August 30, 2010
There are legitimate public needs for both the adviser function and the brokerage or sales function. An adviser should be expected to work in best interest of the client. A broker, or sales person, can be expected to receive a benefit from providing a product. However, the public needs to be able to distinguish between the two. Individuals or organizations that call themselves advisers or use similar terms should accept, and be held to, a fiduciary standard. Sales people and organizations need not be. Additionally, it is not fair to expect a client to distinguish between a financial services provider, who is an adviser one day and a non-fiduciary the next. If a person or organization promotes themselves as advisers, they should be expected to offer and maintain that relationship with their clients. The public would be served by regulations that better define and differentiate between the two roles, require service providers to clearly identify themselves as either one or the other, hold providers accountable to offer relationships that are consistent only with their chosen descriptor, and educate the public about the difference until it becomes commonly understood. This approach will give the public both protection and informed choice, while also allowing both business models to continue to succeed in providing their necessary, but different, services.