What could suppress the extraordinary growth expected among RIA firms in the years to come? Finding enough qualified planners to support the growth. Our comprehensive cover story and rankings on RIA Leaders is filled with fascinating anecdotes and details about the industry.

Chief among them: The largest RIA firms say the top challenge they are facing is staffing their practices-attracting, retaining and cultivating planners. And, as several of them note, grooming them to become the next generation of owners of their companies.

"We have a Help Wanted ad that's out all the time and yet we've had very little success hiring experienced people," David Lees, the senior partner of MyCIO in Philadelphia, told FP senior editor Ann Marsh. Her story, beginning on page 48, examines how the largest firms are handling that issue and myriad other challenges. We also present listings of the top 50 firms by AUM and the top 50 by AUM growth, as well as an exclusive list from our data partner, RIA Database, of fast-emerging firms. Dive into the details!

Marsh also profiles the three largest RIA firms in our rankings: GenSpring Family Offices of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and its CEO, Maria Elena Lagomasino; Oxford Financial Group of Carmel, Ind., and its founder and CEO, Jeffrey Thomasson; and Veritable of Newtown Square, Pa., and its founder and general partner, Michael Stolper. Those profiles and a ranking of the RIA industry's top multi-family offices can be found at financial-planning.com. The stories are engrossing, particularly because each is at the top of their field, and yet a decidedly different set of experiences and expertise drove their success.

 

Apressing issue for the large firms that make the FP top 50 lists, as well as the thousands of small RIA businesses across the country, is ensuring that the technology they are buying leverages their efforts as broadly and cost-efficiently as possible. Of course, the incalcuable benefits of technology come with a burden - understanding how to use it to its fullest potential. In an age of furious innovation that creates rapid-fire product cycles, another burder is knowing when to replace the technology that seemed so new not so long ago.

FP Editor-at-Large Joel Bruckenstein, a noted planning industry technology expert, is going to help our readers meet those challenges in a new column, Tech Tools. Every month, turn to Bruckenstein for guidance sorting out top choices in software, hardware and gadgets. His debut column, on page 65, analyzes how Salesforce.com can help planners with a lot more than just CRM. Also look for additional tech coverage by Bruckenstein and others at financial-planning.com and in our twice-monthly FP Tech e-newsletter.