Crunch time for conflicted retirement investments counsel

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24 February 2015
William Trout
The White House has issued the latest salvo in the debate over applying fiduciary standards followed by RIAs and trust companies to the financial services industry broadly. The brokerage world, whose commission-based margins have shrunk in recent years, is to no one’s surprise crying foul. This is rather rich since the proverbial little guy has been taking it on the chin from Wall Street for years, in no small part due to the “conflicted advice” that the report seeks to address. Perhaps less predictable is the effect on RIAs and other fee-based business that affiliate or engage with brokerage firms as part of their retirement focused business. Will they have to cut ties with these firms? Or will brokerage firms look in the mirror and willingly adopt the retirement investing standards proposed by the White House? Brokerage fees have said that the fees paid by investors on retirement products represent the costs of packaging and selling their product. If so, they should find a more efficient means of distribution. They might even take a page from the book of the automated investment advisors, firms that target the very investors that the brokerage industry purports to defend.

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