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.
Trump has named his next choice for the Supreme Court—Brett Kavanaugh. Mr Kavanaugh has a long judicial history to review, and by all accounts, he looks like a very friendly pick both for Wall Street and wealth management. He has consistently sided with the interests of financial businesses in his rulings, including rulings against regulators like the SEC.
FINSUM: Obviously all the focus of the media is on Kavanaugh’s impact in a wider sense, but from a purely financial standpoint, he appears to be very anti-regulation.
2017 was great news for the wealth management market, especially for fiduciaries. The total AUM for the RIA market grew an astounding 20% in 2017, and not all of it was because of market gains. Alongside AUM growth, revenue also increased a median of 15.8%. That led to a great deal of new hires, which correspondingly sent profit margins a bit lower. According to one wealth management market analyst at TD Ameritrade, “Clearly firms feel they are producing enough to warrant the added headcount … It’s a very good sign here in terms of firms willing to reinvest in talent”.
FINSUM: The RIA market continues to look very strong as clients keep moving in that direction.