Over the past few years, commission-based financial advisors have seen a decline in new business across the wealth management sector. Why? Because the investment industry as a whole has largely shifted towards fee-based financial advice as clients are looking to only pay for the services they need.

  • Commission-based financial advisors have seen a decline in new business in recent years across the wealth management sector.
  • It's perceived that the interests of fee-based financial advisors are more aligned with their clients because they don't make any revenue on the sale of financial products or specific securities.
  • If an investor doesn't have sophisticated financial planning needs and just wants help with investment selections, a commission-based financial advisor can still be the right choice.

The Trend Towards Fee-Based Advisors

According to the research firm Cerulli Associates, overall fee-based assets grew from just 26% of total advisors' assets in 2018 to a whopping 45% in late 2018.

Moreover, investors are growing increasingly aware of fee structures. In 2011, Cerulli found that only 10% of investors were even aware of fee-only models. But in 2018, a solid 34% of investors were are of the fee-based compensation model.

The trend is clear: The client pool for commission-based financial advice is decreasing and advisors need to rethink their service offering if they want to remain competitive in this rapidly changing regulatory industry.

With that being said, the question both advisors and clients need to ask themselves: Is there still a place for commission-based advice in the world of wealth management?

The Role of Commission-Based Financial Advisors

Commission-based financial advisors deal strictly with investment strategies.

They operate similarly to stockbrokers in the sense that they actively buy and sell securities for their clients. These advisors receive commissions—not from their clients, but from the companies where they purchase the securities.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the financial advice industry has grown skeptical of commission-based advisors because it's perceived that their services are limited to investment strategies. Many consumers now suspect that commission-based financial advisors may prioritize their bottom line over the best interests of their clients.

The Role of Fee-Based Advisors

Fee-based financial advisors have a completely opposite income structure. These financial advisors are paid by their clients for the services they provide. The upside to this is that fee-based advisors offer a variety of services beyond the scope of investments such as tax, estate, and retirement planning.

It's perceived that fee-based financial advisors always have their clients' best interests at heart because they don't make any revenue on the sale of financial products or specific securities. They are only paid (by their clients) for services rendered.

Which Type of Advisor Is Best?

The answer depends on a client's needs.

If an investor doesn't have sophisticated financial planning needs and just wants help with investment selections, a commission-based financial advisor can be the right choice.

There will be no out-of-pocket costs to the investor because the advisor is paid by the securities company. Clients who are still hesitant can review whether suggested investments are best suited for their needs by researching the options presented.

Although fee-based advisors are paid by their clients for services, and not from financial products sold, they still receive payment in one form or another.

Yes, clients only pay for services rendered, but if the advisor doesn't recommend new services, they don't get paid. The other side of the coin is that consumers shouldn't expect to receive a professional service without paying for the service provided.