Fidelity Clearing & Custody is launching a new program that combines technology and education to help advisors better protect clients with diminished capacity from financial abuse.
It’s an issue many advisors are already facing with their clients. One in five advisors report having seen financial abuse of their senior clients, according to a recent survey conducted by Fidelity of over 300 financial professionals across all channels.
“With the graying of the population, this is an issue that is important and needs attention,” said David Canter, executive vice president of Fidelity Clearing & Custody’s practice management and consulting division.
And yet, advisors are not trained medical professionals. “They may see signs that a client is suffering from diminished capacity such as confusion, but they’re not doctors. So the question is then, how do you go from there?” Canter said.
Fidelity is hoping to offer some solutions by partnering with EverSafe, a technology provider with software that monitors clients’ accounts for suspicious activity. Fidelity’s clients, including RIAs and broker/dealers, will be able to keep an eye on client assets across thousands of financial institutions and allow clients to appoint a trusted advocate to monitor account activity.
Advisors who sign onto the program will receive a 20 percent discount on EverSafe’s services. The company’s services start at $7.99 a month for retail clients, although pricing depends on the group size and the service package selected.
In addition to the collaboration with EverSafe, Fidelity’s program will provide advisors with continuing education in through white papers and webinars, as well as sample policies and procedures they can customize and implement within their businesses.
“There is no silver bullet when you’re addressing ‘silver tsunami,’” Canter said, noting that Fidelity’s program was prompted by conversations with advisors who were already working through complicated situations and looking for help.,
The potential for financial abuse may be on the rise as well. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that by 2050, more than 13 million people over the age of 65 will be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Already about three-quarters of advisors say they are working with clients who have some form of diminished capacity, according to Fidelity’s research.
Both firms and regulators are keenly aware of the need to act. Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rolled out a rule proposal aimed at helping firms and financial advisors deal with alleged financial exploitation of senior investors.
Under the proposal, firms would be required to collect information for a “trusted contact” when an account is opened or when personal information is updated for investors 65 or older. The regulator is also proposing a 15-day “safe harbor” period that allows firms to suspend the distribution of funds or securities from the accounts of senior investors when exploitation is suspected.
The proposal—which is open for comments through Nov. 30, 2015—requires firms to notify the trusted contact or an immediate family member that a hold has been placed on the account and why. Firms have up to two business days after placing the hold to send notification and must retain records of it.