October 27, 2010
To whom it may concern,
I have been a licensed insurance professional and registered representative for over fourteen (14) years now. As indicated in my previous emails and letters, I am in support of a small fee (25 basis points as a 12b-1 or the new 12b-2) to cover my ongoing business expenses and to continue assisting and educating my clients. I am also in favor of fully disclosing all fees clearly, and have always explained them in detail before each sale or transaction. Therefore I am in favor of the new SEC rule 12b-2, which I understand would continue the 25 basis points fee that is used to ensure investors receive ongoing service and advice. I am also in favor of the SEC's proposed use of the terms "marketing and service fees" and "ongoing sales charge" in place of "12b-1 fees" to improve transparency in disclosure documents.
However, I am a "Main Street" or "Mom & Pop" type of advisor, dealing with 90+% of my clientele being at poverty or slightly above. I have a large block of business that is made up of many little accounts, accounts that mean so much to the owners of them. They have always depended on me for personal assistance, retirement planning advice, and cost-free consultations whenever they need them, I am available. I do not wish to become a "Fee-based" advisor, because quite honestly, most of my clients could not afford to pay me for each consult, or an annual fee as a retainer for my services. I also do not wish to stop serving them, or be pressured (forced?) to change how I conduct my practice, as I have found that middle America needs my help desperately (wealthier Americans can surely afford a great advisor and their services). I have never heard of one complaint about well explained fees, other than their concern of how to pay for my services (again, many want to pay me, but could never afford to!). They are relieved when I explain that they will be charged as an asset expense from their account, and that is palatable. It also serves as an incentive, because as I help to grow their assets, the fee (%) to me increases, and conversely, if it goes down so does my renewal/reward!
In summary, I believe, the SEC will unintentionally hurt lower income and middleclass households, those already hurt most by the latest recession. I strongly object to the SEC permitting mutual funds to issue a new class of shares at net asset value that would allow broker-dealers to set their own sales charge and commission amount. Competition based on price and cost sounds good but will come at the expense of needed advice and service for middle market investors. As broker-dealers lower their sales charges and fees in an effort to gain market share, it will no longer be financially feasible for registered representatives to continue to provide the level of individualized advice and ongoing service that we currently provide to our middle and lower market clients. As a result, only upper-income investors who can afford assets-under-management arrangements or higher cost/higher service classes of shares will continue to receive personalized investment advice. Investors with smaller fund account balances will be forced to self-direct their accounts if they wish to continue to own mutual funds because their advisors will no longer be able to afford to spend the time to guide and advise them, leaving discount brokerage fund platforms as the only affordable option for middle and lower market investors. Again, the people the SEC is trying to protect the most-middle and lower market investors-will very likely be hurt again in the future, since they will be deprived of the guidance and service they need and deserve.
Rick G. Wentz, FICF