As of September 30, 2009, 126 teams moved to an independent model with Schwab, according to Barnaby Grist, senior managing director of Schwab Advisor Services. “This is an increase from 123 teams in all of 2008,” he says.
That number should grow through the end of 2009, judging from the number of prospective advisors attending Schwab’s industry conference Impact ’09, held in mid-September in San Diego.
About 2,700 individuals attended the event, including 42 prospective advisors, most of whom now work for major wirehouse or national broker-dealers.
Net new asset flows into the firm’s Advisor Services business was $11.1 billion in the third quarter, Schwab says. This is 44 percent higher than net new asset inflows in the second quarter, and 16 percent higher than the net new asset flows into the Advisor Services business in the first quarter of this year. Nearly 85 percent of these assets came in from new clients.
And the company says it does attribute at least part of these new assets to its Make the Move campaign, which offered clients moving onto the Schwab platform by December 31, 2009, free electronic equity trading through June 2010, no transfer-of-asset fees and asset-based pricing.
“Schwab’s Make the Move program [for investor clients] aims to help RIAs grow their business. It does help our prospects, too, as they bring hundreds and thousands of clients to Schwab in one fell swoop,” explains Grist. “It shouldn’t be a significant factor in an advisor’s decision, but it is nice for them to share with their clients.”
Schwab Advisor Services currently works with some 6,000 RIAs via 120 relationship managers. It also has more than 40 business development officers and 1,000-plus staff supporting advisors on customer service, trading, operations and marketing.
“I was concerned that turmoil could hurt us, but it turned out not to be the case,” said Grist. “The drive to independence has continued, though some teams delayed their move to focus on the fallout for their clients. But many more have made the move, which I expect to continue into the future.”
In addition to seeing the movement of larger teams to independence, “We are also seeing a growing number of advisors interested in joining existing RIAs rather than starting their own RIA,” says Grist. As a result, 30 to 35 percent of teams joined existing RIAs in 2009 vs. about 10 or 15 percent a year before, he notes. “That is a dramatic increase.”
“Since we started helping wirehouse advisors back in early 2006, what we’ve found — year in, year out — is 30 to 70 percent growth in terms of the number of advisors going independent. These years are all very different in terms of the economy and such, but we’ve still seen this consistent, dramatic growth,” explains Grist.
A new Charles Schwab survey of 200 advisors at 15 major firms found that 59 percent say the idea of being an independent investment advisor appeals to them. Plus, nearly half of survey respondents indicate that they would actually consider a move to independence.