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10 Things Top RIAs Did Differently From Rivals in 2021

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Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, RIA firms saw “tremendous growth” in 2021, according to Charles Schwab’s 2022 RIA Benchmarking Study, released Thursday.

It was an “exceptional year” for RIAs in 2021, Lisa Salvi, managing director of business consulting and education at Schwab Advisor Services, said during a webcast highlighting the study’s results.

“You continued to be there for your clients and you leveraged a lot of the learnings and experiences from the pandemic over the past two years to drive absolutely incredible performance when we look at nearly any business metric,” she said.

RIA firms were “pretty well-positioned going into 2022 to face [the] headwinds,” she added.

The median RIA firm ended 2021 with $545 million in assets under management, with AUM up 19.5% from 2020 that led to a five-year compound annual growth rate of 14.1%, according to Schwab.

The median RIA firm ended 2021 with $3.2 million in revenue, up 23.2%, with the five-year CAGR up 11.3%. Meanwhile, the number of clients for the median RIA firm was 307, up 6.2% with the five-year CAGR up 5.1%.

The annual advisor survey on which the study is based was fielded between January and March this year. The study includes self-reported data from 1,218 firms that custody their assets with Schwab or TD Ameritrade and represent over $1.8 trillion in AUM. Study results included RIA firms with $25 million or more in AUM.

This was the second year in which TD Ameritrade advisors participated in the survey. Schwab completed its acquisition of TD Ameritrade in October 2020.

Schwab ranked the RIAs in its study using a Firm Performance Index, using metrics like growth rates in clients and assets, client and staff attrition levels and time spent on client service and operations. It categorized the firms that scored in the top fifth of the ranking as top-performing firms.

In the gallery above are 10 ways in which the top 20% of RIA firms stood out from competitors.