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Fidelity is changing the way it charges for advice

Fidelity Investments is changing the way it charges wealth management customers for advice, based on the amount they have invested with the firm.

The new fees begin in July for the more than 800,000 customers of the wealth unit. The charges range from 50 basis points for accounts of more than $5 million to 1.5% for customers with less than $500,000. Currently, fees are tied more closely to the individual products, said Robert Beauregard, a Fidelity spokesman.

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A pedestrian walks past a branch of Fidelity Investments near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Monday April 30, 2012. Photograph: Victor J. Blue/ Bloomberg News

“This should make it easier for customers to understand what they are paying,” he said in an interview.

Firms like Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch have already moved to a unified system, where customers pay a single price based on their relationship with the firm, said Tom O’Shea, research director for managed accounts at Cerulli Associates in Boston.

The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier Wednesday.

The advice business has been under pressure. Under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Labor released a fiduciary rule which required brokers to put clients’ interests ahead of their own when handling retirement investments. While the future of that rule is unclear, it has been credited with pushing more advisors toward a fee-based system and for speeding the adoption of low-cost index products.

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At the same time, robo advisors are building portfolios for clients at a fraction of the cost typically charged by advisors. Fidelity has its own robo product, called Fidelity Go, which charges 35 basis points for accounts with as little as $5,000.

Boston-based Fidelity’s wealth management business has just over $300 billion in assets.