HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- LPL Financial is on board with the Labor Department's highly anticipated fiduciary rule.
In a surprise move on Wednesday, the company went public with its plans to prepare its advisors and financial institutions for the coming regulatory changes.
"Even though we don't have the rule yet, we do know enough about what's possible and probable in this rule to begin preparation now," Rob Comfort, executive vice president of Institution Services Business Consulting at LPL, said in a breakout session at the BISA convention here on Thursday. "Waiting to see and then starting preparation is a losing proposition. There's so much to do to get ready."
The firm announced that it is slashing fees on its centrally managed programs, in some cases by nearly 30%. It is also reducing the account minimums on its advisory platform from an already low $15,000 to $10,000. In addition, the firm plans to create a simplified brokerage mutual-fund only platform that is geared toward smaller investors in a "post DOL world," it said.
LPL decided to make the announcement to reassure both advisors and investors, Comfort said in an interview following the session. The rule has moved to the Office of Management and Budget and is expected to come out in the next two to six weeks.
"We felt the timing was appropriate given all the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the rule," Comfort said.
During the breakout session, Comfort and the panel he moderated painted the upcoming rule as an opportunity to accelerate the shift from commission-based brokerage business to advisory business, something the industry has long been trying to do.
"This is a big deal, so pay attention, but it most definitely is not going to be a deal-breaker," John Olerio, a senior vice president at Webster Bank, told the packed room.
Advisors, however, will suffer an initial setback as they shift to fee-based advisory business. "Advisory business in year one isn't going to make up what that commission business would have been in year one, " said Peter Bielan, principal of Kehrer Bielan Research & Consulting.
As a result, Bielan anticipated advisor attrition as a result of the new rule.
"That's a price we're willing to pay," said Comfort, adding that the "short-term implications are worth the long-term investment."
In preparation for the pending rule, LPL analyzed the brokerage business of its partners institutions as well as the books of business of individual advisors to "understand how much disruption there's going to be from the rule," said Arthur Osman, an executive vice president of Institution Services Business Consulting at LPL.
The firm also hosted town halls and "open mic" conference calls to provide advisors and financial institutions with a mechanism to get their questions answered. In addition, it is simplifying operational processes to reduce the amount of paperwork advisors will have to complete as they transition brokerage business into advisory accounts.
"Look at the positives," Comfort said. "It may be an opportunity to completely change the nature of our business in a very positive way."
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