Job transitions among financial advisors in the wirehouse space took a breather last year, but the pace could pick up again this year, according to Diamond Consultants.
Mindy Diamond, president and CEO of her namesake recruiting firm in Chester, N.J., characterizes 2012 as an average to down year for advisor transitions and says the humdrum pace was attributed to several factors, such unforgiven wirehouse retention packages that keep advisors tethered to their current employer.
In addition, she notes, there’s a general feeling among many wirehouse advisors that the large wirehouse brokerages are more or less all the same. “A number of advisors are staying put because there isn’t anything significantly better out there [among the other wirehouse firms], or they’re being more thoughtful about where to move,” Diamond says.
That said, a number of wirehouse advisors jumped ship both within the channel and elsewhere. Diamond says she found that fewer––yet larger––advisor teams bolted to other wirehouse firms last year because the recruitment game was still brisk for brokers with higher annual production and total assets under management who can attract sizable transition packages from competing firms. She notes that advisors with $2 million to $3 million in annual production can attract recruitment packages that pay three times or more than their trailing 12-month production.
“The deals are eye-popping and are at a high-water mark,” Diamond says. “But while the deals feel like they’re getting bigger, the upfront part of the deals haven’t changed much in recent years. Even if the top deal is 330 percent or 350 percent, the portion that the firm is willing to put up at risk is maybe 140 percent or 150 percent cash up front, which is roughly in line with deals from 2008 and 2009 [when there was unprecedented movement among wirehouse brokers during the recession].”
Another contributing factor for the relatively quiet 2012, and one that Diamond believes could portend for greater advisor movement 2013, was the growing number of wirehouse advisors looking to go the independent route either by jumping to an independent broker-dealer, opening up their own dually-registered shop, or joining a turnkey operation from the ranks of such firms as HighTower Advisors, Focus Financial Partners or Dynasty Financial Partners.
The process of going independent is more time consuming because it takes a lot more due diligence than making a lateral move to another wirehouse firm. “A lot of folks started exploring the independent route in 2012, and those should come to fruition in 2013,” Diamond says.
She notes that advisors who want to go independent do so for various reasons––the chance to have more freedom and autonomy, to work in a conflict-free environment, to build equity in their practice and to forge succession plans. She says independent firms run the gamut from paying no transition money to up to 100 percent cash upfront at a firm such as HighTower, an amount that’s roughly one-third less than wirehouse packages. The transition packages at regional brokerages pay between 25 percent to 60 percent less than wirehouse packages, according to Diamond.
Looking ahead, Diamond sees potential for greater numbers of wirehouse advisor transitions across different channels this year. For starters, the aforementioned trend toward greater interest in the independent model, along with the fat recruitment packages being doled out to top advisors, could keep things fluid.
And she believes a Finra proposal announced last autumn that would require brokers to tell clients the details about the recruitment compensation packages they got to jump from one firm to another could motivate some advisors to make a move this year.
“The proposed Finra rule in and of itself won’t prompt advisors to make a change, though it might accelerate a move among advisors who were already contemplating making a change because they’d want to avoid that rule,” Diamond says.
The comment period for that particular Finra proposal (regulatory notice 13-02) ends March 5.