Is your financial advisor working in your best interests? Or his own? It's a very big deal and you must find out. Fortunately, it's easy to do. Just ask!
Financial advisors in the US come in all shapes and sizes but they generally can be put in one of three categories .. a broker (think any kind of bank or credit union or Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley etc.), an insurance agent (think Northwestern Mutual, Axa, Prudential etc.) or a Registered Investment Advisor (think Anglia Advisors and others).
THE FIDUCIARY STANDARD...
...requires that advisors always put their clients' best interests ahead of their own and those of their employers, disclosing any and all conflicts of interest and resolving any conflicts that may arise to the benefit of the clients. Solutions can be recommended only if they are, in the opinion of the advisor, the best available in terms of the clients’ interests, regardless of any advantage that may be accrued to advisors by recommending them.
It imposes a duty of loyalty and care on advisors, ensuring they do their best to give the most thorough and accurate analysis possible. Advisors must guarantee that clients understand the cost implications of the entire engagement (not just the fees you are paying to them).
The client is at the heart of the fiduciary relationship.
THE SUITABILITY STANDARD...
...offers no such comfort. Instead of placing the clients’ interests above their own, the suitability standard only requires these advisors to "reasonably believe" that any recommendations made will not be entirely unsuitable for their clients. Another key distinction is that the advisors’ first duty is not to their clients, but to their employers. As long as it falls within the broad suitability requirement, recommending the least suitable of what can be a multitude of "suitable" options still satisfies the suitability standard.
The suitability standard also invites severe conflicts of interest in terms of advisor compensation, which varies greatly from one product to another. This incentivizes advisors to promote and sell products that best benefit themselves in terms of commission, far ahead of what is most beneficial for their clients. Advisors are not even required to disclose any of these conflicts of interest to their clients who are unlikely to ever know, unless they specifically ask.
Scandalously, the suitability standard does not even require advisors to make any attempt whatsoever to try to minimize these conflicts.
The product is at the heart of the suitability relationship.
Anglia Advisors operates under the Fiduciary Standard at all times. You can see this commitment in writing here.
So, whether you engage with Anglia Advisors or not, please do NOT hire a financial advisor who will not commit in writing to act as a fiduciary to you at all times for all of their services.
Beware of titles. There is no regulation which covers what anyone calls themselves. Being called a financial planner, financial advisor, financial coach, money coach, investment advisor, wealth manager or any other seductive name is meaningless. Anyone can give themselves these titles and requires no qualifications to do so.
Qualifications such as CFP®, however, are indicative of a very significant course of study, the passing of a highly challenging exam and adequate, appropriate experience in financial planning.
The CFP® designation also generally comes with a requirement for the advisor to act as a fiduciary when conducting financial planning, although as this article points out, there are still some questions you need to ask about compensation methods and employer obligations, even if your advisor does hold a CFP® designation (see below for exactly what to ask them).
As a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), however, a fiduciary responsibility is mandated. It is this type of firm you should seek out.
WANT TO KNOW FOR SURE? IT'S SIMPLE. JUST ASK YOUR ADVISOR THESE QUESTIONS:
We strongly recommend that you download and print this form.
Bring it with you to every initial consultation that you have with any kind of financial advisor (including any insurance company offering "financial planning", as they like to call it - it's not, it's just a means to get you to buy more insurance).
Ask them all if they are willing to sign it right then and there on behalf of both themselves and their firm (FYI: we sign this form for all our clients, see above) and provide you with a copy on the spot.
If the advisor is unwilling or unable to sign this fiduciary form which simply commits him/her to putting your interests ahead of their own, or says he needs to "discuss it with his manager", then it is our strong belief that you are putting yourself at risk by working with him/her and you should quickly walk away and only consider working with an advisor who is willing to sign it then and there.
If you already work with a financial professional, ask them these questions as well and ask them to sign the downloaded fiduciary form. If they fail to answer the questions to your satisfaction or are unwilling or unable to do provide you on the spot with a signed version of the downloaded form, then it's our view that it is definitely in your interests to be looking for a new advisor immediately.