HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Anticipation over the Labor Department's final version of the fiduciary rule has banks tied up in knots.
Some are actively preparing for the anticipated changes, while others are sitting back, according to Betty Moon, principal of Moon Consulting Group.
"It's got a lot of folks quite stymied," Moon said in an interview at the BISA convention here on Wednesday. "They're sort of in wait-and-see mode rather than action mode because they just don't know what the final rule is going to demand of them and of the industry."
Banks that are gearing up for change are doing things like checking their technology systems and even putting together some scenario planning. But they have reservations about all the effort they're making.
"They don't know yet if they're all the right things that they should be doing," Moon said.
LPL Financial, for example, on Wednesday announced a slew of changes to its centrally managed platforms in anticipation of the new rule. The changes call for reduced pricing and lower account minimums on certain managed and advisory platforms and the creation of a mutual-fund only brokerage IRA offering. “While we continue to advocate for a thoughtful resolution to the fiduciary issue—one that preserves investor choice—LPL recognizes that the DOL rule will have implications for financial advisors and investors,” Dan Arnold, LPL's president said in a statement.
Regardless of whether they're making preparations, all institutions are concerned about the proposed new fiduciary rule. "Even financial institutions that haven't done a lot of activity around this, it's not that they aren't taking it seriously," Moon said. "It's that they don't want to spend what are very limited resources today in their businesses when they don't even know what they're reacting to."
The rule, which would require advisors to abide by a fiduciary standard when providing advice on retirement accounts, is expected to have far-reaching implications across the industry. "This is going to have a huge impact and even if the version that comes down is watered down, it's coming from a place of concern around the industry and around our ability to service clients," Moon said.
Moon anticipates that the new rule will be released this month or early April. The "final, final" rule is unlikely until the end of the year because it's going to be hotly debated after it comes out, according to Moon.
Moon advises banks to take action in advance of the rollout of the rule, even though she admits that only time will tell if institutions that were proactive will beat those who decided to wait.
"The Department of Labor is going to require implementation of some version of this rule," Moon said. "The banks that are going to be ahead are those that are doing some things now to prepare themselves with the information that they need, so that they can implement because the timeline to implement this thing is going to be very short."
Moon encourages banks to stay informed and to take simple initial steps, such as identifying all their IRA clients and making sure they have their current contact information.
"When the DOL ruling is announced, the timeline to communicate with clients will seem even shorter than it actually will be, and you will need to be able to get in touch with your clients," she said.
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