Fiduciary duty - does your financial advisor work in your best interest?

By J. Saunders Wiggins, CFP®, AIF®

J. Saunders Wiggins, CFP®, AIF®

J. Saunders Wiggins, CFP®, AIF® CEO/President

There has been a lot of buzz about the proposed Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule, its importance and implications.  Today, the DOL issued rules that would require any person who gives investment advice to retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k) plans and other ERISA plans)  to act in a fiduciary capacity.  This seems trivial, but here is why it matters.

The investment industry is split into two major types of providers: brokers/agents and investment advisors.

Brokers and agents work for either a brokerage firm (most of the banks as well as many other firms are brokerages) while agents typically are associated with an insurance firm.  They get paid through commissions for selling a financial product.  For example, John works for Big National Bank Wealth Management.  John only has to do what is suitable for his clients.  Therefore, John looks to buy investments that have good commissions for him.  As was the case with Susan Bernardo, this could cost you a lot of money!

Investment advisors work for a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm.  RIAs and their investment advisors are fiduciaries.  They must do what’s in their clients’ best interest.  ACG Advisory Services is an RIA.  As a result, we get paid by our clients through fees.  There is no conflict to sell a product with a hefty commission.

Being an RIA doesn’t guarantee better performance or results, but it does give clients the peace of mind that advice is not conflicted.  We often see that clients who work with brokers or agents never see or know how much in commissions they are paying.  Additionally, getting portfolio performance is a rarity.  So how do you measure the value of your broker or agent?

ACG Advisory Services has always operated as a fiduciary and put client interest first.  Additionally, we operate with full fee transparency and provide periodic performance reports to our clients.  We will follow up with a more detailed report on the DOL rule shortly.