There's only one problem: Everybody else wants to get into the advisory profession. Boston-based consultant Dalbar predicts that the number of registered investment advisors, at both large and small firms, will surge to 185,000 by 2012. 

  Major financial services companies have gotten religion about the financial advisory business in a big way. In their world, comprehensive financial planning, once scorned, suddenly is a movement almost as hot as the Internet itself. 

  The future of the financial advisory business was the subject of a small symposium convened in Dallas on June 19 by Undiscovered Managers CEO Mark Hurley, author of a 1999 report that predicted sweeping changes in the delivery of financial services and left many advisors deeply troubled. Since then, much of what The Hurley Report predicted has happened. 

  Over the last 12 months, the number of new competitors, many of them possessing electronic components, for financial advisors has increased faster than even Hurley anticipated. A not-so-short list that Hurley outlined at the June symposium includes: 

  · Merrill Lynch's Unlimited Advantage Program, a flat-fee program linking online trading with financial advice, has raised an estimated $100 billion in one year.

  · Not to be outdone, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter unveiled its i-source program.  

  · Old-line trust company Northern Trust launched an aggressive expansion into 15 new affluent regional markets and, with a growth-oriented approach to investment management, has emerged as a serious competitor.

  ·  JP Morgan has debuted an online wealth management service aimed at what it calls ''semi-affluent'' investors with at least $1 million in assets. 

  ·  Attacking both the high and low ends of the market, Charles Schwab & Co. purchased U.S. Trust, whose average client has about $6 million, and introduced a Portfolio Consultations program for ordinary folks. 

  ·  Flush with a $90 million investment from Japan's Softbank, Chicago-based Morningstar is launching an individual investor-oriented web site, Clear Future, to compete against Bill Sharpe's Financial Engines and to service investment advisors, among other ventures. 

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