After 19 years at a large bank brokerage office in Basking Ridge, N.J., financial advisor Alan Becker joined the Florham Park, N.J., office of LPL Financial about a year ago.
Becker says he felt that his former employer had lost its "focus of truly supporting the advisor as they had in the past" and that he and his clients would be better served under an independent model.
Fortunately, he retained most of his clients.
Feedback from Becker's clients vindicates his decision.
"They have benefited from LPL's independent research and client focus," he says.
Financial advisors who are seeking to go independent have many different firms and choices. Often it is some form of hybrid model like Becker's.
Here are a few options to consider:
One option is to join a registered investment adviser and contract with one or more custodians (Fidelity, Pershing Schwab or TD America, for example) and start a firm with their help.
The RIA model is popular because it is easy to understand and offers freedom and independence, says Howard S. Diamond, managing director and chief operating officer of Diamond Consultants, a recruiting and consulting firm in Morristown, N.J.
There is also greater predictability in terms of a revenue stream, he says.
Advisors can go independent with the assistance of a service provider such as Dynasty Financial Partners of New York or Paramus, N.J.-based INC Advisors, a recently formed independent network of consultants and advisors at LPL Financial.
"Leveraging a large group's infrastructure and economy of scale allows the advisor to focus on what they do best," says Richard Dragotta, a branch manager at LPL Financial and the founder of INC Advisors.
The "quasi-independent" model is also an option.
For those advisors looking for an option that offers more independence than they have but who still want ties to an employer model, a quasi-independent model might be the right choice.
Traditional examples of firms that provide a quasi-independent platform are Chicago-based HighTower Advisors and Raymond James' Advisor Select of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Another option is to sell a portion of the business to an industry aggregator such as Focus Financial Partners of Minneapolis or United Capital Partners of Newport Beach, Calif., that have acquired minority stakes in many high-quality RIAs.
"You essentially leverage the equity you've created in your business and combine it with a larger national ownership interest," Dragotta says.
The other independent option is to go independent with an independent broker-dealer, such as Cambridge Investment Research of Fairfield, Iowa, Commonwealth Financial Network of Waltham, Mass., or INC Advisors.
That is the option Becker chose.
The advisor becomes a business owner with a gross payout of 80% to 94%, with the balance going to the broker-dealer it supports on a national level, according to Diamond.
“Today, there are so many more options for independence, and the landscape continues to grow,” he says. “Independence is a trend that continues to expand, and I don’t see any let-up in the future.”
Bruce W. Fraser, a New York financial writer, contributes to Financial Planning and On Wall Street.
This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.
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