September 7, 2010
Having worked for over ten years advising individuals as a portfolio manager at two trust banks and now with a dual-registered RIA I believe that the vast majority of individuals are seeking a fiduciary relationship. However, there are enough people who just want investment ideas to avoid mandating such a relationship in every case.
My suggestion is to make the fiduciary relationship the default. A rep could then explain to the prospect that this will severely limit what the rep can do for the prospect. For example, the rep can't just give the prospect "some hot stock tips" because that violates the principle of portfolio diversification. In order to do that the relationship has to be more "equal" and that will require a brokerage relationship.
The prospect could then sign the following form: An SEC created single sheet of paper with two columns of bullet points. One column would be titled Fiduciary Relationship (FR), the other Brokerage Relationship (BR). A maximum four or five contrasting bullet points would highlight the differences.
FR: You rely on the ADVISOR to describe general investment risk.
BR: YOU understand general investment risk equally as well as the salesperson.
FR: The ADVISOR is responsible if recommended investments have too great a risk for your situation.
BR: YOU are responsible if you approved investments of too great a risk.
The goal is to have the individual recognize that there are two possible relationships and that they are fundamentally different.
Finally, a large, pre-printed, mark should be made under the column corresponding to the relationship the rep/advisor is entering. The rep/adisor should sign and data under the mark. The individual would agree to the relationship by signing under the rep/advisor's signature.
I believe this balances best the need for investor protection with the requirement that investors have some knowledge of what they are doing plus the needs of a few investors for very transactional, recommendation-only, tradtional brokerage accounts.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment,
Mark Maisonneuve, CFA