Advisors are somewhat concerned about potential fallout from financial reform’s multi-headed hydra, according to a straw poll of 100 advisors by the SEI Advisor Network, but they’re not panicking.
John Anderson, head of practice management solutions at SEI says they should be less complacent.
“Advisors are kind of concerned about everything and the lack of information out there has them raising their hands,” said Anderson, who noted that in a previous poll, only 25% if advisors understood what the proposed rule changes actually were. “They’re not panicking because they don’t yet know what the changes will entail.”
At 39%, many advisors think the Dodd-Frank bill, which includes a possible blanket fiduciary standard, will have the largest impact on their businesses. (Anderson notes that most of SEI’s members are registered investment advisors, and so already are fiduciaries. However, Dodd-Frank is getting more media coverage, putting it more prominently on advisors’ radars, even if they’re not sure of its effect). But proposed changes to rules governing 12-b-1 fees on mutual funds runs a close second, with 30% of advisors citing it as their primary concern.
On the RIA side of things, changes to Form ADV pt. 2, which aim to clarify advisors’ disclosure of conflicts of interest, among other things, is causing quite a headache. A slim minority of advisors, 3%, most fear the pay-to-play rule.
“I was a little surprised they weren’t a little more concerned about the pay-to-play rule,” Anderson said. The rule would mean advisors would have to disclose to investors if they’d donated more than a certain amount to an elected official so investors could way up whether they consider the advisor’s support to be, in effect, a bribe. “It’s a reporting requirement advisors aren’t ready for and, in many cases, aren’t even aware of,” Anderson said.
On the revenue side, advisors need to identify their 12-b-1 opportunities now, Anderson said. “I was amazed that so many said that they’d wait until after the rule changed. 12-b-1s are going to go the way of the B-share,” he said. “I’d rather be in front than have to explain myself after the rule changes.”
However, many advisors aren’t planning on doing much different as a result. Three-fourths of respondents say that they don’t think it’ll be necessary to change from federal to state regulation or hurriedly try to convert C-share or high 12-b-1 funds to fee accounts in advance of any new ruling. Some advisors think that new rules will eat into their workload, though: 44% said compliance with a new slew of rules will add between three and 10 hours per month, and 9% say compliance will take even longer. However, 45% of advisors predict an additional compliance burden of less than three hours per month, a nuisance, perhaps, but not life-changing. “On average, advisors expect to have to spend another five hours per month on compliance, and that’s going to eat into the time they spend on prospecting and with clients,” Anderson said.