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Slideshow

Which independent broker-dealers produce the most revenue?

Small and midsize firms read on at your own risk: The giants of the independent broker-dealer sector are growing rapidly.

Not one of the top 25 firms in annual revenue took a step back in 2018, according to Financial Planning’s annual IBD Elite survey of the largest IBDs. On the contrary, 15 of them generated double-digit increases in business — and five firms’ revenue jumped by 20% or more for the year.

The ranks of IBDs and networks reeling in more than $1 billion in sales added a new member to expand to nine companies, as Northwestern Mutual’s revenue brought it into the top echelon of the sector. Only LPL Financial, the perennial No. 1 firm, topped $5 billion in revenue.

Other firms made notable moves in the rankings during the past year, the 34th edition of FP’s survey. Advisor Group’s Woodbury Financial Services saw the most growth for the year, after its parent made two acquisitions that have helped it become a 1,600-advisor firm.

In fact, the firm’s ranks surged by more than 600 representatives over an 18-month span following the two deals and substantial recruiting in the wake of a 2017 acquisition by LPL. The giants are reaping gains from smaller firms and insurance companies’ retreats from the sector.

Experts expect the record-breaking volume of M&A deals in wealth management to keep pace in 2019 — or even pick up — as sellers aim to cash out before any potential downturn in equities. More private equity firms are crowding into wealth management every year.

The environment means that the might of scale and capital often makes right in the increasingly competitive IBD sector. Small and midmarket players are therefore looking to find a niche, an acquisition to give them scale, a bigger partner to serve as parent or an exit ramp to get out.

To view the top 25 firms by annual revenue in the IBD sector, scroll down the slideshow. For last year’s list, click here. Some firms’ position in last year’s rankings are different in the newest version due to firms that have shuttered, declined to participate or revised their figures for 2017.

Principal Securities' data arrived after the initial publication of the story due to a technical error. The firm is the No. 23 IBD in annual revenue with $316.2 million following its addition, though no firms have been removed from the permanent version of the slideshow. Principal's position in the rankings is noted with an asterisk below.

