The recent fiduciary regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor is something that’s near—but not dear—to the hearts of broker-dealers and their financial advisors. Folks in the industry are still sifting through the rules and figuring out how to navigate this brave new world, so it’s no surprise there was a full house during a panel discussion on the topic on Tuesday at Pershing LLC’s INSITE 2016 conference in Orlando.
“This is the single largest regulatory impact ever in our industry,” said Mike Partnow, a director at Pershing, the wealth management industry custodian and subsidiary of BNY Mellon. “This is a game changer, where 50 percent of your business on average will be impacted.”
Partnow and two of his Pershing colleagues spent more than an hour discussing the ins and outs of the DOL’s controversial fiduciary rulemaking regarding advice for retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). A large part of the discussion focused on the best interest contract (BIC) exemption that broker-dealers need to have in place in order to conduct some of their existing business activities.
An important consideration concerning these BICs is that they up the regulatory ante.
For example, the contracts broker-dealers currently have with investors go to arbitration if any issues arise. Under a BIC, the DOL will open them up to potential class-action lawsuits, so there’s greater liability risk for broker-dealers, said Danielle Gordon, a vice president in Pershing’s financial solutions group.
“Everyone is taking a harder look at how they’re training and educating advisors, what the contract language will be, and to make sure everybody understands the true spirit of the regulation, which is helping the investor,” she said.
Gordon noted the DOL has specified certain things must be incorporated into a BIC, but each firm will be responsible for customizing the language of the contract.
Meanwhile, broker-dealers will need to take different approaches between how they handle new and existing accounts under the new DOL rules.
“There are some grandfathering clauses within the DOL regulation,” Gordon said. “But I think it’s important that broker-dealers and advisors recognize that going forward doing new business will be a different process,” she said.
The session panelists noted that some broker-dealer firms are afraid of the BIC exemption and how it will affect compensation. Steven Wachtel, also a vice president in Pershing’s financial solutions group, noted that under the DOL conflict of interest rule simply disclosing conflicts regarding compensation won’t solve the conflict.