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.
After rumors circulating for weeks, Ladenburg and Advisor Group have jointly announced that they plan to merge. The new company will operate under the Advisor Group name and have over 11,000 advisors. None of the two companies nine broker-dealer subsidiaries will be merged, and advisors will continue their multi-party custody and clearing set up. The deal valued Ladenburg at $1.3 bn. One senior industry commentator said “It’s a very bold transaction that could create a major new player overnight that can go toe to toe with the other biggest firms in the independent space in terms of scale and resources”.
FINSUM: With margins so low across the IBD industry, scale is the only way to improve profitability. We expect the wave of deals to continue.
If there was ever a stat that really represented the big changes underway in the wealth management industry, it is this one: a new survey shows that broker-dealers are earning more revenue from fees than they are commissions. That is a major shift for the group, who until recently existed mostly as commission engines. The stat also reflects the growing trend towards dually-registered B-D/RIAs, allowing advisors to perform both functions.
FINSUM: The regulatory trend and customer trend is moving towards fee-based payment. This stat reflects just how pervasive the model is becoming.
There was a great deal of anxiety over the fiduciary rule, and now there is mounting consternation about the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest. But within that story, there is a lost narrative—the fate of the US’ small broker-dealers. Mounting regulatory pressure continues to dwindle their ranks. The number of Finra-registered broker-dealers has fallen 10% since 2013, and last year the number fell to a total of 3,726, down 109 from 2016. One industry commentator summarizes that “It is getting to the point that the many firms under 10 advisors dread Finra audits and are positioning themselves to be under a larger broker-dealer in order to simplify their life”. “This used to be a fun business, but not anymore”, says the commentator, citing a B-D owner.
FINSUM: We can personally testify to the difficulties that smaller B-Ds face, and not just in terms of direct regulatory costs. Additionally, factors like limits to markups constrain revenue, so there is pressure on both sides.
The US broker community is currently growing increasingly concerned about the SEC’s new “Regulation Best Interest”. On top of anger over the rules governing the use of titles, brokers have become increasingly worried about a part of the SEC rule which essentially mirrors the DOL’s best interest contract exemption (BICE). The problem is that there are rules governing conflicts of interest that are very similar to the DOL’s, such as brokers having to take steps to resolve conflicts, and minimize compensation incentives for certain products. According to one lawyer representing brokerages, “We believe the commission should replace the DOL rule-based preamble provisions on mitigation and elimination of conflicts with a simple principles-based statement”.
FINSUM: When the rule was first debuted, the general industry reaction was positive. However, the more everyone has dug into it, the more stringent the opposition has become.