Wealth Management

(New York)
So across the wealth management industry there has been a gnawing and anxious debate that may be keeping advisors up at night—does the fiduciary rule mean that advisors need to always offer the lowest cost funds to clients? Well, one lawyer’s opinion is a resounding “no”. Citing the rule itself, the DOL says “Adviser and Financial Institution do not have to recommend the transaction that is the lowest cost or that generates the lowest fees without regard to other relevant factors”. That other relevant factor could be a myriad of things, such as the other holdings in a portfolio or whether one fund has higher performance than another or a different fee structure and so on.

FINSUM: We have personally seen a lot of debate on this issue, and while many do realize that they do not have to offer the lowest cost investments, fear of regulatory trouble pushes them to do so.

(San Francisco)

If you were an advisor at Wells Fargo who wanted to move to its independent arm you would face a big barrier—a so-called “tax” on compensation for two years. The tax was faced by brokers who wanted to move to the Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or FiNet. The system is unique among brokers in that it lets brokers go without Wells Fargo totally losing them. However, the two-year tax on compensation was a big barrier. Now, the bank is considering getting rid of the tax so long as advisors sign a two- to three-year contract to stay at FiNet.

FINSUM: This seems a smart move to us as the tide of advisors going independent is only going to grow stronger.

(New York)

InvestmentNews has run a very ominous article. The piece cites recent evidence published by the Wall Street Journal showing that large discount broker-dealers often mislead clients by saying they do not have incentive fees when they do. Firms like Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade often brand themselves in a very positive light, saying things like being “champions of investors" and putting clients first etc. However, such misleading behavior may lead to the current or future fiduciary rules being extended to cover broker-dealers entirely, not just regarding disclosing conflicts of interest.

FINSUM: We don’t think the current DOL rule is going to be extended in any way, but it does seem likely that the SEC might take this into account as it creates a new, more comprehensive rule.

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