When I was a young loan officer and later a stockbroker at the dawn of the 1990s, I was carefully trained in the art of selling such products as credit life insurance, A-share mutual funds and variable annuities. In those days, commissions on mutual fund and annuity sales ran as high as 8%. None of us thought of ourselves as dastardly, but our mission was clear: sell products, generate commissions. Any discussion of client results was perfunctory at best, and the word advice was not part of the lexicon.
How that has changed during my more-than-25-year career in the financial services business. The relentless progression toward serving customers’ best interests is unmistakable, even if too slow and not always warmly embraced. A case in point: Digital technologies are beginning to disrupt and illuminate long-standing industry norms, some of which were clearly not in the best interests of investors.
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