March Madness is the most exciting time of the year for me – even more exciting than Christmas. You see, this time of year always brings back memories of Indiana’s run to the national championship in 1987.
As a student manager, I can remember preparing the bench for the national championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was extremely anxious – everyone was. And, as I walked back into our locker room for the last time before warm-ups, what I saw made me even more anxious.
Coach Bob Knight was laying on the training table. He’d folded his famous red sweater into a nice, neat pillow … I couldn’t believe he seemed to be resting peacefully just minutes before our biggest game of the year.
Looking back now, however, I think he was at peace because he knew our team was prepared. During the season, we had several days to prepare for games, but for the national championship, we had just 48 hours. However, we followed the exact same process:
Preparing for Your Own Big Game
When it comes to preparing for the fiduciary rule, you can use the same formula for success. As planners, most of us already act and make recommendations in the best interest of our clients. However, we need to document our sales process and make it repeatable.
Though the outcome was different for each game, the Hoosiers’ process remained consistent through the 1987 season. We evaluated each team’s strengths and weaknesses from top to bottom – we just didn’t look at the team’s starting five or star players.
Similarly, as planners, we have to focus on all the risks associated with financial planning. Too often, we look at asset management as the solution to wealth management. But, we also have to consider longevity needs (so our clients don’t run out of money), long-term care, taxes, the death of a spouse, and transferring their legacy to the next generation. These concerns need to be evaluated as a regular part of our client process.
I encourage everyone to evaluate their sales and business practices during the time remaining before the fiduciary rule takes effect. You could say it’s already in effect due to many broker-dealers implementing new strategies and FINRA assessing fines based on conflicts of interest. To reduce your risk of litigation, you should prepare to win, and prepare consistently.
Winning Strategy: Establish a sales process that is repeatable and can easily be documented. Consistency will allow you to focus on your clients’ needs, and force you to consider all the risks.
Mike McGlothlin is a tireless advocate for the retirement planning industry. As executive vice president of annuities at Ash Brokerage, he heads a team providing income planning solutions focused on longevity and efficiency. He’s also a thought leader who provides guidance and assistance for advisors and broker-dealers navigating marketplace and regulatory changes. You can find a collection of his blog posts in his book, “Above the Clouds … Winning Strategies from 30,000 Feet.”
Winning the Right Way
By Mike McGlothlin, EVP of Annuities
If you read much about the U.S. Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule, you know many people are saying it’s unworkable. While I agree the rule may be overreaching and it will be difficult to meet all the disclosure requirements, I think it’s clear the effects of the rule are making a difference already. FINRA has fined an institution for creating conflicts and incentives to sell one product, and clients are asking prospective planners if they are a fiduciary.
Still, many advisors feel like cannot work as a fiduciary. I believe with the right focus, you can.
As a student manager at Indiana, I worked in one of the most competitive environments in college basketball. We didn't always win. In fact, my sophomore year was one of the worst in Indiana’s history under Coach Bob Knight. Two years later, we were ranked in the top 10 in many of the polls throughout the season, and we won the national title.
Coach Knight eventually retired as the winningest coach in NCAA history with 902 wins. His teams won three NCAA titles, 1 NIT championship, and 11 Big Ten conference titles, and he won numerous Coach of the Year awards – those are the accolades most people remember him for. But, I think it’s important to recognize to more stats:
Success in sports is usually defined in wins and losses, awards, titles and rankings. But at Indiana, we were taught that the real win is how you play the game and how you improve your chances for success beyond basketball.
I find our charge as financial planners very similar. Our industry has to pay attention to how we handle clients, improve their chances for success and help them enjoy their retirement in the event of major longevity issues. We have to be more cognizant of the process we use with clients and how we plan.
The DOL rule is meant to protect retirement investors, but it should really be about redefining our practices. The successful planner in a post-fiduciary world will have a process that:
That is not unworkable with a growing, caring and thriving financial services business.
Winning Strategy: Take a page from a legendary coach. Focus on the process and not the results. Redefine how you interact with your clients and make their experience unique. You can win by staying within the rules and focusing on what's important.
Last year, I heard Robbie Bach speak at a carrier meeting. His story stuck with me – it might stick with you, too, and inspire you to change your business model for a post-fiduciary world.
