A lot of advisors have been going independent lately. Whether you are moving to start your own RIA or want to join a large independent broker-dealer network, there are a lot of intricacies involved with running your own shop. Before you even think about the logistics of moving, it is important to assess whether you have the skills to succeed. There are essentially three skills that one needs to become a successful independent advisor: operational experience, in-depth relationship management skills, and sales/business development acumen. Operationally, you will likely have a tight budget when first breaking away, so understanding the nuts and bolts of the business, like migrating client accounts, is critical. Secondly, you will need to be able to concisely define the nature and scope of your relationship with clients in order to keep them happy for the long-term. Finally, you will need to be able to convince people why they should manage your money (without the weight of a wirehouse brand behind you!).
FINSUM: As a companion to the above, Michael Kitces notes that most successful independent advisors had seven years experience before going it alone.
Raymond James just reported earnings and alongside its figures, it also released its latest advisor numbers, and they were eye-popping. The firm has grown its advisor head count to over 8,000, up 198 since last September. Raymond James’ recent recruiting success seems to come down to two factors: big recruiting loans, and the fact that with Raymond James, advisors own the client. According to Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly, “I can’t remember seeing so many $5 million to $10 million [advisors] in the pipeline”.
FINSUM: Big recruiting payouts and letting advisors own the client is a pretty compelling (if expensive) way to recruit.
Going independent has many upsides and downsides, but listing them as pros and cons is not particularly simple. Sure, there are higher payouts than at a wirehouse, but there is also more responsibility. In some sense, it depends on the stage of your career as an advisor as to whether going independent is the right choice. If you are senior, with your own book of high paying clients and your own office/branch, then going independent can make sense. You get higher payouts and you already have experience managing a team, and you have more product flexibility for clients. If you are younger, going independent can be more difficult since you likely need more help building your book, and don’t have experience managing people or the overheads associated with running your own branch.
FINSUM: There does seem to be a “right time” to go independent. There are a lot of perks to doing so, but one does need to have a bit of an entrepreneurial slant as you truly are a business owner in such a scenario.
Wirehouse business may have gotten a boost from the demise of the fiduciary rule, but its decline has been uninterrupted for years. New data from 2018 is in and shows that wirehouses shed 5.7% of their client assets during the year. Advisor headcount also dropped by 403 advisors, brining the total to 54,030. According to the study, put out by Aite Group, “Wirehouses have steadily ceded market share from 2008 to 2018 … The segment has lost a total of 10 percentage points over that time period. As wirehouses continue to rationalize the size of clients they serve in advisory relationships, they also continue to see an outflow of advisors into other industry channels”.
FINSUM: RIAs and IBDs have been taking market share from wirehouses for years and the reasons why are obvious—better selling points for clients and better compensation. We think it is also a product of the demographics of the industry—as advisors get more senior and established the economics of going independent become more alluring.