Going independent.

“Clients have to come before quotas.”

They do. Here’s why.

If I’m going to work for someone, it’s going to be my clients. By going independent, I truly felt I could put them first.

Brittany Albert, Lincoln Capital

“Our fear: Clients wouldn’t follow.”

They did. Here’s why.

The myth about going independent is that you can’t provide what your clients are used to. But we actually had more options and fewer constraints to help our clients achieve their goals than ever before.

Don Garman, Mirador Capital Partners

“We feared we’d have less to offer.”

We had more. Here’s why.

You hear about all the things you are limited to as an independent. But the opposite is true. We not only had access to more unique products, but we could offer them at lower prices.

Trevor Callan, Callan Capital

What it means to go independent.

More and more financial advisors are choosing to start their own independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firms or join one. By leaving the traditional wirehouse, RIAs gain the freedom and control to run their own business and provide the kind of service their clients expect. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Be your own boss and shape your business terms the way you want.
  • Increase your income potential—as an RIA, you have 100% control of your payout.
  • Gain greater control over how you can market to and communicate with clients.
  • Access more technology options for scaling your business and creating your client experience.

Get more details. Download our in-depth white paper Exploring Independence   .

Now’s the time to make the move.

There has been strong growth in the independent model in recent years. The reason? Advisors are seeing greater opportunities for themselves and their clients. Technology is constantly improving. And there are more options for running a business and customizing the client experience. Most importantly, clients are seeing the value of putting more trust in independent RIAs.

As a result, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • More than 12,000 advisors added to the RIA channel from 2010 to 2015, including dually Registered[1]
  • The number of advisors at wirehouses and IBDs shrank by 6.2% and 16.5%, respectively from 2010 to 2015[1]
  • 44% increase in new RIA registrations with SEC in 2015—the largest jump in the past five years[2]
  • 73% of advisors at independent advisory firms are optimistic about growth opportunities for RIAs in the next five years.[3]
  • RIA channel is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 4.2% through 2019[4]
  • Dually registered channel is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 2.0% through 2019[4]
  • RIA firm performance, $365,000,000 in 2011 to $588,000,000 in 2015 for a 61% AUM increase[5]
  • RIA firm performance, $2,262,000 thousand in 2011 to $3,595,000 thousand in 2015 for a 59% revenue increase[5]
  • RIA firm growth from 2011 to 2015[6].  $100M-$250M:$64,000,000 | $250M-$500M:$136,000,000 | $500M-$750M:$211,000,000 | $750M-$1B: $327,000,000 | $1B-$2.5B: $555,000,000

Project your earning potential. Test different business scenarios using the RIA Economic Discovery Tool.

How to transition with as few obstacles as possible.

Starting or joining an RIA firm can be a big change, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. As the market leader and a champion of the independent advisor model, Schwab Advisor Services™ knows the steps to take and can help you make the transition to an RIA.

Chart your own course by starting with our insightful guide.

Get The RIA Roadmap

Complete this form and the guide is yours to download.

The form below helps us connect you with the right people to answer your questions about transitioning to an independent RIA. We also may use the information to send you additional leadership insights from Schwab Advisor Services.

Advisor stories about going independent.

Find out what others have experienced on their journey to becoming and working as independent RIAs.

  • Read transcript “The reason I became an independent RIA”

    This is a transcript of unscripted speech, rather than written prose, and therefore should not be relied on for grammatical accuracy. This is not a verbatim transcript. Parts have been slightly modified to improve readability.

    Champions of Independence, IMPACT® 2016
    With Barry Nicholson, Business Development Officer, Charles Schwab & Co.; Lantz Bell, Managing Partner, Bell & Brown Wealth Advisors; Gil Baumgarten, President, Chief Investment Officer, Segment Wealth Management; Tony Christensen, President, Managing Partner, ACCESS Wealth Management
    October 2016
    Video Transcript

    BARRY NICHOLSON: What drove your decision to become an independent RIA today?

    LANTZ BELL: You know, I spent…I wish it was 30 years. I’m actually now 33 years in the business, and I look a lot younger than my years of experience, but I got to travel the business, I fell in love with the business, it’s the only business that I know—from a bond broker cold-calling back in the mid- to early 80s, got into the management part of the business, and always loved the asset management bonds and stocks. And as I evolved I ended up as a complex director in seven, eight branches, and it’s like Jiminy Christmas, what am I doing? But I still love managing money. And as I retired from business and I did a lot of recruiting throughout my management, so I saw how Merrill Lynch is run, and Morgan Stanley, and so many different firms who I was competing in recruiting. But I kept bringing in great recruits and great teams of people that kept the discretionary fee-based business, the fiduciary relationship with the client. So I really started to see the quality of the people that were turning to that business. Like the DOL says, that appears to be the future of the business, and I believe it is.

