Advisors failing to disclose high MERs on ETFs

Advisors failing to disclose high MERs on ETFs

Advisors failing to disclose high MERs on ETFs The shoe is now on the other foot, with fee-based advisors taking heat for failing to disclose all the MERs associated with ETFs – costs that sometimes approach those of mutual funds.

“The fee-based structure gives clients a more transparent look at what is going on with a client’s account, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden fees, especially when it comes to ETF funds and their MERs,” AJ Chase, a wealth advisor with Scotia McLeod, told WP. Investors may only think they are paying a fee as a percentage agreed upon with their advisor, and not any additional embedded fees.”

“ETFs can be used within a fee-based account. They have embedded fees, similar to many mutual funds. These embedded fees can range from .07 per cent to .99 per cent or more. Many investors may not know about these hidden fees. Investors may only think they are paying a fee as a percentage agreed upon with their advisor, and not any additional embedded fees. Also, with a fee-based practice, an investor’s tax advisor might be a able to write-off non-registered fees charged to each account."

The advisor’s comments are part of the ongoing debate about whether fee-based compensation as a wholesale replacement for embedded commissions – after full CRM2 implementation – will eliminate some of the concerns around hidden MERs, more usually associated with mutual funds. They won’t, point out advisors.

“The end-user client always pays for both the cost of advice and the cost of the products used to implement that advice,” said John DeGoey, a portfolio manager at Burgeonvest Bick Securities Ltd.  “Telling clients only about the cost of advice is, in my opinion, only telling half the story,” he said. “In that regard, regulators have massively dropped the ball.”

New transparency rules will ostensibly open the eyes of investors unaware of what fees they’re paying, argues DeGoey, but advisors could face two potential issues with ETFs and hidden MERs: they’ll have to justify charging higher advisory fees for individual securities and F-class funds.

 “This is an opportunity to teach ordinary investors two lessons:  advice is not free, and the cost of investment products matter greatly. Drawing attention to one while simultaneously ignoring the other is regrettable to say the least.”
  • Chris Nicola 2015-04-15 11:32:13 AM
    I may be missing something but where is the reference to the actual statement made in this article. Which fee-based advisors are failing to disclose this? I have no doubt there is some truth to this, but as written it just seems to be an open accusation without any evidence.
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  • Ken MacCoy, CHS 2015-04-15 12:55:30 PM
    ...and there you have it! John hits the nail on the head & well written article by Jordan.

    Clients know there is no such thing as a 'free-ride'. They know they pay for the advice one way or another. However, this debate about how the advisor gets paid is not important.

    The real issue should be about protecting the consumer through higher professional standards as recommended by ADVOCIS.

    The problem: anyone... whether actually qualified or not... can call themselves a financial advisor and give what they purport to be "good financial advice."

    To start, the title "financial advisor" needs to be strictly regulated to protect consumers.

    All 'advisors' need to meet initial & ongoing proficiency standards; satisfy strict continuing education requirements; adhere to a professional & ethical code of conduct; and
    maintain appropriate levels of E&O insurance; ...PLUS belong to a recognized professional association.

    How advisors get paid is not the problem. The real problem is ensuring that the consumer is protected from the 'bad apples' (unqualified & crooks) in our industry.

    The professional model proposed by Advocis may not be the best solution, but it is a darn good start.

    FYI - I am not a financial advisor, I am an independent life insurance broker; and proud of it.
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  • larry elford 2015-04-15 3:19:19 PM
    Word-play warning: "Adviser" spelled using "er" is a lawful part os the Securities Act and carries a "do-no-harm" type of legal obligation to the client. Most Portfolio Managers fall into this license category and I know Mr. DeGoey is a the leader in his field of separation (and respect) of client interests, vs dealer/salesperson interests. "Advisor", spelled using "or" on the other hand is a mere spelling variation to some, but CSA lead legal counsel tells it truthfully: It is a "mere title" and one that is not of interest to the regulators. In this regard I concur with what John Degoey says, "regulators have dropped the ball". So badly have they demonstrated blind obedience to those they purport to regulate, that Canadians are cheated of about $500 million PER WEEK (U of Toronto mutual fund vs pension funds) by the spelling trickery. Deception "rules", and rules definitely do NOT, with our current regulators. Buyer to beware….. Industry reputation to decline……
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