RR: What is your group's mission?
Tom O'Keefe: I came back to run NAIP again this past year and restructured it as a private for-profit organization with the mission to provide services to advisors to protect and grow their business. This mission will evolve, though. We are currently forming an advisory board and we may decide to do some of the things that the old NAIP did like lobbying Congress and the SEC.
RR: What are the biggest issues facing retail financial advisors?
TO: Regulatory reform and investor trust without question, one affects the other by the way. I am for substantial regulatory reform that will give investors more confidence to come back in larger numbers. Without this advisors will struggle for years to achieve compensation levels of a few years ago.
RR: How do you see regulatory changes affecting them?
TO: That question is up in the air at this point. We have two bills in Congress that are pending, one from the Senate and one from the House. We won't know what a final bill will look like for at least another month or two, then it has to get passed in a very dysfunctional Congress.
RR: Where is the business headed? Is the fiduciary standard the way to go?
TO: It looks like the fiduciary standard may go away or be weakened for reps working at broker/dealers, but that cat has been let out of the bag and its only a matter of time before it climbs up the proverbial tree. To meet that standard and the aforementioned confidence issue, reps will need to achieve higher levels of competency, as in becoming Certified Financial Planners or attaining some other worthy designations.
RR: What else should advisors be aware of on the political and regulatory front?
TO: Employee protections in the financial bill. We tried to convince Congress to insert the language from the Arbitration Fairness Act into the financial reform bill so that no one would have to go through FINRA arbitration if they chose not to. Other employee protections are related to whistle-blowing on things like bad products and practices as well as standards. As before though, these whistle blowing claims will have to go through the Department of Labor. We will be updating our website on the bill and this particular issue as it evolves.
RR: Where do we get information on the new NAIP?
TO: Go to our new website at www.naip.com.