July 18, 2010

RBC Index: Financial Reform Bill Stirs Mixed Emotions in Consumers

More than 40%, though, expect a positive impact on economy and stability

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According to the RBC U.S. Consumer Outlook Index released Thursday, July 15, financial services reform is already having an impact on the confidence of consumers familiar with the legislation, which the Senate passed Thursday. While two thirds of Americans--those who say they are not well versed in its provisions--are not confident enough to offer an opinion, four out of ten respondents who consider themselves informed on the subject expect the final bill to have a positive impact on both the economy (41%) and the stability of the U.S. financial system (42%).

While there are worries that the measures will have a negative effect on Wall Street's profits (41%), 30% feel that the opposite will occur. Feelings also run slightly stronger that they will negatively, rather than positively, affect Main Street, though the margin is smaller (36% vs. 31%). And 29% expect a negative effect on their own spending habits, compared with 26% who feel the outcome will affect them positively.

Marc Harris, co-head of Global Research at RBC Capital Markets, theorizes in the outlook that perhaps they have not yet assimilated the potential effects of the bill on their own wallets. He adds, "Americans are very cautious about making any changes in their own spending habits as they continue to expect a bumpy, drawn-out recovery."

Consumer confidence is still dropping, down 11 points in the RBC Consumer Index from 58.4 in June to 47.2; those close to someone who has lost a job have risen, up three points to 48% and ending a five-month downward trend. One-third are now worried about layoffs within their own households, up from 28% in June.

Near-term, most (55%) feel their finances are stable and debt levels will remain the same (50%); over the next three months, however, 44% expect the economy to deteriorate further over the next three months, and 30% anticipate a worsening in their own and U.S. finances over the next year. Concern about investing in the stock market in the next 30 days has dropped from 43% to 34%, and real estate was seen in a marginally more positive light (29% in June to 31% in July).

Read more about the financial reform bill: marketplace winners and losers; impact on advisors, broker/dealers, and banks; the fiduciary standard for brokers; and the history of financial reform.

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