Inauguration Day is six weeks away, and plenty of uncertainty remains surrounding what action, if any, the incoming administration will take on the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule for qualified retirement accounts. But dramatic changes to financial advisor compensation appear likely to occur regardless of what happens to the Rule. Why? Because many firms want to change the way they compensate their advisors to remove conflicts even if the Rule is repealed.

In the ten days since Donald J. Trump became the president-elect, we have heard hopeful speculation in boardrooms and in the media that the new administration will throw out the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule for qualified retirement accounts, set to go into effect on April 10, saving our industry from adapting to perhaps the largest regulatory change it has ever faced.

When we convened our semi-annual study group of top bank brokerage executives in Chapel Hill last month, one topic immediately emerged as being a top concern for the group – they expect investment services revenue to decline in 2017, but bank management actually expects revenue to grow.

Strong Foundation for Growth under the DoL Fiduciary Standard

In our discussions about DoL readiness with top executives responsible for investment services in financial institutions, it is clear that they plan to focus more on life insurance sales to bolster an expected decline in revenue from commission transactions and lower fees on advisory accounts. But many are surprised to learn that banks and credit unions have made steady progress in growing their life insurance sales over the past 5 years, given industry reports to the contrary. Average annual advisor life sales revenue actually increased from $13,374 in 2010 to $16,997 last year. That was one of the Kehrer Bielan research findings discussed at the firm’s DoL Readiness Roundtable - The New Importance of Financial Planning and Life Insurance.

With implementation of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary standard for qualified retirement accounts just around the corner, firms are looking to financial planning to help their advisors fulfill their responsibilities under the rule and justify the fees they charge. That was one of the central themes at Kehrer Bielan’s recent study group on The New Importance of Financial Planning and Life Insurance After DoL, held last week in Chapel Hill, NC.