FA Insight Finds Good News on Advisor Pay

Only a minimal number of firms report any compensation decreases since 2010

Total compensation at advisory firms either remained steady or increased for the vast majority of firms throughout 2011 and 2012. Less than 1% of firms decreased compensation during that time period.

The findings are contained in The FA Insight Study of Advisory Firms: People and Pay Compensation Update for 2012, released Tuesday. The firm's principals, Dan Inveen and Eliza DePardo, regularly contribute to Investment Advisor on their survey findings.

FA Insight, a consulting and research firm that focuses on advisors, defines total compensation as base pay and variable pay including commissions, bonuses, and performance-based incentives.

“These results suggest that compensation within the financial advisory industry is rising at rates significantly greater than the rate of increase for U.S. workers at large,” the study reports. “In the two-year period dating back to the close of 2010, the cumulative increases in compensation for advisory firms are anticipated to range from 6.1% to 10.3%.”

For comparison, Inveen and De Pardo point to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and note wages and salaries for all U.S. workers rose 1.7% in the most recent 12-month period ending in September of 2012 and cumulatively increased 3.3% during the last 24 months.

Focusing just on professional positions, “a slightly higher percentage of firms expected an annual increase in total compensation during 2012 (71%) than those that increased total compensation in 2011 (68%).”

Founded in 2008, FA Insight is  for the financial services industry.

The most prevalent firm size that responded was between $500,000 and $1.5 million in gross annual revenue. More than 70% of participating firms consider themselves to be RIA only with no broker-dealer affiliation. Half of participants identify with the service positioning of wealth management.

“Across all position groups, the median total compensation increased in both 2011 and 2012,” the authors note. “Percentage increases varied from 1.5% to 5%, depending on the year and role. Depending upon position group, the typical advisory firm expects compensation at the close of 2012 to be between 3.0% and 5.0% greater relative to one year ago.”

The smallest firms in the survey, those with between $100,000 and $500,000 in revenue, showed the biggest percentage increases in total compensation. Their expected 10% increase for 2012 is double the percentage increase anticipated by their larger peers.

Results indicated that variable pay as a percentage of total compensation is not expected to change significantly in 2012 relative to 2011, and only support staff positions are anticipated to have a slightly larger variable pay component relative to total compensation for 2012.

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