It's time for the independent broker-dealer industry to admit it: Recruiting has essentially been frozen since the top of this year because very few advisors were willing to seriously contemplate transitioning to a new broker-dealer platform during a time of potential massive change in the regulatory landscape thanks to the DOL fiduciary rule.

Advisors were afraid to have to repaper accounts twice—once to change broker-dealer firms, and the second time based on the DOL’s requirements. Advisors were afraid the broker-dealer platform they transitioned to might not even survive in the changed regulatory landscape. And, advisors were just afraid of losing significant portions of their book of business by moving during a time of tremendous regulatory uncertainty.

The good news for everybody is that the DOL rule largely seems to be the retail financial advice industry's version of the Y2K threat: lots of prognostications of doom, followed up with relatively minor changes here and there, for the most part.

But it's both good and bad news for the independent broker-dealer. As an industry, we can anticipate a rapid thawing in recruiting to happen now that there is regulatory clarity, and that means this year could be one of the greatest recruiting years in a decade. Well-positioned firms may have greater recruiting opportunities than ever before this year. 

The bad news is that firms that are not as well positioned may have a tough time of things in 2016.

In recent years, we have seen approximately 5-6 percent of advisors changing B/Ds a year (also called advisor churn). In the 2000s, that number had been as high as 10 percent. In order to have a record year, we need to have all of the major channels of B/Ds (wirehouses, insurance, banks and independents) contributing to the churn. Typically, in any given year only one or two of the channels have an increased advisor churn. 

So what can independent broker-dealers expect now that the post-DOL recruiting thaw is happening, and how can they take advantage of these trends?

• Wirehouse advisors are more prepared to move to independence than ever before. Today, there are thousands of wirehouse advisors that are now free from their retention bonuses who are looking to either cash in again by switching broker-dealers with top end deals now over 300 percent—or break away and become an independent advisor or RIA. These are successful teams with considerable client assets, and there are more opportunities for them now than ever before. The key here for IBDs that want to recruit aggressively from this channel is to offer truly comprehensive and turnkey support platforms that can simulate a wirehouse "look and feel" while offering the benefits of independence.

• Advisors affiliated with insurance broker-dealers have much more motivation to move, and sooner rather than later. The entire business model for the insurance broker-dealer model is struggling and seems antiquated. The DOL stated that it doesn't want to put proprietary product sellers out of business, but that's partly because the DOL knows it doesn't need to. The industry is quickly moving past them and the firms know it, which is why we see examples such as Metlife selling to Mass Mutual. Here, the opportunity set is in place for the IBD that is willing to present in-depth education and training resources that can arm advisors transitioning from the insurance BD space to be able to provide a broader and more comprehensive level of client service. For example, advisors coming from this space typically can benefit from greater training on rollover options beyond annuity and insurance solutions.