August 6, 2010
I am writing today regarding the troubling and misguided fiduciary standard that is in consideration to be applied to myself and my industry. I don't want to ramble on for pages but I do want to touch on a few key point. Myself and my colleagues all work in the best interest of our clients at all times regardless of pay or commission. Preiod. Many of our clients have entrusted us with their lives and security and that is a privilege that we take very seriously. Now during our advising we are faced with many hard decisions with changing markets, life scenarios and regulations. Most of the time we get it right and in some instances hindsight says there may have been a better path. Regardless of the route we take, we go over all options with the client and come to an agreement on what we feel is the best course of action for them. My concern with the new vague fiduciary standard is the unchecked ability of our clients to be a Monday Morning Quarterback and sue us for every dip and turn the market brings. The potential cost of time and capital to defend and insure against this is frightening in my eyes. So much so that it has the potential for us to close our operation.
Currently I have my Series 7, 66 securities licenses in addition to my life, health, disability, long term care, commercial, property and casualty and fire insurance licenses. Every year I am subject to hours of mandatory continuing education classes, compliance audits and compliance meetings to keep abreast of new rules, ethics standards, money laundering, etc. This is in addition to our broker compliance office which monitors over every one of our applications and investments and quite often force us to further explain in detail our decisions to use a certain product, etc for our clients or to refill out forms if additional info is needed. This is all to make sure that the client is protected but also so that we are as well. This continual monitoring and red tape, although with the best of intentions, slows down our office and productivity on a daily basis which forced us to hire an assistant to just look over compliance forms, etc to make sure everything went through smoothly. She looks over 4 agents here at our office and although her pay is a burden it has been necessary due to the amount of regulation we already deal with. My fear is the new rules are going to create financial planning gridlock in our office and discourage us to write new business.
Write now we have the ability to work with clients on a fee base as well as a commission only basis. We are fortunate to be able to do so. What you must understand is that not all clients are the same. Some prefer fee based, mainly our more affluent clients while others do not. What we have seen in the last two years is a flight from fee based by most clients regardless of net worth into commission only. It's hard to justify 2% annual management fee and a retainer when their portfolios and businesses are dropping daily. My fear is that by demanding all advisers work on a fee based schedule you will be creating a barrier to entry that will shut a large percentage of our population out of receiving quality financial advising and management. The opposite of what we should be trying to do in times like these With few individuals and families able to afford a planner I suspect that we would see the wealth divide only increase in our country and at a staggering rate. My fear is also for new advisors and how they will begin to build their book of business if they have to demand a fee for service. The fee based plans rewards veteran established advisors with large existing books of business but keeps the next generation of advisors from moving up or becoming independent for an extended period of time.
In conclusion, I feel that the proposed changes can have a severely adverse effect on our already over regulated industry and in conjunction have an adverse effect on our clients and the many, many staff that we employ. Please note that the trickle down effect of the laws you pass are great and it is usually felt most at the bottom where us advisors are, who were not the cause of our financial dilemmas in the first place. Please reconsider these rule changes and thank you for your time. Take care