On March 10, Commonwealth Financial said its 500 staff members, 1,400-plus advisors and their clients can do more philanthropically in their communities through the independent broker-dealer’s new 501(c)3 charitable foundation, Commonwealth Cares.
And on April 1,Commonwealth Financial advisors can take advantage of new pricing and payouts associated with the independent broker-dealer’s fee-based asset-management platform, known as Preferred Portfolio Services, or PPS. For advisors with more than $25 million in fee-based assets, equity and ETF ticket charges would drop to $7.95 from $16.
Payouts – which are linear — increase to 94% from 92% for those with assets above $50 million and up to $100 million, to 96% from 94% for FAs with assets from $200 million to $250 million, and to 98% from 95% for those advisors with more than $500 million in AUM.
AdvisorOne spoke with Commonwealth Financial CEO Wayne Bloom about these and other developments.
Q. What prompted the recent changes to ticket charges and payouts?
A. Making improvements in ticket charges and payouts to advisors has been our main thrust since 1996, and this is the eighth time we have made adjustments. It’s important for us to do so for advisors and as part of the competitive environment.
In terms of the ticket charges, the financial advisors and their clients benefit from lower costs, which they always appreciate. These moves enhance the relationships between advisors and their clients, who may have wondered why their ticket charges were higher than some charges they see advertised elsewhere.
As for the payout changes, this is about us reinvesting our collective success. We reinvest profits in their business, and advisors can then advertise and improve their service model.
We have about 2,400 non-transaction-fee (or NTF) funds and also offer roughly 3,000 core funds with low transaction fees.
We are aggressively expanding our no-trading-fee program for our funds. Advisors do not want to deal with costs, and we don’t blame them. We’ve had great success doing this, and our advisors are highly regarded.
Just to add a bit more about our increasing payouts, we want to do all we can to share the economies of scale with those who most help us achieve this – meaning up to 98% vs. lower rates at our rivals, who tier their payouts based on, say, the first $10 million or $50 million, which means that the average payout for an advisor is lower than their highest payout rate.
Q. The competition for good RIAs has become very intense. How is this affecting Commonwealth?
A. Everyone values the great fee-based, recurring revenue advisor. This is very powerful from a business perspective, whether you’re an RIA custodian, a broker-dealer, an information-technology provider or another type of firm.
We have to be mindful and competitive with all of them, as the landscape is changing and changing fast.
Our value proposition is as an outsourcer of practice management, IT, communications, wealth management and other services. We have 504 employees for more than 1,400 advisors.
This is a great service model for our successful fee-based advisors. We are highly aggressive in our support, as well as in our payout enhancements.
Also, it’s worth noting that the advantage for RIAs to do all the back-office work on their own is no longer there.
Q. What types of firms do you see as your greatest competitive threat?
A. We look at other quality broker-dealers and RIA custodians, who are getting very aggressive. Now, some of these firms reach out and even call me about certain advisors. Thus, the marketplace is becoming more transparent. That is good and raises the whole industry up.
The independent-advice model has been more than validated, and it’s now up to the advisor to decide how to best be positioned within it. We try to accommodate them, no matter what they do.
Q. What is Commonwealth's view of developments affecting the fiduciary standard?
A. We are pretty well positioned, given the high percentage of fee-based business that our advisors do. Almost 60% of our revenues is derived from fees, and 70% of recurring-revenue income is derived from fees.