We Know What a Fiduciary Is...Don't We?


When it comes to the concept of a fiduciary, it seems that financial advisors have some explaining to do.

A new Spectrem group whitepaper, “Fiduciary—Do Investors Know What It Means?”, indicates a majority think they know what it means. Perceived knowledge of the definition of fiduciary increases with wealth level, a survey of affluent households finds. Fifty-seven percent of non-Millionaire households with a net worth of at least $100,000 believe that they do, compared with 89 percent of Ultra High Net Worth households with between $5 million and $24.9 million (not including primary residence).

And what is their definition of a fiduciary? The highest percentage of respondents across all wealth levels believes it is “a legal or ethical relationship” and “a relationship involving the care of assets.” A smaller percentage hit on the actual definition. Fifty-four percent of non-Millionaires, and roughly two-thirds of Millionaire and Ultra High Net Worth investors said it was “a professional looking out for the client’s best interests.”

Whatever they believe a fiduciary to be, Spectrem research finds that at least four-in-ten affluent investors believe that financial advisors are more concerned with selling products than in helping clients.  An even higher percentage (at least six-in-ten) find many financial advisors are biased towards a certain group or type of products.

Six-in-ten affluent investors feel that working with a financial advisor will improve their investment returns, according to previous Spectrem Group research. This indicates a general confidence that their advisor is working in their best interests.

On a positive note, even without formalized standards, most investors already believe that their advisor is a good fit for them and is helping them to make the right investment decisions in their best interest. But with proposed U.S. Department of Labor regulations poised to possibly change the “best interest” standards to which most advisors are subject, it is incumbent on advisors to fully communicate with their clients about the fiduciary standard and what they can expect from you (not surprisingly, honesty and transparency are the primary criteria by which investors choose an advisor, according to Spectrem Group wealth level studies).


To learn more about Fiduciaries, download Spectrem Group's free white paper here