There are many different factors you should consider when choosing a DST financial and investment adviser. Perhaps the most important factor, however, is one that many people are unaware of: whether or not their advisor is legally obligated to make investment decisions that are in their best interest.
This legal obligation is referred to as a fiduciary duty. The fiduciary is a fancy word that simply means an adviser is required by law to offer financial and investing advice that’s best for the client, not for the firm.
RIAs and Broker-Dealers
All DST financial advisors fall into one of two broad categories: Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) and broker-dealers. RIAs are fiduciaries, while broker-dealers aren’t.
RIAs are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or their state securities regulator, depending on their size. Most broker-dealers, meanwhile, are members of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is regulated under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
Broker-dealers are held to what’s referred to as a suitability standard when offering financial and investment advice, rather than a fiduciary standard. This means that their advice must be “suitable” for the client’s needs at that particular time. The suitability standard is less stringent than the fiduciary standard in terms of the adviser’s obligation to make recommendations that are in the client’s best interest.
In addition to the fiduciary obligation, the other main difference between an RIA and a broker-dealer is in the way they are compensated. RIAs either charge their clients a percentage of assets under management or a fixed or hourly fee. Broker-dealers, in contrast, receive most of their compensation through commissions based on the DST products they recommend and sell. This means Broker-Dealer in the position to earn much more in commissions in a DST transaction.
Which Should You Choose?
In deciding which type of financial and investment adviser you should choose, one of the main questions you should ask yourself is this: Do you want to receive advice that’s objective and based solely on what’s best for your situation? Or do you want to receive advice that could be influenced, at least in part, by how much money the advisor will make based on the recommendations?
The only way to ensure that the recommendations you receive from your advisor are total, 100 percent unbiased is to work with a Registered Investment Advisor. As a fiduciary, an RIA must offer financial and investment advice that is based on your best interest — not on his or her compensation.
Your interests should always take precedence over the adviser’s interests — specifically, how much money he or she makes, that why working with an RIA (Registered Investment Adviser) a wise choice.
For more information, please contact us.