1. Recruiting deals will stay strong: Firms are going into next year with aggressive hiring goals and souped-up recruiting packages. This is the case across all channels — the wirehouses, high end boutiques and independent firms. Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo boosted their deals this year, and independent broker-dealer/RIA Commonwealth Financial is set to introduce an enhanced package to attract wirehouse advisors in 2021. Firms of different stripes and sizes are emerging from the pandemic, and they are determined to grow.

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2. The movement to independence just got more legs: For many advisors, the pandemic was a dress rehearsal for independence, as advisors found themselves working from home. This prompted many of them to ask themselves if they really needed a fancy branch office — and all the rules and policies of their current firm. For many, independence suddenly didn’t seem like such a stretch after all.

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3. Advisors will continue to work (at least) part time from home: Many advisors discovered that they relished the informality and increased family time that comes with working from home. With no work commute, there can be more time in the day (or at least greater flexibility) for non-work activities as well. While some advisors did miss daily interaction with team members and colleagues, many will insist on working part time at home going forward.

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4. Virtual home office visits are here to stay: Advisors learned that they could get a tremendous amount of useful information from product specialists and senior management at prospective firms via Zoom calls. Plus, hiring firms found that they could run many more potential advisors through their recruiting process. This proved to be an efficient use of time for advisors and firms alike. In the future, getting on a plane and flying out to visit a prospective firm’s corporate headquarters will become just another option for advisor due diligence.

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5. Advisor M&A will remain red hot: Many aging advisors will put their practices out to bid. With markets hitting new highs, valuations are strong — so it’s a good time to sell. Plus, many older advisors want to exit the business before renewed market volatility hammers the value of their practices or stresses them out.

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6. The RIA model will continue to gain traction: Both wirehouse and independent broker-dealer advisors will continue to gravitate to the registered investment advisor space. It’s fiduciary model and investment freedom are attractive to many. Despite the incremental growth of flat and hourly fees, the “good ole” fees tied to assets under management will remain the primary way that RIAs charge. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it pricing model that obviates the need for yearly arm wrestling with clients. While there'll be lots of scaling up via RIA mergers, predictions that a handful of mega-firms will dominate the business will come to naught. Yes, these giants will have the budget for a lot of cool technology and marketing programs, but there will always be room for smaller players who can forge relationships and provide value to investors — and to advisors who join them.

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7. Diversity and inclusion matter: Firms will continue to scour the marketplace for diverse advisor candidates. They will accelerate their efforts to encourage members of minority communities to join advisor training programs. This will involve recruiting at historically minority colleges and diverse student organizations at other schools.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made for a tumultuous 2020.

From Wall Street to Main Street, broker-dealers, RIAs and financial advisors deserve a lot of credit for responding so nimbly to the crisis.

Advisors and their firms showed they’re able to both service clients and grow their businesses during this challenging time.

As we turn the page on 2020 and begin to focus on 2021, here are some predictions on what the industry is likely to see next year.