By: Ron E. Peck
As the winds gust and snow continues to fall this first week of April (seriously?) I won’t allow myself to despair. I remind myself that warmer days are around the corner. My son and I gaze out the frosted window, looking to the skies hoping to see a ray of light, and a warming air, melting the frozen tundra that is our lawn. Our beloved New York Metropolitans aka “Mets” somehow continue to pull off win after win, and I know that – despite things seeming tough now – better days lie ahead. I could be talking about the weather, or I could be talking about a different climate. Do I have a (frozen) finger in the breeze, or, am I measuring the temperature of our industry? At the risk of uttering a cliché, in our industry, it truly is the best of times and the worst of times. Employers are moving to a self-funded model for their health benefits in heretofore-unknown volume; results are benefits that are more robust, at less cost for employees and employers. Yet, as this newly discovered bounty enriches the lives of its members, we also see a rise in regulation, and scrutiny. Consider the attorney, fresh from his or her attack against financial advisors – looking for another kill. Brokers who sold 401K plans and managed pensions suddenly found themselves the target of fiduciary breach lawsuits by the people they had previously served. All it took was an economic downturn, lost funds, and the employees suddenly asked, “Hey! What happened to my money, and who’s responsible for its absence?” If you think an advisor who is penalized for a few mistakes in their asset management services is bad, wait until those same employees ask, “Hey! Who used my money to buy a $500 box of tissues???” As the floodgates open, and more people join the happy ranks of the self-insured, let’s recall the words of “the bard” himself, The Notorious B.I.G.: “Mo money, mo problems.” As we service more plans, help more people, and work with more funds – we must (I believe) adopt a new level of prudent asset management. Sooner or later, someone will ask, “What did you do with my money?” And we must all be proud to report the truth. Like spring, we too need to weather the bad to enjoy the good. I see – like flowering flora in it’s infancy, poking forth from the thawing earth – members of our industry also emerging with ideas, drive, and an eye toward the best days to come. Offering advice, new services, and ways to do more with less, we must confidently say: I am a fiduciary that has done his or her duty, and then some!