With 478 advisors in 40 states, Independent Financial Partners is LPL's largest branch, but the Tampa, Fla., based firm certainly won't rest on those laurels.

Currently, the overwhelming majority of its advisors are hybrids, who can be compensated by fees or commissions. Less than a dozen IFP advisors are fee-only, according to William Hamm Jr., the company's CEO, but that is about to change.

"There are a number of fee-only advisors who have, say, $50 million to $250 million under management," he said. "If they don't have more scale, they may find it difficult to run their business as efficiently as possible."

IFP would offer fee-only advisors the array of services that it offers to hybrids, such as help with compliance issues. "It might cost a few points of revenues," Hamm said, "but that probably would be less than they'd pay for staffing their own offices. It would make sense for access to our scale."

That scale now spans about 230 offices nationwide, according to Hamm. Most of those offices have a single or a few advisors; a few have as many as 20. IFP's revenues were around $7 million in 2009, Hamm said, but they're on pace to reach around $80 million this year. As of last report (March 31, 2012), IFP had $3 billion under management and another $26.7 billion of assets "under advisement," relating to consulting and retirement plans.

Hamm said that there were many factors explaining his firm's growth, including extremely generous payouts. "We also allow our advisors to customize the way they deliver their services to clients," he said. "Some are asset gatherers, some are asset managers. We're not a one-size-fits-all firm."   

IFP advisors come in all sizes, too. "Some have worked for a brokerage firm for a few years and recently have gone out on their own," Hamm said. "Others have 30 years of experience. One reason we appeal to veteran advisors is that we can provide a ready-made source of buyers, when they're ready to retire."

Those potential buyers are other IFP advisors. "We did a survey recently," Hamm said, "asking our advisors if they would be interested in buying out another one of our practices. We got 66 positive responses."

Hamm said that his firm provides advice on pricing such buyouts and structuring the deal. Such help with business succession may be yet another reason fee-only advisors would be interested in affiliating with this largely hybrid wealth manager.

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