After 31 years helping to build up the independent RIA space, legendary TD Ameritrade executive Tom Bradley is out and being replaced by Scottrade executive Peter deSilva as president of retail distribution.

"Tom Bradley is one of the all-time greats," says consultant Tim Welsh of Nexus Strategy, "so [it's] a huge loss for TD Ameritrade and their employees."

Bradley is known for helping to grow the independent RIA space as well as building TD into the powerhouse it is today. Five years ago, he left the institutional side to take over the retail business.

In doing so, Bradley may have assumed an impossible task, Welsh speculates.

"No one can keep that job as head of retail at a discount broker. It doesn't matter who you are, those businesses are broken," Welsh said. "Running the custody business is easy; advisors are extremely profitable, no matter what the market environment. However, trying to make money [on] $4 trades is impossible with bricks and mortar and highly discounted managed accounts."

TD did not immediately respond to a request for comments on Welsh's remarks.

In a statement, TD lauded Bradley for building the custodian's RIA business "from the ground-up" and becoming a well-known RIA advocate.

Five years ago, Tom Bradley left TD Ameritrade's institutional side to take over the retail business.

"Bradley played a considerable role in the growth and success of TD Ameritrade over a career spanning 31 years," the statement read. "He spent a majority of his time at the helm of the company’s Institutional business, serving the needs of independent registered investment advisors."

Bob Herrmann, president of Discovery Data, said Bradley's legacy was sound. "Tom did an exceptional job at TD Ameritrade and that will survive his departure," Herrmann said.

The appointment of deSilva will be effective upon the finalization of TD's acquisition of Scottrade Financial Services, the custodian said. TD first announced the acquisition last October.

Bradley's successor "has more than 30 years of financial services experience, including leadership roles in banking, wealth management and brokerage," according to a press release. "He joined Scottrade in February, 2016 for an opportunity to serve under founder Rodger Riney’s leadership at the highest level in the organization."

Welsh likened Bradley's exit to highly publicized departures of Schwab executives Dave Pottruck, who is now chairman of HighTower Advisors, and John Coughlin, both of whose careers foundered atop the company's retail business.

Says Welsh, "If you are a senior exec at a discounter and want to keep your job, refrain from the retail siren!"

Ann Marsh

Ann Marsh

Ann Marsh is a senior editor and the West Coast Bureau Chief of Financial Planning. Follow her on Twitter at @Ann_Marsh.