For many people, wading into the waters of the stock exchange world or any sort of investment market may as well be a venture into learning ancient Latin. Much of the terminology involved, such as “limited partnerships,” “hedge funds,” “annuities,” “derivatives,” and “mutual funds” make you feel like you should have worked toward a Master’s degree in financing just to be able to make heads or tails of any of it. Luckily for us, that sort of world also comes with financial advisers and stockbrokers, people who make whole careers out of understanding stock markets and the essential risks inherent in investment markets, as well as the terminology.
For many of us, securing a relationship with financial advisers merits some degree of trust by default. After all, we are investing our hard-earned money into what essentially boils down to a gamble. A legal one, but a gamble all the same. And the only people there to hold our hand through the ordeal with any idea of where the path through the fog of mystery leads are these financial advisers and stockbrokers. The relationship is such a delicate one that financial advisers are held to laws called securities laws just because we as their customers asked them to handle our investment funds for us. These securities laws originate from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
However, many might be surprised to learn that financial advisers are not necessarily bound by law to act in the best interests of their clients at many stages throughout an investment’s lifetime. The fiduciary rule was proposed under the Obama administration, but has since seen several attempts at delaying its implementation by three major entities, two being the Department of Labor and President Trump himself. These delays were proposed, as public record would indicate, to analyze the legal and economic impact such a rule might have on the investment climate. The implementation of these delays has since passed, and fiduciary rule is still under review until June 2017 at the earliest.
As of right now, financial advisers are only bound by law to provide sound investment advice and risk assessment for investors at the time in which an investment takes place, and often these investments do not have their activity monitored very much afterward. Afterward, financial advisers are bound by a supposed code of honor more than anything else. Without the fiduciary rule to keep them in check over the length of an investment’s life span, the law’s influence weakens over time and any increased risk of investments becomes more the responsibility of the investor than the adviser.
This is not to say that there aren’t any financial advisers who take a personal interest in someone’s investment. Many financial advisers can bind themselves to a fiduciary relationship, one that depends primarily on trust and a great degree of personal investment on part of the adviser. It is to say, however, that as investors, we may be responsible for more than we know when trying to foster a relationship with a financial adviser. Investors might consider a securities lawyer for arbitration or mediation where financial advise has gone awry in an investment. Because until the fiduciary rule becomes standard across the entire investment world, investors need to consider a risk assessment of more than just the intangibles that a financial adviser will point out at the offset due simply to their mandatory code of ethics. They will need to consider the risk assessment of a financial adviser’s personal commitment to their investment as a whole and not just out of the starting gate.