May 16, 2011

Fiduciary Advocates: Call Out SIFMA and NAIFA

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I have a suggestion for the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard, the Consumer Federation of America, the Institute for Investment Advisors, the Financial Planning Coalition and all the other advocates of a fiduciary standard for everyone who provides investment advice: Why don’t you all pool your resources to take out full page advertisements in the Wall Street Journal, Money magazine, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other major newspapers calling out the securities and insurance industries for their lame resistance to a broker fiduciary standard?

What I’m talking about is a series of ads that would feature the most egregious statements by SIFMA and NAIFA as to why a fiduciary duty is a bad idea, including, but not limited to: increased costs, decreased investor choice, reduced access to advice, and the potential liability. I envision simple, clean-looking ads, with only two statements in large, bold print that would go something like this:

“The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors recently stated that if its member brokers were subjected to a fiduciary standard requiring them to act in the best interest of their clients, the cost of their advice would go way up.”

“Is this who you want to trust with your family’s financial future?”

Alternately, it could read:

“The Securities Industry and Financial Marketing Association says that if brokers are required to put their clients’ interest first, investors would lose the right to choose.”

“Would you choose a broker who doesn’t have to act in your best interest?”

Thanks to the myriad statements by both organizations over the past two years, the list of revealing statements could go on and on. But I doubt it would take long for financial consumers to get the point: The SEC and Congress may listen to these shameful excuses, but the investing public would see them for what they are in a heartbeat.

I suppose this project would be a particularly good idea for the CFP Board: rather than a $9 million ad campaign to sign up more CFPs, perhaps they could pry loose a few bucks to tell folks why they may not get financial advisors who have to act in their best interests. Who knows, maybe that would even drive more clients toward existing CFPs, which would be the ultimate recruiting program.

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