The DOL’s fiduciary rule may be gone for now, but it is a long way from dead. The rule will be taking a new form in 2019, and even now, its spirit lives on in the form of a number of state-based fiduciary rules. One such is in New Jersey. However, Wall Street is putting up a massive fight to block the rule. Financial Advisor Magazine puts it this way, calling it a Battle Royale and saying it is “pitting the nation’s largest Wall Street and broker-dealer associations against comparatively tiny fiduciary advisor and financial planning associations”.
FINSUM: We think if NJ passed a comprehensive fiduciary rule, it would probably give momentum to not only the DOL, but a number of other states which are working towards this or are on the fence about it.
Merrill Lynch’s new compensation plan is not being received well by brokers. Many are angry about certain aspects of the plan and are pushing back. In particular, brokers don’t like that the plan incentivizes them to tell clients to take on more debt during a period when interest rates are rising. Around 15,000 advisors have complained to Merrill Lynch management. Management responded by saying it was a good incentive and was designed so that it didn’t heighten conflicts of interest.
FINSUM: This seems like it will just create misaligned incentives, especially given that it is being put in place when it is very unfavorable to be adding debt.
It is no secret, but new data is out showing just how much advisors don’t like the SEC’s new best interest rule. While there has been strong pushback about aspects of the rule, including its governance of the use of titles, there hadn’t been concrete data about how advisors felt about it. Well, now there is. A new survey from Fidelity shows that two-thirds of advisors say that the rule will either have a negative impact or won’t help. Only one third think it will have a positive impact. Interestingly, only 73% were actually aware of the SEC proposals in the first place.
FINSUM: The SEC rule is confusing and not well conceived. And when you combine with the updated DOL rule that is coming out in 2019, the new regulations could turn into a real headache.
Financial advisors appear to not give a hoot about the forthcoming SEC Best Interest rule. Fatigue from the endless on-again-off-again DOL saga seems to have taken hold of the industry. A new survey by Fidelity found that 40% of advisors says that even though they are aware of the proposals, they are currently taking no action. A further 78% of advisors say they will need help in assessing and evaluating the proposals.
FINSUM: While there is definitely some fatigue, the reality is that most advisors did a lot of preparation for the fiduciary rule, and thus they think they are in a good position for the forthcoming SEC rule.
One of the very interesting aspects—which is thoroughly underreported—is that despite the rise of ETFs, mutual funds have held a major portion of market share in the advisor allocation business. One of the trends which has emerged is that the growth of ETFs has not really cost mutual funds as much as one would expect. Rather, advisors have just started to use them in different ways. ETFs are seen as better for broad passive exposure, but when it comes to active management, mutual funds are seen as the superior choice. This helps explain why smart beta and other forms of active ETFs have been relatively unsuccessful.
FINSUM: It is not mutual funds that have suffered from the shift to ETFs, rather it has been variable annuities and individual stocks. This is a quite a positive development for the asset management industry, in our opinion.