It's taking more than just old-fashioned encouragement to get advisors to move on.

Aside from financial incentives and disincentives, firms are also creating alternative solutions for small clients so advisors won't feel as bad about letting go. Strategies like call centers or hiring junior advisors, licensed client associates or salaried trainees can take the small accounts out of advisors' books, provide those clients with some service and not force a complete separation between the client and the original advisor. Other firms are hiking up the fees on the client end, encouraging them to leave on their own.

"Firms don't make you terminate client relationships," Trott said. "You can choose to keep them and let them drag down your portfolio, just know that that's what you're doing."

That's not to say advisors should have no small households. One in eight of those small accounts does in fact have $1 million elsewhere, according to PriceMetrix's research, so the advisor just needs the right mix.

Chris Russell, director of Professional Development & Training at Hilliard Lyons, said it's been a careful process to convince advisors to pass on small clients without forcing them to do so. "When culture dominates in a firm like ours, you can't just change everything all at once, the pushback from the advisors would be unbelievable," Russell said.

Hilliard Lyons has about 400 registered representatives. Many of them are located in small towns in the Southeast, where their books are primarily made up of small accounts, making it even harder to create a leaner book.

At this point, the firm saw its small household concentration drop by seven percentage points, by showing advisors how much money they're losing by hanging on to small clients.

"We haven't made a disincentive yet because we need to put more support in place first, such as junior advisors or salaried trainees to handle the small accounts," That's the next step, but he's taking it slow.

"For now, we want to find some advisors we can work with who can be success stories," Russell said. "And then create best practice models around that."

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