that the UNGCP include the rights of consumers in the digital age.

When the United Nation Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP) were last amended, the iPod had not yet been invented, Wikipedia would not exist for another couple of years (nor Facebook for another five), and a new PC had one-eighth as much memory as a modern smartphone.

This means that, remarkably, there is no global standard or benchmark that deals directly with the impact of the digital age on consumers.

Here's why this matters:

Say that when signing up to a legal music download service, a link to its terms and conditions of use is given. If you follow the link, you find 20 pages of small text, including a condition prohibiting you from making copies of the music you download, and another reserving the site’s right to change the terms and conditions without notice to you. 

You skim through the first few pages of this agreement and then proceed to sign up and pay your subscription.

Then, you download a few songs, and then copy them from your computer to your portable music player. 

Frustratingly, it seems that they are encrypted, but luckily you find a small programme online that you use to strip this encryption off, so that you can enjoy your music on the go.

Some days later, the site changes so that files are no longer downloadable, but can only be streamed live. This means that you can no longer play new downloads on your music player.

Some of the questions that arise are:
  1. Are you bound by the terms and conditions (T&Cs), even if you didn't read all of them?
  2. Are you allowed to copy songs that you purchased as a download onto your music player?
  3. If so, are you also entitled to remove the encryption from the music files?
  4. Is the site entitled to switch from a download to a streaming service?
The answers will of course depend on consumer law in your country. 

We believe that any modern consumer law should answer those questions as follows:
  1. You should only be bound by the T&Cs if they were adequately brought to your attention - important terms can't be buried in 20 pages of small text.
  2. Yes, you should be able to copy music that you have purchased online.
  3. Yes, you should be able to de-encrypt if your purpose in doing so is simply to enable you to listen to the music.
  4. No, the site should not switch its service without offering you a refund.
Through our Consumers in the digital age programme, we’re pushing for a global benchmark so that such consumer rights are seen as the international standard.   

That’s why we think that it’s about time that the UNGCP were updated for the digital age, to protect consumers in situations like those outlined above, and in many other novel situations involving digital goods and services, consumers as creators, and online communications.

This doesn't mean that the UNGCP are no longer working - on the contrary, they have stood up very well over the years; a testament to the hard work that went into developing them to begin with. But there are some areas that they don't clearly cover, and we have a plan to fill those gaps.

Whilst the
UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has only recently signalled its intention to review the UNGCP, CI is well ahead of the game. 

We have already come up with a set of proposed amendments to cover the rights of consumers in the digital age. These were developed by a CI member working group that was convened in January 2011 and released its final draft for a three-month public comment period in June the same year.

Amongst the proposed amendments, which are shown in their entirety at
http://A2Knetwork.org/guidelines, are provisions that would:
  • Prevent the removal of functions from digital products or services after purchase
  • Support consumer access to and fair use of copyright works
  • Set minimum standards for the privacy of consumers online
  • Require product safety information and standards to be made available online
CI is now proceeding to supplement these suggested amendments with national level research, to demonstrate why they are important, and how they reflect some emerging best practices around the world. This research is being conducted by our members and partners in India, Brazil and South Africa, with smaller case studies having been contributed from South Korea and Canada.

The next step will be to integrate these proposals, along with other amendments that CI is still developing
(such as on financial services), into the draft text that will be tabled before UNCTAD's members for consideration at their next meeting in mid 2013.
If we are fortunate, the UNGCP will soon be at the forefront of modern consumer policy again, providing a useful benchmark for policy makers around the world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Financial services on the agenda at UNCTAD

Financial services—it’s complicated. And that’s why we need to ensure consumers are protected.  CI’s Robin Simpson urges inclusion of financial services in the UN’s Guidelines on Consumer Protection. 

At the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in Geneva recently, CI made the case for inclusion of financial services in the Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP), including:

  • universal access to basic financial services;
  • better design and disclosure of information;
  • mandatory requirements for comprehensibility of financial products; and
  • representation of consumer interests in the governance of the sector, both regulation and redress.
 We believe that, where states have bailed out ailing banks, competition enquiries should be carried out to ascertain whether these assistance packages have increased concentration. This is sensitive territory for a conference whose agenda was dominated by competition issues.

We also called for measures to guarantee stability of deposits stronger than the diluted provisions that were included in the G20/OECD high level principles that we found too limited.

There was a strong measure of agreement in the hall that FS is not, or no longer, solely a rich country issue. Indeed, one of the encouraging aspects of the present troubled times is the emergence of innovative services such as branchless banking in developing countries, whose consumers report savings ratios far in excess of those of the OECD countries, between 30-40% of household income.

As CI board member Connie Lau of the Hong Kong Consumer Council pointed out, these dwarf the puny rates to be found in the first decade of this century in the US where some estimates show a negative rate in some years. 

Our colleague Sothi Racahagan from Malaysia made a clarion call for stronger regulatory action and Phil Evans from the UK Competition Commission made the strong case on behavioural grounds for FS not being treated like any other sector.

Complex products with long-term effects, the impacts of which will not be known for years to come, all add up to a dangerous cocktail of ingredients that require far stronger measures than we have seen so far.

Maybe inclusion of FS in the UNGCP will make some much-needed changes a reality.

Now for the hard part.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The planet needs a silver-bullet solution, but Rio wasn’t it

CI’s Luis Flores reflects on the results of the Rio+20 Summit and what they mean for consumers.

Trying to solve the world’s most pressing and complex environmental and social problems by convening the very governments stuck in gridlock the last 20 years was never going to be a silver-bullet solution.

And after Rio+20 it is clear that an old-style UN conference with member countries negotiating a ‘consensus’ agreement is no longer the ideal medium for change.

However, despite the initial dismay over the results of the Summit, there was cause for at least a somewhat sedated celebration for the consumer rights movement.

First, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) was acknowledged as a fundamental issue. The so-called 'ten year framework of programmes' that will support governments developing national and regional programmes on SCP was also endorsed by governments on a voluntary basis.

It will be further developed in this year's negotiations at the UN General Assembly. The Rio agreement also specifically links sustainable consumption to the Sustainable Development Goals which will be the subject of more work under the UN framework.

Determined to avoid another Copenhagen and an evident failure of the environmental multilateral system, the government negotiators at Rio+20 wanted above all to be able to come out with a completed agreement and that is exactly what they did at the end of the process.

But, given the results and the lack of ambition of the official outcome document, which had been negotiated over the last nine months and finalised just before the start of the Summit, many were unhappy.

It is not necessary to understand the economics of development in great detail to have a view on the case for urgent action. Sustainability is needed now.

The question is no longer whether unsustainable growth is contributing to the global crisis or not, but how vast and irreversible the damages are going to be.

In the coming years, the entire world will have to step into a transition stage leading to real sustainable development; therefore, joint and coordinated action is necessary.

Isolated initiatives will not be enough, and neither will the sustainable purchasing decisions of the enlightened few. Governments will need to act; and companies will need to stop hiding behind perceived consumer inertia as an excuse for inaction.

International cooperation will have to put less emphasis on what a fair distribution of responsibilities should be, and more stress on the actions that – if undertaken as a joint endeavour – will neutralize negative effects on people’s lives and livelihood.

All of the public awareness that we have experienced recently should give us enough hope to continue with our efforts. Indeed, when surveyed, an increasing number of consumers express a desire to consume ‘green’ – but lack the access to do so.

For our part, CI is currently reviewing our work on sustainable consumption in order to identify where we, as a network of more than 240 consumer organisations in 115 countries, can best contribute to this global challenge. We hope to have the results in time for a renewed effort at the start of 2013.