In what could be a very worrying sign for the industry, it is being reported today that the SEC may be inserting the word “fiduciary” in its new best interest rule. The word had been conspicuously absent, much to the chagrin of DOL rule advocates. However, the SEC’s own advisory committee now says the word should be included. The SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee saw a majority vote for the inclusion of the word and a fiduciary standard to be applied, something the SEC had diligently avoided until now. The Committee voted 16-3 in favor of the changes.
FINSUM: This seems very likely to now be included in the new rule. Does that mean it should no longer be called the BI rule, but the SEC Fiduciary Rule?
Well the midterms are finally here. However, one thing has become apparent—how these elections will affect financial advisors has not been discussed nearly enough. One of the big concerns advisors should have is about what happens if the Democrats take the House. In this scenario, it seems likely regulation would grow much toughed as fire & brimstone-like Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) would taken the helm of the House Financial Services Committee. Additionally, Republican-led deregulatory measures could be scuttled. One area of possible positivity could be on new legislation for retirees, including new measures to encourage people to save for retirement.
FINSUM: Perhaps the biggest worry regards some sort of defeat of the new SEC rule with renewed support for the DOL rule 2.0. The Democrats fiercely advocate for a comprehensive fiduciary standard, so their ascendance in the House could lead to that becoming a reality.
Over the last couple of years there has been a movement on the fringes of the active management space. That movement was towards funds that only charge investors full and/or rising fees if they outperform a given benchmark. If they underperform, their fees would fall back to ETF levels. Well, that idea has taken a big step recently as major fund provider AllianceBernstein has a handful of so-called “fulcrum funds”. The largest is the AB FlexFee Large Cap Growth Advisor Fund, with $106m under management. A top figure at AB put the goals most clearly, saying “The big impact of this will be if we can take money from passive, or money that would’ve gone there … That’s the ultimate goal here”.
FINSUM: Fulcrum funds make a lot of sense for active managers and clients. If the fund managers do their job and seriously outperform a benchmark, then higher fees make sense. If they don’t, then fees stay low.
One of the big questions financial advisors may have about the midterms has not been discussed much. That question is how the midterm outcome may affect regulation, specifically regarding the SEC rule or forthcoming fiduciary rule 2.0. The answer is that in the most likely scenario—Democrats taking the House and Republicans holding onto the Senate—regulations would get tougher for the wealth management industry. Staunch fiduciary advocate Rep Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) would become the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and would likely push for much tougher regulation. She has already railed against the new SEC rule for what she sees as a lack of strength.
FINSUM: Democrats taking the house could change the regulatory picture considerably. This seems likely to be one of the biggest risks to a Democrat victory for advisors.
It is no secret, but new data is out showing just how much advisors don’t like the SEC’s new best interest rule. While there has been strong pushback about aspects of the rule, including its governance of the use of titles, there hadn’t been concrete data about how advisors felt about it. Well, now there is. A new survey from Fidelity shows that two-thirds of advisors say that the rule will either have a negative impact or won’t help. Only one third think it will have a positive impact. Interestingly, only 73% were actually aware of the SEC proposals in the first place.
FINSUM: The SEC rule is confusing and not well conceived. And when you combine with the updated DOL rule that is coming out in 2019, the new regulations could turn into a real headache.
Financial advisors appear to not give a hoot about the forthcoming SEC Best Interest rule. Fatigue from the endless on-again-off-again DOL saga seems to have taken hold of the industry. A new survey by Fidelity found that 40% of advisors says that even though they are aware of the proposals, they are currently taking no action. A further 78% of advisors say they will need help in assessing and evaluating the proposals.
FINSUM: While there is definitely some fatigue, the reality is that most advisors did a lot of preparation for the fiduciary rule, and thus they think they are in a good position for the forthcoming SEC rule.