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Leading Fidelity’s Charge for RIAs

Michael Durbin relishes being on the forefront of advisory industry’s transformation.

Kate Stalter, 02/10/2014

As the investment advisory industry undergoes a massive shift from compensation-based models to fee-only, custody firms are stepping up as change agents, rather than passively following the crowd. Custodians— where registered investment advisors place their clients’ assets—across the industry are expanding their suite of services to include better software and even management consulting to serve their clients.

Michael Durbin, Fidelity’s president of Institutional Wealth Services, which provides custody and other brokerage services to RIAs, professional asset managers, and other institutional clients, relishes the opportunity to be on the forefront of this transformation. He sees big opportunities to grow the business unit, as well as to guide advisors to better outcomes.

The registered investment advisor model has been on the rise in recent years. That trend accelerated with the 2008 financial crisis, as advisors left big wirehouses to strike out on their own. Durbin’s group counts 3,000 RIAs as clients, and his job is to increase the firm’s assets with this segment.

“I’m trying to capture for Fidelity as much growth that is underway in this industry as is humanly possible,” Durbin says. “I’m having a lot of fun with that.”

A Focus on Alternative Investments
One area in which Durbin and other Fidelity institutional division leaders are focusing on to capture more advisors is alternative investments. They want to bring in more research and education materials to help advisors learn to navigate these often esoteric and complicated investments. And Fidelity tapped Morningstar’s alternatives research team to help them do it.

“It’s not enough just to execute and custody alternatives,” Durbin says. “We’re still at the point on the curve where there’s a lot of education about how alternatives should be put into a client portfolio.”

Morningstar’s alternatives team publishes reports on approximately 80 mutual funds, covering 85% of the assets in the alternatives open-end universe. A ratings committee also assigns a forward-looking qualitative analyst rating to each fund. The ratings and reports are now available to Fidelity’s institutional clients. In addition, a team from Morningstar Investment Management produces a select list of the most compelling alternative mutual fund managers available on Fidelity’s fund platform.

All of this content is delivered though a Morningstar-hosted micro-site, which has been integrated into Fidelity’s institutional and advisor platforms.

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