Scare tactics in the run up to the DoL fiduciary standard roll out
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One of the apocalyptic scenarios floated by antagonists to the proposed DoL fiduciary standard is the emergence of an “advice deficit,” whereby reliable investments counsel becomes available only to the most affluent investors. This argument assumes that investors have nowhere to go for advice but to a real life advisor. For more than a decade, however, tech savvy investors have had access to online tools that basically walk them through the creation of a personalized portfolio. For example, eTrade’s Build-Your-Own-Portfolio uses a questionnaire to recommend an asset allocation, which a customer then executes on his own. Competitor Ameritrade launched a like-minded Amerivest portfolio asset allocation tool back in 2004. The robo advisor represents an advanced form of this technology, in that it extends the asset allocation process to the construction of the portfolio itself. This ease of execution makes what had been a solution for self-directed (and as mentioned, tech savvy) investors into a viable option for any investor able to log on to a website. Sure, not all investors will be comfortable taking investment advice online. But to say these investors have no options is a scare tactic. Its deployment underscores the degree to which commission based brokerage will fight to protect its own interests, even when they come at the expense of the investor. I’ll have more thoughts as we approach the roll out of the DoL standard this spring.