In the nine years that Investment Advisor has published the IA 25, our editors’ judgment as to the 25 most influential people in and around the advisor community, we’ve never ranked the 25 in the order of their importance. This year, however, it would be hard to argue with the choice of Mary Schapiro as the most influential person in the professional lives of advisors. The SEC Chairman has stood at the center of implementing the most wide-ranging legislation to affect the financial services world since, possibly, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Schapiro has also found herself in a political tug of war between those who believe the SEC should get the additional funding she and many others has said is necessary to implement 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act, and those who argue that the Act is flawed and should be modified if not repealed, and that the SEC itself is flawed.
In the pages that follow we present for your consideration 24 other notables who have influenced and will continue to influence the advisor community and the investing, practice management, technology and regulation universe in which advisors operate. But the decisions Mary Schapiro makes, the leadership she exhibits, is likely to affect advisors more than any other member of our list.
In an exclusive interview on April 6, Mary Schapiro spoke to Investment Advisor Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell.
If anyone knows how to handle being on the hot seat, it’s Mary Schapiro. During her little more than two years as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Schapiro has not only been grilled numerous times by members of Congress on the agency’s mishandling of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and how she continues to transform the SEC post-Madoff, but she’s also had to justify to lawmakers why the securities regulator needs more funds to do its basic job of policing Wall Street and implementing a substantial amount of rulemakings under Dodd-Frank.
In an interview with Investment Advisor in early April, as the federal budget debate on Capitol Hill raged, Schapiro said that “it’s hard to be too specific about how investors in the market will be most affected by cuts in [the SEC’s] funding, because it really does depend on how deep the cuts are.” The SEC, she continued, “will have to make very difficult choices if the cuts are deep about what priorities we can continue to support and which of our activities, while still very important, are just ones we’re not able to support without additional resources.”
The SEC, which is still subject to annual appropriations from Congress, did get a $74 million budget boost under the FY2011 CR, but it left the agency still shy of the funds it was allotted under Dodd-Frank. Without being awarded additional funds, Schapiro said, “it would be extremely difficult, virtually impossible, for us to do any hedge fund oversight or OTC [over-the-counter] derivatives rule operationalizing,” which are both mandates under Dodd-Frank.
But a bigger worry for Schapiro is that lack of funds could compromise the SEC’s ability to detect another Madoff-type fraud. The SEC has “done so much in the last two years to reform the way the agency operates and to help ensure that an episode like [Madoff] never happens again,” she said. “While no regulator can ever say it will catch every fraud, we have accomplished much to help reduce the likelihood of a fraud going undetected.” However, “much of this [continued oversight of Wall Street] requires resources, and we would be hindered if we don’t have the funds to hire examiners or update our technology to analyze trading patterns.”
When Schapiro spoke with Investment Advisor in April 2010, she was in the midst of pressing Congress to grant the SEC the legislative authority to put brokers under the same fiduciary standard as advisors. But Schapiro said in her April 2011 interview that a proposed rule on fiduciary duty won’t come “until the second half of this year,” as the SEC must first “plow through” a number of rulemakings that have “strict” deadlines under Dodd-Frank.
Schapiro said she and a cross-divisional task force at the agency are now meeting with “interested parties to hear their views about the [fiduciary] study” that the SEC conducted under Section 913 of Dodd-Frank. “A number of people want to weigh in with us about that” study, she said. The SEC, she continued, is gauging “their perspective also about the practical limitation issues” involved with a universal fiduciary duty, as well as the issues “around the enhanced [broker-dealer and investment advisor] harmonization analysis that was proffered in the study.”
While much of the attention regarding the Section 913 study has focused on its findings regarding fiduciary duty “because that’s the more monumental of the issues,” Schapiro said, “there is also a lot of interest in the second issue [harmonization].”
When asked how the SEC is weighing a recent letter from Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee urging the agency to conduct a more rigorous cost-benefit analysis on a fiduciary mandate for brokers, Schapiro replied that while she’s said previously that the agency “will cast a wide net for views on how we should approach issues” regarding the Commission’s rulemakings, specifically in regards to Dodd-Frank, the letter hasn’t “changed anything.”
While Schapiro reiterated that Dodd-Frank is clear in stating that any fiduciary duty rule for brokers “can be no less stringent than the duty under the Investment Advisers Act,” more than once during the interview with Investment Advisor she used the caveat, “if the Commission proceeds with discretionary rulemaking” regarding a fiduciary duty. When asked if she believed a fiduciary rulemaking would have the support of a majority of the SEC Commissioners, Schapiro replied: “I don’t know. It depends on what it [the rule] looks like.”
