Gregg Johnson, a Securities America veteran who in March was appointed to the newly created role of executive vice president of recruiting and revenue acquisition for all of Advisor Group, says the new entity is encouraged by the engagement of the advisors who were integrated in the Ladenburg deal. “It has been extremely positive. Those advisors recognize that the transition is going to be essentially seamless with minimal repapering, minimal disruption to their clients and practices.”

Advisor Group is set apart by its multi-custodial, multi-clearing and multi-brand model, he says, which helps advisors get scale and purchasing power, but keeps the intimacy.

Other independent broker-dealers have touted enhanced offerings to appeal to their advisors and meet the demands of prospective clients. Recruiters say one of the top draws is technology. “There has been so much innovation and improvement in the independent space that relates to technology, and a lot of it is in the RIA channel where advisors can pick and choose their own technologies,” Diamond says.

Nash says most independent B-Ds are trying to figure out how to work in the RIA universe. “They are trying to get there,” he says. “They just haven’t figured out how to be profitable.”

But more younger reps are opting to go RIA-only and forgo any commission business. Webber says her firm has been giving financial professionals the opportunities to work in a fee-only capacity for over 20 years. “This is not new for Cambridge. However, due to the current climate, interest is increasing, especially in our flexible, sophisticated, corporate RIA option. Many of our competitors are attempting to follow suit, and we are proud to be a market leader in this environment.”

She says firms that don’t figure out a way to embrace the advisory channel, either through a sophisticated corporate RIA option or a model that supports independent RIAs, are likely to see a significant growth decline.

At Raymond James, technology has been a strong focus and continues to attract advisors, says Jodi Perry, president of Raymond James Financial Services’ independent contractor division. She points out that they are fortunate to have multiple affiliation options and the benefit of having an employee model in Raymond James & Associates, which boasts all the products and services of a full-service broker-dealer. This model appeals to wirehouse brokers seeking more support. “So, if someone wants to affiliate with us as being an employee or if they want to be independent, or even if they are affiliating through an RIA channel, they can do that,” she says.

Daniels says Commonwealth’s 20-year history of building (rather than buying) an integrated technological solution for its advisors has been one of the driving forces in attracting advisors to the broker-dealer. During the pandemic, he says, the company’s technology “never missed a beat.”

LPL Financial, just in the last year, introduced several new technological capabilities and enhancements to its advisory platform, notes Steinmeier. Among them were the no-transaction-fee, exchange-traded fund network, a mobile app that advisors can customize to their practice, and the launch of a new account opening tool, which reduces the time it takes an advisor to open a new account from nine minutes to four minutes.

“You see a firm that doesn’t look the same as it does a year ago,” Steinmeier says. “It looks demonstrably better than it looked a year ago, and a year from now, it will look demonstrably better than it looks today.”

The IBDs have seen their souped-up technology put to the test during the pandemic, and with much success. This turmoil has required brokerages to offer virtual setups, the ability to go paperless, e-signatures and the ability to get in touch with homebound clients. It’s worked well enough that many companies say they are in no hurry to rush clients back to the office.

Still, cybersecurity remains an important area of focus, recruiters say, given the vulnerability of data, and the firms are taking steps to combat cyber criminals. Steinmeier says LPL has been making large investments to secure its data and network and has not had any problems. Perry points out that any third-party technology that comes through the Raymond James system is flagged to ensure it is up to the level of its sisters. And last summer, Advisor Group introduced the CyberGuard Program, a tool kit designed to protect advisors and clients from cyberattacks, Daniels says.