The lone wolf financial advisor is steadily becoming a rarity in the wealth management industry (Edward Jones advisors aside!). For instance, 77% of Merrill Lynch advisors now report that they work in teams, up from 48% in 2013. Whether you work solo or in a team, one thing many might not know is that FA teams tend to grow their AUM and client base much faster than solo advisors. The advantage seems to be derived from two key aspects. The first is that a team has a wider variety of skill sets to help deliver comprehensive services to clients. The other is that having a team in place makes clients worry less about the impact of losing a single advisor via illness, death, or leaving the firm.
FINSUM: The team approach seems to be working across the industry, with clients liking the change. That said, forming teams comes with its own set of significant risks and considerations.
The anti-fiduciary rule crusaders have been more successful than anyone could have imagined. Back in 2017, the slew of industry groups fighting the DOL’s rule looked woefully outgunned. But in time, they completely succeeded. They are coming off another fresh victory as well—in Maryland—but the next battle looks to be even bigger. That battle will be in New Jersey, a state that seems to have taken the stage as a leader in the state-level fiduciary rule push growing across the US. Unlike Maryland, New Jersey is committed to a rule, which makes this fight more substantial. The new rule in NJ also has the support of some advisors there, giving the proposal more traction.
FINSUM: In our view, it will likely be harder to stop the spread of these state level fiduciary rules than it was at the national level, if only because it is harder to concentrate opposing resources across the whole US. Also, if a state truly has conviction about the rule, it seems more likely to come to fruition.
The Trump administration has slowly but surely exerted its influence on the SEC. After two and half years, the changes are reaching their zenith. The last Democrat at the SEC is set to step down later this year. He is technically entitled to stay through June 2020, but is likely to leave before the autumn, when he is set head back to academia. The departure will open the door to a more conservative appointment. It would also mean there are only three commissioners left at the SEC, two of whom are Republicans, giving them an advantage in SEC matters.
FINSUM: This could have all sorts of ramifications for policy, including the best interest rule. We expect this may have some significant impacts on the the BI rule plays out.
Most of the industry was hoping that states would back off, or at least slow down, their fiduciary rule efforts after the SEC announced it was working alongside them to craft a more comprehensive Best Interest Rule. The idea is that if the SEC could create a rule satisfactory to states, then it would obviate individual state regulations. However, New Jersey is pressing ahead with its own rule. The state formally put forward a new rule yesterday via the Attorney General Burbir Grewal. The rule is comprehensive and advisors would have serious penalties for not abiding. “Conduct falling short of this fiduciary duty would, under the proposed rule, constitute a dishonest and unethical practice,” says an announcement for the state’s Consumer Affairs Division.
FINSUM: We are still hoping the SEC can make a rule that satisfies states, because the last thing consumers or advisors need is fragmentation.
A year ago, annuities looked like a product that had outlived its regulatory life cycle. The pending DOL fiduciary rule seemed completely incompatible with the product and its selling practices, so annuities appeared likely to take a big hit. Then the rule got shot down in court, and the whole picture changed. Data is now in on 2018 annuity sales and it looks strong—sales smashed all previous records. In virtually every category of annuities, sales were up considerably, in many case 20% or more.
FINSUM: The annuity sales outlook has completely changed. The next five years—as the number of people 65 or older hits 60 million—looks to be very strong.
JP Morgan looks like it is about to push further into wealth management. JP Morgan has always had a solid wealth management practice, but one much smaller than wirehouses or other large broker-dealers. However, the firm has now announced that it is planning to grow headcount in the area by nearly 20%, adding over 1,000 new advisors. According to CEO Jamie Dimon, “We are expanding our footprint to capture more of the opportunity across the U.S. wealth management spectrum — from mass affluent ($500,000 to $3 million) to high-net-worth ($3 million to $10 million) to ultra-high-net-worth ($10 million or greater)”.
FINSUM: Wealth management is a very good business if you can get assets, and it seems like JP Morgan is waking up to the fact that it has a better opportunity in the area than it formerly realized.