A trend that's changing the face of the brokerage industry - fees as opposed to commissions - may help wirehouses, institutional banks and broker/dealers attract more money into separately managed accounts (SMAs).

A movement to fee-based services from commission-based ones is being aggressively pushed by some wirehouses as a means to grind down peaks and fill in valleys in their sawtooth income picture. The practice, which directly links a broker's income to an account's performance, may also be eyed as a way to rebuild investor confidence in the industry, as faith has been greatly shaken by bear market losses, corporate scandals and reports of financial misconduct.

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