In its July issue, Financial Advisor magazine unveiled its first annual ranking of independent advisory firms that offer financial planning and related services along with investment management. The survey revealed that the independent Registered Investment Advisor business enjoyed brisk growth in 2005 that outpaced most of the financial services business by a wide margin despite tepid market conditions.
   More than 400 firms participated in the survey. Eligible advisory firms had at least $25 million in assets under management. The magazine's goal was to identify the fastest-growing independent advisory firms in the country and to spotlight the characteristics and practices that have made them successful.
   "What we were attempting to do was provide our readers with a portrait of the competitive playing field they operate in," said Evan Simonoff, Editor-in-Chief of Financial Advisor. "Our research has indicated that this sort of competitive intelligence is very useful to advisors, given the sprawling and fragmented nature of the profession."
   Some pertinent facts include:
    Assets of participating RIAs climbed 18.70 percent in 2005, compared with a gain of just 4.91 percent for the S&P 500 index.
    The largest independent firms, those reporting $1 billion or more in assets, expanded by 18.79 percent, while those with less than $100 million showed a gain of 24.27 percent.
    Eight of the 21 firms in the largest category, $1 billion and over, are based on the East Coast. Of all metropolitan areas, Chicago had the highest representation in this category, with four firms based in or near the city.
   Robert Casey, formerly the editor of Bloomberg Wealth Manager, was retained as a project consultant to help Financial Advisor develop the survey and analyze the results. Discovery, a database firm in Red Bank, N.J., compiled the results.
   Financial Advisor is a monthly magazine serving over 70,000 independent reps and RIAs. FA ranked first among the most widely read publications for independent reps and RIAs in separate, comprehensive studies by Tiburon Strategic Advisors, AdvisorBenchmarking and Aptura Research Focus on Financial Media. FA also publishes FAnews, Nick Murray Interactive, the Journal of Indexes, ETFR and Risk-Controlled Investing, and co-produces the Financial Advisor Las Vegas and Chicago Symposiums, an investor education Web site, and, an exclusive referral service for investors and advisors (via a strategic alliance with Discovery). For more information, call 732-450-8866, ext. 11 or visit