Financial Planning magazine recently sat down with Tom Bradley, the president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, to sort out the industry. Bradley, who is always brimming with optimism and energy, said he believes financial planning's solution culture is changing financial services for everyone, forcing all financial advisers to think about much more than the next sale.
TOM BRADLEY: You'll see financial planning become more mainstream and then the question will be how to designate planners. Will the [certified financial planner] be the way to go? What other designations are worth anything? That has to be addressed — and it looks like it will be addressed because of the Dodd-Frank law.
FINANCIAL PLANNING: Do you think brokers will become CFPs? Will they be fiduciaries?
BRADLEY: There's a place for both the salesperson and the fiduciary, because you don't want to blow up the stockbroker model totally in terms of what it is supposed to do — raise capital for companies. You've got to distribute stock, and you need a stockbroker to distribute it in an effective way. Somebody's got to be selling this stuff. And what's wrong with that? And some people want to deal with a stockbroker, to have introduced to them products and securities. What you need to do is have the rules be up to snuff. And maybe call them something else.
FP: How do you keep fiduciary advice affordable?
BRADLEY: That's why the study is important [before the SEC writes rules]. A lot of people say it's a delaying tactic, but it's important to get everything out on the table so that lawmakers understand it and people can do the right thing. For instance, let's take the do-it-yourselfers and traders. In their case, make us a fiduciary for best execution and for safety and security of account assets — but don't check up on their trades and whether they're right for them. Then you can't do $9 trades. There has to be some responsibility, but the menu has to be laid out. The fiduciary train has left the station, so we'd better get on board so that we can have some say in shaping it.
FP: That's certainly true for industry leaders. But what about the individual adviser — where should she or he be focusing energy now?
BRADLEY: Let's make a list. 1) Growing and getting better and more effective. 2) Handling that growth — that's probably the biggest challenge right now. When the market tanked, growing out of the decline was the challenge. Now advisers are working with us to become better marketers. They want some ideas. So our practice management's really ramped up. That creates another problem: 3) How do you handle all this new business? That's where we've got people stepping in to give advisers ideas about new technologies. We just want them to run efficient back offices. Then we'll both do well together.
FP: And succession?
BRADLEY: A lot of people are sitting back and watching. Most advisers are keeping their hands in the pot but bringing in new blood. That's not to say there won't be some M&A activity. But you take these independent advisory firms, have a big bank buy them up and integrate all that: First, entrepreneurs aren't going to like working in a big bank, so it's a matter of hours before it blows up. Second, your end clients picked a small business to do business with, right? Independence isn't accidental.