February 28, 2017 6:00 AM

In a year where the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule has substantially influenced financial services news and conversations, financial planners may feel more confused than ever before about the future of their profession.

Last week we shared insights about the DOL Rule’s current and future effect on financial services in an interview with Dr. Craig Lemoine, CFP® an Associate Professor of Financial Planning at The American College of Financial Services. Perspective is powerful and hearing from experts in the field can help financial advisors prepare for both the known and the unknown.faculty-ben-cummings-wide.jpg

This week we caught up with Dr. Benjamin Cummings, CFP®, an Associate Professor of Behavioral Finance at The College, to ask about his outlook for financial services in 2017 and beyond. Read his thoughts below.

If the DOL Rule survives the Trump administration, how do you believe the DOL Rule will affect the financial services profession in 2017?

BC: Advisors seem more aware of the potential conflicts that can exist when working with clients, and that’s an important realization. Regardless of compensation model or regulatory regime, conflicts arise when someone is paid to work for someone else, and it’s important to recognize how these conflicts can impact an advisor’s behavior.

Overall, preparing for the rule seems to be improving the professionalism in financial services. There’s a greater concern for clients and what is best for them. Also, firms are making changes, big changes in some cases. These changes will enhance the services they provide clients.

Our profession has a long history, and this is a big change — one of the biggest changes in a long time. Thinking about and working our way through how best to provide advice in the interest of clients enhances the profession and the advice that clients get.

There seems to be a new article published every day about what we should expect this year. What impact will the Trump administration have on the DOL Rule?

BC: As we get closer to April 10th, it just gets more difficult to move the freight train. That said, anything is possible. Most importantly, firms and advisors can implement changes that can help their clients regardless of what comes of the rule. Even if the rule doesn’t get implemented, advisors can still use the best interest standard to guide their work with clients. They can get to know their clients better to make sure recommendations are in line with the clients’ goals and circumstances. Advisors can choose to clearly disclose fees and any material conflicts. They can document how and why they make the decisions and recommendations that they provide their clients. Doing what’s good for the client encourages trust, which is good for advisors, too.

What advice would you give to financial planners – whether new, mid-career or experienced veterans – for either capitalizing on the implications of the DOL Rule or avoiding career missteps?

BC: This is a great profession. Helping people align their financial resources to accomplish their goals can be very rewarding work. Let your motivation be to help your clients the best you possibly can. For experienced veterans who may be concerned about what changes may be on the horizon, don’t forget why you entered the profession in the first place. A little reflection can help us make sure we’re still on the right track.

Moving Forward

Advisors who want to leverage new business and practice-transformation opportunities presented by the DOL Rule are wise to prepare with credible resources like expert commentary and The DOL Rule Toolkit.

The Toolkit is a one-stop, online repository of the most reliable and comprehensive information about the fiduciary rule. Comprised of FAQs, articles and blogs, videos, training materials, critical statistics and even future-ready software/CRM options, The Toolkit has quickly become a valuable asset to thousands of advisors dedicated to preparing for whatever version of DOL Rule implementation survives the Trump administration.


Financial advisors and financial services professionals can stay on the right track in a post-DOL Rule era by continuing to educate themselves about the regulation, it’s implications and compliance requirements. Understanding how your existing practice or its future iteration will be shaped by a redefined fiduciary standard can help you take advantage of opportunities to serve niche markets, differentiate your offerings and provide a higher level of service to your client base. Visit The DOL Rule Toolkit and get access to the resource being used by thousands of your peers.

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