Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

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The financial services industry has been changing so fast and growing so complex that broker-dealers and investment advisers, which are subject to different regulations, are no longer easy to distinguish from one another. Since the 1990s, market demands have introduced new business practices and firms have taken many different forms, making it harder for investors to distinguish these traditional distinctions. Given such complexity, it is not surprising that typical investors are confused about the nature of the services their financial professional offers. Many of those surveyed, as well as focus group participants, did not understand the key distinctions between investment advisers and broker-dealers: their duties, the titles they use, the services they offer, or the fees they charge. They attributed part of their confusion to the dozens of titles used in the field, including generic titles such as financial advisor and financial consultant, as well as advertisements that claim “we do it all.”


The published version of this Working Paper may be found in the 2011 publication: Financial Literacy: Implications for Retirement Security and the Financial Marketplace.

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Copyright/Permission Statement

Opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect views of the institutions supporting the research, with whom the authors are affiliated, or the Pension Research Council. Copyright 2010 © Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 07 August 2019