PHOENIX - At the American Bankers Association conference this week, a blanket of uncertainty hung in the air as attendees buzzed about the ongoing regulatory reform efforts in Washington and how it would impact the banking industry.

The truth is no one knows.

A total of four sessions at the conference were focused on regulation and fiduciary responsibility and speculation swirled in the general session and throughout the conference about who would be affected and how.

As conference attendees asked questions and traded rumors, regulators in Washington wrangled over a proposal to set up a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency within the Federal Reserve, a step toward larger financial regulatory reform.

The most important message at the conference came from David Coffaro, the managing director of trust and estate services at Wells Fargo [WFC], who spoke in the general session Monday about fiduciary responsibility.

His conclusion: fiduciary responsiblity should be seen as an opportunity not a hardship. At a time when many clients are losing trust in their advisors and institutions those who are fiduciaries should be touting the fiduciary story.

“Instead of running away from fiduciary responsibility we should be embracing it,” Coffaro said. “Fiduciaries always have to put the client first. Those who are fiduciaries should have a leg up on those who aren’t.”

As advisors continue to look for ways to recruit and retain clients, being a fiduciary is a story worth telling. Ronald M. Florance, Jr., director of investment strategy & asset allocation at Wells Fargo, doesn’t see how being a fiduciary can be a bad thing: “If you’re doing what you should be doing anyway, which is putting the client first, I don’t see what the problem is.”


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