Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 and is filed under AI Insight News
AI Insight CEO Sherri Cooke discusses her key reflections for 2020 including how alternative investments played an important role in portfolios and the impacts of Reg BI. She also shares what’s anticipated in 2021. Read the narrative below or listen to the podcast here.
Sherri formed AI Insight in 2005 with the primary goal of providing the financial planning community with a more efficient and consistent way to access factual information on alternative investment programs – and from that vision the AI Insight database was born.
Q: What are some of the key reflections you have about 2020 and some points of interest for the coming year?
SC: I would say as a ADISA Board member, I was fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time this year collaborating with others in the alternative investment industry focusing on some of the things we can do to make the industry better – and to increase the awareness and understanding of these products within a growing audience. I believe we all have to work together to bring this space to a whole new level. Also, as Reg BI requirements continue, we’re looking at ways to partner with compliance and technology workflow companies that are helping to support these needed processes. We’re also looking to connect with other companies – both inside and outside the traditional alternatives space to further increase consistency and transparency in the industry with an ultimate goal of making it easier to conduct alts business.
Q: How do you think alternative investments played an important role in portfolios this past year, especially given the pandemic?
SC: We’re always looking for ways to give more to people – who are of course qualified – access to alternative investments to help them really diversify their portfolio in a meaningful way. Our belief is that a person isn’t fully diversified if all of their underlying investments are either in some way tied to the markets or are invested in a fixed income security – which is effectively still tied to the market.
Despite the pandemic – and in some cases as a result of – there are a lot of really solid opportunities to invest in real assets, interesting investment structures, and institutionally supported opportunities through alternative investments that really provide true diversification.
That said, alternatives can certainly be complex and they need to be factually understood and appropriately sold. This industry really needs to educate financial professionals and investors in so many different ways. One of those has to be around creating realistic expectations about what these investments are intended to bring to a diversified investment portfolio…and what they are not. Stocks lose value all the time and there will be alts that don’t perform. As an industry, we really need to do our very best to ensure that these products are properly sold and positioned within client portfolios. And – as with all investments – we support conducting the best possible research and diligence to allow firms and advisors to select best of class – and help the vested financial firms and producers drive product sponsors toward best of class practices.
Q: We know that compliance is often an issue for advisors in considering alternative investments – and regulatory scrutiny continues to increase. The SEC’s Regulation Best Interest implementation took place on June 30. How does AI Insight help streamline Reg BI requirements?
SC: Compliance is one of the things that motivated me to create AI Insight in the first place. I wanted to build capabilities to facilitate due diligence and proper compliance along with education and documentation of these efforts when selling complex products – those products that the regulators have called out as needing heightened supervision or training.
From an audit perspective, we’ve found in any situation of which we’re aware with our clients, if a firm has stayed up-to-date on the requirements around selling different types of investments – and makes sure everyone involved is aware of their obligations, adheres to the processes, and documents their efforts – then the regulators are generally satisfied. If you fail to make these efforts up front and you’re inconsistent in how you conduct your business from a compliance perspective….you’re just leaving yourself open to trouble.
Reg BI – within the BD community – and I think even though the fiduciary standard has always applied RIA space – we’re going see a whole new layer of extra scrutiny in this regard. The processes that have been central to our platform for years can help support Reg BI requirements and help financial firms and professionals demonstrate the “good faith and reasonable efforts” that Reg BI requires on an ongoing basis. Specifically, we’ve created a comprehensive Reg BI Guide that steps through the Compliance and Care Obligations and correlates the AI Insight support resource to that particular SEC requirement. Again, this is just another way that we help to create efficient and consistent educational and compliance workflows that can help firms at both the product and the firm level.
Q: What is your focus for 2021?
SC: From a business owner’s perspective, ensuring that our team and our product continues to maintain consistent integrity of value and exceptional service; this is the backbone of our business – and making sure that our AI Insight team is challenged and fulfilled in their roles within our company.
From an industry perspective – we believe that there is a tremendous amount of value for advisors to differentiate themselves and bring really great opportunities through the thoughtful and diligent understanding of alternative products. We provide this value by building and bringing together our network of broker-dealers, advisors, RIAs, alternative investment firms and industry partners. Therefore, as in past years, I am always grateful for how far we’ve been able to come and to everyone who has helped us be successful in our efforts to support this industry – and I look forward to working with all of our business partners to explore new possibilities and find what more we can bring to the table for our customers in the new year.