Each year, about 550 advisors on average complete fi360's fiduciary training program.
But given the accelerated pace of registrations recently, Blaine Aikin, chief executive of the Bridgeville, Pa.-based training organization, expects almost twice that number, or about 1,000, to complete the program by the end of the year.
All the attention to his corner of the financial services industry pleases Aikin. “We are devoted to the subject,” he says.
That more advisors are seeking fiduciary training these days, however, should surprise few, given the intensifying discussions among regulators to expand fiduciary obligations.
First, the Department of Labor proposed rules requiring that all advisors to retirement plans act as fiduciaries. Then in March, SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White expressed support for the idea of all investment advisors having fiduciary obligations.
Both the Labor Department and the SEC have miles to walk before those proposed regulations become effective. But the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation gave the SEC authority to enforce rules making all retail investment advisors act in the best interest of their clients.
Principals of RIAs already know all about fiduciary obligations. But advisors shedding ties with broker-dealers may previously have only focused on a suitability standard, not the in-your-clients'-best-interests obligations of a fiduciary.
No matter where advisors land on the fiduciary scale, fi360 offers applicable and worthwhile training, Aikin says.
"We provide programs for those who are already fiduciaries, those who are not [and] those who are [not] necessarily going to be but want to be able to answer clients' questions about their role," he says.
The basic fi360 course requires 24 to 30 hours of online study and a single day of training. It costs $2,400, but discounts are available when multiple advisors register as a group.
Aikin's strongest selling point is that the most-likely claim in clients’ lawsuits against advisors will be based on breach-of-fiduciary duties allegations, he says.
D. Linette Dobbins agrees that advisors need fiduciary training, and she has found a patchwork of possible programs outside fi360 offerings for her advisors. "I don't think advisors should ever steer clear of fiduciary training," Dobbins says.
She is the president and chief compliance officer of Portland, Ore.-based McGee Wealth Management, a Raymond James Financial Services affiliate. Dobbins also served on Raymond James' advisory committees because of her compliance knowledge.
In addition to their initial training to earn certificates as certified financial planners, McGee Wealth Management advisors must also meet Oregon regulators' ethics standards so each year, they take the CFP Board of Standards', FPA's or Raymond James' training.
With Washington regulators eyeing fiduciary obligations for advisors of all stripes, she describes any extra training with the acronym "CYA."
Miriam Rozen is a reporter for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial planning and services.
This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the launching of the fiduciary training program.