Fiduciary Standards

Some Financial Advisors Say Scrap DOL's Fiduciary Rules

Six out of ten financial advisors want to scrap the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary ruling, according to research firm Market Strategies International. Additionally, Market Strategies International said that it had seen advisors shifting assets into lower-fee investment products to insulate themselves from the ruling’s effects.

But, while the industry may be up in arms over the DOL’s new rules – which require more financial professionals, including insurance brokers and others, to act as a “fiduciary,” meaning they must warn clients if certain products are not in their best interest – Chris Justino’s take is that it’s about time fiduciary became the norm. (The Trump Administration issued an executive order in February to “reconsider” the ruling, but no changes have been made yet).

“Fiduciary status needs to be more prevalent,” said Justino, MBA, a partner at Justino Investments. “It’s necessary; there should be a fee-based platform. It should be more client-focused and client-driven as opposed to what I’m getting paid more on.”

Justino’s firm describes itself as “client first,” and not “product first.” Justino Investments develops personalized wealth management plans using a wide spectrum of insurance and investment products, aimed primarily at working age clients. The company also handles retirement accounts with the same devotion to people over product. Justino eschews a firm minimum, especially for millennials, the generation he is a part of, but does offer that his firm performs best with clients holding $2 million in investable assets.

“Millennials … are petrified of the markets they don’t trust the economics, the big banks, small banks, they don’t trust finance,” Justino said. “There’s no minimum for millennials because any help they can get is beneficial.”

Justino Investments takes its fiduciary role seriously. He’s upfront with prospective clients about what he does, and doesn’t do, like chasing alpha.

“If you’re looking for someone to beat the market, I’m not your guy. I’m your risk manager,” he said, adding, “You’ve going to have losses, you’re going to have gains, but I’m trying to be consistent.”

Justino – who began his career at a large mortgage company in 2007 and later served in Iraq – also takes issue with the current 401k disclosures, describing them as inadequate and advocating for a more thorough explanation, to clients, of fees. He also communicates with clients frequently, producing economic newsletters – no product talk, just his thoughts on where the markets are going – in addition to quarterly face-to-face meetings.

Fiduciary means putting the client first, which isn’t always easy. But Justino said that being a fiduciary is worth it in the long term.

“Short-term will that hurt my bottom-line? Without a doubt,” he said. “But long-term it’s only going to help the client, which means it helps me.”

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