Vehicle-neutral UMAs have grown 46% in the past three years.

Vehicle-neutral unified managed accounts are growing faster than any other kind of managed account program, according to Cerulli Associates. Over the past three years, those programs have grown 46%, the report found, compared with 43% for ETF advisory programs and 23% for rep-as-portfolio-manager programs. Separate account programs have grown just 6% over that time period.

The global analytics firm released its June 2014 edition of “The Cerulli Edge — U.S. Edition” on Tuesday.

Tom O’Shea, associate director for Cerulli, noted in a statement that in the past, managed accounts were built around a product like separate accounts or mutual funds. “A number of factors led to crowded sponsor platform menus, and the industry’s largest broker-dealers and program sponsors experienced multiple mergers,” O’Shea said.

“As managed account platforms evolved from their product legacy and the UMA structure gained traction, sponsors began to evaluate redundant programs,” he continued. “For asset managers, the consolidation of platforms accelerates the industry’s move to a vehicle-neutral environment, where the advisor and their client choose how to own that manager.”

Although UMAs are not new, broker-dealers have been reluctant to consolidate for several reasons: They felt they were “in too deep” with the number of their offerings, they didn’t want to disturb their reps’ business or the investment would be too great.

However, a recent Cerulli survey put the percentage of broker-dealers considering consolidation of fee-based programs at 56%. The report suggested firms are recognizing that the cost savings and improved efficiency from fewer programs might be worth overcoming those barriers. Those that do should be careful not to burden their reps, Cerulli warned, as “the process of learning a new platform offering and its technology can prompt an advisor to seek another firm or channel.”

Check out IRA Rollovers Up 7% in 2012, Keep On Rising: Cerulli on ThinkAdvisor.