The World Gold Council explains what's happening with Gold Investment today...
MANAGING DIRECTOR of investments at marketing and research group the World Gold Council in New York, Jason Toussaint here speaks with Hard Assets Investorabout the metal's rise – and why he sees it set to continue.
Hard Assets Investor: The World Gold Council is a very important organization, representing the gold industry. Tell us a little bit about it...
Jason Toussaint: The World Gold Council is a market development organization that is owned by the largest Gold Mining companies in the world. Back in the '80s, they decided to pool their resources into one organization, which we now know as the World Gold Council. And our goal...our mission in life, if you will...is to create and sustain demand for gold.
We do that across a number of primary sectors, four sectors to be precise. We have a Gold Investment sector, which I manage on a global basis, informing and educating the public about the merits of gold in portfolio construction and long-term diversification. We have a government affairs division, which works with central banks, many of them around the world, to understand gold as a reserve asset. We have an industrial sector, which is dealing with semiconductor manufacturers, etc., to increase and find more uses for gold in the industrial segment. And then, of course, last but not least, the jewelry sector, which is the most important and has the largest demand.
HAI: In the Gold Investment area, I suspect your job has gotten a lot easier in the past several years.
Jason Toussaint: The biggest shift that took place – and I would call it a paradigm shift in this market – is not necessarily the merits of Gold Investment, because those have been around for quite some time, and we'll discuss those, but the access. When we launched the SPDR Gold Shares here in the US in 2004, having an exchange-traded product with all the guaranteed two-way markets – infinite liquidity, if you will – of trading on the market, it overcame a lot of the issues that investors have had in the past with accumulating gold.
HAI: We should just state that the World Gold Council created the GLD, the very popular Gold ETF that has really taken off among investors.
Jason Toussaint: Correct. We sponsored, through a subsidiary based in New York – World Gold Trust Services – the SPDR Gold Shares, GLD. It's now valued at just below $50 billion, and we are the second-largest ETF in the world. What is very interesting, if we look back to when we launched the product in November 2004, it surpassed $1 billion in assets under management in its fourth trading day. So, we were absolutely tapping into latent demand by investors who wanted to start Gold Investing, but didn't necessarily know how.
Before the ETFs, if you wanted to invest in gold, it was buying Gold Bars and coins, primarily, which is fraught with issues such as price discovery, where do I purchase these things, and so on. And then, of course, costs associated with transport insurance and storage.
HAI: Put a number on it – what percentage of gold demand, prior to the ETF, was represented by investor demand?
Jason Toussaint: Before the exchange-traded funds, Gold Investment demand was roughly 15% of aggregate gold demand. Now it's upwards of 20 to 30%, pretty much doubled. And I think, kind of coming back to the access vehicle, looking at SPDR Gold Shares and, frankly, other Gold ETFs backed by physical bullion available in the world, has really made gold investable for the first time, for many classes of investors.
Take, for instance, you mentioned pension funds. Pension funds are absolutely asking about the merits. We work with them closely now, about why they should Buy Gold. And then, more importantly, how they do it. Because you can imagine, if a pension fund wanted to buy a billion Dollars' worth of gold previously, then they would need to worry about, "Well, where do we store it? How is this valued? How do we trade it?" etc. And, trading gold is quite specialized. By putting it on exchange, it is now part of the professional investment process.
HAI: So we've seen a doubling in investment demand – but it's probably not going to double again in a short period of time?
Jason Toussaint: We absolutely do see Gold Investment demand continuing. Even at $50 billion, I like to tell people we're just barely scratching the surface now. There is a vast market out there that does not hold gold.
HAI: How large is the total capitalization of the gold market, roughly?
Jason Toussaint: Six trillion Dollars.
HAI: Six trillion? So, in the scheme of things, it's not really all that big – global GDP, what, $60-$70 trillion?
Jason Toussaint: Right.
HAI: You talk about maybe a large investment manager like BlackRock running $3 trillion. But $50 billion, compared to $6 trillion – you definitely see that there's more room to grow in there.
Jason Toussaint: Absolutely. But then, we need to also understand that the primary driver is jewelry. And the primary buyers of gold jewelry, the largest markets, if you will, are the Middle East, India and China. And looking at continued demand, and the relative balance between jewelry and investment, I think what we will see is a continued increasing demand for jewelry in those markets. Because, if you think of their domestic growth rate, and the fact that in the case of China and India, most importantly, the creation of a new middle class, new wealth and an affinity towards gold, that is, I think, a very, very long-term structural shift in gold demand, which I think is often overlooked.
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