On average, assets under management at registered independent advisors grew 55% during the past three years, according to a survey of RIAs conducted for Fidelity Investments. Of these, 28% grew assets more than 100%, while more than half (58%) expanded anywhere from less than 49% to as little as 1%.

   Among the traits of faster-growing practices:

      They tend to be younger and have fewer assets (an average 9 years in business and $215 million AUM) versus the slower-growing group (14 years in business and $243 million AUM).

      Are more likely to charge fixed fees

      Have more high-net-worth clients with at least $1 million in investable assets

      Are more likely to offer business advisory services, hedge funds and limited partnerships

      They tend to seek more tools and other support from their custodians, and have more interest in banking products and in getting access to private equity.

   The survey of 436 executives at RIA firms was conducted by Northstar Research Partners, an independent research firm, and was designed to reveal common characteristics of the fastest-growing firms. One-quarter of the respondents were Fidelity clients.