DOL Rule Casualty: Commonwealth Drops Commission Retirement Products

Indie BD says the decision was ‘challenging,’ though it makes less than 10% of revenue from commissions on these accounts

Another broker-dealer exits the world of commissions. Another broker-dealer exits the world of commissions.

Commonwealth Financial Network said Monday that due to the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, the privately held independent broker-dealer/RIA will stop offering commission-based products in IRAs and qualified plans as of April 10, 2017.

While the decision was “challenging,” Commonwealth says, the indie BD believes in giving its 1,700 affiliated advisors the “choice and the freedom to craft their businesses in the way that allows them to best serve” their clients.

Commonwealth is home to the independent channel’s highest-producing fee-based advisors, with less than 10% of Commonwealth’s revenue being derived from commissions on retirement accounts.

The indie BD has approximately $70 million in upfront commission retirement business, primarily in mutual funds and annuities, and $64 billion in fee-based assets as of Sept. 30.

“We feel strongly that our decision to cease offering commission-based products in retirement accounts positions Commonwealth and our network of advisors, as well as investors, advantageously for the future,” the Waltham, Massachusetts-based IBD explained in its statement.

The new policy kicks in on the DOL fiduciary rule’s effective date, so “there is ample opportunity for 2016 tax-year contributions to be made on either a commission or a fee basis,” it adds.

“Although we have taken this step in relation to retirement accounts, we continue to believe that a commission-based approach remains an attractive and appropriate option for many investors—and thus we will continue supporting that option for non-retirement accounts,” Commonwealth stated.

Commonwealth joins the league of those broker-dealers making changes to their businesses in light of DOL’s fiduciary rule. For instance, Merrill Lynch said on Oct. 7 that beginning in April, the Bank of America-owned wirehouse -- which has some 14,500 employee advisors -- will cease offering new advised, or commission-based, brokerage IRA accounts.

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