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LPL Financial
Headquarters: Boston
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Dan Arnold
Total 2018 revenue: $5,188,400,000
% change year-over-year: 21.2%
2018 ranking: 1
2017 ranking: 1
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Ameriprise
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Year founded: 1894
Chief executive: Jim Cracchiolo
Total 2018 revenue: $4,804,003,000
% change year-over-year: 12.8%
2018 ranking: 2
2017 ranking: 2
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Raymond James Financial Services
Headquarters: St. Petersburg, Florida
Year founded: 1974
Chief executive: Scott Curtis
Total 2018 revenue: $2,410,000,000
% change year-over-year: 16.4%
2018 ranking: 3
2017 ranking: 3
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Commonwealth Financial Network
Headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts
Year founded: 1979
Chief executive: Wayne Bloom
Total 2018 revenue: $1,425,306,000
% change year-over-year: 14.8%
2018 ranking: 4
2017 ranking: 4
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Northwestern Mutual Investment Services
Headquarters: Milwaukee
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Eva Marie Schoenborn
Total 2018 revenue: $1,219,479,000
% change year-over-year: 17.9%
2018 ranking: 5
2017 ranking: 6
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MML Investors Services
Headquarters: Springfield, Massachusetts
Year founded: 1981
Chief executive: John Vaccaro
Total 2018 revenue: $1,126,611,000
% change year-over-year: 7.3%
2018 ranking: 6
2017 ranking: 5
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AXA Advisors
Headquarters: New York
Year founded: 1999
Chief executive: David Karr
Total 2018 revenue: $913,766,000
% change year-over-year: 16.2%
2018 ranking: 7
2017 ranking: 8
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Cambridge Investment Research
Headquarters: Fairfield, Iowa
Year founded: 1981
Chief executive: Amy Webber
Total 2018 revenue: $906,666,000
% change year-over-year: 11.7%
2018 ranking: 8
2017 ranking: 7
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Securities America
Headquarters: La Vista, Nebraska
Network: Ladenburg Thalmann
Year founded: 1984
Chief executive: Jim Nagengast
Total 2018 revenue: $803,500,000
% change year-over-year: 26.1%
2018 ranking: 9
2017 ranking: 10
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Lincoln Financial Network
Headquarters: Philadelphia
Year founded: 1905
Chief executive: Dennis Glass
Total 2018 revenue: $782,426,000
% change year-over-year: 5.7%
2018 ranking: 10
2017 ranking: 9
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Cetera Advisor Networks
Headquarters: El Segundo, California
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Year founded: 1983
Chief executive: Thomas Taylor
Total 2018 revenue: $782,426,000
% change year-over-year: 8.8%
2018 ranking: 11
2017 ranking: 11
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Royal Alliance Associates
Headquarters: Jersey City, New Jersey
Network: Advisor Group
Year founded: 1969
Chief executive: Dmitry Goldin
Total 2018 revenue: $603,934,000
% change year-over-year: 24.8%
2018 ranking: 12
2017 ranking: 12
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Kestra Financial
Headquarters: Austin, Texas
Year founded: 1997
Chief executive: James Poer
Total 2018 revenue: $549,198,000
% change year-over-year: 15.5%
2018 ranking: 13
2017 ranking: 14
IBDElite2019_revenue_No14 copy.png
Waddell & Reed
Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas
Year founded: 1937
Chief executive: Shawn Mihal
Total 2018 revenue: $522,794,000
% change year-over-year: 9.7%
2018 ranking: 14
2017 ranking: 13
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Voya Financial Advisors
Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Tom Halloran
Total 2018 revenue: $458,805,000
% change year-over-year: 6.9%
2018 ranking: 15
2017 ranking: 15
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SagePoint Financial
Headquarters: Phoenix
Network: Advisor Group
Year founded: 1970
Chief executive: Jeff Auld
Total 2018 revenue: $405,712,000
% change year-over-year: 15.4%
2018 ranking: 16
2017 ranking: 16
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Woodbury Financial Services
Headquarters: Oakdale, Minnesota
Network: Advisor Group
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Rick Fergesen
Total 2018 revenue: $373,562,000
% change year-over-year: 30.8%
2018 ranking: 17
2017 ranking: 21
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HD Vest
Headquarters: Irving, Texas
Year founded: 1983
Chief executive: Todd Mackay
Total 2018 revenue: $373,174,000
% change year-over-year: 7.0%
2018 ranking: 18
2017 ranking: 18
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Securian Financial Services
Headquarters: St. Paul, Minnesota
Year founded: 1984
Chief executive: George Connolly
Total 2018 revenue: $368,628,000
% change year-over-year: 6.2%
2018 ranking: 19
2017 ranking: 19
IBDElite2019_revenue_No20 copy.png
Cetera Advisors
Headquarters: Denver
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Year founded: 1981
Chief executive: Brett Harrison
Total 2018 revenue: $367,399,000
% change year-over-year: 4.6%
2018 ranking: 20
2017 ranking: 17
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Cetera Financial Institutions
Headquarters: St. Cloud, Minnesota
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Year founded: 1984
Chief executive: LeAnn Rummel
Total 2018 revenue: $340,713,000
% change year-over-year: 20.0%
2018 ranking: 21
2017 ranking: 22
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Lincoln Investment Group Holdings
Headquarters: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Edward Forst
Total 2018 revenue: $336,841,000
% change year-over-year: 9.1%
2018 ranking: 22
2017 ranking: 20
IBDElite2019_revenue_No23 copy.png
FSC Securities
Headquarters: Atlanta
Network: Advisor Group
Year founded: 1958
Chief executive: Derek Burke
Total 2018 revenue: $305,578,000
% change year-over-year: 12.2%
2018 ranking: 23
2017 ranking: 23
*Principal Securities generated $316.2 million in revenue in 2018 but submitted data after initial publication of the ranking.
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First Allied Securities
Headquarters: San Diego
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Year founded: 1994
Chief executive: Brett Harrison
Total 2018 revenue: $239,977,000
% change year-over-year: 3.7%
2018 ranking: 24
2017 ranking: 24
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Triad Advisors
Headquarters: Norcross, Georgia
Network: Ladenburg Thalmann
Year founded: 1998
Chief executive: Jeffrey Rosenthal
Total 2018 revenue: $220,707,000
% change year-over-year: 20.0%
2018 ranking: 25
2017 ranking: 26