Review of MML Investors Services

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Reviewed By

Updated on Friday, June 4, 2021

MML Investors Services (MMLIS) is a large investment firm, employing more than 5,600 investment advisors. In addition to its headquarters in Springfield, Mass., the firm has more than 1,100 offices across the United States. Investment advisory and broker-dealer services are offered, and a large array of programs and options are available for investors of all levels. With clients including both individuals (including those with high net worth) and institutions, MML Investors Services currently has more than $49 billion in assets under management (AUM).

Assets under management: $49,002,336,032
Minimum investment: Varies by account type, generally ranging from $5,000 to $1 million
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, hourly charges, fixed fees, other (solicitor fees)
Headquarters: 1295 State Street Springfield, MA 01111-0001
Website: https://www.massmutual.com/investment/mmlinvestors
Phone: (413) 737-8400

All information included in this profile is accurate as of May 18, 2021. For more information, please consult MML Investors Services’ website.

Overview of MML Investors Services, LLC

MML Investors Services provides both broker-dealer and investment advisory services. The firm started doing business in 1981 and registered as an investment advisor in 1993. The company is owned by MassMutual Holding LLC, which is owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

The firm has nearly 8,000 employees, not including clerical works. Of those, almost all are registered representatives of a broker-dealer, and the vast majority are also licensed agents of an insurance company or agency.

What types of clients does MML Investors Services serve?

MML Investors Services’ clients include:

  • Individuals
  • High net worth individuals
  • Businesses
  • Trusts
  • Estates
  • Endowments and foundations
  • Fidelity Charitable donor-advised accounts
  • Business entities
  • Qualified plans

The vast majority of the firm’s clients are individuals. The firm also works with some high net worth individuals, who the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million.

For broker-dealer services, there’s no account minimum required, though some securities require a minimum amount for purchase. For investment advisory services, the account minimum varies by program, typically ranging from $5,000 to $1 million.

Services offered by MML Investors Services

MML Investors Services is dually registered as both an investment advisor and a broker-dealer, meaning it can recommend investment strategies and then purchase and sell investments for you. The company provides broker-dealer services on a discretionary basis, meaning clients have the final say about buying and selling decisions. The firm’s investment advisory services may be provided on either a non-discretionary or discretionary basis, in which the advisor makes the final buying and selling decisions without first seeking the client’s express approval.

MML Investors Services offer accounts that it manages, dubbed MMLIS Managed Accounts, as well as accounts managed by third-party advisors to whom it refers clients. The firm can advise clients on a wide range of investments, though it notes that not all of its financial professionals can provide advisory services.

Here is a complete list of the services that MML Investors Services can offer:

  • Portfolio management (discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning
  • Insurance/risk management
  • Employee benefit plan services
  • Brokerage services
  • Pension-consulting services
  • Selection of other advisors
  • Educational seminars and workshops
  • Asset allocation programs

How MML Investors Services invests your money

MML Investors Services offers clients a wide range of investment programs and strategies, including pre-designed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual fund asset allocation models as well as separately managed accounts and customized asset allocation strategies based on customer needs.

Independent advisor representatives work with clients to determine their goals, time horizon and risk tolerance and then recommend various strategies. The firm primarily uses third-party investment advisors and money managers for research and to provide recommendations on asset allocations and securities. To select and retain these advisors, the team evaluates them based on factors including their experience, expertise, investment philosophies, firm infrastructure and past performance.

For example, MML Investors Services acts as co-advisor to clients along with Envestnet Asset Management to provide Unified Managed Account (UMA) programs. Portfolios are constructed based on a client’s risk tolerance level and may include individual mutual funds, individual ETFs and/or certain separately managed account strategies or investment options. The UMA is also available as a mutual fund-only version that contains only fund strategist provider-approved mutual fund portfolios and/or individual mutual funds.

When offering advice within asset management programs, MMLIS uses both traditional asset allocation and tactical allocation:

  • Traditional asset allocation: In traditional asset allocation, client funds are diversified across asset classes, including broad asset classes, such as equity or fixed income, and sub-asset classes, like large cap, small cap and international. The team bases these allocations on a client’s goals and doesn’t adjust them unless those goals change.
  • Tactical asset allocation: In tactical allocation, assets are purchased based on short-term trends, including financial markets, economic cycles and asset class valuations.

The firm may also recommend focused or completion strategies in which portfolios are concentrated in a specific asset class or according to a specific strategy.

Within these strategies, MML Investors Services may also recommend mutual funds, ETFs, variable annuity sub-accounts, individual equities, individual fixed income securities and managed accounts.

Fees MML Investors Services charges for its services

There are separate fees associated with the broker-dealer services and investment advisory services provided by MML Investors Services. Broker-dealer fees include transaction fees, such as commission or sales load fees, product fees and account fees.

Investment advisory fees charged by the firm vary widely depending on the client’s needs and the programs selected. Total client fees are based on two components, which vary by program: an investment management fee and a program fee, which is based on an annualized percentage of assets in a client’s account.

Financial planning fees are based on scope of work provided. Costs typically range from about $500 to $25,000 per year. Clients have the option of paying this fee in full or in installments.

