Many broker-dealers have moved over the past few years to accommodate their fee-based reps by adding a custodial platform so those reps can run their own RIAs. The objective? To both retain those often growing reps and their AUM—to keep them from going totally RIA—and to attract other reps whose business is heading in the same direction. At Triad Advisors, that accommodation has been business as usual for years: As of year-end 2013, 417 of Triad’s 553 producing reps had their own RIA, or 75%, a much higher percentage than all of the independent BDs who responded to Investment Advisor‘s 2014 Broker-Dealer Reference Guide.
“At conferences I’d hear BD executives ask, ‘How do you accommodate or make an exception’” for reps who want to run their own RIAs, recalled Mark Mettelman, CEO of Triad, but “I took this as a ‘How do I embrace this?’ trend instead.” Triad, Mettelman said in an interview, was founded in 1998, but “we got our first ‘hybrid’” advisor in 1999, so “this is not a new business to us.” Rather, “we’ve been doing it a long time, and it stems from us wanting to attract very entrepreneurial types of advisors.”
That encouragement has again put Triad at the top of Investment Advisor‘s “Top 25 Independent Broker-Dealers by Friendliness to Advisors” list and is paying off, Mettelman said, in attracting not just entrepreneurial reps but also increasing the average revenue per rep. These are advisors who not only “want their name on the door,” Mettelman said, but also are moving along the path of offering family-office-like services to their clients. “To do that, you need lots of different products and services to accommodate your client needs,” he said, though even with Triad’s “comprehensive menu” of offerings, “not every solution will be on a fee basis,” such as some fixed income or alternative investments, where “it can be more appropriate to charge a client a commission.”
Triad ensures, however, that “everyone’s coloring within the lines on compliance,” whether they’re using Triad’s clearing services, corporate RIA or their own RIA. When it comes to reps having their own RIAs, Triad has “always embraced the notion that this is our business” as well. “Many years ago we built the data feeds from the custodians,” Mettelman said, and “we treat it as if it’s all Triad business.”
Using Triad’s compliance staff for their RIA business “makes the independent advisor feel like he or she is part of something bigger, has more resources” and provides due diligence backup as well for the dually registered advisors.
In its recruiting efforts, Mettelman said the RIA focus “definitely resonates,” attracting bigger advisors who’ve helped Triad increase its average revenue per advisor from $224,000 as of year-end 2012 to $281,000 at year-end 2013 (see the “Top 25 Independent Broker-Dealers by Highest Average Production” list on ThinkAdvisor.com). “It’s rare that you find somebody is all fees or all commissions,” Mettelman said, adding that a “higher end planner,” who may be “frustrated with their current broker-dealer,” can be attracted to Triad’s “more open architecture model” where instead of arguing that “fees or commissions are better, we say, ‘Here’s a wealth management offering.’”