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Universitas Financial: Group RESPs and much more!

November 15, 2016

Universitas Financial was recently the target of criticism on the web. The concerns of the public regarding this matter are important to us, and we are constantly working to improve our service offer to better meet the needs and satisfaction standards of our clients. Although we are open to constructive criticism, we also believe the time has come to set the record straight.

So let’s go over some key points briefly:

Who is Universitas Financial?

Universitas Financial is a reliable organization with long-established credibility. As a pioneer in the field of education savings in Quebec, its mission goes far beyond the simple sale of a financial product.

Universitas is a foundation specialized in scholarship plans. It is governed by strict regulations that aim to ensure investors recover 100% of their savings (invested amount). All our business activities are carried out in compliance with proper governance rules, which are overseen by the applicable authorities.

At Universitas Financial, we have a non-profit structure. This means any surplus over expenditures for the sound management of the plans we offer is reinvested in what we call the “scholarship” fund. The children registered as beneficiaries are the ones who benefit from this “profit” rather than members or shareholders.

Although we are mainly known for our group RESPs, we also offer an individual RESP (the same as you could set up with a financial institution). Therefore, clients can choose the type of plan best suited to their needs, financial situation and investment goals.

The Group RESP, a misunderstood product that has its place

The Group RESP is sometimes criticised. Why? Mainly because it constitutes a financial commitment entered into under contract. For those who choose a long-term commitment (which is not an obligation), a breach of contract along the way will result in the withholding of sales charges (the same as would apply for an insurance product or a mortgage, for example).

The group RESP is a product that favours a savings discipline. This means most clients commit, on a monthly or annual basis, to invest a certain amount based on their savings capacity. If this may sound restrictive to some, most of the clients who make this commitment see its significant advantage! This commitment will ensure that once the child is ready to start a post-secondary education, the savings will not have been used as an emergency fund for other purposes. What’s more, the refund of the client’s investment is 100% guaranteed, whether the child goes to school or not.

Important Clarification: It is often said that investors must make a long-term commitment. This misconception is totally false! If a client does not want to enter into an agreement extending over several years, he’s not obligated to. Our plans offer various contribution options, meaning investors can choose to make regular one or several lump sum deposits (with no financial commitment). Other options include saving over a shorter period, such as over 2 or 5 years. Thus, clients can review their investment objectives and contribute additional funds at a later date if they wish to increase their education savings.

The group RESP is a product that is suited to many, but not to all. For investors who feel the group plan is simply not for them (it happens), remember that we also offer our individual product.

Let’s talk about fees and returns

As it is the case for all RESP providers, Universitas Financial must charge fees to ensure the sound management of the scholarship plans set up by its clients. Every financial institution, bank or financial planner operates with a fee structure that may vary, but one constant remains: no one has the luxury of offering their services for free.

Universitas is no exception: there are fees with us too, the purposes of which are to remunerate our employees and our distribution network, to provide clients with support and guidance, and to manage the investments of thousands of subscribers. Furthermore, these fees are explained in detail to clients at the time they set up their RESP and sign a contract.

All fees considered, our best-selling product generated a net return of 3.06% over a 10-year horizon. For an investment with a 100% capital guarantee, this is a very advantageous risk/reward ratio. Furthermore, let’s not forget part of our daily activities focus on finding and implementing concrete solutions to reduce or maintain the lowest possible fees.

Universitas Financial is over 50 years of experience and expertise

Universitas is a pioneer in the field of education savings. The Universitas Foundation was created in 1964 to enable parents to save for their children's higher education. At the time, there were no grants available for investors and we were the only organization in Quebec to encourage parents to save for their children's post-secondary education. In 1998, the federal government introduced the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), which motivated more families to save with an RESP. Despite this incentive, Quebec’s numbers showed the province was trailing behind in terms of RESP investments. Thanks to initiatives prompted by Universitas, we worked in collaboration with the Government of Quebec, which took note of our recommendations and introduced its Quebec Education Savings Incentive (QESI). And on this point, we’re going to give ourselves some credit! If Universitas had not lobbied for this grant, would it exist today? Perhaps not, which would be a shame since the provincial government has granted nearly $500M* in QESI payments since 2008.

As a result of its decades of experience in the field of education savings, Universitas has gained expert knowledge of the government grants offered, of how to ensure children get every penny they are entitled to and of how to maximize these amounts. Managing grants is long, complex and costly. At Universitas, we have taken all the necessary measures to manage these grants in an exemplary manner... and that's exactly what we do! Even the Canada Education Savings Program (CESP) recently met with us to learn about the structural mechanisms we have implemented, which allow us to manage the grants destined to our clients so efficiently.

We advertise… just like everyone else

Very recently, some chose to openly criticize our latest advertising campaign, expressing their disapproval of our collaborations with bloggers. Yet, influence marketing (or native/content advertising) is increasingly popular with a multitude of organizations from all business sectors! We are not the only company in the financial services industry to use this strategy, which is frankly very cost-effective. We will not let this opportunity pass us by while the others advertise this way.

As for the calculator tool we promoted as part of our “Do the Math” campaign, it was designed to give consumers a general idea of the sums the RESP could allow them to accumulate. The calculations are based on plausible and realistic assumptions to give clients an overall idea of the gains RESPs can provide. This is the same kind of tool you would find on the websites of other financial institutions, nothing more! It goes without saying that in no way does this tool replace the expertise of a financial professional or a scholarship plan representative.

The Universitas mission

To conclude, we wish to remind that Universitas Financial’s mission statement is as follows: We offer the stepping stone to a bright future for those who dare to dream!

This mission goes beyond a financial product offer. Our true goal is to give all children the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education and to graduate with as little possible school debt. This is the mission our founder gave himself 52 years ago, and it remains the mission we continue to uphold and pursue to this day.

For some of our clients, saving in an RESP is the only investment they will have the means to make over the course of their lives. Universitas Financial is there to guide and support them, like all its clients, and to ensure they get the most out of their investment while respecting their savings capacity.

We firmly believe that an educated society drives social and economic prosperity forward. Offering children, regardless of background, the chance to pursue a higher education is the purpose that guides our daily activities!

We are unwavering in our conviction that we offer the right product for parents who genuinely want to make a financial commitment to ensure their children have a promising future. Moreover, one of our clients recently expressed his view of the philosophy behind Universitas, and did so quite eloquently.

*Source: CESP Annual Statistical Review 2008-2015.