There is a lot of confusion about how different types of financial “professionals” work. On one hand, you have brokers or registered representatives (RR) who work for broker-dealers and insurance agents who represent insurance companies. On the other, you have investment advisors (IAR) who work for Registered Investment Advisors (RIA). While people use the generic term financial advisor to describe all three, there is a substantive and legal difference among them.
(The term financial advisor did not exist until the late 1990s and was a deliberate and brilliant marketing tactic to recast product sales people (i.e., brokers and agents) in a more positive light and blur the distinction among RR, agents and IARs). Suitability or Fiduciary?
RR’s and insurance agents work on the suitability standard. This means that as long as they get information about your net worth, determine how much risk you can handle and verify that you are financially qualified, he or she can recommend a product that is not necessarily in your best interest. You bear all the risk. Suitability is essentially a “buyer beware” standard filled with conflicts of interests.