Freedom Financial growing to meet demand

Filed under: Banking & Finance |

Explosive growth in the number of clients it serves has forced Freedom Financial Services to move its operation into a larger space.

President Roy Clennan said the financial planning services business has purchased a 15,500 square foot building at 5455 N. Union, just north of Academy Boulevard.

The new space is nearly double the size of the current main location at 518 N. Chelton Road.

Clennan said his business has seen 30 percent year-over-year growth since it became a direct lender in 2000.

Renovations at the Union site are expected to be completed by May 2006. Freedom plans to move in by June.

Accountants to learn ethics

It used to be that a mastery of asset and liability knowledge was enough to gain certification from the world’s largest accountancy body.

But that’s no longer the case.

Accountants will now have to demonstrate an understanding of ethical practices for a stamp of approval from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

The ACCA, with some 240,000 students and 105,000 members in 170 countries, will begin adding ethical case study questions to its qualification exams next year.

While many applaud the announcement, critics say the ethics training comes too late in light of the high-profile accounting scandals during recent years.

In addition to the exam changes, the ACCA will provide students with online help in solving real-life dilemmas through solutions that comply with professional codes of conduct and various laws.

Economy best in six years

During his 13th annual economic forecast in Denver last week, Vectra Bank economist Jeff Thredgold said the state’s best economy in six years is on tap for 2006.

The growth will be a result of added jobs, strong home price appreciation and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching 12,000 points before the end of the year, he said.

Four factors are expected to contribute to the healthy Dow levels: a tapering of Federal Reserve interest rate increases, strong performance of foreign stock markets, a growing need for baby boomers to save for retirement and a shift of investments from housing to the stock market.

Thredgold estimated tens of billions of dollars from domestic and foreign investments went to real estate as a result of the stock market’s downturn during the last three to five years. As home price increases slow this year, he expects investors to return to the stock market.

In Colorado, Thredgold predicts a growth rate of at least 2.2 percent and as much as 2.4 percent, which would mean Colorado’s economic health could surpass that of Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho. The state trailed its neighbors in 2005.

While tighter labor availability could hamper job growth in the western states, Colorado should see an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 net new jobs this year, Thredgold said.

Business owners are feeling the effects of a better economy, and are showing a willingness to invest in new products and markets, Thredgold said.

Nationwide, he expects solid economic performance with a real growth rate of 3 percent to 3.4 percent.

Wachovia profits up 18%

The Wachovia Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest bank, is reporting a fourth-quarter earnings increase of 18 percent.

An increase in fees is believed to have fueled the earnings, but Wachovia officials also are reporting increased deposits and loans.

Average loans reportedly increased 21percent, and average core deposits rose 10 percent.

Earnings also include the performance of the SouthTrust Corp., which Wachovia acquired in November.

E-trade to threaten NYSE?

Citigroup, one of the world’s largest banking organizations, plans to launch its own electronic stock-trading network – an announcement that has raised concern among trading analysts.

The size and scale of the electronic trading network creates the potential to divert trading volume from the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Citigroup equities officials said the bank only wants to create flexibility for itself, its clients and other broker-dealers.

The network will be accessible to other firms for buying or selling stocks, and will be a revamped version of the electronic communications network, OnTrade, which Citigroup purchased in 2005.

Lehman Bros. to offer index

The investment bank, Lehman Brothers, plans to introduce a commodities index during the first half of 2006.

The move is intended to provide competition to firms that offer expanded coverage of alternative investment options.

A number of financial institutions have ventured into the index market in recent years, and industry watchers said the number of commodity indexes reached a 25-year record high in 2005.

About $70 billion in managed money is benchmarked against large indexes. That number is up from less than $10 billion five years ago.

The commodities allocation is expected to top $100 billion this year. However, that amount represents a fraction of the total stock and bond investments.

Rob Larimer covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.