New rule for greater transparency
Do you allocate to municipals via individual bonds? If so, a new bond disclosure rule set by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) could be a game changer. Approved by the SEC last year and set to go into effect on May 14, this change will affect an estimated 8,000 retail investor muni bond transactions every day.
The new MSRB markup disclosure rule has two major parts. First, it will require retail bond brokerage firms to disclose the amount of their “markup,” or how much profit they are making on each trade. This is only the case for transactions that are bought and sold by the broker dealer on the same day, and only for retail clients.
Second, all client trade confirmations will feature a link to trade price data about the bond on the MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA®) website. With minimal effort, clients will be able to look at the price they paid (or received) versus the recent trading history for that same bond.
First off, this rule will apply to most bonds traded with investment advisors, stock brokers or individual retail clients. But the new rule will have the greatest impact on municipal bonds, where a lack of transparency has historically led to relatively high transaction costs for individual buyers.
Overall, the municipal market is a very different place than it was a decade ago. Bond insurers have left the marketplace, creating the necessity for teams of experienced investment analysts to ascertain credit risk and relative value. The breadth of the market is extremely large as well: The Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index includes more than 50,000 separate issues.
It's safe to say that the new rule could potentially be a catalyst for some uncomfortable client conversations. Rather than letting the headlines dictate the discussion, we believe advisors should take a proactive approach and initiate the dialog with a solution already in place.
While not all clients need ot transition away from advisor-managed muni sleeves, there will likely be many cases when enlisting a third-party manager is prudent.
Tax-advantaged mutual funds and separately managed accounts (SMAs) can offer investors a relatively liquid and diversified way to invest in the asset class. For example, investors in Capital Group’s range of muni strategies can potentially benefit from:
The new disclosure rule is sure to spark many discussions about advisor-managed municipal bonds
Ultimately, greater transparency should benefit all by shedding light on costs. It should also provide greater context for those advisors who are considering transitioning client assets from individual municipal bonds to more flexible muni strategies such as The Tax-Exempt Bond Fund of America® or Capital Group Intermediate Municipal℠ SMA.
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