The financial services industry has undergone significant change over the past 15 years - regulation, taxes, product offerings, access to information, and legislative shifts, to name a few. Now, more than ever, it is important to brace ourselves as the fiduciary standard is being debated in Washington. This, like most legislation, will alter the financial services landscape yet again.
One thing that I have learned in my tenure is that change is constant and the only way to truly benefit from it is to embrace it. Speaking as someone who can be as hard-headed as they come, I have attempted to fight the winds of change before. I initially built my practice by making over 1,000 cold calls per week to set appointments to discuss Long-Term Care Insurance, many times interrupting dinner or needing to phone prospects on the weekends to catch them at home. Finding early success and earning Million-Dollar Round Table status in my first full year in the industry, I was enjoying the life of a broker. When President Bush signed the Do-Not-Call legislation in 2003, my business was forever changed. At the time, I decided to stubbornly continue cold calling through scrubbed lists of people before finally hitting a wall in the early part of 2004. Facing a situation that rivaled turning a battleship around in a bathtub, I decided to expand my licensing and go back to my current clients to serve their needs in a more rounded and advisory fashion. I began to discuss comprehensive planning in each meeting and my practice grew to a higher level because of case size and an increase in referrals.
With the Department of Labor mulling over the current legislation, we need to understand that while the law may not pass in its existing form, some level of fiduciary care will eventually be brought to our industry. I, for one, will choose to embrace this as yet another opportunity for us to get better and to serve our clients in a more empathetic and honorable fashion.
First off, what does it mean to be a fiduciary? It is to advise in a way that puts the client’s interests above everything else: companies, products, and compensation. Isn’t that what we would want for our own family when they are approached by a financial representative? I would certainly advocate that the answer is yes. While some may say that this is government overreach, or that they don’t want to undertake the necessary coursework required to offer more comprehensive strategies, I would suggest that this is an opportunity to step up to the plate and bring even more value to those people we serve.
The winds of change may be swirling about our industry, but I’m confident those who prepare will not be caught sailing against the breeze this time around. This week, two of our team members will sign up for the Duke Executive CFP program, which will bring the number of Certified Financial Planners in our group to five (and we recently added our third Accredited Investment Fiduciary “AIF” designee) by next July. Designations and education alone will not entirely prepare us for the shifts that are inevitably going to present themselves, but it signals our willingness to embrace the change that is coming. I also feel that building a service model that offers clients access to subject matter experts will allow you to work from a position of strength going forward. To put this mindset into a medical analogy, if you were experiencing chest pains, you would go to a cardiologist and not a podiatrist. With today’s access to information, clients are going to demand that we serve their needs in a personalized fashion. Education and a client-focused approach will undoubtedly help take modern-day advisors’ practices to the next level, just as I experienced after the DNC legislation in 2003.
In conclusion, it should be remembered that it is truly a privilege to do what we do for a living. The work that we do helps individuals and their families, businesses and their employees, but most importantly, it impacts generations to come. Looking to the future, when we, as Financial Advisors, are required to step up our game due to a higher fiduciary standard, we should embrace the opportunity with optimism and enthusiasm instead of allowing it to distract us from the tremendous value we provide to society.
Qualifying membership in the MDRT is based on minimum sales production requirements and gross business generated within a year. Each MDRT status designation is granted for one year only. All members must apply every year to continue their affiliation with the Million Dollar Round Table.