The majority of financial advisors who make the switch to become independent say they're satisfied in making the move, according to the Fidelity Insights on Independence Study, a report released by Boston-based Fidelity Investments today.
Three out of four financial advisors who moved to an independent business model report they're now better off financially. Among the group, 64 percent indicated they were better off within six months of the move, according to the survey.
The objective of the study was to examine the transition process of financial advisors who research their options and make the move to become an independent advisor, and to gauge the short- and longer-term impact upon those advisors, Fidelity executives said.
Fidelity surveyed 173 advisors between Sept. 26 and Oct. 13 last year who had chosen to switch to an independent business structure, such as an independent broker-dealer or registered investment advisor (RIA) model, within the last five years and had a minimum of $10 million in assets under management.
The survey was conducted in partnership with Cambridge, Mass.-based Cogent Research, an independent third-party research firm. The study did not identify Fidelity Investments as the sponsor.
According to the report, half of advisors who say they switched indicated they did so without any "strong influence" from others or a written plan. Advisors queried said on average they explored two to three different business models before making a move.
"What's most critical in exploring independence is that advisors understand their options and choose the right fit -- whether that's starting an independent advisory firm, joining an independent broker-dealer or creating their own model," said Michael R. Durbin, president, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.
Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of National Financial, Fidelity's clearing and custody company, says the study validates what's now happening in the marketplace. "Advisors seeking independence are interested in the flexibility to design their practices, choose their products and define their brands. And, they're open to exploring a variety of business models," he said.
Advisors queried said their "biggest surprise" in making the move was the number of clients who did -- or did not -- move with them. Advisors reported that 39 percent of their clients were immediately supportive or pleased with their decision; another 43 percent of clients were initially surprised, but ultimately supportive, and 18 percent were initially concerned but ultimately supportive. An estimated 86 percent of newly independent advisors said that all or most of their clients moved with them.
When considering their motivations for making the move, most advisors reported that they were "where they wanted to be" toward meeting their goals. Nine out of 10 report that they were happy with their decision to pursue independence, with 45 percent indicating they knew immediately it was the right move.
The No. 1 insight advisors said they wished they had known before transitioning was that they should have made the move sooner, followed, at No. 2, by a feeling that independence is better.