August 31, 2010
The Fiduciary Standard is important to me and the clients I serve as well as the investing public. I feel the broker-dealers have done a great disservice to investors by muddying the waters on what is considered investment advice and the fiduciary standard. As a CFP(R) practitioner since 1992, I feel it is important to use a disclosure document with clients and uphold both the ethics requirements of the CFP designation as well as the employing firm. However, the broker-dealer firms have made it increasingly difficult to fulfill the fiduciary requirement by claiming exemption under the old Merrill rule where investment reports are exceptions to the disclosure. This is still the status to date. Advisors, brokers, managers and employees of our firms do not understand the difference between giving investment advice and providing comprehensive financial advice that should be covered under a disclosure document. It is no wonder the investing public cannot tell them apart, and are confused as to what they are receiving. I believe brokerage firms that provide investment plans that contain the majority of the elements of financial planning (net worth statement, education planning, retirement planning, asset allocation and insurance analysis) such as the Wells Fargo Advisors Envision Plan, should be subject to the same fiduciary standard as investment advisors. The rules should not be different when essentially the same material is being presented to an investor. Simply footnoting that a report is not a "plan" should not make it exempt from the fiduciary standard. We need to use the improvement of the fiduciary standard to clean up the industry and have transparent, consistent, regulation and oversight to rebuild the trust of the investing public.