Advisers are showing signs of optimism after months of market doldrums, according to a new survey by broker/dealer Securities America of 180 of its top producers.

Asked whether their strategy was to hunker down and ride out the recession or grow out of it, an overwhelming 82% of these advisers, all of whom produce over $500,000 per year, plan to do the latter, primarily through new client acquisition. More than half of advisers expect their revenue to either stabilize or grow this year.

Some 86% of advisers say they have added former wirehouse and big-bank-brokerage clients to their books, two-thirds of the time merely because those clients' former advisers had failed to provide either the attention or service level they expected.

Advisers expect to spend money on seminars and marketing to recruit these clients. Some are even splashing out on PR firms to boost their visibility in their communities, but Paul Lofties, 1st vice president at Securities America, advocates tried-and-true growth strategies. "We think the best strategy is to grow through referrals," he said, "so we're making sure our advisers host a lot of client meetings now, including group events like town-hall meetings."

Frugality is also part of the plan for more than half of respondents, who are looking to reduce spending by renting cheaper offices, cutting down on travel and entertainment and relying more on free wholesaler support from mutual fund companies. But Lofties said the wider message is that out of every disruption comes opportunity, and a lot depends on a positive attitude.

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