If you’ve never heard of Robbie, he’s the former leader of Microsoft’s Mobile Entertainment and Device division and was responsible for developing and bringing Xbox to the market. The console was eventually a success, but at one point, Robbie thought about resigning. He’d lost nearly $6 billion and was unable to penetrate the Japanese gaming market.
To better fit his market’s wants and desires, Robbie created an interactive, subscription-based business model. For a set price per year, players could not only access Microsoft’s games, but they could also see and hear the other players around the globe via headsets and cameras. No other game allowed that level of interaction before.
The results were outstanding. In a short period of time, Robbie’s division went from billions in losses to a $1 billion profit. Even more impressive was their penetration of the Japanese market – Xbox earned a nearly 10 percent market share when no one had been able to earn more than 1 percent. His tweak in the business model and addition of value created a sustainable growth trajectory for the division.
What’s Your Game Plan?
In the post-fiduciary world, a proper business model will be critical to your success. I think it’s the biggest decision you’ll have to make as you prepare for the move toward a fiduciary-based practice.
You’ll need to either move up market, or become more efficient in your current market. Neither option is right or wrong – you just need to be crystal clear in your decision.
Winning Strategy: Review your business model and make sure it sets you up for success. No model is superior to another, but the model you choose has to be right for you and your clients.
Since Feb. 3, when the president signed a memorandum asking the Department of Labor to review the Fiduciary and Conflicts of Interest Rule, I’ve talked to agents and advisors from around the county. Many feel a great sense of relief that the rule is likely to be delayed – many believe this is the beginning of the end for the rule.
Regardless of a potential delay or revision, I don't believe we can afford to move backward in how we interact with our clients. The fiduciary standard is here to stay – market forces and regulatory agencies already act as if the rule is in effect.
I think it’s vital to prepare for running your office as if you are a fiduciary. While we wait for answers on the DOL, you can set yourself up for success by taking a few key steps:
These are just the beginning steps to prepare for a fiduciary standard – they represent the fundamental building blocks. As planners, we can’t defer our fiduciary responsibility any further. Instead, we should look at this possible delay as an opportunity to refine our practice and enhance our client experience.
Winning Strategy: Take time to prepare for a fiduciary standard. If there is a delay in the DOL rule, you can get your business in a better position for success. Make fiduciary a positive differentiator for you as you look to thrive in our new marketplace.
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is likely to post the proposed delay to the Fiduciary and Conflicts of Interest Rule on the Federal Register. You can read the full 31-page document at www.federalregister.gov. The delay pushes the applicability date to June 9, 2017, which amounts to a 60-day delay to the rule. This is significantly less than what many industry professionals hoped for after President Trump’s memorandum on Feb. 3, 2017.
As the Fiduciary Rule continues to evolve, I want to stress that many aspects of the rule have already been implemented by the marketplace. Firms have created policies and procedures to mitigate the conflicts in their business and supervise best interest standards for clients. Advisors have begun to change their business models to adhere to the new rules. All of these movements are positives for our industry. And, we look forward to continuing to deliver products, services, strategies and solutions to our advisors in a neutral, conflict-free environment.
Looking into an unclear crystal ball, our industry must accept that the rule – in some form – seems to be inevitable. How the rule is supervised and executed will ultimately change the distribution of retirement products forever. I want to encourage all members of the financial services community to stay engaged with their senators and representatives in shaping the DOL rule. Ultimately, I believe a legislative fiduciary standard is the best outcome to unify the standard across all distribution channels and geographic markets. The standard must work with NAIC regulations that govern fixed and indexed annuities, while outlining a centralized regulator to hold all professionals accountable.
Ash Brokerage continues to prepare for the Fiduciary and Conflicts of Interest Rule. As we inch closer to a resolution, we will work with our independent agents to make sure they have an avenue with the least amount of disruption to their business. For our registered representatives and RIAs, we are prepared to support and assist you in the transition to a new environment. Our tools, research and expertise working in an agnostic sales organization provide the necessary support for success in the future. We look forward to partnering with firms and advisors looking to prepare and thrive in the new world of delivering retirement products and services to so many Americans who need our advice.
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.