1. Lots of Dealmaking

TD Ameritrade says 80% of standout RIAs struck a merger or acquisition deal in the past five years vs. just 47% of other large firms. These standout firms, on average, engaged in two M&A transactions during this time period. (Photo: Shutterstock)

2. Fee Efficiency

Half of standouts collect minimum fees from clients vs. 44% of other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Price Discipline

These standout RIAs also gather more revenue per dollar; they earn 84 basis points of revenue per dollar of client assets vs. 74 bps at other large firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Focus on Talent

Standout firms had 12% annualized growth in the number of full-time employees in 2016-2018 vs. only 3.5% at other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

5. High Profit Margins

The top firms are much more productive, generating gross margins of 75.5% vs. gross margins 63% at other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)


6. Goals-Based Pay

Eighty-two percent of top-performing RIAs tie their compensation to meeting plan goals, vs. 55% of other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

7. Financial Planning Software

Large standout RIAs are big adopters of technology tools. For instance, 93% of them rely on financial planning software vs. 71% of other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

8. Digital Tools

Top-performing RIAs are more likely to use digital document management, 64%, while 57% of other firms do. (Photo: Shutterstock)

9. Client Portal

A large majority of standout RIAs, 71%, have an online client portal vs. 52% of other advisor firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)

10. Tech Checks

According to TD Ameritrade Institutional, 57% of large standout RIA firms carefully evaluate their technology vs. 42% of other firms. (Photo: Shutterstock)


How do some registered investment advisors outperform their peers when it comes to growing their client base and assets?

That’s what TD Ameritrade Institutional looked at recently, combing through the past few years’ worth of data, which it had collected through interviews of several hundred advisors.

Its review zoomed in on large standout firms,” meaning those with at least $4 million a year in sales (or fees and commissions) as well as RIAs in the top quartile of revenue growth and profit margins.

According to the firm — which held its annual Elite LINC conference for about 200 RIAs in Southern California this week — these firms generally work with over $1 billion in client assets.

“The data reinforce what we’ve long believed to be best practices: Well-managed firms are investing in themselves, their people and platforms to build a foundation for a larger, more scalable and successful future,” according to Vanessa Oligino, director of Business Performance Solutions.

Overall, rigorous planning and analysis also seem to have an impact on positive results.

“Standout performance is the product of sound strategic planning, an intense focus on operations,” Oligino explained. “And, just as important, top-tier firms show they have the discipline to follow through on those plans over time, through thick and thin.”

Check out the gallery above to see what sets billion-dollar RIAs apart.

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