Despite the sputtering U.S. economy, independent registered investment advisors are apparently getting more upbeat about the economy and investing in their businesses, according to a new survey.

Their chief worry, meanwhile, is the uncertainties surrounding how they will be regulated.

"As we head into the new year, advisors will be looking for clarity on regulatory issues impacting their businesses. The survey clearly shows these unanswered questions are cause for concern," said Skip Schweiss, managing director, advisor advocacy and industry affairs, TD Ameritrade Institutional.

The survey-based on telephone interviews with 500 RIAs from October 21 to November 4-found that 70% of those surveyed experienced growth in the past six months, up 15% from a similar survey conducted a year ago.

A majority of RIAs (64%) said the source of their new business is coming from broker-dealers and wirehouses, up 7% from a year ago.
The survey picked up growing optimism among RIAs, with 46% saying they are optimistic about where the economy is headed over the next three months. That's up 30% from the previous quarter and up 5% since January.

RIAs also say they are investing in their business, with 33% saying they are increasing spending-up 74% from a year ago.

Regarding regulation, nearly 60% of RIAs surveyed indicated their greatest concern is that they may have to dedicate more time and money to meet the new compliance requirements (59%), followed by the concern regulators may not understand their business (15%) and the fiduciary standard may be adversely impacted (6%). Twenty percent of RIAs surveyed don't have any concerns over pending regulatory reform.