Enjoy the current installment of “weekend reading for financial planners” – this week’s edition kicks off with the industry news that Massachusetts has become the first state to officially put forth a ‘final’ fiduciary rule for brokers providing investment recommendations in their state… albeit in a form that is significantly watered down from the original, though still higher than the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest it sought to supplant, as the fiduciary fight increasingly shifts from Federal regulators to the states (and New Jersey and Nevada working on finalizing their own fiduciary rules as well).
Also in the news this week is a significant Supreme Court ruling regarding fiduciary disclosures, that at least under ERISA, it’s not enough to provide qualified plan documents and related disclosures, and that plan sponsors must actually ensure that the participants read them in order to start the statute of limitations clock ticking… or risk facing a never-ending open-ended liability exposure that a plan participant could sue over questionable actions many years later because they didn’t have ‘actual knowledge’ of the problematic issue until they actually read the disclosures for the first time!
From there, we have several articles on this week’s hot topic of the investment markets and the coronavirus, including a good reminder of why it’s important to send out extra communication to clients during turbulent markets (not to tell them to stay the course, but to show them that you as the advisor are ‘on the case’ and managing their situation… even if the current decision happens to be to stay the course anyway), a look at the recent yield curve inversion that the coronavirus appears to have spawned, and some interesting data on the coronavirus itself and how even though virus fears are currently routing markets it is actually less communicable and less fatal than many other feared disease outbreaks in recent years (e.g., SARS, MERS, Ebola).
We also have a few articles on recent industry studies and trends, including one that finds the key for ‘smaller’ advisory firms (defined as <$500M of AUM) will be “growth by specialization” in the 2020s, another study noting an emerging split between the ‘big’ firms trying to acquire and consolidate to achieve massive scale as one-stop-shops and the rest that will survive and thrive by being ’boutiques’ that compete against them for narrow slices of affluent clientele who can pay their premium fees, a look at other industry trends that advisory firms must contend with to succeed in the coming trend including ‘operational experience’ and the unbundling of fees, and a fascinating look at how, in the end, the opportunities in the ‘long tail’ of niches are actually far bigger (or at least, far more numerous in actual clients) than where the bulk of the industry focuses today (prospective and current retirees between the ages of 50 to 75 with significant investable assets to manage).
We wrap up with three interesting articles, all around the theme of being more personally productive and focused: the first is an interesting look at how, even 100 years ago when the medical profession was emerging (and smartphones and social media couldn’t be conceived of), educators were providing lessons not only in the technical knowledge to learn but how to learn and avoid then-modern-day distractions; the second looks at how nearly 90 years ago, John Maynard Keynes predicted an 8X increase in productivity and the drop to a 3-hour workday on the back of that productivity, yet somehow we succeeded in the productivity but failed in the shorter workday to accompany it; and the last explores how the key to success is not to pursue big goals and perfection but to ‘just’ be 1% better than the competition (because that’s all it actually takes to win the game!).
Enjoy the ‘light’ reading!