Expect 2012 to be an especially active year for consolidation among registered investment advisory firms and outside service providers. M&A activity makes sense strategically because it’s a way for RIAs to stay competitive and expand their offerings while keeping costs reasonable, several industry professionals and analysts say.

The 2012 merger and acquisition session got off to a huge start this week after LPL Investment Holdings announced it will buy Fortigent, a Maryland-based wealth management services platform provider. LPL’s planned acquisition brings about $50 billion in AUM to the table, which provides the firm with plenty of opportunities to grow its business serving advisors.

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