The desire to break away from large firms to start an independent advisory firm is growing, in large part because advisors see more money in their futures if they are independent, according to a TD Ameritrade survey.

The TD Ameritrade Institutional 2020 Break Away to Independence Survey concluded that brokers who already have left large firms to become independent had fewer problems than anticipated in making the transition, and 80% said they are glad they transitioned to independence. The survey included 349 independent RIAs who already have made the transition and 100 brokers who are considering a move in the next two to three years. TD Ameritrade Institutional supports more than 7,000 independent advisors.

Fifty-five percent of the 100 prospective breakaways, who are at national or regional firms or at large broker-dealers, said they are likely to make a move in the next year, an increase of 11 percentage points from a similar survey in the spring of 2019. Nearly half of prospective breakaway brokers are more interested in moving now than they were 6 months ago, the survey said.

“Time and again, brokers who make the move to the independent RIA channel tell us their biggest regret is they didn’t switch sooner,” said Scott Collins, managing director at TD Ameritrade Institutional in charge of overseeing the recruitment of independent brokers to become new RIA clients.

Three-fourths of the prospective breakaways feel they will earn substantially more money if they are independent, but slightly more than half also said they would make a move for a modest increase in income, the survey said. Conversely, 44% of prospective breakaway brokers said they are unhappy with their present compensation, an increase from 33% who said the same last spring.

Brokers also said they want to be independent in order to have more control over their work.

Of those who have made the break, 80% said their quality of life is better than before; 75% said the transition to independence was easier than expected; 72% said their technology is better; and 70% said separating from their employer’s brand helped their own bottom line, the survey said.

Despite the advantages of transitioning reported by a majority of brokers, 69% said they worry the transition will be too difficult, with legal and compliance issues being their top concerns. Nearly half said they would rather acquire or merge with an existing firm, while 29% want to start their own firms.

Expressing confidence in their ability to manage on their own, all of the prospective breakaways said their clients trust them personally, not just their brand name.