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Mutual Funds Omnibus Transparency – Lighting up the Black Cat in the Dark Room

The phrase, “knowledge is power,” takes on a special meaning when a paucity of knowledge leads to potential issues that leave a company fumbling around in a dark room, looking for a black cat, only to be saved when someone turns the lights back on. When Mutual Funds companies’ clients started moving away from trading in fully disclosed accounts to consolidated omnibus accounts, they lost their ability to monitor their fund trade activity. Compliance with prospectus defined rules became impossible to monitor and data became the black cat in the black room. However, due to market demand for more than summarized trade activity, transparency has reemerged within omnibus accounts. How this happened, who it impacted and what has been done to remediate the problem is the focus of this week’s journey into the fund industry’s Twilight Zone. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

Load Waived A Shares – Putting the Milk Back in the Bottle

In the last couple of years, FINRA has been taking a hard look at brokers that have been selling A shares to retirement plans to make sure they were waiving the load, if the fund allowed such a waiver. Well, it turns out that a lot of brokers have been selling A shares into retirement plans at POP (Public Offering Price), that is, the participants in the plan paid a front end load when the fund’s prospectus allowed those shares to be sold with no load. What’s the result of this activity? A FINRA investigation into broker dealer firms. So why is this happening now? Let’s take a step back and examine the players in this party. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

Burton’s Blog: SEC, Dodd Frank, Money Market Reform and FSOC: Connecting the Dots between the Acronyms

The Money Market Reform (MMR) rules being enacted by the SEC have left me feeling a little like we have a cure that is worse than the disease. The SEC generally does a fair job in weighing the costs versus the benefits of enacting regulations (I am stretching a little here) but this one just doesn’t feel right, so I decided to do a little research to see what made this rule change seem so different from prior SEC rule changes.

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Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

What’s the Matter with U – Part II

In part one of this post I opened the lid on the Pandora’s Box of mutual fund share classes (from A-Z, without U), currently floating around the industry; in part two we’ll examine why, beyond sheer confusion, this marketing practice is problematic.

Other than just being able to clearly identify the type of share class you are investing in, there are other issues with all multiple share classes. A lot of penalties have been imposed on firms by the SEC and FINRA for utilizing the wrong share class, either in retirement plans or Wrap accounts. With all the share class options available, is it any wonder they are being utilized improperly, either by design or by accident? Let’s look at some of the issues around using the wrong share class. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

What’s The Matter with U: “U” is absent in the current offering of 375 Mutual Fund Share Class names

Personally, I don’t like going to a restaurant where the menu just goes on and on, making me wonder if they can really prepare all those selections equally well! I also have a problem with mutual fund share classes, on a number of levels.  Like certain restaurant menus, they are endless.

I recently looked at a common mutual fund industry database and found over 375 share class names. Back in the old days you had A, B and C shares. Today you’ve got share classes named after every letter in the alphabet, except the letter U. The letter R appears to be very popular, like appetizers; you can have an R, R1, R2, R3, R4, R5 or R6 share class. Looking for a main course? The names include some nice descriptive examples such as Ultra, Select, Retail, Prime, Premier, Direct, Classic, VIP and hundreds more. I am left to ponder, is U like monkey brains: something found in movies, but not on real menus? And why do we need all these names in the first place?

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Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

BREAKING NEWS: Implications of the SEC’s just released Mutual Fund Guidance

The long awaited result of the SEC’s distribution in guise sweeps hit today; you can find the link here.  Many of the points covered were expected, and most of the requirements for compliance identified are currently supported by the Oversight platform Delta Data actually developed in anticipation of this guidance. Here is the overarching theme in this news: the 12b1 plan represents the only funds that can be used for distribution expense, and anything that promotes sales in any way, whether direct or indirect, must be allocated as an expense to the advisor and/or other relevant service providers, not the fund. Fees related to distribution in excess of the 12b1 plan must be allocated to the advisor and/or other relevant service providers.

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Whitfield Athey
Whitfield Athey is CEO of Delta Data Software. His role at Delta Data is focused on growth of the product base, satisfaction of clients and scalability of the organization.

Meeting the Needs of an Industry via Innovative Software Products: Mandates versus Evolution – Part 2

This is the second part of a two part posts concerning risks associated with developing new software products under two different scenarios: mandates and evolution. In the first part we discussed developing products due to mandates; in this second part we’ll explore developing products due to industry evolution. This discussion will be supported with examples of actual Delta Data Software products. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

Meeting the Needs of an Industry via Innovative Software Products: Mandates versus Evolution – Part 1

Much to her chagrin, I have told my wife many times that operating a software products company is like being a riverboat gambler. It is exciting, risky, and involves timing, industry savvy and a good relationship with Lady Luck (she hates it when I mention other women!) As a software product company focused 100% on the mutual fund and pooled products industry, Delta Data will generally see software development opportunities emerge in two distinct ways. First, there are the opportunities that present themselves as a result of mandated legislation. Then there are the opportunities that are discovered through an evolution within the industry itself. Each of the two opportunities has its pros and cons. To be successful, software companies need to recognize these opportunities and bring innovative products to the market faster and better than the bigger fish in the pond. Of course this innovation involves risk, hence the relationship with gambling. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

401(k) Plans With Employer Stock – A Vanishing Breed

In my last blog article, I talked about how retirement plans had evolved from employer sponsored and employer run profit sharing plans into outsourced participant directed 401(k) plans. One of the big differences between the old profit sharing plans and today’s 401(k) plan that I did not get to mention in the last article is the use of employer stock in the retirement plan. Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

Watching the Pendulum Swing on 401(k) Plan Expenses

There have been several articles in the news recently about how mutual fund expense ratios are continuing to drop for 401(k) plan participants. These were based on a report issued by the Investment Company Institute in August 2015 called Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

SEC “Distribution in Guise” Sweep

There has been a lot of news recently about the SEC sweeps where they are looking at fund companies that may be paying out distribution fees but disguising them as servicing fees. With all that the SEC has on their plate, you may be asking yourself, “why is this so important to them”? Well, the SEC Read more

Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.

The Motivations behind the SEC “Distribution in Guise” Sweeps

The biggest and most vexing news concerning mutual funds this year involves a three letter acronym: SEC, followed by a three letter word: why? The SEC has been conducting deep drill down sweeps into the practice of fund companies paying out distribution fees disguised as service fees. The question floating around the industry is: why has this become important to the SEC now? Well, to understand the present involves looking at the past, and that requires a review of the SEC’s Rule 12b-1

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Burton Keller
L. Burton Keller was a principal founder of the company in 1985 and currently focuses on strategic initiatives for the company. Mr. Keller also serves as company representative to the DTCC and is an active member of the Bank, Trust and Retirement Advisory Committee of the Investment Company Institute.