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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement > IRAs

Capital One to End Commissions in Advised IRAs

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Capital One Investing said Wednesday it is moving to a fee-only model for advised retirement accounts. Commissions within these IRAs will be eliminated by April 10, when the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule is set to become effective.

“We’re focused on building a business that puts our clients’ interests first, and embracing commission-free retirement accounts was a natural decision for us,” said Yvette Butler, president of Capital One Investing, in a statement. “We’re committed to providing today’s investors a goals-based investment planning experience, while striving to take an open and transparent approach to pricing and empowering investors to plan for the future on their terms.”

Earlier this year the brokerage firm introduced Advisor Connect, a phone-based service for clients seeking financial advice, and Fund Evaluator, a digital tool to help investors pick which funds sold on Capital One’s online platform are best for them.

“Many investors lack confidence and trust, which can prompt them to sit on the sidelines. In fact, our recent … survey found 41% percent of investors say a lack of transparency in pricing causes them to lack confidence,” explained Butler. “We’re hopeful this level-fee pricing model will empower our customers to be more confident investors.”

The firm declined to release the numbers of advisors that work in its branches or on the phone with clients. It got into the brokerage business iin 2012 through a deal with ING and now has more than $25 billion in client assets under management, according to a report from Financial Advisor IQ.

Other Firms’ Stance

Capital One’s announcement follows similar moves by other brokerage firms.

For instance, less than a month after telling its advisors that it would not offer new advised, or commission-based, brokerage retirement accounts starting in April 2017, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said Nov. 2 that effective immediately purchases of mutual funds in existing IRA accounts are no longer allowed.

Mutual funds can be bought in Merrill Lynch Investment Advisory Program accounts and non-retirement brokerage accounts. For advisors, the shift means that commissions tied to mutual-fund sales in brokerage retirement accounts will no longer be part of their compensation plans.

(Related: The BICE Is Not a DOL Fiduciary Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card)

“We are implementing this decision in advance of the DOL rule’s applicability date, to ensure as seamless and positive experience for our clients and advisors as possible,” the firm explained.

According to Merrill, clients looking for alternatives to commission-based funds in their IRAs can turn to the firm’s Investment Advisory Program (IAP), Merrill Edge Select Portfolios, the Merrill Edge self-directed channel and Merrill Edge Guided Investing (beginning in January). “Each of these offerings will be augmented on an ongoing basis to ensure choice for our clients,” it said.

Commonwealth Financial Network said in late-October it will no longer offer commission-based products in retirement plans as of Dec. 31, 2016.

Moving in a different direction, Cambridge Investment Research has said it will continue to offer commission-based retirement accounts after the new DOL fiduciary rule goes into effect next year. The other firms that made this announcement recently include Raymond James Financial (RJF), Ameriprise Financial (AMP), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Cetera Financial Group.

The Fairfield, Iowa-based broker-dealer, which has some 3,000 affiliated advisors, says it plans to apply the Best Interest Contract provision announced by the DOL for some commission-based accounts, while the discretionary advisory business will be supported through level fee platforms.

Commission-based retirement accounts will be acceptable at Cambridge, however the commissions must be “levelized by each pre-defined investment category so that all similar investment options have the same compensation structure,” according to the independent broker-dealer.

“We think every firm should have a unique value proposition while serving the best interests of the investing clients. Serving the needs of the client must clearly be the highest priority, along with observing regulatory requirements …,” said President Amy Webber, in a statement.

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