In the fallout over the final version of the Department of Labor’s sweeping fiduciary rule, advisors are praising a change that many say will enable them to provide more holistic advice on a client’s retirement accounts.
Under the rule’s final language, fiduciary advisors will receive an exemption for advice they provide to clients deciding whether to roll over an employee-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k).
“This is good news for advisors with a qualified plan business who also advise on rollovers,” says Justin Morgan, director of internal sales and service at Lexington, Ky.-based hybrid Unified Trust. “I note that the final rule still includes this idea of a recommendation leading to a rollover being considered as fiduciary investment advice, and that it’s being held to a fiduciary standard of conduct.”
The exemption will only apply so long as certain conditions are met, including an acknowledgement that the recommendation is in the client’s best interest.
At Simply Money, a Cincinnati-based RIA, CEO Nathan Bachrach says the rollover provisions are a win for retirement investors and help level the retirement planning playing field.
“It will be effective at getting advisors who are involved substantially in IRA rollovers to either clearly articulate why a customer should pay a fee that might be in excess of the internal expenses that they had in their 401(k)s, and what they should expect in return,” Bachrach says. “That’s always been the case for RIAs; they have to explain their fee and justify it. What we really had in some of these rollovers were a lot of fees that were never accounted for or never had to be justified.”
The rule’s original language said that, unless compensation did not increase at all when a rollover occurred, advisors would only have been able to help clients if they first complied with the “best interest contract exemption” clause in the DOL rule, and only if they had no investment discretion within client accounts.
“The idea that assets were better served inside a 401(k) plan after an employee leaves a company is a questionable proposition, at best,” says Charles Goldman, CEO and president of Concord, Calif.-based AssetMark
At the Beacon Group of Companies, a hybrid wealth management firm based in King of Prussia, Pa., Brian Menickella says rollover advice was already changed to be in compliance with the original language.
“If a recommendation is made to roll over an account, the costs associated with the fees would be the same as if they had remained in the 401(k),” Menickella says. “I think that there should be some flexibility in the rule.”