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Most Advisors Don’t ‘Fully Understand’ DOL Fiduciary Rule: Eaton Vance

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What is advisors’ level of understanding of the Department of Labor’s proposed draft rule to expand the definition of fiduciary?

Eaton Vance’s quarterly Advisor Top-of-Mind Index survey of 1,001 financial advisors asked just that question and found there’s still a good portion of advisors who don’t fully understand the DOL fiduciary rule.

According to its survey results released on Tuesday, 29% of advisors say they “fully understand the proposed changes and the impact to their business.”

Meanwhile, 63% say they had a medium level of understanding about the proposed changes and its impact, and 8% said they did not understand the proposed changes.

“I’m enthused that they’re aware. It’s a great base to work on,” John Moninger, managing director at Eaton Vance, said during a visit to ThinkAdvisor’s New York office. “There will be an enormous educational effort for the industry to try to understand and make sense of – in rather a short window of time – what to do.”

Currently the DOL’s fiduciary rule sits in the Office of Management and Budget for its mandatory review, which means the DOL could issue the rule before April. (There are bills proposed by both House of Representatives and Senate members that aim to kill the DOL’s fiduciary rule before that happens.)

“[The DOL’s fiduciary rule is] top of the list for every firm we’re talking to. It’s big,” Moninger said. “People are awakening to ‘It’s coming.’ Something’s coming.”

Moninger said Eaton Vance has already started making an effort toward educating advisors.

“We’ve been working with our broker-dealer clients closely in advance of what’s going on to help prepare, within the firm’s pace,” he said.

As part of its education efforts, the firm has partnered with Andy Friedman and Jeff Bush of The Washington Update.

The firm’s Advisor Institute has also started focusing on the conversations advisors should be thinking about having with investors regarding the fiduciary rule.

“How do we have this conversation with an investor about these new things we’re going to have to deal with?” Moninger said. “We’re beginning to arm ourselves with that.”

Moninger said it will be “fascinating” to watch how advisors deal with the fiduciary rule.

“Everyone’s got a whole different concept on how this thing’s going to play out. What it means. What they’re believing,” he added. “That’s what’s going to make it a bit hard for the industry to digest is that unless the DOL comes out with a very clear, specific guidance this could be very difficult. I don’t care how stringent they are, if it’s not clear it’s going be problematic. It could be stringent, it could be hard, it could be painful, it could be all those things, but if it’s not clear we’re going to have some challenges.”

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