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Traditional Advisor Business Model Will Not Last

March 13, 2017

Several developments are creating a “perfect storm” that will revolutionize the financial advice industry and leave many advisors behind, John Lohr writes in Seeking Alpha.

The change will be driven by new technology, changes to fee structures for investment services, competition from retail brokerages, shifting investor sentiment and the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, according to Lohr, a consultant to financial advisors and legal expert.

As an example of a model which he thinks works, Lohr points to investment management firm First Ascent Asset Management, which charges a flat $500 fee regardless of the size of assets managed in 10 portfolio models that can be mixed together. The firm’s services are geared toward independent advisors and will revolutionize what they expect from investment management, he writes.

First Ascent still uses real humans on its investment committee, while an independent advisor serves the client, Lohr writes. That model isn’t likely going away: even robo-advice pioneers such as Betterment now offer upgraded services that give investors unlimited interaction with a licensed advisor, he writes.

But Betterment’s annual fee for unlimited calls with an advisor is just .50%, according to Lohr. That means high-fee advisors are on the way out, he writes.

This will be further accelerated by competition from online brokerages such as Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Etrade and Scottrade, none of whom charge more than $7 per trade, according to Lohr. Advisors who think these services only capture the do-it-yourself investor should pay attention to the recent Gallup poll that found just 39% of investors prefer their financial advice from a human advisor, he writes. High-fee advisors should also note that the top complaints about human advisors in Gallup’s survey were high fees and underperformance, according to Lohr.

Finally, the DOL’s fiduciary rule, which purports to require retirement brokers put clients’ interests ahead of their own and was scheduled to go into effect in April, may have been “convoluted,” he writes. Nonetheless, it’s created a more educated financial advice consumer, according to Lohr. That means high-fee advisors will have a harder time selling their services, he writes.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the SeekingAlpha article cited in this story, click here.