Wealth Management


The SEC best interest rule has been facing a very tough time. All sides of the argument seem to be against it. Consumer protectionist groups hate the muddled and weak delineating between brokers and advisors, while the industry dislikes the strong rules on title use. Now, there is a new weak spot in the SEC’s approach. The SEC has decided to have “roundtables” with consumers to discern their level of understanding of the rule and get feedback. The move is unusual and the SEC has not disclosed who or how they will do it. All sides again hate this idea, with the head of the Consumer Federation of America saying “Asking investors whether they like the disclosures is virtually meaningless … That needs to be done by disclosure testing experts who know how to design the tests and interpret the results”.

FINSUM: It is very obvious that the SEC’s current poorly defined delineation between brokers and advisors is not going to be easy to understand for consumers. We suspect any kind of consumer testing will help them realize that, but this does seem to be a rather odd and opaque approach.

(New York)

Barron’s has run a new piece warning advisors that they need to keep an eye on some new and growing financial data software that clients are increasingly using. The services, offered by new and old companies like eMoney, SigFig, and Betterment, focus on financial data aggregation, or letting consumers see their full financial picture in one place. The article warns that investors need to stay abreast of these kind of developments to know how to keep their services one step ahead and not let their business be eaten by commoditizing technologies.

FINSUM: The wealth management landscape is changing rapidly, and given how much tasks that used to be very time-consuming have been revolutionized, it should now be second nature for advisors to constantly look over their shoulder to discern how they can continue to add value.

(New York)

In what certainly seems to be a sign of health for the industry, RIA average account sizes just hit a new high. The average client at a US RIA now has an account averaging $2m (at firms with over $250m in AUM). This is the first time the figure has ever crossed the $2m threshold. Median AUM for firms grew over 16% in 2017, with average revenue increasing to $3.6m. The stats come from an annual Charles Schwab survey, with the firm saying about the healthy results “Firms are fueling their organic growth by differentiating and marketing their value propositions, improving the client experience and strategically expanding their service offerings to meet the needs of their ideal clients”.

FINSUM: The fiduciary duty of RIAs seems to be a differentiated and continued source of new client demand. It is a testament to the quality of RIAs in this country.

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