It's been a busy year for advisor moves and the momentum is not likely to slow down, recruiters say.
Lucrative recruiting deals and a bull market have helped create an environment conducive to recruiting moves, say industry insiders, who expect a wave of additional moves later this year due to expiring contracts.
"This is not the crest," says Elizabeth McCourt, senior vice president at Renaissance Unlimited, a Southampton, N.Y.-based recruiting firm.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL
Recruiters say that firms have largely stayed aggressive when recruiting by offering rewarding transition packages. For some large teams, the deals can add up to a 400% payout.
"As long as there is supply and demand, the offers will remain stable," says Mickey Wasserman, head of Michael Wasserman & Associates, a recruiting firm in Agoura Hills, Calif.
Recruiter Rick Peterson, based in Spring, Texas, says that the leadership at brokerage firms sees a need to fill out the ranks and bring in more assets.
"The sense of urgency to recruit is as high as it's ever been," he says.
The aggressive recruiting deals are a reflection of that.
"We keep saying we're not sure how long this will last, but it seems like right now that the aggressive and rich deals that we have been seeing are holding strong," McCourt says.
Excluding acquisitions, more than 180 advisors managing more than $26 billion in assets have made a move so far this year, according to On Wall Street research. The amount of assets that has moved with transitioning advisors may be higher, as some firms do not always share the AUM of new recruits.
McCourt notes there has been a lot of movement among high-end teams. Merrill Lynch, for example, recruited a team generating $4 million in revenue. The New York-based group, led by advisor John Mirsepahi, managed about $2.9 billion, according to Barron's.
Other firms have set recruiting records. Raymond James & Associates pulled in a $2.4 billion team from Morgan Stanley. That group, led by advisor Don d'Adesky, operates from two Florida offices: Miami and Boca Raton.
But the recruiting grabs have not been limited to the biggest teams. Just this week, Baird said it swept up six advisors managing a combined $1.1 billion in assets from Wells Fargo to open a new office in Wichita, Kan.
And super-regional firms like Raymond James and Stifel have also kept their recruiting pipelines strong partly due to wirehouse advisors looking for a better cultural fit for their practice.
"Their packages are not as large as the wirehouse deals. But they do offer somewhat more freedom and somewhat less bureaucracy," Wasserman says.
Altogether it's resulted in a very different landscape for advisor's looking to make a move.
"A lot of firms that were never on the horizon are certainly there now," says Peterson.
The breakaway movement's momentum has not weakened, recruiters say. Indeed, some see increasing demands in the marketplace for existing independent firms to add advisors.
"I think there are plenty of advisors who feel comfortable in the full service model and who will move among those firms. But no question about it, there is a large quantity of advisors who want to explore a more entrepreneurial path," Jonathan Manela says.
Manela recently founded Edge Strategy Group, in part, to help connect independent firms with wirehouse advisors looking to leave the employee channel. He says that there is an ever growing need among independent firms to grow in inorganic ways, such as by recruiting advisors who add new services that the firm wants to offer clients.
The recruiting deals to move into the independent space have also improved somewhat, industry insiders say.
"The transition packages on the independent space have gone up. You're certainly not going to get wirehouse packages, but you'll get something," says recruiter Peter Pappas.
However, Wasserman says that the deals at employee channel firms may be tempering some of the momentum to the independent channel.
"With the deals getting higher at the wirehouses and the regionals, the advisors there are taking a long and hard look before going independent," he says.
Likewise, Peterson says he's seen some slowdown in the RIA space due to changing value propositions. "I think the old philosophy of getting some equity is losing some of its luster."
While these macro-factors play a big role in motivating advisors to move, idiosyncratic reasons like the quality of the branch manager are also important, industry insiders say.
"It is a matter of catching people at the right time, and there's got to be something wrong There's got to be a push and a pull," says Peterson, the only recruiter interviewed for this story who disagreed there was an uptick in advisor moves.
Industry insiders say that the individual advisor's happiness is sometimes the determining factor and that means some advisors will always be looking to move.
At a recent investor conference, Tash Elwyn, president of Raymond James & Associates, answered analyst's questions about the strength of the firm's recruiting pipeline by focusing on the happiness factor
"When I ask advisors what the pain points are, I hear things like this: It's been X number of months or weeks since my branch manager last said hello to me. Or, I like my branch manager but they've been neutered. They don't have as much room for maneuver," Elwyn said.
He said that his firm's ability to relieve those pain points was a big contributor to its current recruiting success.
"There's no doubt that the window is open today... But I'm confident that as windows close, others open," he said. "We have a consistent flow of wirehouse recruiting. What may change, quarter-to-quarter, is which wirehouse. So regardless of whose deals are ending, or who's consolidating, or whatever, we will have more opportunities."