    But I will say coming independent, also, as I retire from management and I just went back into practice, it was about myself, and I wanted to grow and be better as a person but also professionally. And I just believed that instead of being RBC Lantz Bell, or Morgan Stanley Lantz Bell, I just wanted to…I always envied entrepreneurs. And so I thought to myself, ‘I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I’m too fat to fly, but I know this business.’ And I thought, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to build my own brand, and I want to build a partnership, and I want to build a small firm because this is what I know.’

    And so it just…through this learning and understanding…like the previous hour, the trend is there, but actually maybe Gil and I and Tony can actually maybe touch a core on the people that are really interested in possibly doing that. And mine started on a personal thing. I’ve got four children, they’re all watching dad, I’ve got my mom is proud of this, and the logo, and building, where do we want to sit? Where do we want our office space? What do we want it to look like? Whom do I want to be my partner? Whom do I want to employ? How do we want to build this thing? Where do we want the printer to go? What do we want our furniture to look like? That was exciting to me, and putting together, we’ll call it, just a true firm for the benefit of the client.

    Important Disclosures

    Presentation as of October 25, 2016

    For informational purposes only. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners and used with permission. Third-party firms and their employees are not affiliated with or an employee of Schwab.

    Information included during this video is intended to be an overview and is subject to change. Experiences expressed by advisors may not be representative of the experience of other advisors and are not a guarantee of future success.

    Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab.

    The above-mentioned firms and their employees are not affiliated with or employees of Schwab. The mention of these third parties should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement of, or sponsorship by Schwab. You must decide whether to hire any firm and the appropriateness of its services for you and your firm. Schwab does not supervise third-party firms and takes no responsibility to monitor the services they provide to you. Experiences expressed are no guarantee of future performance or success and may not be representative of your experience.

    Schwab does not provide legal, regulatory or compliance advice. Consult professionals in these fields to address your specific circumstance.

    ©2017 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”). All rights reserved. Member SIPC. Schwab Advisor Services™ serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support services of Schwab.

    (0317-WSXU) (03/17)

  • Read transcript “My experience before and after making the transition”

    This is a transcript of unscripted speech, rather than written prose, and therefore should not be relied on for grammatical accuracy. This is not a verbatim transcript. Parts have been slightly modified to improve readability.

    Champions of Independence, IMPACT® 2016
    With Barry Nicholson, Business Development Officer, Charles Schwab & Co.; Lantz Bell, Managing Partner, Bell & Brown Wealth Advisors; Gil Baumgarten, President, Chief Investment Officer, Segment Wealth Management; Tony Christensen, President, Managing Partner, ACCESS Wealth Management
    October 2016
    Video Transcript

    BARRY NICHOLSON: So the economics is a big piece there. And I think it’s important…it’s probably a question that all of you ask: What does it look like kind of before and after? And I’d ask, you know, each one of them to really share, you know, what that before and after looks like. Can you tell us more specifically, you know, the transition that you made from the economic side of being a commissioned broker at a wirehouse versus being an independent advisor?

    GIL BAUMGARTEN: I had always run a relatively fee-based business running discretionary business under the P&P system at UBS and the PM system at Smith Barney before that. And I had transitioned my business to fee-based years ago and away from the wrap account model of using out-of-house money managers, specifically, to discretion in order to specifically make the client dependent upon me for decision-making and ultimately make the business more transitionable into this model. So that was a 15-year process by which I ultimately queued my business up to make the easiest departure. And at that point in time I determined that the economics would argue for it, and sooner rather than later, and as the video had said, I had realized in 2010 that that time was now.

    And so the long and short of it is that I started my business with $100,000 in my business checking account, and when I spent $62,000 of it I had pretty much set up my business. I had $38,000 left over in the checking account when the revenue started to come in. I did $1.45 million in production my last year at UBS on about $409 million in assets.1 And I did $56,000 in revenue my first month in my new firm, I did $100,000 my second month, and I did $140,000 my third month.2 And the margin metrics essentially in my first year with one employee, I was at about a 62% profit margin.3 We’ve now since hired five more employees, so there’s six of them, plus me, and I have about $750,000 of total annual expenses and about $2.6 million worth of topline revenue. So my earnings last year were exactly $1 million more than I made at UBS in my last year at UBS…and I paid more in taxes last year than I earned at UBS my last year.

