Can you trust your financial advisor?
The National Bureau of Economic Research recently sponsored a study by Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan, Markus Noeth of the University of Hamburg and Antoinette Schoar of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Here is a section of an AdvisorOne article by John Sullivan:
Do financial advisors undo or reinforce the behavioral biases and misconceptions of their clients? It’s a question that receives no shortage of attention in an industry that wrestles with behavioral economics, a fiduciary standard and an overall effort to do right by clients. And it’s a question most recently asked by three top economists in an undercover audit of Boston-area financial advisors.
You won’t like the answer.
“We document that advisors fail to ‘de-bias’ their clients and often reinforce biases that are in their interests,” the authors found. “Advisors encourage returns-chasing behavior and push for actively managed funds that have higher fees, even if the client starts with a well-diversified, low-fee portfolio.” …
Most advisors in the study are paid on commission based on the fees and volumes that they generate. …
The study found advisors’ reactions to different portfolios or investment scenarios varied significantly. They were broadly supportive of the trend‐chasing portfolio but much less supportive of the company stock portfolio. Most strikingly, according to the authors, advisors were “unsupportive of the index portfolio and suggested a change to actively managed funds. Overall, advisors had a significant bias towards active management.”
“In nearly 50% of the visits, the advisor encouraged investing in an actively managed fund; by contrast, in only 7.5% of the advice sessions (21 visits), advisors encouraged investing in an index fund.”
When advisors mentioned fees, they did so in a way that “downplayed them without lying.”
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