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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Cochrane

The World Is A Changing....

The new Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rules, aimed at expanding the definition of fiduciary advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), will significantly impact annuity sales. Here are the key effects:

Increased Accountability and Standards: 

Financial advisors and firms selling annuities will be held to higher fiduciary standards. This means they must act in the best interest of their clients, putting their clients' needs ahead of their own profits. This increased accountability is likely to result in more thorough and transparent sales processes.

Enhanced Disclosure Requirements: 

The rules will likely necessitate enhanced disclosures about fees, commissions, and potential conflicts of interest. Advisors will need to clearly explain how they are compensated and how these arrangements might affect their recommendations. This transparency can lead to a more informed decision-making process for consumers.

Suitability vs. Fiduciary Standard:  

Prior to the implementation of these rules, many annuities were sold under a suitability standard, which only required that products be suitable for the client at the time of sale. Under the new fiduciary rules, advisors must ensure that the annuities are in the best interest of the client, considering their overall financial situation and goals.

Shift in Product Offerings:

The fiduciary rules might cause a shift in the types of annuities offered. Products with higher fees and commissions that are less favorable to consumers may see a decline in sales, while lower-cost and more consumer-friendly products could become more popular.

Impact on Commission-Based Models:

The new rules may discourage commission-based sales of annuities. Advisors and firms might move towards fee-based models to align better with fiduciary standards. This shift could reduce potential conflicts of interest and provide clients with a clearer understanding of what they are paying for.

Training and Compliance Costs:

Firms will likely invest more in training and compliance to ensure their advisors adhere to the new fiduciary standards. This includes understanding the complexities of different annuity products and how they fit into a client's broader financial plan. These increased costs might be passed on to consumers, but they could also lead to better advice and product recommendations.

Potential Legal and Regulatory Risks:

With higher standards come greater legal and regulatory risks for advisors and firms. Failure to comply with fiduciary duties could result in lawsuits, fines, and other penalties. This risk may lead to more cautious and diligent practices among those selling annuities.

While the DOL feels these changes will be best for the consumer, it will once again shake up the sales process and oversight of the process. Carriers will now take a greater role in the process, advisor documentation will be required and the advisor’s method to determine if an annuity is best for their client and carrier product purchased is best available will come under scrutiny. 

Much frustration often arises from new regulations, but, an opportunity for carriers emerges: Better Value Adds.

More on this in future posts……

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