The short answer is yes.
The idea behind using a broker comes from the value of unbiased advice given to a male-, women-, black-, and Hispanic-majority clientele of senior citizens. These consumers lack the knowledge of financial markets and the behavior that comes with transactions that can lay waste to their retirement dreams.
As an advisor myself, I regularly cater to this demographic because I know first-hand the unique challenges that older Americans face: Multiple generations are estranged; and therefore the instinct of the consumer who represents thousands of family members is often to trust me blindly, assuming I have the answers, not just the answers to questions, but the answers to problems as well.
But with access to new technologies and social media, the greater public now knows that they can hire an independent broker as well. All they have to do is invest sufficient funds and they can reap the benefits of long-term expert advice.
At The Wealthfront, we’ve seen the benefits of incorporating in-house brokers firsthand. Our in-house brokers are no longer paid commission on every transaction; instead, they are engaged in a subscription revenue model of select transaction fees. Last year, the average fee paid by our in-house clients was just 4 percent of total account balances.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the average size of a discretionary brokerage account is in the range of $100,000, meaning that 90 percent of the people paying commissions do not consider themselves wealthy. However, when they trust their wealth with someone trustworthy they will:
1. Pay a lower amount of fees than the average.
2. Experience more personalized investment advice
3. Unlock a more secure retirement
4. Experience more flexible investment options.
The financial industry believes they are the only place to go for impartial advice when building up wealth, and retirement planning isn’t the only area in which they have missed the mark. We are constantly amazed by how little awareness people have of risk and investment.
According to research by Wealthfront, after the market crash of 2007-2008, of the 10 percent of Americans who froze their contributions, 60 percent of them were thinking about investing but didn’t know how or didn’t trust it. It’s understandable. With thousands of options, thousands of hours of research, and loads of talk and confirmation that help in the decision making process, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the costs of any new technology.
But most people are fine with outsourcing the decisions to someone they trust. The practice has even been investigated by the nonprofit Wall Street Project, which found that investment advice companies using a model managed account structure (MOA) had fewer complaints from investors and were more likely to pass financial examinations.
The Fear Factor is that when you have a broker serving you, it makes it almost impossible to trade on your own. Research finds that individuals are often deterred from making trade orders because of the high expense and long time it takes to get a price quote. The high cost of a brokerage account discourages people from exercising new options or reading all the information.
However, as the power of in-house brokerage increases, we will see what happens when people are given the ability to manage their own money. Individuals with extremely small accounts will likely turn to brokerages to answer questions, while those who have several hundred thousand dollars will have the industry as one of their main advisors. They will be able to invest with companies whose ethics align with their own. And finally, the cost of having someone else making their financial decisions can be addressed because the commissions are removed and the fees are considered maintenance and disclosure fees.
In a few years, the idea of an in-house broker may become a thing of the past. Unless you’re feeling special right now, the investment advice model should be welcomed and not frowned upon.