Advisor.ca is live-tweeting the CSA’s Statutory Best Interest Standard roundtable. The investments industry took a drubbing from consumer advocates who offered comments at the discussion in Toronto.
A selection of our tweets, in sequential order:
So, what exactly is the client’s best interests? First, the client comes first and they’re not to be exploited. But in most cases, there is no statutory best interest duty, though Quebec civil law has some requirements. Courts will examine relationship.
Reliance of the client, and the level of discretion most often lead to courts determining a fiduciary duty exists for the advisor.
The UK is looking at differences between independent and what it calls “directed advice,” as well as a ban on fundco commissions.
In Canada, a retail client would be identified as anyone with less than $5 million. Setting a high bar for private client services.
CSA’s proposal doesn’t address a dispute resolution mechanism when clients are dissatisfied.
CARP says structural changes would be welcome because advisors haven’t always been the best help and the path to redress is uneven. If we give advisors a statutory best interest duty, there will be clearer evidence of consequence if things go wrong.
At present, public agencies have no mandate to get the money back. There needs to be a clear path to restitution outside of costly lawsuits. A national securities regulator that champions and educates the advisor would help too.
CSA says there is work going on regarding improvements to suitability requirements. CARP welcomes this.
One participant from the Investment Advisory Panel says a best interest standard must eliminate conflicts. But the large number of business models creates conflicts, as do multiple titles.
Those with limited product shelves should be called salespeople to more clearly reflect skill level.
CSA should be looking at the conflicted regimes that have arisen over the years. When was the last wholesale proficiency review in Canada? Proficiency encompasses both training and time on task and that has been reviewed in the registration reform efforts of 2012. But this was challenged because it did not include extensive title reform regardless of CSA’s assertions about registration reform.
Alison Knight asserts the average investor is not numerate or educated. The average investor can’t even comparison shop in the grocery store.
Consumers and investors need to be protected from compensation schemes. The existing disclosure is incomprehensible. People who sell you a funeral or a house or a lamp have to disclose in ways you can understand. The odds are stacked against the investor.
CSA says the law does require advisors to look at the state of the investor. Knight argues the consumer has the right to not be put in a position where they can be exploited. So POS needs to account for that. The advisor has to put himself in the client’s shoes and if he can’t, he shouldn’t be in the business.
Fair Canada says the industry is complicit in the expectation gap by saying “place your money with us and trust us.” And, studies show clients do in fact trust their advisors. That being the case, CSA says a fiduciary standard is an important step. The question then becomes, “Does that mean compensation models shift to where advice is unaffordable for some?”