This year brought some of the biggest moves in recent memory.
On Wall Street reported more than two dozen teams managing $1 billion or more in client assets switched firms. By comparison, less than 10 such teams made a move last year.
Read more: Billion-Dollar Club: Biggest Moves of 2015
The more these big moves come, the more they make you wonder: Has the whole top of the business become elitist? Is there still room for solo practitioners who do well for their clients and make a better than average living? Perhaps not so much as the industry leans more towards teaming and firms squeeze out under-performers, even shrinking their payout.
What would an advisor consider the best teams? These days one might consider the larger groups which operate like small firms. One team, with over 30 financial advisors, over 50 support staff and nearly $14 billion in assets, in California may be setting the new standard to follow.
The Chase Group of Morgan Stanley in Menlo Park has high-level producers, a top referral network and reputation that includes top Barron’s billings for team leader Andy Chase since 2010. The Chase Group, which did not comment for this article, is well known in the Bay Area for maintaining a high-caliber team that stands on its own, much like an independent practice.
A connection like that may bring more success over running a solo operation. The only issue is that once you are connected, it’s hard to leave because you are serving the mother firm. But having a collaborative group that operates more like an entity is a model to emulate for the future.
Elite level collaborative groups are something we may start seeing more of in the coming months. It’s typically a top to bottom structure with one or two elite players at the helm and several advisors and staff as support.
Advisors, however, should note that there will likely be many recruits out there with the disparity between the elite and those at the bottom of the pack growing wider. That may mean the profitability of the lower end advisor will become less of a fit for the major brokerages.
Advisors left in the middle may find themselves with a choice of either to grow and form a team, or join a group that can leverage their strengths, like Morgan Stanley's Chase Group.
And the solo practitioner? The lone-advisor model may soon end up being the new "old school," the way transactional business is viewed these days.
Elizabeth McCourt is a contributing writer for On Wall Street and senior vice president at Renaissance Unlimited, a financial advisor recruiting firm in Southampton, N.Y.
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