BOSTON -- Even with proposed regulation to the financial advisory industry still pending, several industry members at Wednesday’s Women Advisors Forum conference were certain about two things: the Securities and Exchange Commission should have expanded oversight and the industry will bear more costs.
“We are squarely in the camp in saying that the [Securities and Exchange Commission] should be adequately funded to increase its oversight of investment advisors,” said Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, managing director of public policy and communications at Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.
Regulators and industry members continue to debate how to bring more regulatory oversight to all professionals providing investment advice after the SEC released an independent study on the subject earlier this year.
While more oversight could come from expanding FINRA’s regulation or creating an entirely new self regulatory organization, other industry members are advocating for cost savings and have called for the SEC to expand its role. The SEC has said that it oversaw just 9% of investment advisors in the past six years.
Increasing the SEC’s responsibility will inevitably mean putting more resources behind the agency and more costs for the industry, most likely through increased fees, Mohrman-Gillis said Wednesday.
Those increased costs for the industry are inevitable, said Susan John, president of Financial Focus Inc. and national chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or NAPFA. NAPFA is advocating for the SEC to become the regulator for the advisory industry.
“Ultimately that’s going to come out of our pockets one way or another,” John said. “There’s been some discussion that increasing the SEC’s budget, and user fees are more like a tax, but it comes out of the same pocket nonetheless.”
And while it is still too early to determine the how much more regulation will cost the industry, both Mohrman-Gillis and John agreed that FINRA is not up to the job.
FINRA, a non-governmental regulatory organization, is basically a broker-dealer membership organization, Mohrman-Gillis said. With some proposals calling for FINRA to create a subsidiary to oversee investment advisors, that weakens the argument that that organization could step right into that role, she said.
“There are inherent conflicts of interest in an SRO model to begin with that have to be managed,” Mohrman-Gillis said. “But then you also have significant conflict of interest, we think, with the broker dealer regulating an investment advisor.”
FINRA also currently operates under a rules-based standard, John said, and has no experience regulating under a principles-based fiduciary standard.
“It (FINRA) has a very poor track record, actually, of protecting investors,” John said.
The discussion was part of a panel on regulation at the Women Advisors Forum conference in here Wednesday.