Schwab Reports 54% Jump in Advisors Turning Independent

Uncertainty at wirehouses driving move to become RIAs

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  • Agency and Principal Transactions In passing Section 206(3) of the Investment Advisers Act, Congress recognized that principal and agency transactions can be harmful to clients. Such transactions create the opportunity for RIAs to engage in self-dealing.
  • Disaster Recovery Plans and Succession Planning RIAs owe a fiduciary duty to clients to prepare for disasters and other contingencies. If an RIA does not have a disaster recovery plan, clients’ financial well-being may be jeopardized.  RIAs should also engage in succession planning, ensuring a smooth transaction if an owner or principal leaves.   

Schwab Advisor Services said that a "persistent undercurrent of uncertainty" at the wirehouses was prompting many wirehouse brokers to take the independent route. Supporting that claim, Schwab reported August 27 that in the first six months of 2009 74 advisor teams had joined the RIA custody arm of Charles Schwab & Co., compared to 48 advisory teams that had cast their advisory lot with Schwab in the same period of 2008.

In a prepared statement, the Schwab executive in charge of its Advisors Turning Independent (ATI), initiative, Barnaby Grist, said the advisors making the move believed the RIA model allowed them to provide better service to clients and provided a better chance for the advisors themselves to enjoy "greater long-term financial success."

Grist, managing director of strategic business development for SAS, said that Schwab had released a new report--A Case for Starting or Joining a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) Firm--to help advisors do just that.

The report includes a worksheet that favorably compares the compensation benefits of running an RIA firm versus accepting a forgivable loan from a wirehouse or similar institution, concluding that owners of successful RIA firms can earn "69% to 73% net compensation, or owner's income plus profit, less expenses for non-owner professional salaries," and that the "average RIA owner typically earns 60% to 65% net compensation."

The report can be downloaded here.

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