If you’re a financial professional, you would be excused for thinking the past had brighter days. There’s no question that since the financial crisis, the retirement planning industry has faced more scrutiny, by both regulators and the press. That scrutiny seemed to erupt during the past year as regulators at the Department of Labor worked to finalize the fiduciary rule, which is by far the biggest regulatory change to impact the industry in decades.
Having read through the rule (all 1,023 pages), and certain provisions countless times, I wouldn’t blame any advisor for feeling as if they have been left to wander through a dark forest alone. You deserve better than that. We know that nearly every financial professional has their clients’ best interest at heart. Just as advisors serve as a trusted partner to their clients, it is my goal for IRI to be advisors’ trusted partner in navigating through the days ahead.
If it is a dark forest you are wandering through, we want to be a light along the way to help guide you through it. That’s why we recently unveiled our new DOL Resource Center to help our members and financial advisors better understand the rule and plan for its implementation. It’s also why we created a new FAQ for Advisors to address your top questions about the rule, being a fiduciary under ERISA, and complying with the BIC, among others. It’s also why we are leading more than a dozen working groups, featuring more than 700 industry experts, to develop tools, resources and training to help support financial professionals on the rule’s implementation.
Talking with some advisors recently, I was overwhelmed – but not surprised – at the sheer number of success stories each of them had. Stories about thankful clients, who appreciated the extra time their advisors put in to explain a product feature, again and again, and answer all their questions so they were confident about the way forward. Clients who had holistic plans created for them, even if the advisor wasn’t making a commission or earning a fee.
Among all these stories, one made quite an impression on me and encapsulates the true value of working with a trusted advisor. Before the crash in 2007, an advisor recommended that a widow place the proceeds of a home sale into a variable annuity with stepped up guaranteed lifetime income benefits. This took place with the approval of her children and as the widow moved into independent living. Sadly, as happens all too often, after some time she developed Alzheimer's and had to go into memory care. By this time, the financial crisis had come, but it was not a worry for the family because of the stepped up guarantees, which maintained her income and protected her against the downturn. As a result, her care continued without her being forced to move into less desirable care or even a Medicaid facility.
Despite some bad press and the scrutiny, we know how hard you work for your clients and the good you do for them. And that’s why we are going to continue to work for you, to get through the dark days ahead, and to ensure you can keep serving your clients. And if you have a success story you’d like to share, we’d love hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.