SALT LAKE CITY -- After riding out some choppy storms in the middle and latter part of the last decade, registered independent advisors -- and their clients -- now stand ready to cash in on enormous growth opportunities as long as their willing to embrace new technology and communication mediums.
During his keynote address at the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors' national conference, Tom Bradley, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, used a little humor to break the ice by commenting that "it was amazing to see how well the investors who went to cash timed it with the bottom of the market."
All things considered, Bradley said, RIAs have done a remarkable job of regaining their bearings following the market meltdown that occurred in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
"The recent turnaround has helped settle down the industry and settle down your clients," he said. "You coached and trained your clients to stick with the program and not make rash decisions."
To that point, Bradley cited survey data that found 73% of RIAs are adding new clients in 2011, up from 68% last year and 50% at the market's nadir in 2009. Meanwhile, only 5% of firms report they've lost clients this year compared to 18% in 2009.
Meanwhile, the ascent of fee-based advisors remains robust. In 2005, Bradley said only 34% of advisors were working on the fee-only or fee-based model while 34% were commission only and 36% were a hybrid of both.
Today, he said, 66% of advisors provide fee-based or fee-only services.
From an overall industry perspective, RIAs are more than holding their own in terms of total assets under management. Between 2005 and 2010, RIAs' assets under management have increased 39% to more than $1.9 trillion while wirehouse assets have only increased 4% to just over $4.55 trillion.
"You will see more competition from breakaway brokers," he said. "Most stock brokers want to do what's best for their clients and they're all looking at this model."
More concerning, Bradley said, is how RIAs manage the massive transfer of wealth from Baby Boomers to their Gen X and Gen Y children over the next couple decades.
"About $8 trillion is going to be moving from Baby Boomers to their kids," he said. "How do we communicate with these folks? They communicate in a different way and they're going to demand more incremental value from advisors beyond what they can learn online."
Bradley said not only will this next generation of clients have higher expectations but they'll want to interact on social media, online and via the mobile devices and apps they use every day.
"They also look for advisors closer to their age," he said. "That's why it's so important to build connections not only to your existing clients but to their kids."
"Otherwise, there will be another huge transfer of wealth from you to someone else," he added.