The days are long, but a year is short

The days are long, but a year is short

Skip Schweiss | October 12, 2016

When the Department of Labor (DOL) released its Conflict of Interest Rule in April of this year, I began quite a road trip.

There was a craving for information, and part of my role is to deliver it to you. RIAs have a year to prepare and the clock is ticking—so April through June, I traveled every week.

From TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Elite LINC in Dana Point, California, to the FPA’s Advocacy Day and the IAA’s Lobbying Day, both in Washington, DC, I met with regulators, legislators, and advisors about the DOL rule and other potential laws and regulations that could impact investors and their fiduciary investment advisers.

Our message for regulators

We fully support and welcome strong investor protections, consistent with a reasonable level of regulatory burden on advisors. I visit Washington, DC several times each year, to convey this to regulators—typically the SEC and DOL—and members of Congress. We find it takes a few visits to bring them up to speed on fiduciary advice and how it differs from suitable brokerage practices. It takes time to build rapport so they can trust that our primary mission is aligned with protecting investors. Once that trust is in place, our message carries more credibility.

I also share our views and position on key issues facing RIAs and investors such as:

Anti-money laundering (AML)
Third-party examinations
SEC uniform fiduciary standard rule
The risks of rolling back retirement savings incentives

Helping RIAs navigate

For the many RIAs I met throughout my travels this summer, the DOL Rule was hands-down the most discussed topic. I was often asked, “Does this apply to me?” The answer, yes! The rule applies to anyone who provides investment recommendations to retirement clients.

Then came July and August. Fewer conferences, as is typical in the summer. Things quieted down a bit and I was able to reacquaint myself with my family!

Back in action

As September rolled in, so did the uptick in invitations to speak at conferences and events around the country. Here’s what I’ve been seeing and hearing on the DOL Rule front this fall: good news… a lot of progress.

However, I do still run into a handful of folks who remain wide-eyed. Perhaps because they are unsure of exactly what to do, they haven’t done anything. While the DOL was generous enough to allow a full year before the regulation goes into effect, as the calendar shows, we’re about halfway there. It’s time to get moving.

As a first step, RIAs should educate themselves, and seek out ERISA and legal expertise to better understand how the rule could potentially impact their firms and the way they serve retirement clients. RIAs need to know that any variable compensation with respect to retirement accounts will be subject to the new rule.

We have a lot of tools and resources to help you position your business to be in compliance in time. A great asset for clients is the TD Ameritrade Institutional DOL Resource Center. (See Veo® in the Spotlight section.)

Looking ahead

During my travels, I’m going to be checking in with you more often right here. Please reach out and let me know if there’s a specific topic you’d like me to cover. My fall calendar is packed with industry events so please know—I’d love to meet you and hear from you. Hope to see you out there!