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Industry Spotlight > RIAs

Why This Is a Good Time to Be an Advisor, of Any Age

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This is our annual Careers supplement, and in the pages that follow we deliver what I humbly believe are a number of articles that you will find useful in planning and executing a more successful career.

Perhaps the proper term is “careers,” however. I’ve argued for some time now that advisors have never had as many affiliation choices as they do now, particularly if you’ve already achieved some measure of success in the field.

Among the many interesting findings in Cerulli Associates’ December 2013 The Cerulli Edge: U.S. Asset Management Edition, the Boston research firm reports that of all advisors who are contemplating a change in their affiliation strategies, the independent space is their preferred destination. Among those advisors, 37% would choose an independent broker-dealer affiliation, while 29% would prefer going the independent RIA route (and of those who prefer going RIA, 16% would prefer to join an existing RIA firm). Wirehouse, regional, insurance and bank BDs lag significantly in terms of preference.

Cerulli found that the RIA channel was the only one to grow in terms of advisor headcount between 2004 and 2012—a rate of 8% annualized, while wirehouses, for instance, saw their brokers’ numbers decline 2.5% during those years.

“RIAs are the sole growth story in a shrinking industry,” Cerulli’s Bing Waldert said.

Cerulli says the RIA channel “has begun the transition from a coalition of small businesses to one that is populated by multi-advisor firms, similar to other traditional distribution channels.” It also notes, however, that many of the largest independent BDs have launched their own RIA custody divisions (the report mentions that LPL specifically was “the first IBD to react to the growth of the dually registered model,” though Raymond James, Commonwealth Financial and Securities America, to name just three, have also launched successful custody units). Those units are as much a retention tool for those BDs’ top advisors as they are a recruiting tool.

Most veteran advisors came to the space after trying other careers or jobs, but these days there are more and more college-level programs training the next generation of advisors. Noted advisor and Texas Tech professor Harold Evensky has another perspective about your profession. “I tell everybody I know who has kids or grandkids” to encourage them to become advisors, he told me in a recent conversation. “There are lots of jobs, the opportunity is great and salaries are great,” he said. Evensky knows because at his firm “we have to pay a lot for new graduates.” He also pointedly tells the students he works with that the “phenomenal opportunity” exists not just at fee-only firms like his, but at bigger firms as well. “Both the young and older advisors have more options than ever, and more chances to succeed,” he said.