Financial advisers are starting to turn their backs on the idea of going independent and are instead favoring the benefits of working at wire houses, a survey found.

The survey, conducted by Aite Group LLC of Boston, aimed to shed light on the movement of brokers across the wealth management industry. The report, which the consulting firm released earlier this month, said the survey measures brokers' desire to leave their employers, as well as their "motivations, envisioned time frame for breaking away, desired destination, and expected challenges."

About one-third of financial advisers who plan on leaving one of the four wire houses said they would prefer to move to another wire house, said Alois Pirker, a brokerage analyst at Aite. That contrasts with just one-fourth who said they favored independence.

To be sure, independence still hold some allure for some in the industry, Pirker said.

"While there are severe risks involved, a lot of brokers wish to go independent, because they get the chance to be an entrepreneur versus being an employee," Pirker said.

But the four wire houses — Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo Advisors and UBS Wealth Management Americas — are sweetening the pot in their efforts to hold on to financial advisers. Indeed, top-producing brokers at Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney were offered retention perks to stay with their new firm for years. "MSSB offers mortgages and loans for five to six years," Pirker said.

But if they leave sooner, they're on the hook to pay it back. "This is a way they stay tied to the company," Pirker said.

Aite says that about 7,000 brokers left the wire houses last year. However, that number constantly fluctuates because of mergers and other factors that can affect the industry over time. Pirker used Merrill Lynch as a prime example: brokers were not accounted for before the merger with Bank of America. "This number is to be taken with a grain of salt, because more movement can happen," he said.

Aite said the biggest reasons behind an adviser breakaway are uncertainty about their employer (33%); a desire for a higher payout (27%); lack of retention package (3%); and the company's damaged brand (3%). Retention packages are not a long-term solution, Pirker said. "The retention package means a lot to keep advisers, but it buys the wire houses time, not loyalty," he said.

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