Some of Canada’s big banks took quite a lot of criticism recently for their decision to stop selling mutual funds from outside companies through their financial planning arms.
CIBC, RBC and TD claim the decision to allow financial planners to sell only inhouse funds is in response to new regulations that come into effect at the end of this year. Those regulations are known as know your product (KYP) and are part of a larger package of client-focused reforms (CFRs) being brought in by the country’s securities regulators.
The KYP rules are designed to ensure investment firms and their advisors have a deep knowledge of the products they recommend to clients.
For firms, this means having policies, procedures and controls in place to monitor investments offered to clients and providing training to advisors on them. For advisors, it means recommending only firm-approved investments and demonstrating they understand what they are recommending and ensuring they are suitable for a client’s portfolio.
The overall goal of the client-focused reforms is to create a higher standard of advisor conduct that will put clients’ interests first. Essentially, it could be viewed as a codification and enhancement of industry best practices that many firms and advisors are already incorporating—from gathering detailed client information to demonstrating product knowledge to revealing potential conflicts and putting clients’ interests first.
The decision by the three big banks to stop selling third-party mutual funds sparked an outcry from critics in the media and the financial industry who say the banks are not acting in the best interests of their clients. They argue the banks are using the new rules as an excuse to sell only their own funds, which are more profitable for them, through financial planners in branches. (Third-party funds will still be sold by the banks’ full-service brokers and their online discount brokerages.)
Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick noted the banks are depriving investors of the opportunity to choose better alternatives available from third-party fund companies and said the three big banks are “effectively turning their planners into sellers of bank products.”
For my part, I hope the actions of these three big banks will lead clients to reflect on what they want and should expect from their investment advisor.
The country’s securities regulators introduced the new client-focused reforms after resisting calls to bring in the more rigorous fiduciary standard for investment firms in the face of stiff opposition from the industry.
At PWL Capital, we have long adhered to a fiduciary standard in our client dealings and have argued it should be applied throughout our industry. Under a fiduciary standard, a firm must put its client’s interests above its own and act strictly in a client’s best interest.
For many years, our firm has been accredited by the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX), a global organization that audits and certifies the processes of investment advisory firms.
CEFEX-accredited firms adhere to the Global Fiduciary Standard of Excellence. To obtain this accreditation, PWL was required to undergo an extensive “best interest” review—and, to maintain this status, we must undergo annual audits by CEFEX.
At PWL, we don’t have any in-house products. We have a list of approved securities that includes only investments that have been researched by the firm and approved by our investment committee.
These investments are all low fee and tax efficient. They offer no compensation to PWL, or the firm’s advisors, and they reflect our philosophy that passive portfolios and broad diversification are the keys to long-term investing success.
In all these ways, we demonstrate our steadfast belief that investment advisors must always act in the best interests of their clients. It is the bedrock upon which our firm is built.