I just finished writing a strongly-worded column for my newsletter which basically says that we're going about our lobbying effort all wrong. This will be a topic of discussion at the Business & Wealth Management Conference in October as well.
Wrong how? I think the most basic issue we have to look at is how the lobbying positions taken by the Coalition (FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board) are fundamentally more beneficial to the consuming public than they are to the fiduciary advisor community.
Our membership organizations are asking that every advisor be held to a fiduciary standard and register as an RIA, which means that the brokerage world would be held to the same standards as the independent fee-only or dually-registered advisor. That would, clearly, offer certain additional protections to the public.
But at the same time, a fiduciary standard for all would undermine a really powerful marketing distinction that advisors now enjoy over brokers. When somebody comes to your office today, you can tell him about the regulatory standards you're required to meet, and then suggest (in a competitive situation) that they get something in writing from their broker saying that HE or SHE is willing to adhere to a fiduciary standard.
Of course, no brokerage firm compliance department would allow such a thing. It's an easy way to win any competitive situation where a desirable prospective client is shopping around.
Basically what I'm saying here is that the status quo is good for the independent advisor from a marketing standpoint and bad for the brokerage firms. A blanket fiduciary standard -- especially if it is botched by the SEC and FINRA (and who DOESN'T think it would be botched?) -- would eliminate this advantage.
The question, which I expand on in my newsletter column, is: should the independent advisory community keep lobbying on behalf of the consumer? Or should we act like everybody else in the universe and lobby for things that would better serve our own interests?
What do you think?
For more on planning, client service, practice management and marketing, or to join the Inside Information community, contact Bob Veres at Bob@BobVeres.com or go to http://www.bobveres.com/. For more information about the Business & Wealth Management Conference (October 13-15), go to http://www.signupforconference.com/.
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