A new online startup is offering advisors and RIA firms a chance to seek new positions or succession partners with complete anonymity through an open, custodian-agnostic platform.

"Confidentiality is critical," says Mary Ann Buchanan, a 25-year industry veteran and founder of Purcellville, VA-based RIA Match. "[Advisors] need to be able to look around anonymously. They need to have the ability to stick their toe in the water and see who is out there. Names and addresses [collected from users] will never, ever be sold."

RIA Match is different, Buchanan says, from other competitors such as the startup Join A Firm, which recently signed an agreement with Securities America to help the firm's B-Ds find new advisors through the site. Join A Firm also promises confidentiality, but is openly helping Securities America to fill positions.

While RIA Match will not represent any companies, Buchanan says, she does believe some advisors will use multiple job search platforms to help in their searches. Other competitors in this space include not only Join A Firm, but internal matching programs offered by custodians such as Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade. All help advisors seek new partners or positions, however, Buchanan says, most lack confidentiality.

"Advisors need all kinds of ways to approach succession and growth," she says, "so it's not, 'This [service] is bad, that is good.' Obviously, I'd like to be the only one in sandbox but the reality is that advisors need help so it's, 'The more the merrier' at this point."

Buchanan said she founded the company to fill the void in the investment industry marketplace for efficient succession matching and partnering. In addition, the startup aims to help advisors with mergers and acquisitions, as well as overall growth by helping RIAs find new advisors to hire into their practices.

She cited last year's Fidelity RIA Benchmarking Study which found that 75% of participating investment advisors either don't have succession plans for their businesses nor plans that are ready to be implemented. Additionally, Cerulli shows that 50% of principals at RIA firms are age 50 and over and almost half of them have no contingency plan in place.

On RIA Match, user profile on the site takes approximately 25 minutes to complete, Buchanan says. And the company's proprietary matching algorithm pairs the culture and values of people and practices and translates this into a so-called Match Quality Ranking for each matching profile. Participating advisors communicate on the website's internal mail system and reveal their identity only if, and when, they are ready, according to Buchanan.

The advisors review their matches for free and, later, pay to communicate with them. To upgrade from the free monthly subscription, users can pay $29.95 or $49.95 a month for greater access to potential suitors or hires.

The site also aggregates content pertaining to succession, career path and other related issues. To that end, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services will be providing content to the site and participating in webinars and related events, according to Buchanan.

"Helping advisors grow their practices is a core focus for Fidelity," David Canter, executive vice president of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, said in a statement. "We are committed to bringing independent advisors the newest resources and offerings, like RIA Match, to assist them with that growth."

On Sept. 27, Fidelity will participate in the virtual launch of the site, along with three other industry veterans: mergers and acquisition specialist David DeVoe, managing partner of DeVoe and Company and Beverly Flaxington, co-founder of The Collaborative and Corey Kupfer of Market Counsel. For the next several months, RIA Match will host a weekly 30-minute webinar to give a tour of the site and answer any questions.

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