How I Chose My RIA Custodian

Writing my weekly blog on the Memorial Day weekend, I am reminded of the freedo’s we enjoy in this country and especially the freedom I enjoy as an independent advisor. Although I appreciated some aspects of working for a large wirehouse, over all I am very glad I chose to become an independent. Independence does demand more from you, but it is also very rewarding. I am in my eighth year now and it seems that the more time that passes, the easier things get. 

When I began I had to choose my technology, office furniture, decide what services to offer, and how I would price them, and a host of other issues. At times it was a bit overwhelming. Today, most of the heavy lifting is behind me and since I’ve reached critical mass in terms of clients and assets under management, things are good.

I’ve also written recently about my new financial planning software, eMoney. After a little more than three months, I still believe it was a good choice. Morningstar Advisor Workstation is another tool I have used for quite a while and it’s working well. I am still using a desktop version of ACT for my client management software, but expect this to change fairly soon. I’m leaning toward Redtail, but until I make the final decision, I suppose anything is possible.

Whatever tool I select, it will need to integrate with the other technology I use. I tend to get a lot of questions about my custodian, TradePMR. Here’s how I chose them.

When I started my journey as an RIA in early 2007, I used Fidelity Institutional. Then, around the end of 2008, when the markets were in freefall, Fidelity changed their minimum AUM requirement to $10 million. Advisors who failed to meet this minimum were assessed a fee of around $1,200 as I recall.

That was enough motivation to look for a new custodian. My editor asked if I had ever heard of TradePMR. I had not. I created a spreadsheet to analyze this decision. Each column represented a different aspect such as trading costs, IRA fee, etc., and each row represented a different custodian. I looked at Schwab, TradePMR, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade and a few others. The spreadsheet allowed me to compare each custodian in a number of different areas.

Ultimately, I chose TradePMR and I am completely happy with my decision. TradePMR is a good company. This improved in August 2011 when TradePMR chose First Clearing Corp as their clearing firm. I expect to be with them for the duration.

Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great week!

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