The term “fiduciary” has long been used in the financial industry, but its true meaning remains elusive to many, both inside and outside the industry. With everyone claiming to be a fiduciary nowadays, it’s essential to differentiate between genuine trust and questionable claims. Let’s delve into the definition of this term and explore some practical examples.
The True Meaning of “Fiduciary” and the Challenge of Understanding
The essence of “fiduciary” is rooted in legal principles. It pertains to individuals or businesses with specialized knowledge and expertise, held to a higher standard of conduct and trust than ordinary businesspersons. While most financial firms may pass the initial test, there’s more to the definition. A true fiduciary must also avoid self-dealing and conflicts of interest, prioritizing the best interests of those who trust them. In simpler terms, a fiduciary is someone who has an obligation to act in another person’s best interest, managing and safeguarding their property or money.
At its core, fiduciary responsibility places the interests of the client above those of the fiduciary. This fundamental principle may stir unease, and rightfully so. Let’s examine a recent example that highlights the disparity between a true fiduciary and a business structure that falls short.
Unveiling Misaligned Priorities: A Case Study
Recently, an article by Julie Daclag for Financial Advisor IQ shed light on the issue. The headline read: “BlackRock Shelled Out $40M+ to Merrill for Marketing in ’22.” However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. American Funds, Federated, Franklin, and numerous other firms engaged in revenue sharing and fee arrangements, amounting to millions of dollars. While these organizations may not explicitly claim to be fiduciaries, they do mention it in their marketing materials for select services. This ambiguity can easily confuse consumers, leaving them questioning whether certain products are being prioritized over others, regardless of suitability.
Clear Indicators of Fiduciary Status
Distinguishing between true fiduciaries and others can be simplified with clear indicators. Consider the following factors:
- Kickbacks: If a financial professional receives kickbacks for promoting specific investments, they cannot be considered a fiduciary.
- Proprietary Products: Selling proprietary products where the financial professional has a financial interest, such as mutual funds or partnerships owned or managed by their firm, disqualifies them from fiduciary status.
While these indicators don’t necessarily imply poor advice, they do signal a “buyer beware” situation, posing risks to those seeking trusted advice.
Our Journey as Fiduciaries at Mission Wealth
When we established Mission Wealth in early 2000, the word “fiduciary” was not part of our vocabulary, nor was it commonly used. However, when structuring our legal entity and business practices, we inadvertently assumed the role of fiduciaries. Our primary motivation was not to market ourselves as fiduciaries but rather to uphold the belief that there is no other way to run a business that clients rely on for their best interests.
Your financial goals deserve the highest level of care and dedication. Choose a fiduciary who will always put you first.
Take the next step in securing your financial future. Contact us today to experience the difference of working with a true fiduciary partner.
Guidance For Your Full Financial Journey
Through our comprehensive platform and expertise, Mission Wealth can guide you through all of life's events, including retirement, investment planning, family planning, and more. You will face many financial decisions. Let us guide you through your options and create a plan.
Mission Wealth’s vision is to provide caring advice that empowers families to achieve their life dreams. Our founders were pioneers in the industry when they embraced the client-first principles of objective advice, comprehensive financial planning, coordination with other professional advisors, and proactive service. We are fiduciaries, and our holistic planning process provides clarity and confidence. For more information on Mission Wealth, please visit missionwealth.com.
To meet with a Mission Wealth financial advisor, contact us today at (805) 882-2360.