Despite national unemployment inching back up to 9 percent, about 75 percent of U.S. broker-dealer and independent registered investment advisory firms say they areĀ  planning to hire up to 30 percent more employees over the next 12 months, according to a new survey by Fidelity.

Conducted by Fidelity Investments at its 13th Annual Executive Forum earlier this month, the survey indicates that the first staffing priority of firm executives this year is to recruit new advisors and brokers who have existing books of business. Nineteen percent of executives polled plan to help existing staff to transition to a broker or advisor role.

Nearly one third of broker-dealers and RIAs say that ongoing industry consolidation has made it easier to recruit, while 62 percent say it has not had any impact.

"Growth is top-of-mind for many broker-dealers and RIAs-something that we have heard loud and clear from the hundreds of client we hosted at our conference," said Scott W. Dell'Orfano, executive vice president and national sales manager of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. "A strong focus on recruitment, especially as a component of a broader client acquisition strategy, is extremely good news for the industry and speaks to an overall confidence for its continued growth success."

Over 335 broker-dealers and RIA firms attended the conference. An average of 130 forum attendees responded to each question.