Wealth Management

(New York)

Every investor and advisor knows the mantra: past success does not predict future performance, or some iteration thereof. Countless market studies have proven the mantra. However, what about areas where the saying does not hold true? In private, non-liquid markets, studies actually show the opposite—that past performance actually does a good job predicting future success. For instance, in private equity and venture capital, funds with performance in the top and bottom quartile are very likely to continue in that quartile time and again.

FINSUM: So this is quite an interesting finding, but one with an equally curious subplot. It is not actually the funds that are predictive of the performance, instead it is the individual dealmakers in the funds, the study found. All these results make sense to us because VC and PE are not like large liquid markets, a lot of who gets access to the best deals depends on reputation, which allows winners to keep thriving.

(New York)

Back in late 2016, Merrill Lynch announced that it was abandoning commissions for its brokers. On the back of the shift to the DOL’s fiduciary rule, the firm was forcing clients to either move to fee-based accounts or downgrade to its Merrill Edge discount brokerage. Now, with the DOL rule gone, the firm is considering reversing that decision. Merrill admits that some clients left the firm because the cost of fee-based accounts was more expensive than commissions. Merrill will be considering a change for a 60-day review period.

FINSUM: Having only fee-based accounts always seemed like a bad idea to us because a large subset of customers would see their total fees rise significantly. However, the move fit nicely with the pre-DOL rule environment. Now that things have changed, we suspect the stance might be reversed.


The SEC’s new best interest rule has garnered a great deal of feedback. While on the whole the industry’s reception has been positive, there is some criticism and the view that the rule needs fine tuning, particularly in regards to the use of the “advisor” title. Well, there is apparently also a big loophole in the rule: there is no best interest standard for brokers providing advice to 401(k) sponsors because such sponsors to not fall under the SEC’s definition of a “retail” investor. According to the American Retirement Association, “The commission should clarify that the definition of retail customers include nonprofessional fiduciaries of retirement plans … Otherwise, what you have is an unlevel playing field”.

FINSUM: This seems like something the SEC just missed (especially because the loophole is created by two separate components not fitting well). We suspect this will be amended.

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