Behind the buzz: What to expect from the year’s biggest fiduciary conference

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A year ago,  the crowd assembled at the at the Fi360 Conference in the Nashville Omni Hotel was moved with anticipation when the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the “fiduciary rule” would begin to be enforced in early June 2017. Today, the DOL’s version of the fiduciary rule has been put on ice by court rulings and uneven marketplace reception. However, the age of the fiduciary advisor has arrived, and there is no need for regulation to force a growing segment of the financial advice, retirement and investment industry to move ahead with adopting business practices that would meet or exceed any proposed rules from the SEC, DOL or other governing body. 

This year, the discussion around these themes will be just as loud and ever as fervent when the 2018 edition of the Fi360 Conference opens tomorrow (Wednesday, April 25) in San Diego. Here at Gregory FCA, we caught up with client John Faustino of Fi360 to preview the show.

Your conference has a great slate of speakers. What speaker/session do you feel will best set the tone for the conference discussion?

We think our opening keynote session, a State Regulators Panel, which will be moderated by Mark Schoeff (@MarkSchoeff) from Investment News, is an exceptional way to kick-off our conference. Joining Mark for the panel will be Joseph Borg, the Alabama Securities Commission Director and president of the North American Securities Administrators Association; Dale Brown, president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute; Jolie Matthews; and Fi360’s very own Executive Chairman, Blaine Aikin. With the SEC having released their 1,000-page fiduciary rule proposal last Wednesday, the timing for this session couldn’t be better.

A year ago, the landscape for implementation of a fiduciary standard was far different from today. What should advisors and firms be thinking about heading into this year’s event?

While regulatory ambiguity persists, the market forces driving fiduciary management have never been stronger. Outside of compliance, as more advisors and firms explicitly evangelize the benefits of a fiduciary standard of care, you need to decide where, and how, you want to position yourself.

Fiduciary education is often looked at as a fundamental for modern practice management excellence. Should fiduciary training be something firms/advisors think about as a marketing advantage, too?

Absolutely. Our executive chairman, Blaine Aikin, recently published a paper titled “Fiduciary Conduct and Your Reputation – What’s trust worth as an investment advisor?” It does a great job articulating the business value of acting as a fiduciary. 

Some name brand speakers like Michael Kitces (@MichaelKitces) and Dale Brown (@FSIDaleBrown) will be at the event. What do you expect to hear from the bellwether speakers?

First and foremost, we’re hearing from industry leaders that fiduciary is here to stay, regardless of regulation.

Additionally, based on the SEC meeting April 18 and the release of its proposed rule, a floor may have been set for federal fiduciary regulation. The SEC’s proposal would make its regulation “in addition to,” as opposed to a replacement for, any state regulation. If states aren’t happy with the federal (DOL or SEC) fiduciary protections for investors, it’s possible firms will have to deal with a significant challenge in managing multiple standards across states. For those against fiduciary regulation, weaker federal rules may actually cause more challenges, as they’d likely lead to more state fiduciary laws.

To keep up with everything that will be happening at this year’s Fi360 Conference, be sure to follow along on Twitter via the #Fi360Conference hashtag, me (@JoeAnthony), my colleague Margaret (@margaret_mpayne) and  the Fi360 team (@Fi360). We hope to see you there!