The unprecedented wave of uncertainty we are all living through as America grapples with the coronavirus pandemic – including temporary business closures, job losses and severe market volatility – has highlighted the incredibly important role independent financial advisors play in the lives of their clients.
During times like these, investors who may have spent decades saving and preparing for retirement need a financial professional’s steady voice to reassure them as they navigate the economic downturn, and to help them get back on track when the country emerges from this challenging time. Younger investors, whether they’re established professionals themselves or just starting in their careers, need clear guidance and partnership as well.
Independent financial advisors – many of whom have powerful experience in navigating turbulent times after guiding clients through the 2008 financial crisis – are the ideal professionals to serve in this vital and heroic capacity today.
For all these reasons, we have one message for legislators and regulators, both in the states and at the federal level: Now more than ever, we must not lose sight of the importance of protecting investors’ access to financial advice.
One crucial element of preserving this access is ensuring that states recognize financial services as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, consistent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidance. We have reached out to the nation’s governors urging that any “stay-at- home” orders reflect the federal guidance and do not impede essential capital market functions. This will help advisors and their teams perform the limited – but highly important – client service functions that only can be completed on-site at their offices.
At the national level, the following are some of the key initiatives we are focused on to help preserve access at this difficult time:
1. Ensuring the success of Regulation Best Interest.
We cannot overstate how vital it is to have a clear, strong and consistent set of guidelines for all financial services firms and advisors. The disclosure and conflict mitigation measures in the SEC’s new Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) represent a major step forward in reducing confusion and strengthening protections for investors while also enabling them to continue to receive guidance according to the business model that works best for them.
We have committed significant resources to ensuring that our member firms are positioned to successfully implement and comply with Reg BI, including our recurring Reg BI Workshops at various member events.
In light of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, we believe the best way to keep financial firms and advisors on track for the most successful possible transition into the Reg BI era is for the SEC to provide our industry with temporary regulatory relief. We are in dialogue with regulators to determine the concrete measures that will most effectively accomplish this crucial goal.