Making for Meaningful Change

Making for Meaningful Change

By now, many of you have heard about the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Standards. This will be a topic of much discussion in the coming weeks, months and, quite possibly, years to come. First, let me be clear that I support the need for industry change which supports meaningful, constructive and enforceable standards in the best interests of our clients. We have a responsibility to keep their best interests in mind.  

Getting to a point where we can keep our clients’ best interests in mind and do so for all our clients is the challenge. In my opinion, the current version of the DOL’s Fiduciary Standard is not the path to the best interests of clients across America. Today, we have too much emphasis on greed and equity growth with little focus on safe, guaranteed, dependable income through retirement – something many Americans desperately need. Unfortunately, there’s almost no focus on utilizing non-financial wealth and diversifying income streams.  

In June, I spent three days in Washington, D.C., talking to congressional leaders from my state and region about this problem as our industry continues to get its arms around the broad, sweeping impact of this proposal. Through this blog, I hope to keep you informed on the ever-changing status of this legislation. As one speaker said this week, this will be the most significant regulatory overhaul in decades. If so, we have to get it right.  

Workable solutions include:

  • Crafting a “seller’s exception” to allow certain transactions without triggering various fiduciary requirements so long as the consumer is clear that the agent is not providing investment advice and not acting as a fiduciary
  • Maintain the 84-24 Prohibited Transaction Exception (PTE) for those products that are used in a transaction environment, not a fiduciary environment.
  • Draft a proposal that wouldn’t restrict product choice, retaining affordability while creating access to retirement professionals for all Americans, not just those with larger balances that justify the risk of bringing them as a client

Overall, there remains a lot of work to be done on this initiative. The industry represents many independent, registered representatives and existing fiduciaries who secure the financial futures of many Americans. This decision creates a lot of risk for many – we must focus on meaningful change.  Change needs to take place, but it must make sense for our end-users, our clients, who trust us regardless of our business model. As I’ve said before, the fiduciary standard is a way of business; it’s not a business model.  

Bottom Line: Our industry will definitely change in the next 18 months. We need to make sure the change is positive for our clients.