BOSTON, April 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- John Hancock Investments has posted on its website a new white paper aimed at financial advisors who advise retirement plans, anticipating pending regulations regarding the fiduciary standard of care. Entitled "A seismic shift: what regulatory reform means for your retirement plan business model," the paper explores how advisors can reposition their value propositions and market their services to retirement plans for the next decade.
The paper's authors, Robert J. Rafter, J.D., of RJR Consulting, and Gene Huxhold, CFP, AIF, of John Hancock Investments, note that, as a result of potential regulatory changes, it is anticipated that all brokers and advisors rendering investment advice may be held to a fiduciary standard of care, regardless of the focus areas of each advisor's practice. In this environment, they write, the ability of retirement plan advisors to differentiate their services could disappear.
The paper is also of interest to non-specialist advisors whose practices extend beyond retirement plans. These advisors could find that aspects of their retirement plan services will constitute rendering investment advice under the expanded definition that regulators are expected to adopt. This expansion could subject many non-specialists to unwanted liabilities or responsibilities as fiduciaries.
"Advisors will become, in essence, accidental fiduciaries," said Rafter, whose independent consulting firm specializes in advising large financial institutions on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Rafter frequently speaks on and writes about retirement plans, fiduciary standards, risk management, and investment advice. He also teaches a fiduciary standard of care course at The Retirement Advisor University at the UCLA Anderson School of Management Executive Program."We believe that if an advisor to a retirement plan will be considered a fiduciary, he or she should have made that a conscious choice," said Huxhold, who manages John Hancock Investments' distribution to Corporate Retirement Plans. "The question for the non-specialist is, 'Am I prepared to take on the additional responsibilities and risks in a highly specialized area? I need to look at this relative to my primary advisory business.'"