Sometimes when you are waiting for a story to end you may start to imagine your own ending. With a years-in-the-making story like the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Fiduciary Rule (“DOL Rule”) we are still wondering how, when, and if the ending will truly unfold, now that there is a new DOL proposal in the works to coincide with the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest standards.
The DOL Rule was first introduced in 2016 with the intent to expand the definition of investment advice and govern best practices of the individuals and firms who will be considered fiduciaries. In its simplest form, the Rule proposed financial professionals must act as a fiduciary, and therefore act in the best interests of the client.1 But the story of the DOL Rule has been riddled with plot twists and turns—a change in administration, numerous delays, and now a potential resurgence even though it seemed like it had met its end in 2018. There remains no definitive end in sight, however it’s clear change is ahead in financial services with or without the DOL Rule. The shift towards increased transparency and accountability, consumer protection and choice, and reduced conflicts of interest is already shaping the financial services marketplace today.
It can be difficult to proceed when you don’t know the way forward, especially with the additional regulatory swirl of the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest and the updated CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct becoming enforceable as of June 30th. But you can choose to be proactive. You can apply the foundational fiduciary principles of the Rule to show clients that you’re part of a forward-thinking firm willing to invest in them as they are in you.
A New Client Experience Standard
For financial advisors, this customer-focused shift has initiated a move to a planning-led, fiduciary model that’s sure to affect the way you conduct your business. Addressing the imminent compliance requirements that come with the new compliance and regulatory standards may be your first and foremost priority, but don’t let that hinder efforts to improve the experience you provide clients.
Instead, embrace the challenge by investing in fiduciary-focused technology to show clients and prospects you’re not only willing to adapt to change, but also committed to taking a progressive and client-first approach to staying on pace with new trends in the financial services industry through the use of technology.
Streamline the Onboarding Process
Increasing transparency is also central to the Rule. And being transparent with your clients during the onboarding process, and over the course of the entire wealth planning life cycle, helps your clients gain insight into the services you provide.
Onboarding your clients using technology allows you to easily aggregate and prioritize their account information and lets you spend more time talking about what really matters to them. It also gives your clients the ability to update basic facts and financial information on their own time through their client website, which then updates automatically.
Opening Up the Planning Conversation
When adhering to a DOL-like framework in your firm, it’s more important than ever to meet your clients’ specific planning needs, whether basic or complex. That means providing a greater level of detail when it’s necessary, or simply helping your clients see a straightforward path to achieving their financial goals. Access to tools that allow you to give appropriate advice for all types of clients makes all the difference.
Financial planning software can help document, illustrate, and compare a client’s various goals as well as the potential strategies they can use to meet them. Using planning technology can confirm your client’s information is accurately reflected in the financial plans you create for them and allow you to scale and customize plans based on the type of client you’re meeting—with the amount of detail they expect.
This type of technology can help you see the plan holistically, diving into all aspects of a client’s financial life to open up the planning conversation. Advisors that take a comprehensive approach to planning can offer a wider range of services to meet client needs at every stage of their lifecycle.
Make Meetings More Versatile
Whether your client has an immediate issue or just wants to check-in regarding his or her financial status, you should be able to provide an array of meeting options to accommodate them. There’s clearly been a shift in the way we communicate with one another with the rapid advancement of technology. Now, your clients expect you to be readily accessible and available (at least in some form) on-demand.
Virtual meetings provide a flexible option for clients who are unable to make it to your office and allow you to share financial plans and information via screen share. When clients do come to the office for a meeting, you should be able to show them different financial scenarios on the fly using their most up-to-date financial information. Utilizing interactive planning tools shows your clients that you’re committed to the relationship and willing to go above and beyond to help them meet their financial goals.
Create Your Own Way Forward
Though the DOL Rule may or may not take hold, change is here and with change comes opportunity. For more suggestions about how advisors and firms are utilizing technology and integrating a planning-led approach toward a fiduciary standard, review our checklist “How to Create Engaging Financial Planning Experiences.” Even with the fate of DOL legislation out of your hands, you can still use this guide to create a remarkable client experience while navigating and adhering to the changing regulatory demands in our industry.
1. CFP Board, “Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct,” October 2019.