We’re surrounded by spin, branding and rebranding.
If you surf the Internet, we’re being sold on Web 3.0, when it recently was Web 2.0, and before that, just “The internet.” We’re being pitched on “blockchain” technology. But isn’t it just a fancy term for “paper trail,” with an additional form of authentication? If you think about it, “cloud computing” – together with email, document sharing and other web-based features – has been around for years. Only now, it’s got a catchier moniker.
Those who read the financial media have no doubt read about a “special purpose acquisition company,” or SPACs? This mechanism for fast tracking private companies onto a stock exchange is hardly new. For generations, it’s been called “blank check investing.”
How about NFTs, otherwise known as “non-fungible tokens”? We can now take an asset (such as art or real estate) and hold it in this vehicle. But how does this differ from bearer shares? Is this a new concept or a rebranded one?
In today’s world, we’re being sold some of the same old technology, services or products, reskinned with some new jargon and in some cases a few add-ons. Are we becoming suckers for a shiny new name on an old gadget? Sometimes I find it frustrating, maybe insincere. I think it’s time for a level set.
Finance hasn’t changed, neither has the Internet, however some of its features have improved and have become more impressive – like the transaction tracking mechanism of blockchain. As marketing executives rehash old ideas, it’s incumbent for us all to look past the veneer and recognise that the wheel has not been re-invented. Maybe it’s only been improved, or just relabelled.
Even the latest advancements, such as cryptocurrency, are subject to hyperbole. Thousands who invested in TerraUSD, which had been coined as a “stablecoin,” reportedly are suing crypto-trading platform Binance for what they claim was the platform’s false advertising.
In corporate boardrooms, “ESG” investing – short for “environmental, social and governance” platforms – have been marketed as “ethical” solutions tailored to investors who didn’t want to underwrite companies that peddled in vice (e.g,no tobacco, alcohol, weapons or slave labour). But is ESG more about appearing to make an effort than it is true ethical investing? To cynics, the ESG shroud is “greenwashing.” Companies who do this expect no one will poke around to see if they’re truly living up to their own self-proscribed standard.
I wrote about some of these issues months ago. Whether ESGs, SPACs or crypto, I pointed out the risks then – and I’m pointing them out now. One of the first things I learned in university was “caveat emptor” – “Let the buyer beware.” Be diligent and don’t accept things on face value, just because someone else claims to have made money investing in them or a celebrity is marketing it.
If you want to invest in an ESG-committed company or fund, or you are being sold on a crypto asset, or you are wondering about some shiny new application, do your due diligence. Look past the veneer and dig deeper. Is it legitimate or is it a fraud? Has it been covered by the media? Drop the name into a search bar and click on the “News” option. Search for articles and check whether it supports or refutes your assumptions. And always verify the citation or source.
Question everything. If it’s a financial vehicle you’re considering investing in, talk with your financial advisor. Double check with a third-party to ensure you are getting an unbiased point of view.
No matter how timeless or reskinned something may be, don’t take anything for granted, don’t take things on face value and check – then double check. Make sure nothing lurks behind that veneer.