The pull, as it were, is the latest effort by Raymond James, which serves 1,580 rep offices and another 20 advisory firms across the country, to encourage reps to generate more fee income. In 2003, the firm saw reps increase overall revenues 3% to a tidy $611 million in gross revenues. The real high point, Averitt says, came in the last two months of the year, when revenues jumped about 26% over the last months of 2002. He estimates that fee income currently accounts for about 40% of the firm's business.

Overall, Roame says, leaders in the independent brokerage arena tend to generate about 20% of gross revenues from fee business. "Laggards are around 5%," he adds.

Independent broker-dealers continue to walk a fine political line when it comes to overtly pushing any compensation or business model with successful independent reps, many of whom have been in the business for years. But that doesn't mean that brokerage firms aren't doing their best to step up to the plate and make every useful tool, resource and product available to reps who are interested in moving more of their business to fees.

Commonwealth Financial Network is taking that mission very seriously. The firm's first 2004 conference in San Diego is "The Wealth Management Symposium." Its semi-monthly publication, "The Commonwealth Business Review," is filled with practice management stories and "The Big Sale" anecdotes from reps who are successfully practicing or moving into wealth management. "What we're saying is, 'How can we help you move upstream and take advantage of this marketplace?'" says Andrew Daniels, director of field development at the firm, which has headquarters in Boston and San Diego.

The focus seems to be paying off. In 2003, Commonwealth saw overall gross revenues increase 10% to $205 million. The firm isn't pushing fee income any more than it is pushing A-shares or variable annuities, maintains Daniels. "But having said that, we're certainly dedicated to giving reps the resources they need, whether they see themselves as asset managers or gatherers," he says, adding that the number of reps and managers who use the firms separately managed programs is increasing. "Increasingly we're working with advisors who do a lot more hands-on work with big clients, and tend to farm out smaller portfolios to services like Morningstar's managed fund program. Rather than the advisor going through and reinventing the wheel to pick funds, they can give it to a name the client recognizes and focus their own resources more intimately on case design for bigger clients," Daniels says.

To further help reps create practices that successfully attract and service wealthier investors, Commonwealth also unleashed a proprietary Web-based proposal-writing and portfolio review program, which allows the field to input a client's entire portfolio along with their recommendations, to create a cogent and effective proposal, Daniels says. For reps who would rather someone at Commonwealth do this for them, the turnaround time is one day, he adds.

First Financial Planners in Chesterfield, Mo., is devoting a sizeable percentage of its resources to helping its current network of independent planners grow. The firm did $55 million in gross revenues in 2003, of which 33% is from fees, says Craig Junkins, the firm's CEO. "It was a challenging year, but the last half was a lot better than the first," says Junkins, who predicts that both gross revenues and the number of reps the company works with (currently 340) will grow by 10% to 20% in 2004.

One reason why: "We're always encouraging our people to do more asset management and fee-based business because it's more stable business for them and us," Junkins says. Currently, he estimates, about 75% of the firm's fee-based business, which accounts for about 30% of gross revenues, is with third-party managers. "We take wealth management very seriously," he adds. "We like reps to utilize outside managers whenever it makes sense. It helps them and the client, and everyone wins."

It also allows the rep to become the overall manager of a client's financial picture-the big-picture person who manages the manager, if you will. "Then," says Junkins, "if a money manager doesn't work out, the rep can sit down with the client and hire another manager." In other words, portfolio management issues are something to be managed, not blamed on the rep.

Next Financial Group, which was formed by a group of reps in 1999, is not designed to encourage reps to be commission- or fee-based, but rather to be rep-centric. "Our reps drive our product and service selection. It's that simple," says Jeff Auld, the president hired by the founding group of reps in 2000.