In a research call today hosted by Chip Roame, the managing partner at Tiburon Strategic Advisors made his punch line abundantly clear: Online brokerage and advice firms will challenge all of the other financial advisor market segments.

His thesis was that online robo-advisors will take assets from traditional advisors, as well as create pricing pressure and put tech pressure on advisors. The latter aspect, he said, means that traditional advisors will have to beef up their technology prowess.

“Online brokerage and advice is a big disruptor here,” Roame said.

His presentation included lots of stats providing context on the size and scope of the overall financial advice industry, which he divides into the captive channels, online brokerage and advice, and independent advisors.

Roame said financial advisor firms across all market segments had a total of slightly more than 352,000 advisors in 2019, up from more than 339,000 in 2004. And they had $42.7 trillion in assets under administration last year versus $16.1 trillion in 2010.

The captive channel—comprising wirehouses, insurance agencies, retail banks and what he called “upscale channels”—were the largest segment with nearly 189,000 advisors. Another 148,000 advisors occupy the independent advisor segment, which includes independent reps and both fee-based and dually registered advisors.

The total number of advisors has occupied a relatively tight band since 2004, reaching its low ebb of slightly more than 318,000 advisors in 2011 and 2012. That number has since jumped more than 10% based on last year’s advisor count, but Roame speculates the number of advisors will stagnate and be roughly the same in five to 10 years.

“But their assets will keep going up because the market will appreciate and advisors will buy each other and merge together,” he said.

Roame made several predictions on where he sees the advisory business going over the next decade. He believes the big winners will be fee-based advisors and the B2C, or business-to-consumer players such as the robos.

“I think those trends merge together over time and we start seeing highly ethical, fiduciary advisors that have a huge use of technology; with clients maybe interacting virtually on the web, doing things themselves [and] periodically talking to their advisors,” he explained. “I think the winning endgame is some combination of the legal structure of an RIA with the technology and mentality of a robo-advisor.”

He cited Personal Capital and Facet Wealth as examples of companies on the cutting edge of virtually delivering fee-based financial planning either on an AUM, subscription or hourly basis.

“I think that’s the future of the industry,” Roame said.