    BARRY NICHOLSON: Good story.

    LANTZ BELL: That’s to the core of it.

    TONY CHRISTENSEN: That’s a lot of tax.

    LANTZ BELL: I didn’t even get to that part yet.

    BARRY NICHOLSON: Tony, how about you, how was the economics kind of before and after?

    TONY CHRISTENSEN: Yeah, for us it was a little different because, you know, at FiNet we already had a very high payout. You know, when I left Morgan Stanley, we thought we were going independent in 2004 to FiNet, and we were really close. You know, when Wachovia ran FiNet, Barry, we were…you know, if you’ve got the wirehouse over here and total independence here, we were pretty far over to independent. When Wells Fargo came in and purchased FiNet, that pendulum really started to swing back, we really started to feel like a wirehouse again, which wasn’t good for us. So for us the economics weren’t as important. The piece of the economics that were important were how we…for us, we really efficiently reinvest into the practice, because now we control the reinvestment into the practice, as opposed to hoping that, you know, Morgan Stanley, you know, did something in some big way that helped us. You know, that would have just been, you know, almost dumb luck for that to happen. So for us now, we’re able to very strategically reinvest into the business in the most effective ways, and that’s been very helpful.

    BARRY NICHOLSON: Yeah, we really hear those consistent themes of paying yourself more, reinvesting, investing in yourself, into your own business, and then having the equity of that ownership after the fact.

    Important Disclosures

    Presentation as of October 25, 2016

    • 1. November 2009-October 2010
    • 2. November 2010-January 2011
    • 3. November 2010–October 2011

    For informational purposes only. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners and used with permission. Third-party firms and their employees are not affiliated with or an employee of Schwab.

    Information included during this video is intended to be an overview and is subject to change. Experiences expressed by advisors may not be representative of the experience of other advisors and are not a guarantee of future success.

    Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab.

    The above-mentioned firms and their employees are not affiliated with or employees of Schwab. The mention of these third parties should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement of, or sponsorship by Schwab. You must decide whether to hire any firm and the appropriateness of its services for you and your firm. Schwab does not supervise third-party firms and takes no responsibility to monitor the services they provide to you. Experiences expressed are no guarantee of future performance or success and may not be representative of your experience.

    Schwab does not provide legal, regulatory or compliance advice. Consult professionals in these fields to address your specific circumstance.

    ©2017 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”). All rights reserved. Member SIPC. Schwab Advisor Services™ serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support services of Schwab.

    (0317-WSXU) (03/17)

  • Read transcript “Gaining advantages I never had”

    This is a transcript of unscripted speech, rather than written prose, and therefore should not be relied on for grammatical accuracy. This is not a verbatim transcript. Parts have been slightly modified to improve readability.

    Champions of Independence, IMPACT® 2016
    With Barry Nicholson, Business Development Officer, Charles Schwab & Co.; Lantz Bell, Managing Partner, Bell & Brown Wealth Advisors; Gil Baumgarten, President, Chief Investment Officer, Segment Wealth Management; Tony Christensen, President, Managing Partner, ACCESS Wealth Management
    October 2016
    Video Transcript

    BARRY NICHOLSON: Tony, what has becoming an independent advisor allowed you to do differently?

    TONY CHRISTENSEN: Yeah, I would totally agree with Gil. Our average account size, it’s not just, you know, that you’re excited or the exuberance of the new firm, I mean, it’s in the numbers. Our average account size is up fairly drastically, as well. I wish I had a lot of $20 and $30 million accounts. We don’t have a lot of those. I need to talk to Gil. We’re going to have a beer tonight.