Read the extended exclusive interview with Mary Schapiro here.
If Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., had his way, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that the law created, would not exist.
After being chosen last December to serve as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, replacing Rep. Barney Frank—the Massachusetts Democrat and one of the authors of Dodd-Frank with whom Bachus shared numerous barbs during the conference debate on the legislation—Bachus pledged that in overseeing implementation of Dodd-Frank, his Committee would be “committed to going title by title through the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act to correct, replace, or repeal” provisions of the new law.
Since officially taking helm in January, Bachus and other GOP members of the Committee have wasted little time in their attempts to starve and water down Dodd-Frank. Depending on who you ask, this could be a good thing or a bad thing.—MW
Read Spencer Bachus’ extended profile here.
Dale Brown’s been so effective managing the Financial Services Institute that he now has to figure out how to manage its growth.
It’s a critical time for the organization. Having just celebrated its fifth anniversary, it’s had a major say in recent legislation, most notably Dodd-Frank financial reform.
“We have our fingerprints all over that one,” Brown says. “We didn’t get everything we wanted, obviously, but then again no one did. But we had a significant seat at the table, and we were able to help influence its outcome.”
“The status quo will not stand, and now is the time to take action on a solution,” Brown added.
Amen—and on to the next five years.—JS
Read Dale Brown’s extended profile here.
When you think of retirement research, Olivia Mitchell immediately comes to mind.
Mitchell is an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans professor, department chair and professor of insurance and risk management, executive director of the Pension Research Council, and director of the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Research at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Her focus of late has been on women and retirement, an area where women have a serious problem, Mitchell says. They have a disturbing lack of financial literacy. While people in general are far less financially literate than they think, she says, women lag behind men in terms of understanding not just complex financial concepts, but also simpler ones. They fail to plan for retirement, despite their longer life spans and the fact that they are far more likely to end their lives alone.—MS, JS
Read Olivia Mitchell’s extended profile here.
In the wake of Dodd-Frank’s passage, questions over who will have regulatory oversight over what (when all is said and done) are everywhere at the moment, and Richard “Rick” Ketchum is in the thick of them. Ketchum, chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is being praised by industry leaders for the forthright manner with which he’s trying to get answers.
“We don’t think a requirement exists that there should only be one industry SRO,” Ketchum says. “Any group of professionals should be able to get together and form an SRO if they want to. That said, we feel FINRA is suited to the role because we have the experience overseeing broker-dealers and their affiliated reps. We have the infrastructure, capability and an understanding of the wide range of business models that exist in this area of the industry.”—JS
Read Richard Ketchum’s extended profile here.
Not content to rest on his laurels as MFS Investment Management chairman emeritus, Bob Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Before his tenure at MFS, Pozen was vice chairman of Fidelity Investments and president of Fidelity Management & Research Co.
The mutual funds guru is serious when discussing retirement issues such as target-date funds and Social Security.
“I think that target-date funds are inferior to balanced funds,” he said in the interview, when considering how employers must provide a default option now that companies are automatically enrolling employees in retirement funds.—JH
Read Robert Pozen’s extended profile here.
Tom Bradley deserves to be on the IA 25 by dint of his longevity running a major custodian while his key competitors have seen multiple guys and gals at the top; by his refreshing willingness to speak out on multiple areas of interest to advisors; by his long, consistent advocacy of a fiduciary standard for advice givers; and by the way he’s grown TD Ameritrade Institutional to become a major player in the custodial space, especially when it comes to its technology platform and its practice management offerings. Advisors know where Bradley stands, and that he stands up for them.
The last time Bradley was on the list, 2009, we quoted him as saying he’d like regulators to “understand the difference between someone who sells a product to individuals and institutions who know they’re talking to a salesperson, and those who operate under a fiduciary standard to that individual and institution.” When asked in an April interview if he thought regulators now get that difference, Bradley said “the regulators and lawmakers are starting to understand” a development pushed by the move to “harmonize” RIA and BD regulations. “Now they’re realizing this is harder than they thought. How can you turn a salesperson into a fiduciary?” Ever the advocate, but also a realist, Bradley says that while much has changed in his 25 years in the business, one thing hasn’t: “The RIA community has always been focused on putting the clients first.” But he also notes that “there’s a reason for two models; we should preserve choice.”
How to preserve choice, then, while putting clients first? “Separate sales and advice services from each other.” Will it happen? Will the wirehouses split the sales and advice components of their offerings? “If our lawmakers say that they have to do that, they can adjust their models. You’re seeing signs of that already—many have RIA umbrellas.”
