September 3, 2004
I am a citizen of the U.S. with an engineering degree and an MBA. Over the past 17 years I have earned my CFP and CFA designations and have built a fee-only financial planning and investment management practice. I am thought by many to be fair and balanced, even by my friends who are experienced and very capable registered representatives.
I strongly oppose allowing brokers who give investment advice as a material part of their relationship with clients to be excused from compliance with the requirements that all other investment advisors must meet.
As an executive in the electronics industry in my prior career pre-1986, I attempted to work with brokers of several firms. They gave investment advice well above a material level of advice. They were not educated as advisors. In fact, they really were sales people attempting to give investment advice that they did not understand.
Today, brokerage firms advertise that they provide a breadth of investment advice to help clients meet their life goals. Their pictures and words in large type show and say this. Individually, registered representatives offer the same. They suggest that they do nearly anything and everything across the range of financial planning, investment advice, and investment portfolio oversight and/or management.
Over the last five years, I have had an increasing number of prospective clients tell me that 1 the brokers at Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, and many other wirehouses offered to them the same level of advice and assistance that I provide and/or 2 these same brokers have not met their promises for good, fair advice.
If I, personally, can see that these brokers are trying to provide essentially the same services that I provide as a financial planner and RIA, why should it be mandated that they do not need to meet the minimum requirements that the SEC says a real investment advisor is required to meet?
To excuse any investment advisor from meeting the minimum requirements of a RIA, just because of where he or she may work, would be unexcusable. Not only would this not be fair to the client, no client would understood this to be possible, especially in this era of expected greater fairness and honesty.
Charles E. Foster, II, CFP, CFA