Schwab Advisor Services helped a record 172 new teams start independent advisory firms or join existing ones last year, a 40% increase from 2008, the company said Monday.

Those teams currently manage $13 billion in client assets, representing 31.7% of the $41 billion in total net new assets that Schwab Advisor Services, a division of Charles Schwab (SCHW), secured in 2009.

The newcomers also continued to contribute to the growth of assets in Schwab’s managed account platform, which brought in $3.94 billion in new assets in 2009 from all advisors. They also helped expand business on Schwab’s two trust platforms, representing 36% of new assets into Schwab Advisor Service’s Personal Trust Reporting System in 2009, and 49% of net new assets into the administrative or directed trustee option. 

Not all newly independent advisors chose to strike out in their own, Schwab found. In 2009, 42% of all teams that chose that business model did so by joining an existing independent firm. Taking a cue from this group, Schwab developed several tools and resources to guide principals of firms and potential hires through the process, including an “RIA Readiness Checklist.” That worksheet presents critical questions and issues involved in the decision for independence, like business strategy, firm culture and recruiting, investment philosophy, compensation and legal considerations.

The company also announced that since 2005, when it began focusing on helping firms go independent, it has helped more than 500 teams make the switch. That group represents $45.5 billion in assets of the $590 billion in client assets for which Schwab acts as custodian.