“RIAs are the sole growth story in a shrinking industry” of advisors, said Bing Waldert, a Cerulli Associates director commenting on the findings in its Cerulli Edge-U.S. Asset Management Edition report released today. Specifically, the report says the number of advisors in the RIA channel grew at an annualized rate of 8% over the years 2004-2012, while other advisor industry channels declined by 1.2% to 2.5%.
During those years, says Cerulli, wirehouses lost 2.5% of their brokers, independent BDs and insurance BDs lost 1.4%, bank BDs lost 1.9% and regionals lost 1.2%, which was also the overall decline among all advisor channels (Cerulli uses data from Bank Insurance Market Research Group, Investment News, Meridian IQ and itself for the advisor numbers).
Cerulli says the RIA channel “has begun the transition from a coalition of small businesses to one that is populated by multiadvisor firms, similar to other traditional distribution channels.” It also notes that many of the largest independent broker-dealers have launched their own RIA custody businesses (the report mentions that LPL specifically was “the first IBD to react to the growth of the dually registered model,” though both Raymond James and Commonwealth have also launched custody divisions). The leaders of those firms have admitted in separate interviews that those custody channels are as much a retention tool as they are a recruiting tool.
In a statement accompanying the release, Waldert said that breakaway brokers have been an “important driver” of RIA growth, but also cited “nontraditional competitors, such as law and accounting firms” who have been entering the RIA space. The breakaway brokers, the report found, swelling the ranks of RIAs came not only from employee BDs like the wirehouses, but also from independent BD advisors. Waldert concluded that “the unique challenges of business ownership are no longer an obstacle for a breakaway advisor.”