When I started my career at PaineWebber in 1983, one of its rivals broke with industry tradition and began paying upfront money to recruit brokers, as financial advisers were then known, from competing firms. They offered an over-the-top, one-time cash payment of 30% of trailing commissions.

Over the next three decades, recruiting would move from a rogue tactic to an accepted practice to, in recent years, what I believe has bordered on an unhealthy obsession. Now, thousands of advisers switch firms each year.

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