    But for us, I remember when we were at FiNet we would do some, you know, goal planning and whatnot, and over $5 million…we wanted to get two new accounts for the year over $5 million. And now our average account size probably sits right in that $5 to $7 million range, almost every single account we open is in that range. And, you know, there’s probably various factors that play into that, but I absolutely believe that the model that we’re in, the fiduciary model, the independence, the transparency, that certainly plays into it. And for us I don’t think I did a good job really understanding…I don’t know if anybody else feels this way…the joke’s obviously on me…but never in a million years when I was at Morgan Stanley or at FiNet did I not think I was required to be a fiduciary for my clients. We work with a lot of entertainers. Barry mentioned an entertainer and an athlete that we work with, but we work in that space quite a bit. And we had a very large entertainer who reached out to us, was referred to us, and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to meet with you.’ And her father kind of runs her business affairs. And we had a nice meeting set up, again, unsolicited. And he called me a couple days before the meeting, and this is just pretty recently, a couple years ago, and said, ‘We’re actually going to cancel the meeting.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, can I ask why? I was really excited to meet with you guys.’ And he said, ‘Well, we found out that you’re part of Wells Fargo, and you’re not a fiduciary to your clients. You know, I’m only going to hire somebody that will be a fiduciary for my daughter.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s not right. Of course I’m a fiduciary for my clients. That’s you know…And he said, ‘Okay, well, get me something in writing that’ll prove that.’ I said, ‘No problem.’ So I called Wells Fargo and said, ‘Hey, I know this is kind of weird but he says I’m not a fiduciary for my clients. Obviously, I am, every day of my life I’m a fiduciary for these folks, trying to help them with everything in their life.’ And they said, ‘No, you’re not.’ And I said, ‘Well, if I’m not a fiduciary to my clients, who am I a fiduciary to?’

    So that was…like I said, I never…never knew that I wasn’t required to be a fiduciary. And so, as Gil said, when I first made the move, that was my first phone call, to get that meeting and get back to that piece of the business. And I think that, you know, as the clients are learning…you know, this DOL, a lot of this talk, clients understand now more about the different business models than I think they ever have before. They understand some of the differences between the Merrill Lynches and the independent providers. And I think as they start to understand those details, you know, again, the numbers are very clear where the money is moving, and I think you want to make sure…you know, my recommendation would be that you’re on the side that the money is moving to, not from, that seems pretty simple to me.

    Important Disclosures

    Presentation as of October 25, 2016

    For informational purposes only. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners and used with permission. Third-party firms and their employees are not affiliated with or an employee of Schwab.

    Information included during this video is intended to be an overview and is subject to change. Experiences expressed by advisors may not be representative of the experience of other advisors and are not a guarantee of future success.

    Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab.

    The above-mentioned firms and their employees are not affiliated with or employees of Schwab. The mention of these third parties should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement of, or sponsorship by Schwab. You must decide whether to hire any firm and the appropriateness of its services for you and your firm. Schwab does not supervise third-party firms and takes no responsibility to monitor the services they provide to you. Experiences expressed are no guarantee of future performance or success and may not be representative of your experience.

    Schwab does not provide legal, regulatory or compliance advice. Consult professionals in these fields to address your specific circumstance.

    ©2017 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”). All rights reserved. Member SIPC. Schwab Advisor Services™ serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support services of Schwab.

    (0317-WSXU) (03/17)

  • Read transcript “What working with Schwab Advisor Services is like for me”

    This is a transcript of unscripted speech, rather than written prose, and therefore should not be relied on for grammatical accuracy. This is not a verbatim transcript. Parts have been slightly modified to improve readability.

    Champions of Independence, IMPACT® 2016
    With Barry Nicholson, Business Development Officer, Charles Schwab & Co.; Lantz Bell, Managing Partner, Bell & Brown Wealth Advisors; Gil Baumgarten, President, Chief Investment Officer, Segment Wealth Management; Tony Christensen, President, Managing Partner, ACCESS Wealth Management
    October 2016
    Video Transcript

    BARRY NICHOLSON: So you’ve all got long-standing relationships with your clients, and these are deep, you know, multigenerational relationships that you have with them, and so the client trust is a big piece of it. Talk to us about the due diligence process you went through to even choose Schwab as a custodian and what that meant. Lantz, let’s start with you.

    LANTZ BELL: Well, I had mentioned before we had…my partner and I and…had spent a couple of years on talking to other custodians, other independent-type firm situations, but when it came to Schwab, and I think Gil mentioned it, they just made it really easy for us. We work with Adam Schwartz, and he had like a dinner menu…here’s, you know, compliance, here’s technology, and he basically just scripted it out for you. In my previous years in management, a complex director, I had opened up some offices, so I had some knowledge, and my partners’ and I’s assistant helped me build part of the complex, so she had some knowledge, also. So there was some advantage to it, but I just felt like Schwab made it so easy. And I felt like if I came from…you know, because we all have that little scare in us, that little like, ‘Is this thing really going to work?’ So I felt like coming from an RBC or a big wirehouse, and what we thought was so important, what we thought was our security blanket ends up like Gil says, ends up being just the opposite. We just looked at it and we thought, you know, let’s go with what we felt was the best custodian for our practice. And we drank the Kool-Aid. We do all the reporting, we used all of their services, and we just thought let’s make it simple and easy.

