Wealth Management

(New York)

In what certainly seems to be a sign of health for the industry, RIA average account sizes just hit a new high. The average client at a US RIA now has an account averaging $2m (at firms with over $250m in AUM). This is the first time the figure has ever crossed the $2m threshold. Median AUM for firms grew over 16% in 2017, with average revenue increasing to $3.6m. The stats come from an annual Charles Schwab survey, with the firm saying about the healthy results “Firms are fueling their organic growth by differentiating and marketing their value propositions, improving the client experience and strategically expanding their service offerings to meet the needs of their ideal clients”.

FINSUM: The fiduciary duty of RIAs seems to be a differentiated and continued source of new client demand. It is a testament to the quality of RIAs in this country.

(New York)

The media is reacting very strongly to a new move by Morningstar. The legendary fund rating company has just taken the somewhat surprising move of replacing outside funds with some of its own in its “managed portfolio service”, which allows financial advisors to outsource investment decisions to Morningstar. It will now rely on its own funds as the building blocks of those portfolios. Its own funds will be scored by the company itself, but it says an algorithm will do this. The company’s CIO says “We have structures in place to make sure [investment management] is at arm’s length from research. There is structural separation of research and investment management”.

FINSUM: We think this is a ridiculous conflict of interest, made even sillier by the fact that Morningstar acts like an algorithm is any less biased than a human rating system. As if Morningstar did not write the algorithm in the first place…


Everyday it seems less likely that the current SEC best interest rule, “Regulation best interest”, will make it through to implementation in anything near its current form. Not only has the industry complained about its governing of titles, but many say the rule’s complex grouping-but-delineation between brokers and advisors just doesn’t make sense. Now, the group of advocates that succeeded in bringing down the DOL’s fiduciary rule have officially turned their sights on the SEC rule. The group, called NAIFA, says it supports a best interest standard, but vehemently protests the restriction on the use of titles.

FINSUM: We commiserate with the SEC because we understand the logic they used to make this rule, but we do feel the current iteration is doomed.

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