VSR is a passive recruiter that relies almost entirely on referrals. "The reps we see are those who drill down to the products and services and look beyond just the initial money and names on the door to see what's there and how their small practice would work in our environment," Radford says. "It's a big decision because you want your next move to be your last move, and they're taking the process very seriously."

Closing the Deal
A lot of disgruntled wirehouse reps are kicking tires and contemplating a move to the other side, but not everyone has the nerve to close the deal. "A rep may tell a recruiter they want to go independent, but there are many wirehouse reps who will never make that jump because they're comfortable with what the national brand name provides them," says John Brett, senior vice president of MetLife's broker-dealer group. "While it sounds very easy to do, it's a significant commitment to go out and build a firm."

Brett oversees a broker-dealer network with 13,000 reps that work either through two independent broker-dealers--Walnut Street Securities (predominately single-person shops) and Tower Square Securities (mainly larger office groups)--or through two entities structured like national wirehouses, MetLife Securities and New England Securities.

The company recruits advisors from across the board, and during the process it gauges which of its units would be the best fit for potential new recruits. Brett says reps seriously considering going independent should budget for a roughly six-month transition period. The first two months is the time to review various alternatives and to look within themselves. "It's a process of self-evaluation about whether or not they're ready," he says.

The next two months is the time to interview with various firms to find the best fit for the advisor and for his or her clients. The final two months are spent getting situated with the new firm.

"The reps who I think have had the most success went through that process, established what they want to do with their clients, and made decisions based on what provided the best solutions for their clients' needs rather than just getting a check up front," Brett says.

Visit www.fa-mag.com to view the expanded version of our survey.