Toward a new definition of discretionary

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29 January 2015
William Trout
The Unified Managed Account (UMA) has served since inception as a lightning rod for conflict between the sponsor firm and the advisor. Nowhere is the tension between customization and scale more acute. While the advisor may seek to customize a portfolio to justify his fee, the interests of the UMA sponsor typically are skewed towards scale. Underlying this conflict, of course, is the question of who owns the client. In recent years, this age old issue has been complicated by the increasingly active role of the client in the investment decision process. The effect of firms seeking to get closer to the client has been increased client engagement, to the point where “discretionary” no longer means “hands-off”. The millennial tweaking assumptions around her self-serve, automated investments platform here represents one extreme; at the other end of the spectrum is the elderly bank trust client who has unquestioning faith in her advisor and may only occasionally glance at a statement. I’d be interested in hearing if advisors have noticed the trend to greater engagement, and about the impact on their advised relationships. I’ll share any feedback and my perspective on the matter on this blog next week. In the meantime, perhaps we need to reassess our understanding of “discretionary”?

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