Some brokers are trying to recast themselves as financial advisers after big losses that have prompted clients to reconsider where they get financial advice. Clients rarely understand the distinction between the two that are set out in complex regulatory guidelines. Meanwhile, in practice, the distinctions are often blurred. "Having the ability to do both is extremely important," said Kelly Campbell, an independent adviser based in Fairfax, Va. "I've been very clear about this. I say this is the piece on which we'll be charging you a fee, and this is the part where we'll charge you a commission."

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