We understand that compliance management can be hard to warm up to, given the tangle of rules and competing interests from industry, state and federal operatives. Regulatory reform, which is still unfolding, is not making it any easier.
That’s why you should embrace compliance management. Take it personally, from a business standpoint. It’s your best option, especially when you consider the tribal way in which the industry is currently set up and watched over.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act recently tied to smooth things over for practitioners, handing down an edict that says all financial advisors should adhere to the fiduciary standard when giving financial advice.
However, many questions about oversight are still unresolved. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority oversees the broker, or commission-based business model. The Securities and Exchange Commission oversees independent registered investment advisors (RIAs), and is about to shift oversight of those shops with $100 million in managed assets off to the states. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is the most sought after mark of distinction and competence by far. Everyone agrees to behave well and submit to the rules of the CFP Board of Standards, yet there is no immovable force behind that organization.
This is your practice everyone is talking about, when you cut through all of the various pressures from various quarters. So when you go about setting up compliance management for your practice, remember that this is about you.
Scott Gottlieb, the president and chief executive officer at U.S. Compliance Consultants in Greenwich, Conn., says effective compliance management should reflect how you do business. It is not an outside, distant concept trying to exert unnecessary force on your everyday life.
“It should reflect the day to day conduct of your firm,” Gottlieb said in a recent telephone interview.
That approach has worked very well so far for the financial advisors at Morristown Financial Group, in Morristown, New Jersey. It boosted gross production to $25.1 million in 2010, up from $13.4 million in 2009. It also added about 70 new independent advisors in 2010, and credits momentum from its compliance management system, Advisor AdvantEDGE.
The professionals at Morristown Financial Group offer Advisor AdvantEDGE to principals of smaller firms within the LPL network. The system is designed for LPL advisors. Everyone understands each other. The principals know what to expect, and once they had off responsibility to the folks at Morristown Financial Group, and are free to carry out other tasks in the LPL way.
“Eighty percent of branch managers, or more, spend 25% of their time on OSJ functions,” said Patrick Sullivan, a founding partner of Morristown Financial Group. Understandably, that is a huge time commitment for any size firm. If you’re a small shop abiding by similar rules as large groups, compliance pressures are only magnified. “We’re seeing a lot of traction among the two- to five-man groups.”
As Morristown pulls more advisors into its network, the company is getting support and interest from other parts of the country, too. Sullivan said the group has 170 advisors in their network of Advisor AdvantEDGE users. He expects that number to grow, as advisors in the Midwest and other regions take interest in the service.
But you don’t necessarily have to be part of LPL, another large independent broker-dealer’s network or a Washington insider to master effective compliance management. Just keep the focus on you and how you like to run your practice day in and day out.