(Dow Jones) Employing part-time financial advisors often requires a robust compliance program-at a cost that has some companies rethinking their business strategies.
Part-time advisors are common at many broker-dealers that are run by insurers, but there's a problem with that business model, compliance professionals say. Part-timers, who often sell insurance as a side business, are, in many cases, among a firm's lowest producers. And that may make them more likely to engage in misconduct, such as misrepresentation and forgery, according to a recent study conducted by consultancy Cerulli Associates.
One possible reason is that part-timers often have less to lose than rainmakers, says Bing Waldert, a director at Cerulli, in a recent interview with Dow Jones Newswires. Concerns about possible compliance risks related to part-timers were cited in multiple conversations with insurance-company-owned broker-dealers, Waldert says.
Many such firms are shifting gears, he says, shedding the least productive and most risky set of advisors to focus on a group of fewer, more productive people.
Woodbury Financial Services, a Woodbury, Minn.-based subsidiary of the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., is among a group of smaller broker-dealers that's shedding lower-producing advisors and increasing its per-representative productivity, the firm's president and chief executive, Patrick McEvoy, recently told Dow Jones Newswires.
Compliance risks among part-time advisors are more prevalent at firms that sell insurance products because a network of multiple state regulators oversees the industry, instead of a central self-regulatory organization, says Jervis Hough, founder of Taurus Compliance Consulting, LLC in Aventura, Fla. "It's very much still like the wild, wild West," he says.
Part-timers also often associate with independent broker-dealers that aren't insurance-company owned, says Tim Pedregon, a Los Angeles-based compliance consultant and former Financial Industry Regulatory Authority examiner. Supervision is a challenging responsibility, he says.
Pedregon is concerned about the independent broker-dealer model, given the risks associated with part-time advisors and the compliance expenses required to monitor them. Part-time advisors, he says, often work from their home offices or other unconventional business locations, where they are more difficult to supervise, he says. Many also work irregular hours around other full-time jobs.
"Compliance isn't seeing them on a daily basis," he says.
Broker-dealers owned by insurance companies often use part-timers to assemble a contingent of advisors, each of whom is licensed to sell a specific product or provide one service. Together, they offer clients an array of services, says Hough, with one advisor, for example, licensed to sell annuities while another sells life and health insurance. A part-time accountant may be on board to offer tax advice.