National Financial, Fidelity Investments' clearing arm, signed or re-signed a total of 60 broker-dealer firms last year, bringing its total assets to more than $465 billion and a client total of more than 300 firms.

While it's a far cry from the more than $560 billion in assets it garnered at the end of 2009, resulting primarily from rampant consolidation and the loss of the huge Bank of America Merrill Lynch account following their merger, company officials were heartened by some new customer wins among independent broker-dealers, insurance companies and discount brokerage firms.

"With competition in the clearing industry as intense as ever, we continue to see clients and prospects voting with their feet," National Financial President Sanjiv Mirchandani said in a statement. "The significant investment we are making in delivering the best platform in the industry is clearly resonating in the marketplace."

National Financial owes much of its success attracting or retaining firms to its Streetscape brokerage technology platform which integrates trading and service functionality with customer information and risk management data.

Company officials said more and  more firms, particularly independent dealer-brokers including fee-based shops, are opting to consolidate their operations rather than work rely on multiple clearing firms to improve efficiency and streamline their operating structure.

Berthel Fisher & Company is one of the independent broker-dealers that chose to consolidate its securities clearing operations on to Streetscape this year. National Financial also picked up PNC Investments, Crown Capital Securities and First National Capital Markets.

"For us, working with multiple clearing firms was becoming cumbersome and costly," Berthel Fisher CEO Tom Berthel said in a statement, adding that by consolidating with National Financial the firm can now provide a more consistent user experience for its brokers across fee and commission models.

Beyond clearing and custody services, National Financial offers a wide range of services including transition support, trading processing, asset management and tools to help brokers and advisors transfer their books of business to independent registered investment advisor or broker-dealer firms.

"In this cost-conscious environment, where many broker-dealers are under tremendous profit pressures, we are seeing more firms consider the benefits of working with a single, long-term strategic partner such as National Financial," Mirchandani added.

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