Wealth managers in the United States are cutting fees, relying more on technology to give advice and reducing the minimum amounts clients can hold in their brokerage accounts, all in preparation for a new rule governing how they advise retirement savers.
Some advisors are even job hunting, worried that the rule's impending introduction could slash their compensation.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is expected to publish the so-called fiduciary standard in the next few weeks. It requires wealth managers to put the interests of retirement savers ahead of their own.
Supporters of the new rule, such as consumer groups and retiree advocates, say it will promote transparency and protect investors from being sold unnecessary financial products that increase commissions for brokers and create conflicts of interest.
The wealth management industry has opposed the proposal for years, arguing it will drive up costs, curb commissions and ultimately hurt customers because firms could abandon clients with smaller, less lucrative accounts.
But after five years of fighting, the industry has accepted that the end is in sight.
"We're working down two paths-advocacy to keep fixing the rule as much as we can and helping members comply," said Chris Paulitz, senior vice president of membership and marketing at the Financial Services Institute, the trade group for independent broker-dealers.
"If firms are paying attention, they've set up internal DOL task forces that are inventorying clients and preparing for the rule already."
The Labor Department first proposed a new rule in 2010 but withdrew it in 2011 after wide criticism from industry officials and lawmakers.
A modified version was presented in 2015 with the goal of protecting retirees from buying unnecessary products that line brokers' pockets with fees and commissions.