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Alice Taft, Assistant Vice President and Trust Officer, recently received her Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®) designation. Along with Janice Epaillard, Vice President and Chief Fiduciary Officer, we now have two AEPs on staff. The AEP® is a professional credential for individuals who specialize in estate planning services. Someone who holds an Accredited Estate Planner designation is recognized to have the expertise and knowledge required to advise clients on estate planning.
Phoebe Mello, Trust Officer, along with Janice and Alice have their Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA) designations. This designation demonstrates expertise in trust and financial advising, with enhanced knowledge in taxes, investments, financial planning, trusts and estates.
Pete Baksh, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer holds a Chartered Financial Analyst’s (CFA®) designation. Charterholders are distinguished by their commitment to set a higher standard of excellence in investment management. Pete also holds an MBA, which focuses inherently on business skills.
Sherry Watson, Vice President and Trust Officer, is our resident tax expert, holding a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. A CPA is a trusted financial advisor who has demonstrated advanced knowledge and competence in Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting and Regulation. Sherry also has a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. CFP professionals work with clients to create holistic long-term plans in order to help them meet their financial goals.
Alexandria Ross, Trust Officer, is our resident legal scholar. Alex has a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, also known as the Doctor of Law and Doctor of Jurisprudence. Alongside her J.D. Alex has a Master of Laws (LLM) degree, which is an advanced, postgraduate academic degree.
Susie Pelfrey, Vice President and Trust Investment Officer, holds an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Manager (AFIM®) designation. A holder of this designation is trained to examine the investment industry structure and outline the unique characteristics of each type of investment instrument.
Finally, two critical employees are Tammy Rollins, Assistant Vice President and Trust Operations Officer and Ashley Woods, Assistant Trust Operations Officer. Both Tammy and Ashley each hold the Certified Securities Operations Professional (CSOP) certification and Certified Trust Operations Professional (CTOP®) designation. A CSOP certification is the undisputed professional credential for financial services professionals whose primary function and expertise focus on the execution of processing operations related to all manner of securities. A CTOP® designation serves as a common understanding of the concepts, rules, regulations, laws, and standard industry operating procedures.
We currently have three junior members of staff studying for professional designations, two of whom, Jamie Mislivecek and Katie Schmalenberger, successfully completed Cannon Trust Fundamentals in March. Sarah Kluesener will take the CTFA exam in August.
It is always rewarding and gratifying when investment in the education of our staff results in a highly credentialed and qualified team to serve the needs of our customers.
Inflation has been on the minds of markets participants these days. The most recent reading of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in at a 5% annualized increase for May, which represents the fastest increase since before the financial crisis in 2008. The most recent Federal Reserve meeting minutes reveal that at a minimum, one and perhaps even two rate hikes might be necessary before the end of 2022. This is a fairly large departure from prior estimates which guided toward 2023 as the earliest such action would be taken. The official commentary has shifted into a stance that inflationary pressures may become more than “transitory,” as described by the Fed in prior months.
This is a very complex issue, and the facts are mixed. On one hand, commodities rose at highly accelerated rates from the beginning of the year until May, but many have subsequently pulled back. On the other hand, there is a labor shortage in many industries that has been prompting wage increases. While prices for goods can rise and fall in relatively short timeframes, wages are “sticky.” Once people have higher incomes, they are not generally willing to let those wage gains slide back to prior levels, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, the velocity of money has slowed dramatically and this may serve to reduce inflationary pressures in the future. Adding to that case, interest rates are down over the longer end of the yield curve in the past month, which indicates that bond investors see a reduced risk of inflation. For now, the signals are not clear enough to call on inflation but one thing that is unambiguous is that the economy is strong.
The economic strength described above can support stock prices, and we are seeing this with the S&P 500 reaching new highs as of this writing (June 24th). It is worth noting that one of the models we use to score stocks based on their fundamental attributes to determine whether stocks are fairly priced, overpriced, or underpriced has been showing improving scores across a broad array of individual stocks. This is likely because stock prices are a function of the expected future cash flows and interest rates. With rates low for the time being, higher earnings expectations will lead to a perception that stock prices are too low. When the Fed begins its cycle to tighten monetary policy (increasing the Fed Funds rate), the perceived value of future cash flows will decline and this could cause stock prices to correct. For now, we see a relatively quiet summer developing, and barring any exogenous shock to the market, do not anticipate any major pullbacks or advances.
In the interest rate world, the yield curve has steepened at the short end and flattened at the long end. In English, this means that shorter term rates have begun rising while longer term rates have declined. A surface read would suggest that this is in response to the Fed’s recent statement that rates may be raised sometime next year instead of 2023 at the earliest. It is natural that shorter term rates would rise under that view. As to why the rates have declined over the longer term, that is more difficult to explain. We hypothesize that it may indicate that the Fed is correct in its assessment that inflationary pressure is transitory. In any event, we have found that bonds are available with higher yields than much of the past year, which is good for fixed income investors.
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