In addition to managing their liquid investments, many regional firms are encouraging advisors to think about a major illiquid asset as well: their clients' business.

Broker-dealers such as Hilliard Lyons in Louisville, Ky., are nurturing a partnership between their advisory and investment banking divisions with the hope of capturing an emerging business opportunity. As the baby boomer generation retires and middle-market companies stabilize since the 2008 financial crisis, 70% percent of the 12 million privately held businesses are expected to change hands in the next decade, according to a 2006 article, "The Ten Trillion Dollar Question: A Philanthropic Gameplan," by Cornell University economist Robert Avery.

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