January 13, 2005
In reponse to your proposal:
1 Yes, broker-dealers have DEFINITELY contributed to that confusion by referring to their representatives as financial consultants, financial advisers or other related titles. This is the main way an individual investor identifies with the role played by their representative and it should be extremely clear. Without question brokers should not be able to use such titles without registration.
2 In no way should any financial planning be determined as solely incidental to the brokerage business. Here again is a fiduciary role being misrepresented. I heartly concur with the statement that if a broker-dealer holds itself out as a financial planner or as providing financial planning services, it cannot be considered to be giving advice that is solely incidental to brokerage.
3 The public needs clear examples of what is not considered incidental to brokerage in other areas beyond financial planning. One prime case is retirement plan consulting. Read the following recent news article for why: Smith Barney Woos Early Retirees, Gets Sued: Susan Antilla Jan. 13, 2005 Bloomberg.
The key is to put the differneces in as black and white as possible for the public in written and verbal disclosures.
Finally, even if brokers register as advisers what I have witnessed in several cases is they either dismiss the fiduciary standards within which they should operate or fail to be informed or fail to understand their ramifications. Brokerage firms must do a better job of clarifying the increased responsibilities and inforcing compliance. Many of the brokers in question registered to get a better payout grid and because it was perceived as a great marketing gimmick, not because they clearly understand the difference in what they have been doing as a broker and what it means to be a fiduciary in relationship with their clients.
CFA and Registered Investment Adviser