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Category: Bob Veres’ Blog

The Independent Contractor Question

You may have read, in passing, that the Financial Services Institute—the broker-dealer lobbying organization—has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (why there?) against a revised Department of Labor rule that specifies who should be considered an independent contractor and who should be considered an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The DOL rule was finalized on January 9 and is set to go into effect as you read this. If you read the legal brief, you might be convinced that the DOL is threatening the entire BD business model, by recharacterizing…

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The Market Solution

There’s a lot of hand-wringing all over the profession about the shortage of staff advisors and successors—the people who are needed to take the place of thousands of RIA firm founders who are approaching retirement.   I’m not worried about this alleged ‘talent shortage’ at all. Why?  In my experience, the marketplace itself takes care of these problems in its own time and with great efficiency.  If you’re wondering how that would happen in this particular case, consider that advisors are now competing for talent, and rearranging their firms to make them more staff-friendly.   In a talent-competitive marketplace, RIA…

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The Wonderful, Scary Next Stage of the Long Tech Evolution 

When you’re nearly as old as Methuselah, you start to see some patterns over time.  I remember when software was first introduced into the financial planning space, first as a spreadsheet called Visicalc, later Lotus 123, then Excel, and some financial planning calculators were built on top of them that looked a lot like the planning programs of today.   What was the reaction?  A lot of hand-wringing, initially, because many advisors questioned their value working the good ‘ol HP 12C making retirement planning calculations for their clients when this newfangled thing called software came along.  Is this going to…

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Dystopian Predictions (That Never Come True)

Mark Hurley seems to be addicted to predicting the future.  He published a number of white papers around the turn of the century that predicted a dystopian professional landscape composed of a small handful of giant RIAs and a few smaller firms scurrying under their feet, looking for table scraps.  Recently, he wrote a whitepaper that predicted what I would interpret as a cybersecurity apocalypse where suddenly the bad guys successfully targeted advisors and stole from their clients.  (Hurley is running a new firm that advisors can subscribe to that would offer cyber protection to their clients.) Now there’s a…

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The Medium is the Instigator

When I wrote about my approach to journalism, and why it seems to be broken in our society, I didn’t expect the volume of messages I received back from members of the Inside Information community.  The idea that we are being harmed by today’s journalistic norms clearly struck a nerve. Of course, the feedback (as it always does) triggered a lot of thinking and wondering in my poor brain.  And as I started to look deeper into why we’re having so much trouble getting straight reporting and clear descriptions of what’s actually going on, I realized that there are other…

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Standing Out in the Herd of Predators

I just got off of a virtual panel discussion for NAPFA, and in the course of a long conversation, I made a point that seemed to surprise the other panelists.  I said that brokers and sales agents are essentially predators, wolves in sheep’s clothing, where the sheep are fiduciary advisors, and the clothing is, well, you know what it is: ‘fee-based’ and ‘best interest’ (instead of fee-only and fiduciary).  One of the panelists talked about sales, which I define as having a pre-determined goal for the customer meeting, where you hope to convince the other person to make a decision…

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My Humble, Unregulated Profession

Angie Herbers (our keynote presenter at this year’s Insider’s Forum conference) recently told me in passing, during a longer conversation, that she thinks that journalism in America has become dysfunctional or broken.  As a journalist, I had to process that a bit. The interesting thing about the journalism ‘profession’ (it’s really more of an avocation) is that we aren’t bound by any formal ethical rules or guidelines.  No SEC examiners ever come into my office to check my books and records, go over my reports or see if I’m treating my audience fairly.  I’ve never had a journalist mentor, so,…

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The Point

What is the point of it all?   This is the sort of question that you find yourself asking in a moment of deep depression, when you’ve been wondering if there IS a point.  But in reality, asking yourself this question every so often creates a path to identifying the core of what you do professionally, on behalf of your clients, and on behalf of the world.   Something that deep, something that fundamental, is usually very difficult to articulate, which is why you see so many people sleepwalking through their lives.  But if you CAN answer that question in…

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Deja Vu

Oscar Wilde once remarked that “A fool is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  I think that lesson is being played out before our eyes in the financial planning profession, only instead of ‘fool’ in that quote, you can substitute ‘private equity firm,’ or ‘bean counter.’ Ever since I wrote the article telling stories about firms that were acquired, and the issues that the acquired advisors faced in their new workplaces, I’ve been looking a bit harder at the current consolidation, driven by an ever-growing flow of private equity money.   The more stories…

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