MML Investor Services’ pros

  • Large, national presence: With thousands of investment advisory representatives across the country, there’s likely to be an office in or near your area.
  • Lots of choice in programs and products: If you’re looking for variety, MML Investors Services has it. From products and programs to asset classes and investment strategies, the firm offers an impressive range of options.
  • One-stop shop: MML Investors Services provides both investment advisory and broker-dealer services for those who would like to take care of all of their investment needs in one place. The firm also offers insurance, which may factor into your overall financial plan.

MML Investors Services’ cons

  • Potential conflicts of interest: MML Investors Services earns commissions or additional compensation for certain activities, such as the sale of securities, which may present the opportunity for a conflict of interest. For example, since the firm receives a commission from the sale of some mutual funds from the product issuer, advisors may be more likely to recommend that you buy them.
  • Insurance company affiliation: Because MML Investors Services is owned by MassMutual, the firm may have an interest in referring you to its parent company’s products for your insurance needs.
  • Disciplinary disclosures: MML Investors Services has had a number of disciplinary disclosures over the years. See more information on these below.

MML Investors Services’ disciplinary disclosures

MML Investors Services has a number of disciplinary disclosures on its record. As a registered investment advisor, the firm is required by the SEC to disclose any disciplinary incidents, including civil, regulatory or criminal actions against the firm, its advisors or its affiliates over the last 10 years.

Some of the firm’s most significant events listed on its most recent Form ADV are detailed below, listed in order of the date they were settled:

June 17, 2011: MML Investors Services consented to a censure and a fine of $32,500 in response to charges from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)  that it violated rules regarding compensation in connection with Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (“TRACE”) eligible securities. FINRA alleged that MML Investors Services “purchased or sold TRACE-eligible securities as agent for a customer in transactions for a commission or service charge that was in excess of a fair amount, taking into consideration all relevant circumstances.”

November 16, 2011: MML Investors Services consented to a censure, a fine of $300,000 and undertakings related to a review of its supervisory systems, written supervisory procedures and quarterly reporting. This was in response to allegations that it had failed to file forms in a timely manner. FINRA also found that it had “failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system and establish, maintain and enforce supervisory procedures that were reasonably designed to achieve compliance” with some reporting requirements.

December 6, 2012: MML Investors Services agreed to pay a penalty of $250,000 to the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation and reimburse a client for losses after one of its representatives allegedly embezzled money from them over 10 years. MML Investors Services was accused of not reasonably supervising the employee, and was also made to retain an independent consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of its Rhode Island Detached Branch Offices and registered representatives. Two former representatives of MML Investors Services were barred from engaging in any securities business in the state of Rhode Island as a result of their conduct.

August 21, 2013: MML Investors Services consented to a censure, a $125,000 fine and had to pay restitution to investors in the amount of $787,847.70 for alleged FINRA violations in which it failed to supervise and investigate some of its representatives who were allegedly selling promissory notes that weren’t approved by MML Investors Services.

July 6, 2015: MML Investors Services had to pay an administrative assessment fee of $100,000, pay legal and investigative costs in the amount of $25,000 and pay $150,840.62 to various individuals in charges relating to the conduct of a deceased former representative of MML Investors Services who allegedly sold unregistered promissory notes to some residents of Pennsylvania. MML Investors Services was accused of failing to reasonably supervise the agent.

November 15, 2016: MML Investors Services consented to a censure and agreed to pay restitution of $1,864,167.77, plus interest, to investors after FINRA alleged that it had failed to establish and maintain policies and procedures that would ensure that eligible customers received the benefit of applicable sales charge waivers when purchasing mutual funds.

June 30, 2017: MML Investors Services, along with three other MassMutual-affiliated broker-dealers, consented to a censure and a fine of $750,000 regarding alleged violations of rules related to how broker-dealer records are stored.

March 20, 2020: MML Investors Services was censured and fined $75,000 for allegations that it failed to safeguard the personal information of clients from former employees.

MML Investors Services’ onboarding process

To connect with an MMLIS professional in your area, you can fill out a form online or call the firm at 1-800-542-6767. Once you connect with an investment-advisor representative, they’ll review your goals, select an investment strategy for you and then periodically review that strategy and adjust it as necessary.

How often advisors communicate will vary by individual client, but at minimum, the firm suggests that clients meet with their advisor at least once a year. Clients also receive monthly statements and quarterly performance reports.

Is MML Investors Services right for you?

If you’re looking for a large, national firm that provides both investment advisory and broker-dealer services, you may want to consider MML Investor Services. The company offers a huge range of program and product options, making it likely it offers an option that will suit your needs. Its national presence also makes it likely that there is an advisor located near you.

Those who don’t like the potential conflict of interest that may arise from the firm’s ownership by a large insurance company and the fact that many of its advisors also work as broker-dealers may want to pass, however. Additionally, MML Investors Services may not appeal to those seeking a firm with a clean disciplinary record, as the firm has numerous past disciplinary discourses. With so many financial advisory firms to choose from, it is important to find an advisor that truly suits your needs and makes you feel comfortable.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.