The results ofFinancial Planning's 28th annual survey of independent broker-dealers are based on data provided by 78 participating firms. A few of the firms we contacted did not respond to our request for information. Also, firms we determined were not independent were excluded. In these instances, the deciding factors usually were whether reps could act independently in their practices, effectively owned their client book or had independent contractor status.

Financial Planning relied on the firms to ensure the accuracy of the information they submitted. We worked to verify data when possible and list additional details below that warranted further explanation.

The data we list for 2011 do not always match last year's survey because some companies restated the numbers they submitted last year. All figures reflect calendar-year 2012 and 2011 numbers.

Total revenues drive the FP50 charts. The Smaller Firms page highlights the 28 firms whose revenues fell below those of the FP50. Firms with less than $7 million in total revenues, or those that would not provide significant information, were not included.


Explanatory Note

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for North-western Mutual Life Insurance and its subsidiaries. Assets listed represent programs of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co. and Investment Services.


Total Revenues

Total revenues are derived from all commission, fee and other revenues. Other firm revenue is from non-rep sources (ancillary businesses, interest, etc.).


Reps & Production

Producing reps are those who were active independent contractors as of Dec. 31 of each year and do not include registered office staff and other assistants. Total payout to reps includes bonuses and any other compensation. Average payouts were calculated based on total payout divided by the number of year-end producing reps. The average payout may be lower than the actual average production, since it includes reps who joined the firm in the last year.


Commission & Fee-Based Product Revenue

All commission figures are net revenues to the B-D firm (not gross sales). Alternative products include hedge funds, commodities, managed futures and real estate investment trusts. The REIT figures are included in the total alternative revenue amount. Fee-based revenues are broken out, where possible, by those received from accounts managed by the reps, by the broker-dealer firm or by third-party vendors.



This chart shows consolidated results for six major parent companies that own multiple broker-dealer units. Only B-Ds that participated in the survey are listed.


Corporate Staff

The full-time staff count is for the headquarters of the B-D only and does not include shared staff employed by a parent company. Licensed professionals are staff members who hold securities licenses. Recruiters and compliance officials are full-time, nonclerical B-D employees.


Services & Fees

Yes and no questions on service offerings, as well as ticket charges, were starting points for information; details vary.


Clients & Accounts

Active accounts and assets reflect those held at a B-D or its custody/clearing firm. Active accounts are those that generate statements and hold assets. Figures don't reflect assets held at mutual fund or variable annuity companies. Qualified plan accounts are IRAs, Roth IRAs and other retirement plans held in custody for clients.



As always, we value your comments. Please email Financial Planning Editor-in-Chief Scott Wenger at

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