Displaying items by tag: RIAs
There are so many things for a broker to consider before going independent. Aside from all the main ones that are usually discussed—compensation, freedom with clients etc—another key concern is branding. Many brokers have trouble leaving the big name on their business card behind when changing firms. Even advisors who are already at RIAs have a big choice to make in changing their branding. All of this highlights a key point: branding and marketing matter a great deal when going independent, and the support the new RIA provides is critical. Essentially, an important question to ask your potential new RIA is what kind of branding and marketing support they provide to help you transition existing clients, but also acquire new ones.
FINSUM: Marketing and branding are crucial areas where RIAs can vary wildly. Those with strong offerings will empower advisors to acquire new clients and grow AUM, where weak offerings can lead to client attrition and few new opportunities.
A new study from Cerulli Associates has found that wirehouses are performing very well in one regard—advisor productivity. The average wirehouse advisor has $175m in AUM, almost double the industry average of $77.9m. Even more amazingly, wirehouse productivity has risen from an average of $148m at the end of 2018 (to $175m at the end of 2019). However, wirehouses are still shedding many advisors to RIAs and IBDs. Cerulli identified two key reasons why. The first is as old as the industry itself—compensation. According to Cerulli, wirehouse advisors are growing increasingly tired of “complicated and sporadically changing compensation grids”. Additionally, support staff is an area where advisors are frustrated, reporting a lack of support staff as an issue at a far higher rates than at other BDs and RIAs.
FINSUM: Wirehouse advisors currently enjoy two advantages—brand strength and scalable firm-wide technologies. Neither is enough to stem the current outflows of advisors, and the technology aspect is quickly being eroded by improving tech stacks for independent advisors.
Well it took seemingly forever, but it finally just happened—the merger of Schwab and TD Ameritrade has just closed after a lengthy process. It will take 2-3 years for the operational end of the two custodians to become integrated, but in a corporate sense, they are united. The deal has made many RIAs, particularly those on the smaller end, nervous. TD Ameritrade was known for its excellent service of smaller RIAs, whereas Schwab was known for the opposite. Accordingly, many fear that under the new Schwab-led company, smaller RIAs might be forgotten. The combined entity now controls 51% of the RIA market with more than $2 tn in assets.
FINSUM: This is quite concerning for smaller RIAs, many of whom are thinking of switching to Fidelity or smaller rivals. Also of note, Schwab has not formally announced what they are going to do with TDA’s Veo One platform.
LPL has been a true leader on the recruiting front in 2020. One should expect no less from the largest independent broker-dealer. As one of their new initiatives, they have just launched a program—called the “independent employee” model—to try to attract new advisors who want some of the benefits of being independent, but also want to be a W-2 employee. Such models have been around for a long time, and are most prevalent at Raymond James and Ameriprise, but LPL thinks there is an opportunity to scale it up. The program is designed to appeal to wirehouse advisors who like being W-2s but want to earn higher payouts. Payouts for the program range from 50-70%.
FINSUM: If an IBD is a halfway house between being a wirehouse advisor and being an independent RIA, then this is a one-quarter-way house. It does seem like this might be a smart move—W-2 benefits with higher payouts.
Something very interesting is happening in recruiting. While advisor movement slowed down right at the beginning of the pandemic, it has bounced back strongly in the last couple month. The reason why is that advisors are finding it easier to explore opportunities with new firms while they are working from home. Any advisor recruiter will tell you that calling a wirehouse broker at their branch is an almost impossible task as the office itself works as a gatekeeper. Even if you can get the advisor on the phone, it is taboo for them to speak about moving firms while they are in the office. Thus, the ability to take zoom calls from their comfort of their kitchen has opened the door to more recruiting since advisors are free to explore firms in-depth and with total privacy. Further, the lack of a need for offices has made advisors wonder if they need the infrastructure (and lower payouts) that come with being at a wirehouse.
FINSUM: The landscape for recruiting has changed overnight. No conferences, but no office gatekeepers either! It seems a great time for advisors to consider a move, and firms would be smart to put effort into recruiting right now as this is truly an unprecedented opportunity.