Welcome to our blog, where we’ll be discussing two critical topics in the world of finance today. We will start by diving into the ongoing Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) review that affects the funding sources of HISA ETFs, shedding light on what’s happening, what’s already transpired, and what the future might hold. Following that, we’ll conduct a product overview of T-Bill ETFs, High-Interest Savings Account (HISA) ETFs, and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs). The following are my takeaways from a recent webinar call I was invited to participate in, where we discussed the questions and opportunities facing IIROC advisors surrounding cash ETFs and the OFSI Review.
Understanding OSFI: The Financial Watchdog
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) is a pivotal player in the financial landscape. This independent federal government agency takes on the task of regulating and supervising over 400 federally regulated financial institutions (FRFIs) to ensure their financial soundness and compliance with requirements. While OSFI doesn’t directly regulate ETF providers like Horizons ETFs, it oversees organizations like the banks that form a significant part of the ETF ecosystem. This oversight includes implementing policies, procedures, and managing risks.
October Clarity: What’s in Store?
In the words of Peter Routledge, Superintendent of Financial Institutions, “Clarification on the treatment of HISA ETFs will help ensure risks are managed appropriately. We will carefully review the feedback we received during our consultation to help us determine the appropriate liquidity treatment for these products in what is a fast-evolving risk landscape.”
The big event we’re eagerly anticipating is the clarity that October promises. OSFI will reveal how it intends to direct deposit-taking institutions under its purview. This clarity is expected to pave the way for innovation and new products in the finance sector. While some have voiced concerns about the potential impact of severe liquidity treatment, two scenarios emerge:
- OSFI maintains the status quo.
- OSFI mandates that banks hold more cash to enhance liquidity.
The outcome of these scenarios could mean that yields for HISA ETFs may remain steady or slightly decrease, affecting the monthly income investors can expect to receive. Let’s take a quick look at recent history for more insights.
A Walk Through Recent History
Our journey takes us back to February 2020 when Horizons ETFs introduced the HISA ETF, HSAV. At that time, assets under management (AUM) were on the rise, albeit with relatively low yields. Fast forward to January 2021, as assets began pouring into HISA ETFs, and Horizons ETFs announced the suspension of creations in HSAV. Subsequently, in the same year, Horizons ETFs launched CASH, free from such restrictions. A year after the initial announcement, HSAV was capped at $2 billion and suspended new subscriptions. AUM in this space continued to swell as cash ETFs attracted interest due to central bank rate hikes and a thirst for consistent returns.
Innovation continued in this space with Horizons ETFs launching CBIL and UBIL.U which operate outside of using the banks as a funding source and use exposure 0-3 month treasury bill ETFs to generate monthly income. These T-bill ETFs currently have yields slightly below those of HISA ETFs but are inline or superior to many fixed-income ETFs due to the inverted yield curve in the fixed-income markets where shorter rates are the same or higher than long-term rates. Horizons ETF in T-Bill surpassed $700 million, which is notable since these products were only listed in April.
In May 2023, OSFI initiated a public consultation, and ETF issuers submitted their comments. The outcome of this consultation would result in Deposit Taking Institutions (DTI) being expected to align with the liquidity adequacy requirement guidelines (LAR Guidelines) effective August 1, 2023. Speculation continued on HISA ETF rates coming down, which did not slow the pace of adoption of HISA ETFs (they would surpass $20 billion in June 2023), while also seeing inflows into T-bill ETFs and GICs. As a result of comments received during the public consultation on May 31, 2023, OSFI announced the deferral of the expectation of liquidity treatment. OSFI will confirm any changes to the LAR Guidelines in October 2023, and DTIs will be expected to align in January 2024 to the guidelines. In the interim, OSFI stated that the banks should “prudently manage the risk of liquidity runoffs associated with these products”.
Diverse Investment Options: T-Bill ETFs, HISA, and GICs
Much of the conversation with the advisors was focused on these three product categories. When choosing between them, it is important to understand the risk differences of the products, even at this low-risk end of the investment risk spectrum.
HISA ETFs: Attractive Yields with Liquidity
High-Interest Savings Account (HISA) ETFs have gained popularity due to their attractive yields and daily liquidity. Their yields are typically tied to the overnight rate set by the Bank of Canada, making them responsive to changes in interest rates.
GICs: Dual Layer of Protection
Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) offer a dual layer of protection for your investment. They are a liability of the issuing financial institution and come with legal obligations to repay both the principal and interest earned. Additionally, GICs issued by members of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) are insured by CDIC, protecting eligible deposits up to $100,000 in case of financial institution insolvency.
T-Bill ETFs: Safety and Liquidity
Treasury Bills (T-Bills) are short-term debt securities issued by governments to raise capital. They do not pay coupons and are issued at a discount to face value. T-Bills are backed by the full faith and credit of their respective governments, making them a low-risk investment option. T-Bill ETFs primarily invest in these short-term T-Bills, offering stable and consistent returns across various market conditions. These ETFs provide flexibility as they can be bought or sold anytime throughout the trading day, offering an advantage over some traditional savings options like GICs.
In conclusion, the OSFI review and the variety of investment options in the market present investors with a wealth of choices. The key is to align your investment strategy with your risk tolerance, financial goals, and investment horizon. Stay tuned for further updates on the OSFI review, and explore the diverse world of cash and cash alternative investments to find the best fit for your financial needs.