The financial service industry is rife with conflicts of interest.
Big brokerage houses like Merrill Lynch, Raymond James and Edward Jones (to name just three) end up receiving kickbacks from fund companies for referring their products to clients. Academics have coined it “pay to play” fees.
The fact that a company like Edward Jones has a publically traded fund company like Putnam on its preferred fund list is laughable, considering how poorly Putnam funds, as an aggregate, have performed over the years. It works like this:
Edward Jones Broker 1 to Edward Jones Broker 2: “Hey, these Putnam funds are pretty bad, don’t you think? Why do we recommend them to clients?”
Edward Jones Broker 2 to Edward Jones Broker 1: “You don’t know? If we recommend Putnam’s funds, Putnam can slip us cash, round the world trips, golf course memberships and more.
The practice is referred to as “Pay to play” fees. To read about these in detail (and to see who else is guilty of it!) check out David Swensen’s, Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment.
Swensen’s book is mind-blowing. And as the revered endowment fund manager at Yale University, the man knows what he’s talking about.
To shield yourself with information on how poorly (in terms of mutual fund investment returns) publically traded fund companies do (relative to non- profit companies like Vanguard, TIAA Cref and private businesses like Dimensional Fund Advisors) as well, check out William Bernstein’s latest book, The Investor’s Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between.
Amidst the industry’s muck, however, are a few heroes.
And Robert Wasilewski appears to be one of the good guys. Robert Wasilewski, of RW Investment Strategies is a Registered Investment Advisor and his goal is to set investors up with index funds, charge them just 0.4% annually, and then essentially fire himself when the investor gets the hang of this very simple process. I’m guessing that the guy sleeps very well at night. (Contact Robert for more info.)
Robert’s methodology is along the same lines as the San Francisco based Aperio Group which you can read about in the fabulous article: “The Best Investment Advice You’ll Never Get”.
I haven’t used Robert Wasilewski’s services, nor have I spoken to the people at Aperio.
But I can tell you this: they’re great places to start your research, if you’re looking for a fair investment advisory service.