Breakaway Broker Recruitment Slows at Major Custodians

They've grown their business and want sophisticated products, open architecture, says Schwab’s Clark

The number of breakaway brokers moving to independent advisor firms fell last year after a record 2009, as the flood of brokers fleeing big Wall Street firms slowed.

Fewer brokers are now leaving the big brokerage firms, Reuters reports, citing the moves of  Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch offering generous retention packages handed out during the financial crisis to keep them in their seats.

Charles Schwab Corp., the country's largest custodian, added 163 breakaway teams in 2010, down 5% from 172 teams in 2009.

Fidelity Investments saw an even bigger drop-off. It added 146 brokers and teams in 2010, a 24% decrease from the 191 teams it added in 2009, according to the company.

Pershing Advisor Solutions added 30 breakaway broker teams in 2010, the company said, bringing with them $4.8 billion in assets out of PAS's total $85 billion in assets under custody.

TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. also bucked the trend, bringing on 288 breakaway broker individuals in fiscal year 2010 (through Sept. 30), a 40% increase from a year earlier. For the quarter ended Dec. 31,  70 breakaway brokers joined the firm, which has it pacing slightly ahead of last year, according to a company spokesperson.

At Schwab, about two-thirds of the breakaway teams came from the big brokerage firms last year. The remainder came from other independent broker-dealers, a 40% increase from a year earlier, Bernie Clark, head of Schwab Advisor Services, told the news service.

Clark believes that many brokers left the big firms during the financial ...

... crisis and went to a "halfway house" independent broker-dealer, such as LPL Financial, where they were still tied to the parent company.

"Now they've grown their business and want more sophisticated products and open architecture," Clark said.

Reuters notes that at Schwab, a third of the breakaway teams joined an existing independent firm that uses Schwab to hold client assets and execute client trades. The remainder started their own independent firms. The teams oversaw a combined $12.6 billion of client assets, with the average team overseeing $75 million of assets, roughly steady from 2009.

The brokers who moved to Fidelity in 2010 brought more client assets with them than in the past. The new recruits oversaw an average of $83 million of client assets each in 2010, over 50% more than $56 million in 2009.

The breakaway teams added a combined $12 billion in assets to Fidelity in 2010.

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