Retired Money: How to beat the banks at their own game

My latest MoneySense column reviews the new book by ex banker Larry Bates, titled Beat the Bank. As the headline suggests, it’s all about how to beat the banks at their own game, which ironically can mean owning the big bank stocks themselves! The full column can be retrieved by clicking on the highlighted text here:  Tips for DIY investors on beating the Big Five banks.

The formal launch date for the book is this Thursday: September 13, 2018. I first met Bates over lunch in March as his manuscript was nearing completion, where he expounded on what he called the “two Bay Streets.” Old Bay Street and its secrets are the focus of chapters 4 and 5, and New Bay Street is chapter 6.

Old Bay Street is not the investor’s friend

Most experienced investors will have encountered Old Bay Street at some point. This is the traditional investment industry: the commission-based mutual fund and brokerage industry, insurance company reps, investment “specialists” in the bank branches and various salespeople who call themselves “advisors.”

New Bay Street = Discount Brokerage, ETFs & fee-for-service planners

The New Bay Street includes providers of low-cost index funds or Exchange-traded Funds (ETFs) or online robo-advisers that automate the purchase and rebalancing of ETFs along with setting asset allocation.

At 62, Bates is well into his own “Victory Lap,” leaving employment for self-employment. Actually, his New Bay Street model isn’t all that new, as it describes models similar to what I myself described back in 1998 in my own financial book, Findependence Day. My version consists of buying ETFs at a discount brokerage and using a fee-for-service financial planner. The same year, similar principles were also described in Stop Buying Mutual Funds!, by Mark Heinzl, now a Globe & Mail stock market columnist.

Dinosaur banks have the lowest T-REX scores

Bates has fashioned something he calls T-REX scores  This is an acronym for Total Return Efficiency Index Score. A T-REX score of 100% would be paying absolutely no fees at all, no matter how long your time horizon.

Mutual funds with 2% annual fees would have T-REX scores of 54% over 20 years and true fees of 46%, but the longer you hold, the worse the performance; thus, over 40 years the T-REX would be 41% and the true fee 59%. Fees of 3% inflict even more damage. This is the basis for his statement that long-term customers of Old Bay Street lose half their money to fees. You can find more at his website at

The pure DIY model of buying individual stocks or bonds at a discount broker yields the highest scores: a T-REX of 96 to 99%. (Remember, the higher the better, with 100 being perfect).

There is some delicious irony in that all the banks themselves have discount brokerage divisions and many also sell their own ETFs.

Slightly below the pure DIY model of individual securities is what he calls AIY, which stands for Assemble It Yourself, which in practice means buying ETFs or index mutual funds. These produce  T REX scores of 90 to 95%.

“Enlightened Banker” Larry Bates

And third is robo-advisers, which are still much cheaper than Old Bay Street but which are more expensive than pure DIY or AIY models because the providers have to tack on extra fees of about 0.5% levied on top of the underlying ETF fees. As a result, most robo advisers have T-REX scores of 70 to 90%.

Leave a Reply