Determining whether an advisor is any good is a remarkably difficult task for consumers; in fact, just determining whether an advisor has ever committed a regulatory violation could require contact to as many as 102 different agencies – from 50 state insurance departments and 50 state securities regulators, to FINRA and the SEC. While all the information is technically part of the public record, and to that extent is “transparent,” the difficulty to view it in any consolidated manner – much less as an easy resource – renders its value remarkably limited as a consumer protection.
One company trying to tackle this problem is BrightScope, which is drawing all the publicly available information together into a central resource that consumers can use to check out their advisors and determine if there’s a clean regulatory record. Recently, BrightScope announced it is also aiming to draw on fee details disclosed by RIAs in their Form ADVs to make this information readily to consumers, and is looking to add more pertinent information as well, to ultimately provide a one-stop resource for consumers to find out key information about an advisor’s experience, education, costs, and regulatory record.
While shining such a bold light of transparency on the activities of advisors will no doubt draw some criticism, I believe that this kind of transparency is crucial for consumers to develop better trust with financial advisors, and ultimately can help ensure that consumers always know the truth about who they’re working with as “Brightscoping” your advisor becomes a routine form of due diligence check for consumers. At the same time, the reality is that the nature of our industry is complex, and oversimplification of these realities will not help consumers either.
Accordingly, I’m excited to announce that I will be joining the Advisory Board of BrightScope in a consulting capacity, to try to help support their efforts in finding the right balance between fair information about advisors and the transparency that consumers need and deserve.