RIAs have been growing at breakneck speed for years. Their growth rates are pretty much the envy of everyone else in finance. But to be honest, they may in fact be growing too fast. Take for instance the case of Creative Planning, a Kansas-based RIA that has tripled its client assets to $42 bn since 2016. Alongside the tremendous growth they have also seen trouble, such as an SEC fine for improper radio advertising and another less infraction. The bigger problem for RIAs is that their own internal systems for control, compliance, and governance may be quickly overwhelmed by the growth they are seeing.
FINSUM: RIAs who are growing organically are having trouble keeping up, but the ones growing through acquisition might have even more trouble, especially with keeping costs manageable considering all the overlap.
There is a new digital custodian in the industry who is promising 90% cost savings to RIAs on their technology and custodial costs. That new company is called Altruist, and is a commission-free custody service that intends to compete with the big players in the space at their own game. “Our goal is for everyone to really pay almost nothing”, says founder Jason Wenk, continuing “How much has really changed over the last 10 years? The change is way overdue. It’s not like this is some epiphany for us”. The new Altruist platform will launch in October and be very easy to integrate with the existing platforms from major competitors.
FINSUM: Technology costs are eating up a huge chunk of revenue across the industry, so anyone that can lower them and still provide stellar service will have a competitive edge.
RIAs all over the country have been quite confused over the last couple of weeks. Ever since the SEC’s infamous change from “and” to “or” regarding fiduciary duty and a new ban on the use of the word for certain advisors, RIAs have been unsure about whether they are allowed to called themselves “fiduciaries”. On the one hand, the ban of the term’s use for certain groups made it seem like they could not use it, while on the other the technical definition of their duty had changed such that they no longer need to be fiduciaries to in order to comply with the SEC’s rules on defining an RIA. The SEC cleared up confusion late last week, however, saying that RIAs could continue to call themselves fiduciaries as the ban on use of the word does not apply to them, and nothing has changed to limit their use of the term.
FINSUM: While many RIAs are unhappy with the recent changes because of how they will water down the RIA brand, at least the SEC was very quick to clear up this confusion.
RIAs need to ready themselves for an onslaught of broker marketing. Changes to the SEC’s rules on fiduciary advice means brokers can now say that they put client interests ahead of their own. This is leading industry experts to expect a marketing bonanza that is expected to help brokers capture market share back from RIAs, who are having their niche diluted by the changing rules. Accordingly, RIAs will need to recraft their narrative, changing marketing language in order to re-differentiate themselves from brokers.
FINSUM: The big loser in the new regulatory push has been RIAs, as they have essentially had their turf artificially eaten away from some shifts in language by the SEC. That said, they have been gaining market share for years, so are in a better position to begin with.
RIAs were shocked and stunned by the SEC’s new Best Interest rule. The reason why comes down to one word. By substituting an “and” for an “or”, the SEC basically dissolved the necessity for fiduciary duty of RIAs. Fiduciary duty until now was defined by advisors having to avoid all conflicts of interest AND make a full disclosure of all material conflicts of interest. Now the rule will have an “or” instead of an and, meaning RIAs could abide by the rule simply through disclosure, eliminating a key tenet of fiduciary duty. One industry insider commented bluntly, “It guts the RIA industry”, continuing “RIAs are not fiduciaries anymore”.
FINSUM: This is a big deal for the RIA business because it means a whole slew of new advisors can call themselves RIAs but not meet the standard and reputation that has been cultivated over decades.