Investors place faith in advisors, not financial firms

By BenefitsPro

By Andy Stonehouse

Some positive feedback for both institutional-level and individual retirement advisors: A new survey shows that investors feel more confidence in your trustworthiness than they do in larger financial firms. But they'd like a fiduciary arrangement, to insure that you really are putting their interests ahead of your own.

New research conducted by Cerulli Associates indicates that households show a considerably higher level of trust for their individual retirement advisors than they feel for individual financial companies, a holdover from the darkest days of the financial crisis.

Scott Smith, a director with Cerulli, says that recent surveys indicate that only a quarter of households believe that financial firms take investors' best interests into consideration when coming up with products or service options - and the numbers remained the same in both 2008 and 2012.

"During the same period, investors who indicated they believe firms do not look out for their best interest rose from 37 percent in 2008 to a peak of 41 percent in 2010," Smith said.

On the upside, while those numbers are bad for the financial business overall, investors surveyed by Cerulli say they do have more faith in the efforts of individual retirement advisors, though they tend to overstate the degree to which those advisors are legally obligated to do so.

Two-thirds of those surveyed indicated that the advisor must put client interest first at all times, though this is not always the case in reality.

"Investors who hold brokerage accounts are assured of a suitability standard of care through their registered representative. This essentially means that investments offered to the client must be consistent with their best interests, but not necessarily the best option available," explains Smith.

In order to help sever that disconnect, Cerulli's suggestion is that firms which better embrace and promote their roles as fidiuciary providers are more likely to increase their opportunities among retail investors.

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