Updated as of April 21, 2016: The DOL announced the final ruling on April 6, 2016. The biggest change is that the implementation date has been pushed out which lowers the implementation risk and that is a good thing. The immediate risk continues to be the client and the advisor. It is imperative to start working on their experience over the next 24 months.
In terms of implementing the final DOL fiduciary regulations, the level of preparedness across the financial services industry spans the spectrum of possibilities. Some organizations have been preparing for the past year, engaging numerous work streams; others are just beginning to mobilize their efforts; and there are even firms that have yet to act at all. Industry insiders anticipate rules being released as early as late 1st quarter with implementation completed by the end of the year. And in that scenario, firms may need to be ready to start implementing solutions in less than 9 weeks.
The idea of holding off to address the rules after they are finalized is short sighted.
There are certain concepts that will be incorporated in the industry whether regulated or legislated. Financial Advisors and their firms will act in the best interest of the client, disclose all material conflicts of interest, and provide fee and compensation disclosures. FINRA and SEC are already focusing examination efforts in these areas. The SEC’s ReTIRE initiative released last June is a multi-year examination program focused on retired based savings.
We recommend our clients structure their engagements holistically as it applies to the customer, the advisor, and risk management. The underlying resources within the firm will transcend over these key themes to provide the processes and infrastructure to meet compliance with the regulations – as well as support the new business model going forward.
Even with flawless execution to comply with the DOL’s rules, if you fail to view the whole – and all its impact to your customers and advisors – you’ll risk losing them. Along with your profits. In addition to the need for a holistic approach, the other key factor to winning in this environment will be to create a risk infrastructure that protects not only the firm but also the advisor of personal liability.
As the industry navigates this major change, the first priority is to ensure your firm is compliant with the rules. After that, identify the revenue opportunities and create a corporate culture where the customer is the centerpiece and compliance is second nature.