The AICPA entered into an alliance with Fidelity Investments Institutional Brokerage Group, in which IBG became the exclusive provider of clearing and custody services for the AICPA’s Center for Investment Advisory Services (CIAS). The deal is part of an ongoing AICPA effort to assist members who want to establish or expand financial planning practices and become registered investment advisers.
CPAs who participate in the CIAS can choose from a wide range of products and services. Because of the AICPA’s collective purchasing power, CIAS participants also pay lower fees and commissions.
IBG offers CIAS participants a variety of useful resources, which it describes as follows:
- “Custody and clearing services for a multitude of investment products. (Clearing, custody or other brokerage services may be provided by National Financial Services Corporation or Fidelity Brokerage Services, Inc. Members NYSE/SIPC.)
- “Software for portfolio tracking and electronic trading.
- “Web site development services and discounts on Web site hosting fees from AdvisorSquare. (Availability is limited. AdvisorSquare, a developer of Web sites for financial professionals, is not affiliated with Fidelity. The AICPA is not affiliated with Fidelity Investments.)
- “Business development services and marketing software.
- “Operational and client services, including a team of relationship and client service managers to help with day-to-day needs.
- “A step-by-step guide to getting started as a registered investment advisor.”
AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon said that the AICPA plans to help CPAs expand the range of services they provide in order to keep up with changes in their clients’ needs. “We’re seeing clients turn to CPAs for help designing and implementing their financial and investment plans,” he added, noting that the rapidly growing number of self-directed retirement plans, coupled with the transfer of wealth to baby boomers from their parents, have transformed financial planning from a privilege into a necessity.
“In many states,” Melancon said, “CPAs were barred from implementing the very investment recommendations they made. But numerous states have changed their legislation governing the practice of accounting, making it feasible now for CPAs to enter this field.” As a result, CPAs have a larger market and the service challenges that come with it. To help members meet their clients’ needs, the CIAS has created alliances with third-party vendors to offer members the following services:
- Training in preparation for securities licensing exams.
- Tools, products and services that can be used in registering as an investment adviser and complying with government regulations.
- Courses on investment policy, asset allocation, performance measurement and evaluation and how to locate and choose an account manager.
- Asset allocation software.
- Research on mutual funds.
- Alliances with information providers, such as Morningstar, Inc., and Ibbotson Associates.
- Access to products and services from Standard & Poor’s, National Regulatory Service, the Investment Management Consultants Association and Securities Training Corp.
- A dedicated Web site with news and information about CIAS and its various resources, including the new IBG offerings ( http://investmentadvisory.aicpa.org ).
Connie A. Brezik, CPA/PFS, president of an investment management and financial planning company with offices in Wyoming and other states, emphasized the importance of quality and integration among the various products and services used by a registered investment adviser, as well as the need for business development services. Getting help on assembling the components of a practice is extremely valuable, she said. “All those things make it easier, as opposed to developing it yourself, which is costly and time-consuming. For your clients’ benefit, you have to be concerned about price.”