August 17, 2010
I am a financial planner dually registered under FINRA and a state registered (Arizona) investment advisor since 1999, serving ALL my clients under a fiduciary standard of care, regardless of the type of client. I strongly urge you to extend the Advisers Act fiduciary standard of care to all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice to retail clients.
It is unfair to consumers that the quality of advice they receive from a financial professional is dependent on the professionals registration or title. Its no wonder consumers are confused, and do not know whether their financial professional is looking out for their best interests. I can tell you from my personal experience that adhering to the fiduciary standard of care and putting my clients interests ahead of my own benefits my clients AND my business. Many of my referral sources (mostly CPAs and attorneys), actively refer clients to me because they know my focus is on what is best for the client – many have explicitly told me as much. Far from being a hindrance to my business, I receive more referrals than I can comfortably take on
When clients recognize and understand that the advice given is in THEIR best interests, and advances THEIR goals, they are much more likely to follow-through on the advice, and, in my experience, they are comfortable paying for it, whether through a project fee, management fee or commission charged on a product. I can focus on choosing investments that keep my clients interests first, and my clients can pay for my services in any manner that fits their needs and preferences. As a fiduciary, I do my best to manage any conflicts of interests and disclose those that cannot be managed away. I find that my clients genuinely appreciate having conflicts and fee arrangements explained to them – it does not make it less likely they will engage my services.
Adhering to the fiduciary standard of care does not limit my ability to provide my clients with appropriate services and products. As a fiduciary, I can choose to operate in a business model that is best for my client. The key is fully disclosing, and avoiding and fairly managing conflicts of interest. Providing financial advice with fiduciary accountability does not reduce services to middle Americans. The bulk of my clients are solidly middle-class – very few of them worry about paying taxes in excess of the 25% marginal rate.
I urge you to recommend to Congress that it is necessary for the protection of consumers to extend the fiduciary standard to broker-dealers who provide personalized investment advice, and to initiate a rulemaking to achieve this long overdue consumer reform.
Sincerely, Joyce Rolfes, CPA, CFP