In March 2010, for example, Michigan-based Rehmann Financial, a large CPA and wealth management firm with $2 billion AUM, made the decision to join Royal. "In the six to eight months prior, we had been looking for an investment management platform through a B-D that would allow us to custody assets at Pershing, Fidelity and Schwab, as it was important not to be tied down to one custodian," says Fred Schaard, president of Rehmann Financial. "The landscape was limited in choices, and the Advisor network surfaced as the leading B-D choice, and Royal as the best fit within the network."

Of the three B-Ds, FSC has the highest average production per advisor and has lost the least number during the crisis, according to Mark J. Schlafly, president and CEO. "For us, more than half did less than $50,000 in production," he says. "They probably would have struggled to make it regardless. We expect fourth quarter 2010 will be the best quarter at FSC in many years."

Updates In Technology
One very visible sign of the group's rebirth has been improvements in its technology platform, back-office systems and products, cited by several recruits we interviewed as a primary reason for joining the Advisor Group.

"We've tripled our investment in these tools over the last 24 months," says Roth. "That includes rolling out a wealth management platform, a new single-entry advisor portal that allows access to all our systems, home office Web sites, customer Web sites, as well as office automation."

"Altogether, we've made over 700 enhancements to our technology platform in the last year and a half. In 2009 alone, we spent almost three times the amount we had invested in each of the prior three years. There are now 600 people in our back-office operation, which is really the engine or support system for the individual B-Ds."

John Nori, president and CEO of Midwest Financial Advisors, Sterling Heights, Mich., says the Advisor Group's technology contributed hugely to his decision to join up in March 2010. "We interviewed with several independent B-Ds and wirehouses," Nori said. "The technology at SagePoint made it an easy decision. We have the best of all worlds, the flexibility of an open architecture platform, great payouts, and all the technology we would ever need to run our business."

Meeting Schedule
The Advisor Group-minus the AIG name-is more fully engaging their advisors not only through more technological enhancements, but in additional investments in training and education with more face-to-face meetings for advisors.

Traditionally, all three B-Ds have each held a national education conference, three conferences of top producers and for several years a women's advisor conference. To this schedule, recently they added four regional advisor meetings-an expansion from prior years. Twenty other meetings include training and courses in education.

Staying Positive
For now at least, it appears that the Advisor Group, under Roth and his team, has stanched the exodus of advisors and is on the path to recovery. Recruiter Diamond doesn't expect many more producers to leave, aside from normal attrition, but by summer 2011 speculates the advisor group could be at risk when its retention package forgives. They could lose some larger producers who will be free agents again, she says.

Roth, however, chooses to look at the positive and points to the 80% of advisors who have chosen to stay regardless of the climate. "Money for them wasn't the main reason for staying," he says. "They were committed to us, and we're definitely committed to them."