Does bigger equal better? Not always.
Consolidation continues to reshape wealth management. That means big independent broker-dealers that serve the largest number of financial advisors enjoy advantages, but face distinct challenges. Indeed, some firms have cut from their ranks; others brag about their selectivity.
The 10 firms listed below boast the most producing representatives in the sector, based on numbers they provided to Financial Planning’s 35th annual IBD Elite survey. Four of them have lower headcounts than the previous year.
Spot reductions aside, IBDs still comprise the largest share of advisors of any wealth management sector. They accounted for 87,357 advisors out of the industry’s 304,000, or 29%, at the end of 2018, according to the latest available research from Cerulli Associates. The 50 firms participating in the IBD Elite self-reported 111,978 producing reps at the end of 2019.
Many are growing by acquiring more small and midsize BDs. Giant IBDs are deploying capital and other resources to find new advisors anywhere they can. LPL Financial reached a record 16,973 advisors in the second quarter. Advisor Group’s two billion-dollar deals last year created the only other IBD with more than 10,000 producing reps.
On the other hand, stiff competition from down the ladder constantly challenges the largest firms to improve. Fiercely independent entrepreneurs, who can always partner with a smaller niche BD or go fully RIA, demand personalized and reliable service. The giants of the sector are also taking in sharply lower earnings from interest rates and the ever-present risk of equity volatility amid the coronavirus.
Against this backdrop, it’s no wonder several firms have cut out lower producers. Instead they are counting on the strength of established practices and experienced advisors. Waddell & Reed and Avantax Wealth Management have both boosted their average advisor productivity in recent years by trimming from their ranks and bulking up their technology investments.
To see which firms are navigating these complex crosscurrents with the most producing reps, scroll down our slideshow. For the last ranking of IBDs with the most producing reps, click here.
Note: The figures represent firms’ advisor headcounts at the end of 2019.