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Clark Strikes Another Nerve

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Bob Clark’s latest, and not-so-greatest, column (“Genius, Pure Genius,” August 2007) missed the point the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) made concerning the results of a survey of consumers about a fiduciary standard.

Since 1983, NAPFA has been a vocal advocate for a fiduciary standard in the industry. We have long contended that if consumers are educated on what a fiduciary standard is and how it can provide protection, they would naturally decide to work with an advisor held to this high standard. This is the very point Bob missed.

The survey proved our point: 97% of consumers stated they would choose an advisor held to a fiduciary standard over one who is not. Bob says that our survey further complicates things for investors, while the court decision to overturn the “Merrill Rule” has “further pulled back the curtain on the charade.”

In fact, NAPFA’s work both anticipated and complements the court’s ruling. For more than 20 years, NAPFA has been at the place the court finally reached. And NAPFA remains committed to pulling back the curtain.

The lack of a broad-based fiduciary standard is the problem. It’s the reason consumers are so dismayed and confused by the financial industry. Not NAPFA.

Bob Clark has been an insightful chronicler of the financial services industry for a long time. But recently his grasp of the facts has been less than thorough.

Ellen Turf , CEO


Who says they’re the good guys?

I must take exception to Bob Clark’s comment on his discussion of the misleading NAPFA survey about fiduciaries, he states: “First, they are the good guys.” On the contrary, they are nothing of the sort. They are no different from any group that targets the rich for their incomes. There is nothing wrong with making money from the rich, but when it is to the exclusion of the economic middle class or below, they are no better than any other group of salespeople.

Years ago I read about how NAPFA planners charge $2500 or more for financial plans and then charge additional fees for service or collect fees for asset under management (AUM). This told me that they discriminated against the middle class. In my 20 years in the industry, I have yet to meet anyone who was willing to pay such fees for financial plans. When NAPFA members create a reputation for being willing to solve the problems of people who can only afford an annual IRA or can only contribute $100/month toward the college expenses of their kids, then, they’ll be the good guys.

Until then, they’re just gold diggers like everyone else.

Hans Beerbaum, President

Beerbaum & Beerbaum, Financial

Petaluma, California

In Favor of Full Disclosure

I just finished your “Genius, Pure Genius” article and loved it. I’ve had discussions with clients on similar issues–by the way, I actually explain to my clients how I get paid, and show how “ no commission” C shares are actually far more costly for long-term investors (than front-end commission A shares.

I wonder how many NAPFA members do actual needs based calculations to determine the rate of return needed for a client to achieve her goals, and whether such calculations, including assumptions, are provided to the client and kept in a client file for future reference.

Ilene Davis

Cocoa, Florida


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