With 2014 almost in the bag – and 2015 only days away – it’s that time again to reflect on what’s behind us and project about the year that lies ahead.
2014 was a good year in a lot of ways. The markets cooperated and are up just over 7% as of this writing. The price of oil dropped significantly, and retail and housing sales are up. And, while there weren’t a great number of financial advisors that changed jerseys this year, the ones who did were paid huge premiums to do so, signaling the beginning of a real “seller’s market.” As Mark Tibergien, President of Pershing Advisor Solutions put it “the balance of power has shifted to the advisor.”
I am certainly not qualified to make predictions about world events, the economy at large, or the state of politics but I can say with confidence that 2015 will be a continued seller’s market for advisors and they will continue to be in the driver’s seat—if they want to be. To be sure, changes in comp and increased bureaucracy at the wirehouses will mean that advisors have less control yet the most productive and growth-oriented ones are also the ones that are most coveted elsewhere.
Transition packages being offered by the major firms are at all-time highs and we don’t expect that to change in the near term.
Every day a new model of independence is born, thus expanding the industry landscape exponentially – offering more opportunities for people to branch out on their own.
The RIA market saw real growth as custodians report enormous surges in net new assets, the majority of which came by way of recruiting advisors from the broker dealer world. In fact, the top 4 custodians (Schwab, Fidelity, TD and Pershing) represent more than $2T in total assets. And, there was no shortage of active acquirers and investors looking to buy high quality, growing businesses.
So, what can we expect to see in 2015? Here are some highlights based on what we’ve been hearing:
#1. The wirehouses will be particularly vulnerable to another wave of attrition as retention packages forgive. Free agency status will cause many top advisors to vote with their feet in search of greater control, flexibility and freedom.
#2. We don’t expect that the long threatened Broker Disclosure Rule will pass any time soon. I think the SEC has bigger fish to fry—at least for now.
#3. It is the top-of-the-food chain producers at their firms that are the most likely to leave. The longest tenured among them are the ones who feel change in policy and comp most and they are being offered tremendous transition packages by competing firms, too good to pass up.
#4. Independence is not a trend, it’s a movement. And we expect that momentum to continue in a big and meaningful way. (Note: Statistically, the number of advisors leaving the wirehouse world and going independent is still fairly small, but the Quality of these folks is off the charts and so their departures are definitively significant.)
#5. The M&A market in the RIA space will continue to be robust, as sole practitioners without succession plans seek access to the resources and scale of larger firms, and want to create liquidity for themselves and their families.
#6. Models like HighTower Advisors, Focus Financial Partners, Dynasty Financial Partners, and the like, will continue to recruit advisors in record numbers as independent-minded employee-based advisors seek freedom without having to build something from scratch.
#7. Succession planning will be the #1 topic on every advisor’s mind as the average advisor age increases and it becomes harder to recruit from the next generation. But, the institution of a business development process and retention of staff remain almost equally the focus of most advisors.
What does this mean for you?
The key word is “Opportunity”. Whether you are looking to move from one firm to another, to go independent, or to determine a succession plan for your business, 2015 spells more opportunity than the market has ever seen.
So head into the New Year with your eyes – and mind – wide open because opportunity comes to those who look, not those who wait to build their best business life.
Because at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about: finding the right opportunity to live your best business life.