It feels like a complete repeat of the DOL’s fiduciary rule. With less than a year to go until implementation (June 2020), the SEC’s new Regulation Best Interest has just entered legal limbo. Perhaps even more worrying than the recent lawsuit from seven states is the fact that leading industry figure Michael Kitces’ firm, XY Planning Network, has just sued the SEC in New York to help block the rule. Kitces is trying to build on the FPA’s legacy of defeating regulators, such as it did in 2005 with the “Merrill Lynch rule”. It is highly unclear what the ultimate outcome of these suits might be, which means brokerages are having trouble committing resources to comply with them.
FINSUM: The chances that this rule gets implemented in its current form seem small, which means it that it is unwise to invest too much into compliance at this point. Everyone still has a bad taste from the money spent complying with the defunct DOL fiduciary rule.
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.
In what comes as a real eye opener, the House passed a bill this week that would block the SEC’s ability to enforce its new fiduciary rule. The driving force behind the rule, you guessed it, Maxine Waters. The measure came as part of a broader bill regarding the funding of federal agencies. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will likely be changed and then re-voted on. Democrats, who are in charge in the House, are worried the SEC’s rule does not go far enough to protect investors.
FINSUM: The interesting thing here is that this bill is likely not totally dead in the Senate. We wonder how hard the Democrats will stick to this part of it.
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.
Life insurance and annuities have always been a strange grey area for RIAs. They tend to be quite high commission products, a fact which obviously does not blend well with the no-commission, fiduciary mandate. This has left RIAs in an odd position. However, a new and quick growing company, DPL Financial, is now offering a solution. The company serves as an insurance network helping RIAs utilize products from the space. It works with providers of insurance products to help them tailor their offering for RIAs, such as making products commission-free. DPL has already signed up 200 RIAs to use its service. In an example of what they do, DPL’s founder and CEO, David Lau, commented on signing up Jackson National Life Insurance recently, saying “Jackson has long been a market leader in variable annuities, and we are excited to be their partner in launching their fee-based products to the independent RIA market”.
FINSUM: This seems like a very smart and useful approach and the utility for RIAs appears clear. It is obvious they are solving a big problem given their pace of growth.