The progress, evolution and self-realization of most businesses can be measured in years — and sometimes months. The RIA business reveals material changes in spans of days.
The last 10 days are a good example of that as I scan some of the articles that drew the greatest reader interest. With Google Analytics, we know down to the reader and the minute how many and how long was spent on each article.
In this article I list five articles where the fascination seemed out of proportion to the article itself and offer some insights into why that might have been the case.
1.) At or near the top was The inside story of a giant RIA’s move to Tamarac from Advent. The article was originally conceived as a sidebar to See: How a $2 billion LA-based Schwab RIA doubled in size in five years with a laid-back California style.
The story of Andrew Lin spoke to a handful of bold strokes going on in the indutry — perhaps most notably the willingness to pull the trigger amid fast growth at his firm. He was looking to the future.
As part of a five-year plan to add $2 billion of assets under management to Signature’s current $2 billion of AUM, Lin is moving from Advent to Tamarac technology. There were no big complaints about Advent Axys. It was just that he had the opportunity to take his firm to software that was born for the web. Tamarac is also selling it as a tidy bundle of integration of software with some in-house and other outsourced elements. The point was that integration was paramount and there was no patience about waiting for a custodian — despite all the biggies pouring tens of millions in to it — to figure it out for them.
2.) The deal between one of the least-known RIA custodians and best-known financial conglomerates in: Wells Fargo now has a testing paw in the RIA stream sheds light on other currents. Trade-PMR will clear through the mega-bank’s clearing unit. Companies with the most to lose by getting in to the RIA business — namely full service brokers that hazard mutinous cries from their W-2-filing rainmakers — are finding it irresistible. Wells Fargo was relatively neutral in its comments about its intentions. But it has a history — namely though FiNet — of looking to serve the full spectrum. It now has — as the article’s headline suggests — a palpable connection to a growing RIA business. On the side of Trade-PMR, Inc., it spoke to how a small company can get a leap-frogging 'big’ element to its arsenal with strategic outsourcing.
3.) Lisa Shidler’s article, See: Cerulli report: Specialized RIAs likely to win middle-market 401(k) plan battle captured how 911 intensely specialized independent RIAs are emerging as key players in the decades-long takeover of the retirement market by fee advisors. The regulatory story here is the real deal. Wirehouses seem to have infinite ways to adjust to mandates coming down from the SEC when it comes to non-retirement assets. Being an RIA — especially one with 401(k) know-how — appears to be a license to captures oodles of orphaned, neglected assets. It’s nice to know that Cerulli Associates agrees.
4.) Meanwhile, there’s another problem being solved: Answering the question of what, exactly, is an RIA. The RIA world according to Cerulli shows that the thought in this area is deepening. There are now at least two companies that make a good living just keeping track of RIAs and selling the information to service and product providers. One of them, RIADatabase, shared a valuable cache of information in this article. See: Six things to know about how and where RIAs are growing. To cut to the chase, registrations are up — a notable factor. The IBD and wirehouse worlds mostly cannibalize each other. Here is sign of new life.
5.) If ever there were an insider-knowledge, stealth knowledge, word-of-mouth kind of business, it’s the RIA business. It’s hard to explain to a business sophisticate, never mind a rich consumer. But the CFP Board’s willingness to throw serious money at making a direct appeal to the public about the power of planning seems to suggest s shift. See: In a world of Schwab and Merrill, can the CFP Board use $36 million of ads to make planning sexy?.