Financial planners surveyed by Aite Group believe that if all financial advisors are required to adhere to a fiduciary standard of care, then it will promote the profession, the Boston-based research company said in a report released Monday.
Fifty-one percent of financial advisors that have provided financial planning services to a majority of their clients anticipate an increase in that practice if the fiduciary standard is introduced universally. That figure is 16% more than their advisory peers who have been less active on the planning side.
Aite Group’s study, “Fiduciary Responsibilities for Retail Brokers: Advisor Expectations”, is based on a survey of 402 financial advisors, conducted online in the fourth quarter.
Proposals are currently making their way through Congress to require that financial advisors adhere to a fiduciary standard when doling out investment or financial advice. Current practices at wirehouse firms, are already tapping into the demand from clients for financial planning services. Some brokerage firms already require advisors to act as fiduciaries when offering any level of financial planning service. Other firms, like Wells Fargo Advisors, which is a unit of Wells Fargo [WFC], have devised a process often referred to as “investment planning”, wherein a central financial planning team typically supports the broker force by delivering comprehensive and complex financial planning services.
Survey participants feel that implementing the U.S. government’s proposal to introduce the fiduciary standard for brokers would result in wirehouses being allowed to offer comprehensive financial planning advice. According to Aite Group, 48% of independent registered investment advisors (RIAs) either “agree” or “strongly agree” with that assessment.
Further, a majority of brokers, 71%, believe that if the standard were required for all, RIAs would lose their competitive advantage of being a fiduciary. But many independent RIAs “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with that assessment. Brokerage firms have a long tradition of being sales oriented, and it will not be easy for them to change their corporate cultures, said Alois Pirker, research director at Aite Group. RIAs and financial planners, however, are much more comfortable with the standard. “They just believe it is very hard to live and breathe the fiduciary standard,” Pirker said. Any implementation of the fiduciary standard for all “would really play into the hands of the RIAs. The feel ‘we’ve done it for so long.’”