The word, “fiduciary,” has probably never been spoken as much as it has over the past year. It has been debated in the halls of Congress and made its way through the airwaves of popular television programs. It has been exchanged in discussions between advisors and industry experts, and in conversations between everyday investors.
Somewhere along the way, “fiduciary” has taken on a life of its own — and its meaning has evolved, too. Most would agree that this new awareness around the term is largely due to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s investment fiduciary rule, the fate of which is, more or less, up for grabs yet again.
Up until this point, we have heard countless perspectives and opinions — from fiduciary supporters to stark opponents — on what the term means for the financial services industry and for clients. But what about financial professionals who already uphold the fiduciary standard of care? How do they define the word, “fiduciary”? We asked five advisors to weigh in:
“To me, being a fiduciary means doing the right thing for my clients all of the time — not just when it’s convenient, or when the right thing for them is best for me, too. It means I am always on the ‘same side of the table’ as my clients.
In addition, being a fiduciary means being transparent about how I am compensated, as an advisor; and it also means I’m honest and open about what my services do and don’t include. I believe all of these considerations are necessary in order for a fiduciary investment advisor to build trust with his or her client, which is the foundation for any long-term relationship.”
“Being a fiduciary means spending considerable time listening to every client’s story. A successful and meaningful advisory relationship starts with understanding the key events and ideas that have permeated the client’s current stage of life, and where he or she would like to be down the road.
A fiduciary investment advisor uses that foundation to truly commit to the transparent management and well-being of the financial, personal and professional aspects of a client’s life. By keeping the focus on these areas, the recommendations fiduciaries make become more well-rounded and practical for each client.”
“To me, being a fiduciary means that my first, second and third thoughts are always going to be about the client. [My] clients ask good, smart questions, and the answers don’t always come easy. To bring clarity to a question, I always stop to consider what is very best for the client — not what is easiest or simplest for me, or what could pay the most.
If the answer an advisor gives doesn’t make sense or seems too complicated, clients should stop them to explain exactly how the recommendation benefits their unique situation, and why that is the best route forward. If your advisor can’t clearly articulate why they are making a recommendation, and why it is the best thing for you, that should be a warning sign.”
The way I see it, individuals and families have placed their trust in our team of advisors to give them honest, straightforward advice about their finances. We gladly accept this responsibility and our role as fiduciaries.”
“‘Fiduciary’ is just a legal word that binds me to do what I already know and feel is right. By serving as a fiduciary to my clients, my agreements match my personal integrity. At my core, I believe in serving others. I don’t just apply this mindset to my clients’ financial lives; it’s a moral responsibility that I take very seriously, both personally and professionally.
Put simply, being a fiduciary is just an extension of who I am — it’s a part of my character that I’m proud to uphold not only on paper, but in every aspect of my life.”