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An Exclusive Deep Dive into the 2020 Schwab RIA Benchmarking Study

A conversation with Lisa Salvi, Vice President, Business Consulting & Education, Schwab Advisor Services.



In an industry driven by numbers, there’s an unquenchable interest in data and key performance indicators (KPIs). While the data gathered has greater significance to the industry as a whole, for an advisor or firm owner, studies that analyze peer performance provide benchmarks to help guide their strategic paths as well as their position relative to others in their space.

While several studies are frequently referenced in the industry, one of the most well-respected is the Schwab RIA Benchmarking Study.

The 2020 study represented 1,010 advisory firms that custody with Schwab – some $1.1 trillion in AUM – representing nearly a quarter of the assets in the RIA space, which is reportedly at $4.8 trillion according to Cerulli data.

The results are intended to help advisors align with their business plans, track progress against their strategic goals, and identify opportunities for improvement—yet its value goes well beyond.

As Lisa Salvi shares, the RIA Benchmarking Study serves as a guide to the overall health of the independent space with both a broader view and keen insight into growth and trends.

And then it digs deeper into the behaviors of firms that are the “outperformers” – those highest ranking in assets and revenue – such as key drivers of assets, priority focus areas, organic growth, M&A, technology, marketing, compensation and talent.

As the Vice President of Business Consulting and Education at Schwab Advisor Services, Lisa leads the team that conducts the annual RIA Benchmarking Study and the Compensation Study, plus programs that support the development of advisor talent through executive education and student initiatives.

In this episode, Lisa takes a deep dive into the data and findings from the recently released 2020 Schwab RIA Benchmarking Study. It’s an exclusive level of information and access for our listeners—a degree of which is typically shared only in part or amongst Schwab advisors.

In addition to discussing the overall state of the industry in 2020, the conversation focuses around key factors that contribute to the success of the “outperformers,” including:

  • The real impact strategic planning has on success—and the most critical initiatives top RIA firms focus on.
  • The key drivers of assets—and the relationship to “laser-focused” marketing and optimized client experiences.
  • The real value in a firm’s value proposition—and how being authentic is rooted in both research and strategy.
  • The role of client profiling—and how that can translate into a strong organic growth tool.
  • Adapting to a virtual world—and how the most successful firms found an advantage in optimizing the client experience, plus attracting new clients and top talent.

The best independent firms in the industry don’t get that way by accident. As Lisa described and the Schwab study reveals, it’s all about strategic planning, laser focus, and building a firm with the end in mind.

It’s an episode filled with actionable advice for advisors and firm owners alike, that will help each continue to grow and thrive well into the future.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to more episodes of Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Podcast for Financial Advisors Considering Change.

Mindy Diamond is President & CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.

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