Is security or independence more important for running a successful business? That seems to be the key question advisors face when they set up their own business, according to a new survey by the NFP Advisor Services Group.
The NFP Advisor Services Group, a business segment of National Financial Partners Corp., a provider of benefits, insurance and wealth management services, compared the operations of financial advisors who work for large corporate RIAs and advisors who are independent RIAs.
The overwhelming sentiment was that independent RIAs have the luxury of being their own bosses while advisors with a corporation do not have to worry about compliance and other administrative duties. NFP surveyed 161 advisors almost evenly split between independents and corporate advisors.
Independent advisors interviewed for this story said they would not give up their independence, despite the extra work it puts on their shoulders.
For 60 percent of the financial advisors who choose to be RIAs, the ability to maintain control over their business is very important or extremely important, the NFP survey says. Advisors want the freedom of establishing their own operating model and product mix and the ability to run their own business, according to the survey.
Maintaining Finra licenses and having the ability to manage compliance risks are the top two reasons advisors leverage a corporate RIA structure, NFP says. Taking away these tasks leaves the advisor with more time to spend on clients, advisors said.
James Poer, president of NFP Advisor Services Group, says, "The financial advisors affiliated with firms like NFP operate independently but have someone else to maintain the RIA status. It is a question of whether you want to have your own entity as an RIA or you want to leverage someone else's entity that is an IA and still have the independence to run your own business. It is not like being part of a wirehouse or a bank. The advisor is using the support provided by the RIA corporation."
That convenience, however, isn't enough to overcome the negatives of a corporate environment for some advisors.
“If you are with a corporation you get lost,” said Melody Juge, managing director of Life Income Management in Southfield, Mich. “You are only as good as your assets under management.”
As an independent, Juge says she is not selling a product but is servicing clients. She would advise others to go independent, although she acknowledges it is difficult to start from scratch today because there is so much to learn.