For the firms in the employee-advisor channel, the stakes couldn't be higher.

A recent report from Cerulli Associates criticized the wirehouses for focusing on higher net worth clients. The result was that these firms were giving away the middle market (investors with $100,000 to $500,000 of assets to invest) to competitors. While their clients are richer they are also older and could be losing out on the next generation. That, in turn, has created a threat to their prospects for future growth, Boston-based Cerulli stated in the report.

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