TD Ameritrade Institutional has “gotten good at looking ahead,” says Bradley, when it comes to serving its RIAs, citing moves like its acquisition of iRebal and thinkorswim, and its still-young platform of “100 free ETFs, picked by a third party,” referring to its 2010 rollout of 100 commission-free ETFs chosen by Morningstar. “Not one of those 100 ETFs has a name that starts with ‘TD Ameritrade,’ he proudly points out. At press time, Bradley was also proud of a new iPad app for working with TDA’s Veo platform. The use of iPads by advisors is not only on the upswing, but “will change the way they interface with clients.” But beyond the specific application, Bradley is excited by TDA’s Apple computer-like approach to apps: Rather than wait for TD to build apps, third-party providers—and advisors themselves, if they wish—can create advisor-specific applications using the API interface for building applications.
On the advocacy front, Bradley would like to see a more consistent approach on how the SEC conducts examinations of RIAs, and believes there should be more transparency around “the qualifications and training of the examiners.” He’d prefer to see the examination process “run like a business,” and in fact would like to see the SEC itself become more efficient. “I’m not sure we should just be throwing dollars” at the SEC to improve, calling again for more transparency at the Commission.—JG
Click hereto watch AdvisorOne Wealth Editor in Chief Kathleen McBride interview Tom Bradley on fiduciary duty, the separation of sales and advice and RIA oversight.
Read Tom Bradley’s extended profile here.
As the founder, CEO, and chief investment officer of Fisher Investments, Ken Fisher is known for his investment savvy. But Fisher is well known for building his firm into a powerhouse RIA with $44 billion in assets under management.
Fisher has built the privately held firm by doing well for clients, to be sure, but there are other elements to Fisher’s success that smaller independent firms may learn from.
How do clients know about the independent when larger broker-dealers have the advantage of scale and advertising? There are, says Fisher, “only so many levers you can pull. [What] the little guy can do as he or she grows, is provide focused service, which the wirehouse broker really can’t. The wirehouse broker is a salesperson—not really a service person.”—KM
Read Ken Fisher’s extended profile here.
Besides being at the helm of the world’s largest bond fund, Mohamed El-Erian, PIMCO’s CEO and co-chief investment officer, has become the go-to guy for deciphering what the upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa means for the global economic environment.
What looms as a major threat for the global economy, El-Erian said, is that the disruptions in the Middle East “spread to other oil exporting countries, resulting in a further spike in oil prices and an even larger uncertainty premium.” Long-term stability “requires that governments respond […] in an orderly, timely and sustained manner.”
Investors’ portfolios, El-Erian advised, should be positioned to “navigate a tug of war that will play out over the next few quarters.”—MW
Read Mohamed El-Erian’s extended profile here.
“It’s Groundhog Day in the industry,” says Mark Tibergien, where “we are fundamentally dealing with a collection of small businesses who are continually conflicted between growing and managing their businesses, and growing and serving their clients.” As has been the case for years with independent advisors, the provision of advice, he says, “prevails over the fundamentals of building a true enterprise.”
Most advisors “can build a plan and work clients through the process, but the idea of applying that [same approach] to your business is abhorrent.” Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions, remains optimistic, however. “The good news is that it’s a terrific business, and those enterprises that are built to endure through difficult environments and can achieve scale are in a great position to flourish.”—JG
Read Mark Tibergien’s extended profile here.
To be counted among the most successful firms, advisors have to focus on understanding and building enterprise value. It’s a trend that Julie Littlechild, president of Advisor Impact, is already seeing take shape.
Littlechild founded Advisor Impact in 1998, and since then has worked with financial services firms to provide research on how to improve productivity and profitability through client engagement.
With an emphasis on growth, advisors are recognizing their faults, previously hid by a good economy.
“We’re seeing many of the most successful businesses taking a more proactive approach to positioning for referrals, recognizing they are not maximizing their referral potential,” Littlechild notes.—DA
Read Julie Littlechild’s extended profile here.
Bruce Berkowitz is the man(ager) of the moment. His Fairholme Fund has performed so well he was named domestic stock fund manager of the decade by Morningstar in 2010. However, despite the accolades, Berkowitz’s Bill Miller-style missteps may already have begun.
“This year, his performance is actually at the bottom of his peer group,” says Morningstar analyst Kevin McDevitt. “And his overall performance has significantly lagged over the past 12 months.”
But McDevitt is quick to note that Berkowitz’s contrarian view and unconventional approach means he will have periods of underperformance, and says that when you look at his calendar returns, his underperformance has been rare. “The last time it happened was in 2003.”—JS
Read Bruce Berkowitz’s extended profile here.