Broker Check

Fiduciary Standard

A fiduciary is a person or entity that manages money for the benefit of another called a beneficiary. A fiduciary is bound by law to place the interests of its beneficiary first before the fiduciary's own interests.

For the last few years, there has been discussion and rules proposed by the US Dept. of Labor (DOL) concerning the issue of being a fiduciary in the financial services industry. At this time, it is uncertain what changes will actually be implemented. Taylor Financial has always taken the stance that either you are working in the client's best interests or you are not. The trust relationship should not be 'sometimes' but rather all the time.

There is no governing rule on the use of the title 'financial advisor' or 'financial planner'. Only a limited number of financial advisors or financial planners are financial fiduciaries. Stockbrokers (also called Registered Representatives, Account Executives, Financial Advisors or Wealth Managers) and Certified Financial Planners (CFP) affiliated or employed by broker-dealers are NOT fiduciaries. A Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) subject to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, is a fiduciary.

The legal investment advising standards that govern a non-fiduciary stockbroker and a fiduciary RIA are very different. A non-fiduciary advisor or planner is bound by only the suitability standard, which does not require the advisor or planner to place the interest of their clients ahead of their own interests. Under the non-fiduciary suitability standard, an advisor or planner must only provide suitable advice to their clients. A fiduciary RIA must follow the trust standard which requires them to place the interests of their clients ahead of their own and fulfill critical fiduciary duties of trust and confidence. Under the fiduciary trust standard, a Registered Investment Advisor must provide their best advice to a client.

Even if a non-fiduciary an advisor or planner wanted to follow the trust standard of law and become a fiduciary to their clients, they cannot do so because of the contract they have with their broker-dealer. Such contracts require the advisor or planner to place the interests of the broker-dealer before the interests of their clients.

A non-fiduciary advisor or planner owes fiduciary duties only to their broker-dealer not to their investment clients. A RIA owes fiduciary duties only to their investment clients because they does not have a broker-dealer.

These technicalities can get confusing. The basic question a client needs to ask themselves is, "do I want my financial person working in my best interest all of the time?