YouTube adviser ramps up attacks on broker model

This time, Efros enlists wirehouse rep to help trash suitability standard, commission-based pricing

Nov 22, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

By Lavonne Kuykendall

Registered investment adviser Alex Efros felt so strongly about conflicts of interest in the wirehouse industry that he made a video about it. Now, a stockbroker acquaintance has helped him expand on the message in a new set of videos in which he discusses the ways a stockbroker's compensation puts him in direct conflict with his clients. (See video below) “Even I learned something about some of the ways brokers compete with their own clients” during the 60-minute interview, said Mr. Efros. The new videos came about when he approached his stockbroker acquaintance and asked him if he would collaborate on a videotaped interview delving into the issue. He agreed to do it, but insisted that his identity be kept secret to protect his job. In the video, only his hands are visible, and Mr. Efros addresses him only as John. Mr. Efros posted the videos to YouTube on Monday, alongside his earlier video called, ‘Top 7 things your Wall Street broker doesn't want you to know.' So far, the interview, divided into six separate videos, has only picked up a handful of views. But it is a controversial topic. The new video series is titled, “Occupy Wall Street: A Wall Street broker speaks out.” In the interview, John said that his goal is to put forth his case for changing the way brokers are compensated from a transaction-based model to a fee that is based on performance or assets. “We are both looking for change in the industry, in the way brokers are paid,” Mr. Efros said. “Expanding fiduciary responsibility to brokers would be a tremendous amount of help.” Currently, wirehouse stockbrokers adhere to a suitability standard, which requires only that an investment be suitable for the client. Registered investment advisers such as Mr. Efros must meet a fiduciary standard, which means they must put the investor's interests before their own. RIAs typically charge customers a fee based either on assets managed, time spent, or some combination of factors. Regulators are considering expanding the fiduciary standard to cover stockbrokers, a stance many in the industry firmly oppose. But John said that roughly half of his colleagues with whom he has discussed the issue would like to see a fiduciary standard applied to reps. He said that stockbrokers' opinions are generally split according to what role they play, with what he called “sales-oriented” brokers preferring the suitability standard and commision-based compensation. Conversely, “finance-oriented” brokers tended to prefer the fiduciary standard and compensation based on assets under management.

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