Well, it was inevitable. The industry has officially started its major fight against the new SEC rule which seeks to stop brokers from using the title of “advisor” (or “adviser”). The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) is on a winning streak, having been part of the group to take down the DOL’s fiduciary rule. Now it is turning its focus to the SEC title rule. According to NAIFA “We are still analyzing the almost 1,000 pages, and we’ll certainly comment on it, but one area where we have an issue already is the limit on who can use the term ‘advisor”.
FINSUM: It is critical to mention a couple of things here. One, this group, which has been very successful in taking down regulation, is an association of mostly brokers, not fiduciaries, so they have a keen interest in solving this situation. Secondly, the word “advisor” is part of their own name, so the new rule cuts to the heart of their very existence. We have a feeling this component of the SEC rule might prompt as much backlash as the DOL rule did.
There has been a great deal of industry feedback on the SEC’s best interest rule already and the comment period has only just begun. One point of contention among many is that the SEC proposal did not define the term “best interest”, leaving it vague and wide open to interpretation. However, that was likely the point, and the SEC may be very clever in doing so. According to Charles Schwab, “Once you define something, then it becomes easier to figure out how not to be engaged in that definition”.
FINSUM: The SEC left the definition of best interest out of the proposal because it wants to make it harder for those in the industry to side-step the regulation. Smart play.
Advisors all over the country are wondering when the SEC rule might be implemented. The DOL’s fiduciary rule took ages to be a reality (and never quite made it), but the SEC rule seems like it will be faster. But how fast? Realistically, probably one year from now, according to one industry expert. BNY Mellon Pershing urges advisors to stay engaged and not catch “fiduciary rule fatigue”. “We still have an opportunity to shape the fiduciary landscape … It's really important that we don't grow weary of the standard of care issue, because we have an opportunity to take the lead”.
FINSUM: A year sounds reasonable. The rule is only in its first iteration now, and we suspect there will be significant changes.
Don’t worry, this is a not a story about DOL rule resurrection. The rule remains all-but-dead. This article is about how despite the rule being effectively gone, it has succeeded in completely changing the industry. The famed Michael Kitces summarized the DOL rule’s effect this way, saying “The DOL fiduciary rule really made the discussion of fiduciary for consumers mainstream … You can’t un-ring that bell”. Barron’s focuses on the material changes to offerings in their view, saying “The short-lived standard spurred the industry to lower fees, and prompted brokerages to prune their product lineups and remove conflicts of interest from their compensation structures. These changes are expected to outlive the rule”.
FINSUM: The DOL rule may be gone, but it will certainly never be forgotten.
The DOL rule took years, seemingly millennia, to be completely worked out (and it still wasn’t good ha), and many advisors are wondering how long it might take the SEC to get to a final iteration of its pseudo-fiduciary rule. Well, the SEC has not laid out a formal schedule yet, but SEC chief Clayton said this week that he will make sure the SEC is “not going to take forever”. Many have called for the SEC to extend the comment period on the new rule past its August 7th closing date, but the SEC has not said whether it will do so.
FINSUM: We are pleased with how quickly the SEC got its first iteration of its new rule out. We hope they keep the pace up to eliminate all the regulatory limbo in which the industry might find itself.