The industry has been expecting the advent of an expanded fiduciary standard for several years now. The latest rules by the Department of Labor are the first significant realization of this expectation, but probably won’t be the last. Regardless the final outcome of any specific proposal or political contest, change is coming to the entire financial profession. Agents, representatives, and advisors will be expected to take on enhanced responsibility for the well-being of their clients. Certain types of products or relationships may become unavailable to investors. Insurance companies, broker-dealers, investment companies, RIA’s, and even FinTech firms will have to adapt to this new reality… and some may have difficulty doing so.
Your firm’s individual response to new fiduciary rules will come with a lot of specifics. It will vary by your specific regulator, the specific type of client you serve, the specific products or services you provide, and your specific interpretation of some of the more open ended aspects of the rules. We are happy to have individual conversations to help you solve specific CRM problems, but there are some generalizations that can be made about how Advisors Assistant can be part of any response to any aspect of a new fiduciary standard.
The Advisors Assistant part can be can be grouped into five simple categories of tasks:
- Identify and classify clients
- Establish and document communication schedules
- Generate and deliver appropriate disclosures
- Make your firm more portable
- Empower your new RIA.
At least the first four of these are important for any of our clients and, like many industry observers, we expect new fiduciary rules to accelerate the ongoing trend behind the fifth. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Identify & Classify Clients
There are plenty of reasons outside of regulatory concerns to identify client segments and categorize your contacts into service classes. It’s vital to “know your client” for sales purposes above and beyond its importance within the scope of a fiduciary responsibility. Expanded fiduciary regulation only makes this more important.
Fiduciary regulation gives more impetus to firms that have yet to identify and classify their clients, and informs firms that have already done so on how they should modify their classifications. Advisors Assistant’s core CRM functions provide plenty of ways to do this. Primary and secondary name types can be applied based on a variety of search parameters, the “Markets” feature often used as an opportunity tracker can also be used to apply keywords for reporting purposes, and our reciprocal relationships function can link clients in a clearly understandable network. All of this data tagging is clearly accessible through Advisors Assistant’s reports.
Establish & Document Communication Schedules
Whether it is for the purpose of delivering appropriate disclosures, creating standard schedules for keeping suitability information up-to-date, or engaging in a short-term project to help clients adjust their accounts to deal with changes in product or firm affiliation, new fiduciary regulation demands that financial professionals step up their communications game. Advisors Assistant offers excellent support for this, from simple tasking, tying client records with users’ calendars, to full automated workflows.
In preparation to help financial professionals deal with this increased need for interaction with their clients, we’ve added new features to our already robust workflow system. Workflows are the secret weapon in creating truly effective business processes for managing client communication.
Once clients and prospects have been appropriately classified they can be placed within workflows to ensure that all necessary steps have been taken and thoroughly documented. Advisors Assistant workflows act as a behind-the-scenes conductor orchestrating the assignment of tasks to just the right staff at just the right time. Not only do these workflows provide self-documenting automation to your business, they also act as their own knowledge base containing details of the steps to be taken. Workflows may be used for high-volume everyday activity such as scheduling client reviews or, with more detailed documentation, periodic projects like annual audits.
Generate & Deliver Appropriate Disclosures
While the goal of fiduciary reform may be to reduce overall conflict of interest, much of its initial effect will revolve around an increase in disclosure provided to clients and prospects. In some cases firms may interpret the rules to demand the disclosures be targeted to specific clients instead of broadly applied. This targeting makes the task of creating these disclosures, and ensuring that they are properly delivered to the intended recipients somewhat difficult.
Advisors Assistant offers additional tools to help with disclosure by building on the appropriate classification of your contacts and application of workflows. Our reports enable users to insert custom disclosure as required. This technique is increasingly used to identify held away or manually entered accounts, but can be leveraged for essentially any disclosure requirement. The act of bursting reports for groups of clients, whether they are to be delivered in hard copy or electronically, both delivers the disclosure and creates a clear record of the action.
Make Your Firm More Portable
Essentially every industry pundit sees new fiduciary rules introducing turmoil in the industry. Many established firms will be pressured to adopt new business models, some firms may choose to divest themselves of business units negatively affected by the rule, and a general increase in compliance costs may fuel a wave of mergers and acquisitions.
It is speculated that we are already seeing the leading edge of this phenomenon with the rise in the number of insurance owned broker-dealers up for sale. As the impact of the changes trickle down to product manufacturers, money managers, and FinTech providers over the coming years. As follow-on regulation further shifts the expectation for financial professionals, we can expect to see a lot of movement. Agents, representatives, and advisors may have no choice but to switch their broker-dealer or RIA affiliations, or even enter into an entirely new business model.
Comprehensive, well-organized data is essential to preparing for these business transitions. Advisors Assistant offers a powerful way to collect a variety of information about your clients, their accounts, and the activity your firm undertakes to service them.
Advisors Assistant’s core CRM module can collect complete information about all of your clients, prospects, centers of influence, and the relationships between them. Our investment tracking, insurance tracking, and insurance commissions modules can help you keep complete records of the products and services you provided.
The integrated ReadyDoc cloud based imaging solution can store secure, compliant, and mobile ready copies of all your client files and business documents. Whether you license our software to run on your own servers, or use our web-hosted database on a private cloud, we provide financial firms with a cost-effective solution to create a complete, business-ready database.
Empower Your New RIA
The entire industry has been pivoting toward RIAs for some time. In fact, the increasing prevalence of fee business may be as much the cause of new fiduciary regulation as its effect. RIAs will not be unaffected by either DOL or SEC fiduciary rules, a fact which may end up creating unpleasant surprises for those who assume otherwise, but most members of the advisory industry will experience a reduced impact. Advisors may need to adjust their business model, compliance procedures, and choice of products or services instead of adopting entirely new practices.
As such, it is unsurprising that we are seeing an acceleration in the trend of financial professionals of all stripes moving their business toward a fee-based structure, or at least adopting some aspect of the RIA business model.
While it was once an unusual occurrence, today it is extremely common for new users to be adopting Advisors Assistant as part of a plan to form or join an RIA. Advisors Assistant is a cost-effective way for new advisory firms to introduce quality, comprehensive CRM and flexible, affordable portfolio reporting. Our private cloud structure enables firms to obtain their own enterprise technology platform and keep data completely under their control. Our modular structure and array of integration partners allows firms to adjust their Advisors Assistant configuration as they pivot business into an advisory structure, and expand their use of the system as they grow. And, finally, our expertise in the process means that our clients have a trusted technology advisor right at hand.
Ultimately, each firm won’t know the full impact of new fiduciary rules until after final rules are introduced and all of their product and technology partners have adjusted their own practices. Even then, each firm will face a somewhat unique set of challenges set by their individual circumstances. However, with its comprehensive, flexible feature-set we’re confident that Advisors Assistant will be an important part of your response to this new reality.