Report: Clients Confused About Standards and Don’t Care

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Hear no evilThis InvestmentNews article by Lavonne Kuykendall caught my eye and reminded me that few consumers understand what a fiduciary standard means to them.

Report: Clients confused about standards and don’t care While the financial advice industry wrangles with regulators and lawmakers over a universal fiduciary standard, most investors are far more concerned about getting their phone calls returned.

Some quotes from the article:

According to a J.D. Power and Associates survey released last Thursday, 85% of 4,200 full-service investors say they have never heard of — or don’t understand the difference between — the suitability and fiduciary standards.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has recommended to Congress a rule change that would place broker-dealers under the tighter fiduciary standard. Currently, only investment advisers must adhere to that more onerous requirement.

But investors don’t seem very concerned about the different standards.

Among full-service investors whose financial advisers adhere to the fiduciary standard, 57% said that this increased their comfort level. Then again, 42% said that it decreased their level of comfort.

The lack of investor enthusiasm about a single fiduciary issue might make firms consider whether it is worth the extra cost of meeting the higher standard, particularly for an imprimatur of which most clients are unaware.

At the top of the list: Clients have clearly indicated that they want more frequent and clearer communication that explains their investments’ performance and how fees are charged.

That should be easier than in the past because investors have become much more interested in communicating online, the survey found.

Nearly six in 10 said that they visited their investment firm’s website in the past year, up from 52% who said that they did in 2009.

Among investors who visit their investment firm’s website, older investors are far more active. Clients more than 64 years old said they visit the sites more than 35 times a year. Somewhat surprisingly, respondents under 45 said that they only visit their advisory firm’s site 12 times a year.

Part of the reason we initiated this blog is to respond to those who were interested in hearing more from the Marotta advisors. We strive both to acknowledge client questions and requests quickly even if a full analysis will take a number of days. We are also striving to proactively expose our investment philosophy and wealth management approach with shorter more frequent comments on this blog.

Hopefully it will also help educate investors about the difference between “fee-only” NAPFA advisors and “fee-based” agents and brokers and why you deserve a fiduciary standard of care. Perhaps this list of ten questions to ask your financial advisor might help start the process.

We think it is as important for you to understand your investment advisor as it is for you to understand your investments.

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David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.