    And for us, for Charles Schwab, was not only did the likes of Adam Schwartz make it easy for us with all the choices, but also with Kimberly Sanders, I mean, she just helped me with the P&L1, and kind of the business plan, and she was just absolutely terrific. And you get there and Gray shows up and will do anything for you, and Matt returns your emails through sometimes. So they were just so responsive, and they were just so helpful. But I got to tell you, the name, the custodian name, these are where the assets are, they have a trillion dollars in an RIA platform…for us, just kind of took that away from us about worrying about, you know…no, I shouldn’t say other names but, ‘I never heard of them,’ or, ‘Are you sure? Who are they?’ And, ‘Now, this is great for you guys, but how does that work again?’ So once we just started with the Schwab, a couple of the bullet points, it just made it so much easier for us. So that’s really where we did our due diligence.

    BARRY NICHOLSON: And, Gil, same question, you know, how was your due diligence process? How could you add on to what Lantz said and ultimately, you know, why Schwab?

    GIL BAUMGARTEN: Well, back to my woodworking. I build these intricate little pieces. What you could gather from that is I’m an engineer at my core. So that means I need a lot of information. And so I first interviewed Schwab in 1994, and went through this process of, ‘Oh, my book of business isn’t big enough.’ So I had about $50 million in AUM in ’94. And then I looked at it a little more in ’97, and, ‘Oh, yeah, this was a good business model for me, but my book of business isn’t big enough.’ I had $100 million at the time. Then I thought I needed $200. Then I thought I needed $300. And, basically, I just talked myself out of it because fear of the unknown, I didn’t want to step out and because I went straight broker-dealer model to straight RIA model. I didn’t do the blended model, and for me, I’m glad I didn’t. I just didn’t really know how to do it.

    And so I ultimately used a transition firm, so a firm that would act as an advocate for me on the outside that would partner also with Schwab and bring me out of the brokerage firm in a safe place to land, where compliance was already done for me, payroll was already done, computers were already set up, the phones were already set up, everything was already set up for me. And I spent a lot of money doing that, and, in retrospect I would do it again in a heartbeat. I wasted a lot of money, I think, and my margins weren’t as good in the first year as they could have been, but I soon rid myself of that firm and set up my own parallel systems behind the scene and ultimately transitioned on my own platform. But that firm provided something very valuable to me, and that was that they provided me a safe place to land and they were a catalyst for the move that I should have made years and years before, if not clearly more than a decade before the economics argued for the transition, in my case, but it gave me a safe place to land where the engineer in me could be comfortable that it was going to be a safe spot. And so that’s how I made my transition.

    Important Disclosures

    Presentation as of October 25, 2016

    1. P&L – Profit and loss

    For informational purposes only. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners and used with permission. Third-party firms and their employees are not affiliated with or an employee of Schwab.

    Information included during this video is intended to be an overview and is subject to change. Experiences expressed by advisors may not be representative of the experience of other advisors and are not a guarantee of future success.

    Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab.

    The above-mentioned firms and their employees are not affiliated with or employees of Schwab. The mention of these third parties should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement of, or sponsorship by Schwab. You must decide whether to hire any firm and the appropriateness of its services for you and your firm. Schwab does not supervise third-party firms and takes no responsibility to monitor the services they provide to you. Experiences expressed are no guarantee of future performance or success and may not be representative of your experience.

    Schwab does not provide legal, regulatory or compliance advice. Consult professionals in these fields to address your specific circumstance.

    ©2017 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”). All rights reserved. Member SIPC. Schwab Advisor Services™ serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support services of Schwab.

    (0317-WSXU) (03/17)

Your independence. Supported by Schwab.

The RIA industry is our history and our future—we’re in it for the long haul. Schwab helped pioneer the RIA industry when we launched our custody services 30 years ago, and we’ve helped lead the evolution of the model ever since. RIAs account for nearly half of Schwab’s total assets. That’s over $1 trillion managed by independent advisors.7

We have a solid foundation built on a diversified business model and a proven track record. More than 7,000 independent RIAs choose Schwab Advisor Services for trading and for operational and custody support. Our local service model; the strength of the Schwab brand; access to a range of insights, resources, and events; and our business consulting services are just some of the reasons why.

More ways Schwab is supporting independent advisors

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