If you increasingly find yourself thinking about changing jobs, you’re not alone. According to research conducted by Registered Rep. Magazine and TD Ameritrade Institutional in March of 2009, 70 percent of respondents indicated there is some chance they will not be with their current firm two years from now.
Over the past 12 to 15 months, the brokerage industry has experienced increased consolidation, major brand deterioration at many major firms, elimination of key home office support, and lower payouts, which have all severely impacted the mood on the Street.
“I think the frustration has gotten greater, and it’s getting greater every day,” said Mindy Diamond, president of Diamond Consultants, an executive search firm in Chester, N.J. Indeed, a Registered Rep. survey done three months prior showed a 63 percent chance reps would leave within two years.
A lot of the frustration has been at the wirehouse level. According to Diamond, the first quarter of 2009 brought more movement from the large firms than ever before. Nowadays almost every conversation she has focuses on options other than wirehouses—alternatives such as regional and independent firms that will provide greater flexibility and more autonomy, she said.
Indeed it appears that the move toward independence is more than just talk. Chip Roame, managing principal of Tiburon told attendees of the California-based consulting firm’s recent CEO Summit that fee-based financial advisors' big three custodians have brought in more new assets since the beginning of 2007 than the four big wirehouses.
“We’re really in unchartered waters,” said Bill Morrissey, executive vice president of branch development for LPL Financial. Advisors from all over the industry have increasingly had to defend the actions of their firms to their clients and as a result, more and more are exploring independence—some for the first time, he said. Indeed leads from someone who has requested to learn more about LPL Financial exploded in 2008 through the first quarter of 2009, he said.
What’s more, in the first quarter of 2009 LPL’s recruiting from major Wall Street firms was up 238 percent from the year earlier. Recruiting from regional firms was up 100 percent, and from other independents it rose 73 percent. “There’s certainly more churn than we’ve seen in recent history,” Morrissey said, declining to give actual numbers.
Part of advisors’ willingness to consider alternatives stems from increased awareness of options besides wirehouses. Stories on how to make the switch are all over the press, and it’s not the great unknown it once was.
“Two years ago everyone was afraid to leave anywhere. They thought they were going to lose their clients. It was a leap of faith to go to a smaller firm because they didn’t know if they could get the services,” said Michael Cohn, president and chief investment strategist for Atlantis Asset Management, a registered investment advisor in New York.
Now, however more people are doing it and are satisfied, so others aren’t as afraid.
“It’s not the leap of faith anymore,” said Cohn, whose firm manages $250 million of assets.
With the stigma of going independent rapidly falling by the wayside, firms that allowing reps a greater level of autonomy are finding ample prospects to recruit. “Many advisors feel uncomfortable with their security at major firms and there are potentially opportunities for us to talk to those people and maybe make them part of our new business,” said Edward M. Sullivan, managing partner of SeaCrest Wealth Management in Purchase, N.Y., which about $400 million of assets under management.
Joe Heider, president of Dawson Wealth Management, a RIA which also offers brokerage services, agreed. His Cleveland, Ohio-based firm, which manages more than $400 million in assets, currently has nine advisors and is in talks with more than a dozen potential recruits. Up until a year ago, branding really meant something, Heider said, and since Dawson isn’t a household name it was more difficult to find producers in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. “Now we’re finding a lot of them who want to talk to us,” he said.
The trick, of course, is to find a place you’re happy with and stick with it for a while, if possible. “I don’t think it’s healthy for a rep to be changing firms every few years,” said Scott Carlson, a senior vice president in charge of sales and distribution at Woodbury Financial Services Inc., an independent broker/dealer in Woodbury, Minn.
Moving frequently may confuse clients and can do them a disservice, he said. “Consistency with one firm really pays off in the long run.”