Expectations of higher compensation and more “freedom” usually top the list of articles that discuss why advisors are breaking away from large brokers. However, there is more to it than that. An interesting piece in Financial Planning tells the story of a team breaking away from Merrill Lynch. In reality it is not just comp that is an issue, and it s rarely the sole reason for breaking away. Often times it has to do with institutional limitations, like corporate bureaucracy, a bad branch manager, or small clients getting funneled to call centers. Other times it is because advisors are offering tons of service, like tax planning, cash flow management, loan refinancing etc that they just don’t get paid for.
FINSUM: This is a good piece that goes deeper than usual in exploring the real reasons advisors leave and whether doing so is a good idea.
One of the first big changes under new Goldman CEO David Solomon is becoming clear. That first major move is in wealth management, where Goldman is attempting to push much more broadly into the market. The bank plans to launch a robo advisor to get people with as little as $5,000 to invest to join its offering. Goldman has traditionally gone after very wealthy clients ($10m+), so this is a major change of pace for the the bank and is more in line with its recent increased focus on mass market savings products. A senior figure at Goldman explained “It’s a pipeline for future clients” to allow them to “experience the Goldman Sachs’ way”.
FINSUM: Goldman seems to believe it has stretched the high end of its market (big corps and UHNWIs) as far as it could go, and this is just the next logical area for growth. The challenge here is that we don’t think the Goldman name has the same cache with the mass market that it does with the HNW market.
One of the big worries on small RIAs’ minds right now is whether Schwab is going to leave them out on an island to wither. Small RIAs have always been the bread and butter market for TD Ameritrade, but with its recent acquisition by Schwab, that could all change—such is the fear of the small independent shop. However, Schwab has taken a couple of moves that seem to indicate they are not going to forget about the group. In particular, they have hired Tom Bradley from TDA, who for years ran TDA’s RIA custody business, to lead the new combined effort.
FINSUM: There is still a good degree of doubt over whether Schwab will mainly focus on its institutional clients and large RIAs, but this is a sign that Schwab is not likely to forget about its small RIAs.
One of the leading trade bodies of the brokerage industry has just put out an alarming, and frankly logical, warning. SIFMA says that a growing body of regulation is threatening to completely end the brokerage industry as we know it. In particular, SIFMA says the rise of state-based fiduciary rules is likely to lead to the “lowest common denominator” regulatory solution in many states. Instead of trying to navigate a complex network of rules, the solution is simply to say “we do not have brokerage in our state”. Many states may only have advisory accounts, which according to SIFMA will mean "Clients will have one choice they can buy, which in many cases will be buying more services than they wanted and having to pay more than they wanted to”.
FINSUM: So anyone in the industry will realize that trade bodies put out warnings all the time. What makes this different is that it seems highly realistic, which makes it quite troubling. The reality is that for many clients brokerage is the right model, so it needs to be defended.
Earlier this year (before the Schwab deal), TD Ameritrade put out an interesting report about breaking away. The report was centered on advisors’ motivations for breaking away as well as their likelihood of doing so. One of the most interesting findings is that as of July, 46% of advisors who were thinking of breaking away said that they had increased urgency since the start of the year. 44% said they would move within the next year. The main reasons were freedom, compensation, and client service, all of which they felt were better at an independent. Another key finding is that only about 36% of advisors wanted to breakaway on their own; most wanted to merge with another partner or join an established firm.
FINSUM: The breakaway movement is only gaining momentum. Wirehouses are shedding advisors and RIAs and IBDs are picking them up left and right.
Here is an eye-opening stat for anyone working in wealth management: 37% of all advisors expect to retire in the next decade. That will put about 39% of all AUM in the industry in motion. The biggest surge in retirement will be on the B-D side of the fence. The major question is who will replace all these advisors? “While some progress is being made, the industry is struggling to recruit and retain advisor talent that is adequately prepared to inherit the businesses … In an effort to overcome this challenge, firms are boosting recruiting efforts to bring new advisors into the industry and revamping training efforts to improve success rates”, says Cerulli Associates.
FINSUM: Succession panning has not been very good in general, so there are big questions about how this will play out. This is either one of the best opportunities in the history of the business, or the whole market might shrink naturally if older advisors retire and Millennials don’t hire new ones.