Registered investment advisors are faster-growing, better automated, better appreciated and have more market share than ever before. They are becoming magnets for assets.
Not only are hundreds of brokers becoming RIAs as a means of better serving clients, but clients are taking matters into their own hands. They are withdrawing assets from brokerage accounts at UBS, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and moving them to RIAs with names like Hokanson Associates and Portland Global Advisors. This is not all happening by accident. RIAs embody careful planning and ethical dealings, and Wall Street’s failings have made this far more apparent.
At the same time, however, RIAs are chronically challenged by being fragmented into 15,000-firms. They have no single voice and this gives them their own public-relations problem. Nobody knows what they are — or how to describe them. The best description I found is more than 700 words long. RIAs call themselves wealth managers, financial advisors, investment consultants, investment managers and other tags that prove next to nothing. Brokers use all these names, too, and then some. This is important to note: It’s often easier for RIAs calling themselves wealth managers to relate to an RIA called an investment manager than to a broker called a wealth manager. The reason for this is that, unlike many brokers, RIAs tend to make a plan for clients and then hold themselves accountable for sticking to it.
Though RIAs have detailed plans for their clients, there’s no comprehensive plan for their industry as a whole. The principals of 15,000 RIA practices interact through various asset custodians, trade publications and associations in an ad hoc manner. While these forums engender good discussions, better ones are needed. Five years from now, brokers don’t want to be discussing how they missed the RIA boat. RIAs don’t want to be discussing how they allowed wirehouses to return to prominence or how the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, brokers’ self-policing body, snuck in and made their lives miserable. RIAs want to be able to say they have found ways to achieve scale, execute succession plans and bring aboard breakaways.
It’s vital that real discussions start now while assets are in motion and the post-crisis attitudes of brokers and their clients are unfixed. RIABiz believes it has a place in this process. We believe that other publications share characteristics with the old party lines that I grew up with in rural Maine. You literally shared phone service with your neighbor. RIABiz is a dedicated line where all communications are intended solely for your RIA family. We hope you find this a useful and refreshing change for realizing the strength of RIAs as a distinct industry.
Brooke Southall and the RIABiz team
Unlike the rest of the advisory market’s websites, we do not try to be the everything site for every advisor. We try to be the website where the top 20% of advisors who do 80% of the business go for content that reflects their energy, ambition and professionalism. These advisors are, for the most part, RIAs, which is shorthand for registered investment advisors. The RIABiz approach is one that had previously not existed in our market. Instead of being the Walmart of financial news, RIABiz focuses on providing a select number of informative and enjoyable news, features and opinion pieces for and about registered investment advisors. We cover back-office technology, 401Ks & retirement, TAMPs, compliance matters and asset custody as bread-and-butter subject matter. RIAs care about these things, and so do we. This, however, does not distract us from covering the big deals, hot trends and the latest breakaways in the advisory business.
We believe that by sticking to this rudimentary, content-forward and relentlessly-RIA approach, we can best serve our two constituencies: readers and advertisers. Readers get a manageable intravenous drip of essential information. Advertisers get a pure stream of these RIA readers – who are the ones toughest to reach. But these big fast-growing practices, on the right side of regulatory history, are the ones whose attention is most worthwhile for premium vendors building long-term relationships.
Mutual fund companies, broker-dealers, technology companies, consultants, asset custodians, turnkey asset managers and financial advisors are all jostling to align themselves with RIAs, serve RIAs , succeed as RIAs, become RIAs or find ways to prevent RIAs from poaching their assets. Everyone must become an RIA observer or risk being left behind in the paradigm shift from sales-based financial advice to process-based fiduciary care.
RIABiz serves a readership determined to earn higher profits through the higher value-added advisory model of the registered investment advisor. That higher value is derived from greater accountability, more investing choices, and fee structures that align the interests of both the advisor and client.
The most inexorable trend in the financial advisory industry is the decline of product sales and the rise of fiduciary advice as epitomized by RIA services. Companies need to have their brand associated with the fiduciary care provided by RIAs.
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