Independent advisory firms have proven they can attract brokers.

Now its just a matter of keeping them.

Fidelity Investments announced Monday it helped 50 teams of brokers transition to independent channels in the first quarter, a 20% increase from a year earlier. Most of the brokers were dually registered, which allows them operate under a variety of business models.

To help advisors, Fidelity also introduced a matching program designed to help brokers identify an independent broker-dealer or registered investment advisory firm. The Boston-based company also launched a series of regional events and webinars to help brokers better understand the independent business model.  

Brokers have a number of choices when breaking away with Fidelity. They can start their own advisory firm, join an existing RIA on the Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services platform or join a broker-dealer client of National Financial, Fidelity’s correspondent clearing business.

The matching function is Web-based. Brokers provide information about their current book of business, and the characteristics of their ideal firm. The tool generates a list of potential matches from dozens of Fidelity clients.

After that, the tool emails the results to the broker, who can work with Fidelity to narrow the results and make introductions.

Fidelity is the latest asset custodian to launch such a program. Schwab Advisor Services, a division of Charles Schwab Corp. [SCHW] and TD Ameritrade Institutional, a division of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., run similar programs. Both expect to announce their first-quarter transition numbers when their parent companies announce earnings later this month, but both are having a successful run.At Schwab, 42% of the 172 teams that went independent joined existing RIA firms, according to Lindsay Tiles, a spokesperson for Schwab. That is an increase from the 15% of transitioning teams that joined RIA firms in 2008.

TD Ameritrade Institutional, which is based in Jersey city, N.J., had a 30% increase in breakaway business last year from a year earlier, said Tom Nally, its managing director of sales.

Last year TD Ameritrade Institutional launched a program called AdvisorLink, a matching service for advisors who are in the market to buy, sell or merge their practices. But as the unit began to usher brokers into the independent channel, it realized AdvisorLink could help advisors find ideal job situations and give principals an alternative to selling their firms.

“It’s been a tremendous value add for the clients we have,” Nally said. “We’re helping them grow in the fashion that may not have been available to them in the past.”

Tiles said that Schwab's online matching tool is a great resource for advisors, but the personal element, where principals and prospective advisors can get to know each other, is critical.

“For these kinds of transactions, you have to look at the cultural fit,” she said. “You could be hiring a future partner at the firm.” 

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