"Exploratory meetings" are underway between the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Financial Planning Association and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors to establish "appropriate standards of conduct for the financial planning profession," the three groups announced jointly last month.
"We're looking at it as an opportunity to be part of the solution for updating and potentially creating new regulation to protect consumers," says Diahann Lassus, chair of NAPFA's board of directors and president of Lassus Wherley, a wealth management firm in New Providence, N.J. This may be the perfect time for these groups to join forces and actually influence new law. "We know regulatory reform is going to happen based on all the dysfunctional things that have taken place so...if there's ever been a time in history where we may be able to really have an impact--it's now," she says.
But it won't be easy to hammer out an agreement among these industry groups--let alone pass the regulations that would actually be helpful for investors and (real) advisors alike; there are diverse political agendas at work here. Perhaps the current crisis is the catalyst for new, more workable regulation of advisory services. Lassus asserts: "Let's...look at smart regulation for financial planners; let's look at ways that we can really help enhance consumer protection because we know there are a lot of things that are going to happen, and sometimes those are knee-jerk reactions to what has taken place in the markets." --Kathleen M. McBride
At Fidelity, Time is Money
After 18 months--and an investment of $50 million--in development, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services has launched Fidelity WealthCentral, a multi-custodial, Web-based integrated wealth management platform that promises to increase profitability by improving technology management and data reconciliation.
According to EVP Scott Dell'Orfano, acting head of Fidelity Institutional, the Moss Adams "2008 Financial Performance of Advisory Firms" study found that RIA firms that have integrated one or more technology functions generate 30% more pre-tax income per owner and 36% more revenue per professional.
Early last month, Fidelity rolled out the new platform to 25 of its 3,500 affiliated investment advisors. By year-end, the major RIA custodian expects to have 1,000 advisors using WealthCentral, which brings together Advent's APX portfolio management, a customized version of Oracle's CRM On Demand customer management, Emerging Information System's NaviPlan C financial planning application, and portfolio rebalancing from Northfield Information Services--all integrated with Fidelity's account servicing and trading platform. According to Ed O'Brien, Fidelity Institutional SVP for technology, users can expect yet another efficiency measure this year: e-signature technology in place of a "wet signature," enabling asset transfers to be initiated "within minutes, rather than days," O'Brien said."--James J. Green
Advisors attending TD AMERITRADE's national conference in Las Vegas next month (Feb. 4-7) can demo the custodian's new UMA program using Placemark Investments' overlay portfolio management. The program, which includes a robust product roster and Web-based tools including rebalancing and cash management functions, will officially launch in the early part of the year.--Nancy R. Mandell