Industry News

Advisors are focused on market volatility over other business challenges

By James Langton |

Only about a fifth of U.S. financial advisors are expecting the proposed new fiduciary rule to have a major impact on their businesses, according to survey results published on Tuesday by Seattle-based Russell Investments.

The survey of 258 financial advisors working for 228 investment firms, which was carried out in February, found relatively little concern about the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) proposed new fiduciary standard, which is expected to be finalized this week. According to the survey, 61% of advisors expect slight, or no, impact from the DOL fiduciary standard proposal, with only 21% expecting a significant impact.

Only 13% of advisors surveyed have considered redesigning their service model to prepare for the potential fiduciary standard, the survey found. "It was surprising to see how many advisors underestimate the potential business impact of the proposed DOL rule," says Sam Ushio, director of practice management for Russell Investments' U.S. advisor-sold business, in a statement.

Almost half (49%) of advisors are not making any changes until after the rule is finalized, the survey found, even as the adoption of a fiduciary standard "has the potential to significantly impact advisors' businesses, in particular fee structures, service models, and the number and types of products advisors choose to use, which will likely be scrutinized by the proposed rule."

"However, many of the changes necessitated by the proposal are rooted in best practices already used by top firms. Instead of planning on hypothetical projections, we've found that advisors who maintain a sustainable service model and develop client segmentation strategies—regardless of current market and industry pressures—tend to consistently deliver lasting, high-quality client service, ultimately improving their client engagement and overall quality of service," Ushio adds.

Rather than worrying about regulation, most U.S. advisors (72%) pointed to market volatility as driving changes in how they manage their businesses, the firm notes. Other issues, including an aging client base (40%), and rising interest rates (28%), were identified as significant, but at much lower rates, the survey found.

"Advisors' focus on volatility makes sense, given the prolonged period of market instability and related negative sentiment among clients," says Ushio. "Looking into the future, advisors will need to be vigilant to stay ahead of disruptive trends stemming from technology, regulatory change and market shifts. In a continually evolving environment, a big picture mentality will be critical to continue meeting client needs while maintaining a competitive advantage."