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  • by Skip Schweiss
  • President, TD Ameritrade Trust Company
    Managing Director of Advisor Advocacy & Industry Affairs

“If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu” – RIAs Make an Impact in D.C. as the SEC Considers Fundamental Changes to Advisor Regulation

Skip Schweiss in Washington, DC

Skip Schweiss, Managing Director, Advisor Advocacy & Industry Affairs, TD Ameritrade Institutional

“As Managing Director of Advisor Advocacy & Industry Affairs for TD Ameritrade Institutional, I help to expand the voice of registered investment advisors (“RIAs”) on important policy issues. As I publish my insights here on the regulatory and legislative issues that affect fiduciary advisors and their retail investor clients, you can be certain that I’m working alongside you every day to make sure that common sense, efficient regulation, and investor interests prevail.”

-Skip Schweiss (Follow Skip Schweiss on Twitter @TDASchweiss)

Navigating the regulatory landscape and keeping an eye on issues that may impact RIAs and their clients is my job. So it was very encouraging to see the dozens of advisors who took time away from their jobs to participate in the Investment Adviser Association’s (IAA) annual Lobbying Day on June 4. This was an important industry-wide advocacy effort. Key issues addressed were investment advisor oversight and the possibility of harmonizing the fiduciary standard. (See my previous post: “One Little Word Can Make a Big Difference.”)

While some advisors were able to meet with representatives in person, I took great care to communicate the ideas and concerns of the advisors I’ve spoken with and who have reached out to TD Ameritrade Institutional.

When I talked with some of the advisors who made the trip to Washington, they all expressed great concern about regulatory proposals and the need to educate policy makers. But they also shared a sense of optimism that their efforts are making an impact.

Jonathan Roberts, chief compliance officer & senior vice president, Klingenstein Fields and Co. LLC, said it well when he said, “In Washington, there’s an old saying, ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,’ and that very much fits here in respect to investment advisors. For investment advisors to come to Washington is really critical and it enables the representatives to put a face on this important industry and understand our concerns.”

David Tittsworth, executive director of the IAA, reinforced the message to me and the rest of our industry. “You can make a difference communicating your concerns to people on Capitol Hill. We’ve been doing this lobbying day, which is a relatively modest effort, for six or seven years and I think we will have more people here this year than we’ve ever had. My message to investment advisors is —you need to get involved. You can make a difference,” assured Tittsworth.


Advisors Share Their POV on Investment Advisor Oversight

Neil Simon, vice president of government relations for the IAA, talked with me about the outlook for improving the frequency and quality of advisor examinations. He shared his view that there is recognition that federal oversight is not sufficient and that the frequency of advisor exams needs to increase. “The issue before Congress is whether that increase happens by giving the SEC more resources or whether the SEC is allowed to designate an SRO or self-regulatory organization, and we know that FINRA, the broker/dealer SRO, wants that job,” said Simon.

Several advisors also shared their views on the issue and agree that the SEC should continue to oversee registered investment advisors. Philip Hildebrandt, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based investment advisory firm Segall Bryant & Hamill, said, “We’re trying to enhance the use of the SEC as opposed to an SRO, like FINRA, because we believe that that would add an unnecessary layer of complexity and cost.”

David Edwards, president, Heron Financial Group Wealth Advisors, used this opportunity to voice his support for a bill that would enhance advisor oversight by implementing user fees for SEC-registered advisors. “The issue that has come up in recent years is lack of funding for the SEC to properly inspect investment advisors on a more than once-every-10-years basis. So our visit is to stand behind a bill brought up by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.—actually creating a user fee schedule where advisory firms pay for the hiring of more examiners. We believe that investors deserve our care and protection and we want to pay for that.”


Have Your Voice Heard: Share Your Thoughts with the SEC on the Fiduciary Standard

The SEC has requested information and comments about the benefits and costs of a potential uniform fiduciary standard of conduct and the potential harmonization of regulation for investment advisors and broker/dealers. In fact, TD Ameritrade Institutional has developed a template response advisors can use as a guide when responding to the SEC’s request for information.

Advisors can educate themselves about the application of a uniform fiduciary standard and its potential impact on retail investors and RIAs by reading TD Ameritrade Institutional’s white paper, Uniform Fiduciary Standard: Impact on Consumers, Brokers, and Investment Advisors. Advisors can provide input to the SEC by visiting the dedicated page on the SEC’s website. The comment period is open until July 5. Responses will be critical to the SEC’s analysis of the issues—and the outcome.


COMING UP: TD Ameritrade Institutional hosts a Fiduciary Leadership Summit, June 13

TD Ameritrade Institutional will bring together industry influencers, advisors, and consumer advocates this month for the industry’s first Fiduciary Leadership Summit. Our goal is to provide a platform for open dialogue among key industry stakeholders to hear varying viewpoints and point the way forward toward a constructive outcome that benefits retail investors.

More to come on our advocacy efforts.

 

TD Ameritrade and the third party firms mentioned are separate and unaffiliated. TD Ameritrade is not responsible for information, opinions or services provided by a third party.

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