What is the fiduciary standard?
According to the CFP Board of Standards, the fiduciary standard of care requires that a financial adviser act solely in the client’s best interest when offering personalized financial advice.
Under federal law, in particular the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, investment advisers are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or appropriate state authorities and are required to provide services to their customers under the fiduciary standard. CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals providing financial planning services also must abide by the fiduciary standard, as defined by CFP Board.
Broker-dealers are also regulated under federal law, including under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, but are not required to provide services to their clients under the fiduciary standard of care. Instead, broker-dealers provide services under the “suitability standard of care,” which generally requires only the broker-dealer’s reasonable belief that any recommendation is suitable for the client. It is important to recognize that a financial recommendation that is “suitable” for a client (as legally required for broker-dealers) may or may not be a financial recommendation that is in the client’s best interest (as legally required for investment advisers).