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Why Brokers Want to Go Indie, in 7 Charts

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Despite solid stock market gains and heavy investments in technology by broker-dealers, a good number of advisors seriously consider moving to independence and becoming RIAs, according to the latest TD Ameritrade Institutional survey.

“There is an undercurrent of discontent as disenchanted brokers navigate the second half of their careers,” said Scott Collins, director of brokerage independence for TD Ameritrade Institutional, in a statement.

“Midcareer breakaways have enough tenure to realize that they have options, and that the independent RIA path can offer a better way to serve clients and advance their careers,” Collins explained.

Survey Specifics

The most recent TD Ameritrade poll gauged the sentiments of 134 brokers who plan to go independent within the next three years. The survey work was done in September in cooperation with Market Strategies International.

On average, these advisors worked with $274 million in client assets, have been with their current firm for 12 years and in the industry for 18. Their average age is 46.

Nearly half of breakaways surveyed expect the brokerage industry to deteriorate significantly in 2018.

But what is it that is pushing them out of their current firms and into the independent space?

Read on to see the main factors driving today’s brokers to break away:


Close to 50% of breakaway advisors surveyed believe that conditions in the brokerage industry should deteriorate significantly in 2018.

These registered reps point to the regulatory environment as the industry’s biggest hurdle, followed by changing compensation structures and reputational issues.

When responding to further questions, more than half of breakaway brokers polled express their dissatisfaction with their employers due to several factors, such as corporate culture, leadership, career opportunities and compensation, TD Ameritrade’s latest survey finds.

For instance, just 16% of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their firm’s corporate cultures vs. 55% who are unsatisfied.

In terms of advisor compensation, only one-fifth are satisfied, while more than one-half are unsatisfied with their pay.


Overall, the TD Ameritrade poll reveals that the average level of satisfaction with the breakaway brokers’ current employers is only 12%.

Fewer than 30% of these reps say that their ability to offer superior service to clients at their present advisory firms is satisfactory, for instance.

Plus, less than 20% of those surveyed believe they have satisfactory career tracks and opportunity for advancement with their current firms.


The lure of independence is very important in the breakaway movement.

The survey finds that greater independence and flexibility in serving clients is what breakaways want most when making a move.

The chance to earn more money ranks second, followed by wanting control over their day-to-day operations.

Did breakaway reps do their homework on what independence is really like?

The poll found that more than half reached out to friends and colleagues who already made this transition.

During these chats, the potential breakaway advisors heard remarks like “good idea,” “better compensation” and “more control.”

When asked what might be holding some breakaway brokers back, more than one-half indicate that concerns with legal and compliance management give them pause.

Plus, about more than one-quarter believe the act of transitioning could be difficult.

The Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule — part of which is now on hold for about 18 months — is a factor in setting the time for their move to independence.

The poll finds that 55% are waiting to see how the rule will affect them before moving, while 26% state that they may move sooner because of it.


Breakaway advisors appear to be confident in their ability to succeed as independent financial advisors, whether on their own or as part of a team.

While more than two-thirds of those polled plan to turn to colleagues who are already independent for support and guidance, a large number — more than two-fifths — say that they expect to receive meaningful assistance from their RIA custodians.


Finally, the TD Ameritrade survey reveals that advisors do not believe that going independent means going it alone.

Nearly six in 10 breakaway advisors plan to move as part of a team.

Furthermore, almost nine in 10 are confident that when they decide to make a move, their team will leave with them.

A large number also feel strongly that their clients will follow them, too.

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