October 27, 2010
I am a licensed insurance professional and registered representative practicing for over 12 years.
The new SEC rule 12b-2, which would continue the 25 basis points fee , and the SECs 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 is a step in the right direction.
However, permitting mutual funds to issue a new class of shares at nav and allowing broker-dealers to set their own sales charge and commissions is not.
Competition based on price and cost sounds good but will come at the expense of needed advice and service for middle market investors.
Having the consistency of the service fee that we have now is what levels the playing field for the investor with less to invest. This enables them to access professional advice without the added cost of outside service fees.
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.
We would inevitably end up with a tier structure where the percentage is higher for the smaller accounts. Upper-income investors can already afford assets-under-management arrangements or higher cost/higher service classes of shares. They will continue to receive personalized investment advice either way.
Investors with smaller fund account balances will be forced to self-direct their accounts if they wish to continue to own mutual funds at all. The 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.
Advisors who can afford to spend the time assisting small balance investors are already hard to find because the regulatory burden is the same for the small account as it is for the more profitable large account.
The people the SEC is trying to protect the most--middle and lower market investors—will be hurt the most, since they will be deprived of the guidance and service they need and deserve. Brokers will not make the choice to discontinue working with small and middle market accounts, the clients simply will not be able to pay for the advice they need.
This rule change will cause them to become more suseptible than ever to the bad actors and scam artists that are ever present.