It has been long in the works. So long, in fact, that many seem to have forgotten about it. Yet here it is—a new fiduciary rule from the DOL, almost three years after the last one was vacated. The new version of the rule has just been delivered to the White House for review by the Office of Management and Budget. This starts a multi-month process that may lead to its implementation, but given how late the rule is arriving it may not get enacted before Trump could potentially leave office. If Trump wins the election, the timing is irrelevant, but if he loses and the rule has been in place less than 60 days when the new president takes over, it can very easily be reversed.
FINSUM: We have not yet seen a good summary of the contents of this rule, but will be covering it as soon as possible. The only thing we have heard is that the new rule is “is primarily a prohibited transaction exemption intended to replace the Best Interest Contract Exemption”.
A whole squad of industry players are trying to stop the SEC’s new Reg BI in its tracks. From individual firms (like Michael Kitces’) to trade groups, many are filing lawsuits to stop the implementation of Reg BI. One of the critical arguments seems to be that the new Reg BI does not sufficiently protect investors under the rules of the Dodd-Frank Act. One principal at XY Planning Network says, simply, “Reg BI makes it more difficult for customers to differentiate between financial planners who are bound by fiduciary obligations and for broker-dealers who may consider their own financial interests”.
FINSUM: Both broker-dealers and RIAs are against this rule. For the former, it complicates life, and for the latter, it muddles some of their “fiduciary” thunder. Nonetheless, it seems the rule is likely to implemented on schedule.
If you survey advisors—which many have done—they will tell you that the hardest part of the forthcoming Reg BI rule from the SEC is how to handle all the requirements of the new Customer Relationship Summary form (Form CRS). With that in mind, Pershing has just launched an interesting new end-to-end Form CRS product that helps advisors comply with the rule, as well as a Tracking and Reporting Solution. According to Pershing, “We recognize that account opening is not the only [thing used], so we’ve rolled out a new forms management system where the CRS can be directed and stored digitally, and married that system with a number of trigger points that require the delivery of a Form CRS … We’ve given our clients the opportunity to both deliver forms in paper where it’s still necessary, or digitally to the extent that the investor has opted into electronic delivery”.
FINSUM: Compliance with Form CRS is a challenge, and one that is being exacerbated by COVID and people working from home. This sounds like a great solution.
Smaller broker-dealers around the nation are grossly underprepared for the forthcoming Regulation Best Interest. In early April, the SEC decided not to extend the implementation date of the rule because of COVID, which means all firms will need to be ready by June 30th. However, most small broker-dealers are so focused just trying to stay in business, that most are delaying any actions that will help help for the rule. The SEC has said it will take circumstances into account when enforcing the rule.
FINSUM: One of the big issues besides COVID, is that there is a high degree of complacency about the new rule because many think “I prepared for the DOL rule, so we should be covered for this”. However, there are some important distinctions with this rule (e.g. retail investor vs retail customer), and many could find themselves in hot water.
An update to the SEC’s FAQs page has made something abundantly obvious—the title of “advisor” or “adviser” is about to get a lot more contentious. As part of its new Reg BI package, the SEC is bringing in additional rules around the use of titles. Regarding “advisor”, which is completely ubiquitous, the new rules are pretty clear: you cannot call yourself an “advisor” or “adviser” unless you are registered as an investment advisor. Another important note on this, according to Barron’s, “Broker-dealers that are affiliated with RIAs are generally prohibited from using the terms”.
FINSUM: This is a huge disruption to the lingua franca of the industry, but a big boon to investment advisors. Makes us wonder how much the public will actually care.
New data is out showing which independents are gobbling up the most new recruits in the wealth management space. The overall picture emerging is that while April was a very slow month for changes, Raymond James and LPL are striding ahead of the competition through acquisitions and advisor recruiting. LPL has gotten 59 new recruits to join this year, while Raymond James has managed 20, worth $4 bn and $2.8 bn in AUM respectively. Some usual suspects have been absent so far this year. For instance, Advisor Group has lost more than 25 advisors to LPL in 2020 without announcing a single new advisor joining the network.
FINSUM: LPL and Raymond James have done a great job keeping their recruiting wallets open during this tough time. We expect the relationships they are building right now will keep their pipeline strong for the rest of the year.