You may remember my presentation at the First Friday Book Synopsis on the book How to Smell a Rat: The Five Signs of Financial Fraud by Ken Fisher (2010, Wiley). The book was all about distinguishing between scrupulous and unscrupulous financial advisers.
Its primary feature was identifying the red flags, such as advisers who have access to your money, promises of returns that are too good to be true, mumbo-jumbo jargon that takes the place of explaining investing strategy, fake benefits like exclusivity, and relying on someone else for due diligence.
I thought it was interesting that an article by Mary Pilon in the Wall Street Journal, April 30-May 1, p. B9, entitled “Checking Up On Your Adviser,” gave information on how you can do this from a distance.
The article discusses how BrightScope, Inc., an independent rater of 401(k) plans, created a new directory entitled “BrightScope Advisor Pages,” where you can research the background of advisers from a collection of nearly 450,000 of them. The service is free, and it gives you all kinds of information that is pertinent to the relationship you may have with him or her.
I just looked up my own financial adviser on the site. The search was free and very fast. I got all kinds of information about him, including the amount of assets invested with him, the average amount per person invested with him, his experience and employment history, his license and registrations, and the results of his uniform securities law exam. The search also revealed the percentage of his clients by type, such as individuals, corporations, charitable organizations, and so forth.
What a tool this is! While “information about advisers has long been public via the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-regulatory organization for securities firms” (p. B9), investors have had difficulty accessing the data.
This difficulty is no longer true – here it is!
Just go to www.brightscope.com. Let’s use the tool. Will you?
Let’s talk about it!