GRAPEVINE, Texas -- With the fiduciary rule partially on hold, some industry leaders see a chance to reset the terms of the entire regulatory debate.

"We have a window of opportunity to seize the moment and effect regulatory harmonization," John Rooney, managing principal of Commonwealth Financial Network, told attendees during a panel at FSI's OneVoice conference.

The appeal to action comes amid a rapidly shifting regulatory landscape that has left some industry participants uncertain as to what the industry's future will look like.

The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule is only partially implemented while the agency reviews its regulation with an eye to rescinding it. The SEC is developing its own higher standard. State lawmakers are floating bills to craft their own fiduciary rules. And, those are just some recent regulatory developments.

CEOs of top independent broker-dealers petitioned their counterparts to become more engaged with politicians and regulators.

(Bloomberg News)
(Bloomberg News)


"If you took the time and effort to come to this conference, you should take the time and effort to invest in the PAC and effect real change," said James Poer, CEO of Kestra Financial,who spoke on the same panel with Rooney.

Poer was referring to the trade group's political action committee, Financial Services Institute PAC, which had about $88,000 on hand as of June 30, 2016, the latest period for which federally reported data was available.

But entreaties to be more engaged went far beyond just monetary contributions.
"If you are not actively engaged in that discussion with the regulators, then you are not fulfilling your obligations to this profession. You should be getting everyone you know, every advisor you know, to be a good citizen," Cetera CEO Robert Moore said.

At FSI OneVoice conference, top industry executives urged their colleagues to engage more closely with regulators as they consider revisions to – or entirely new – fiduciary rules. From left to right: Cetera CEO Robert Moore, Kestra Financial CEO James Poer, and Commonwealth Financial Network Managing Principal John Rooney. 
Photo: Jonah Gilmore/EPNAC
At FSI OneVoice conference, top industry executives urged their colleagues to engage more closely with regulators as they consider revisions to – or entirely new – fiduciary rules. From left to right: Cetera CEO Robert Moore, Kestra Financial CEO James Poer, Commonwealth Financial Network Managing Principal John Rooney, and 1st Global President David Knoch. Photo: Jonah Gilmore/EPNAC

Fiduciary advocates have been steadfast in their support of the Labor Department's rule and have called on the SEC to craft a standard of care that is similar.

Prior to President Trump's State of the Union speech, the Financial Planning Coalition – which is comprised of the FPA, CFP Board and NAPFA – urged his administration to protect retirement savers.

"Too many have lost hard-earned savings from their nest eggs through conflicting advice. Implementing a fiduciary standard of care helps to ensure that they can achieve the retirement security that they deserve," the Coalition said in a statement.

While regulators in Washington struggle over whether and how to harmonize different standards, the growing number of states looking to create their own fiduciary rules could leave the industry with an unruly regulatory patchwork, FSI leaders warned.

"My practice is licensed in 26 states. It's important to me not to operate under 26 sets of rules," said Dean Harmon, an independent advisor in The Woodlands, Texas and chairman of the board at FSI.

The industry trade group, comprising a number of independent broker-dealers, is also party to a lawsuit against the Labor Department over the fiduciary rule. Other plaintiffs include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and SIFMA . They're currently appealing their case to a federal judge.

"We would prefer to see a single standard of care to all those providing advice," David Bellaire, FSI general counsel, said.