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Independent broker-dealers have turned the corner after two straight years of shrinking returns, and the largest firms are leading the way.

The firms analyzed in Financial Planning’s 33rd annual FP50 produced combined revenue of $25.7 billion in 2017, an increase of nearly 9% over the previous year and the best results since 2014. However, the positive returns also mean a more competitive fight at the top.

Cambridge Investment Research, Northwestern Mutual, MML Investors Services, Commonwealth Financial Network and Raymond James Financial Services generated double-digit rises in their annual revenue. Meanwhile, Ameriprise is closing in on LPL Financial.

MML Investors, a subsidiary of MassMutual, stands out as the firm with the most eye-popping expansion on the strength of MassMutual’s $165 million acquisition of MetLife’s U.S. retail advisor unit. The firm’s revenue soared last year after the formal addition of assets and advisors from the 2016 deal.

A total of 13 of the 25 largest firms produced double-digit revenue growth, but two out of their ranks had slight decreases last year. Another firm fell out of the top 10 despite a 6% hike in revenue.

The elite group of eight firms and networks with more than $1 billion in business gained a new member last year as well. Of the networks, Advisor Group boasts four firms in the top 25, Cetera Financial Group has three and Ladenburg Thalmann has one.

Financial Planning relies on firms to ensure the accuracy of the data they submit each year as part of the FP50 and works to verify the information when possible. Some firms did not respond in time to requests for information.

The rankings for the previous year do not always match the FP50 2017 survey because some firms restated their figures. LPL’s acquisition of the assets of National Planning Holdings also eliminated previous members of the FP50. As a result, the rankings for the previous year have changed slightly.

To view how the largest firms now stack up against one another, click through our slideshow. For a full recap of the year in the IBD space, see FP50 2018: Independent broker-dealers adapt to survive. To check last year’s list of the firms with the highest revenue, click here.
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25. FSC Securities
Headquarters: Atlanta
Year founded: 1958
Network: Advisor Group
Chief executive: Derek Burke
Total 2017 revenue: $281,119,000
% change year-over-year: 2.6%
2018 ranking: 25
2017 ranking: 22
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24. Cetera Financial Institutions
Headquarters: St. Cloud, Minnesota
Year founded: 1984
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Chief executive: LeAnn Rummel
Total 2017 revenue: $283,972,000
% change year-over-year: 7.9%
2018 ranking: 24
2017 ranking: 23
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23. Woodbury Financial Services
Headquarters: Oakdale, Minnesota
Year founded: 1997
Network: Advisor Group
Chief executive: Rick Fergesen
Total 2017 revenue: $285,584,000
% change year-over-year: 12.5%
2018 ranking: 23
2017 ranking: 24
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22. Principal Securities
Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Julie LeClere
Total 2017 revenue: $299,570,000
% change year-over-year: 7.2%
2018 ranking: 22
2017 ranking: 21
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21. Lincoln Investment Planning
Headquarters: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Ed Forst
Total 2017 revenue: $309,700,000
% change year-over-year: 33.2%
2018 ranking: 21
2017 ranking: 25
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20. Securian Financial Services
Headquarters: St. Paul, Minnesota
Year founded: 1984
Chief executive: George Connolly
Total 2017 revenue: $346,400,000
% change year-over-year: 6.4%
2018 ranking: 20
2017 ranking: 17
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19. HD Vest Financial Services
Headquarters: Irving, Texas
Year founded: 1983
Chief executive: Bob Oros
Total 2017 revenue: $348,620,000
% change year-over-year: 10.1%
2018 ranking: 19
2017 ranking: 18
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18. Cetera Advisors
Headquarters: Denver
Year founded: 1981
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Chief executive: Brett Harrison
Total 2017 revenue: $351,214,000
% change year-over-year: 23.4%
2018 ranking: 18
2017 ranking: 20
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17. SagePoint Financial
Headquarters: Phoenix
Year founded: 2004
Network: Advisor Group
Chief executive: Jeff Auld
Total 2017 revenue: $351,697,000
% change year-over-year: 14.4%
2018 ranking: 17
2017 ranking: 19
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16. Signator Investors
Headquarters: Boston
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Christopher Maryanopolis
Total 2017 revenue: $423,282,000
% change year-over-year: 18.5%
2018 ranking: 16
2017 ranking: 16
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15. Voya Financial Advisors
Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa
Year founded: 1994
Chief executive: Tom Halloran
Total 2017 revenue: $429,304,000
% change year-over-year: 9.0%
2018 ranking: 15
2017 ranking: 14
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14. Kestra Financial
Headquarters: Austin, Texas
Year founded: 1996
Chief executive: James Poer
Total 2017 revenue: $475,418,000
% change year-over-year: 12.4%
2018 ranking: 14
2017 ranking: 13
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13. Waddell & Reed Financial Advisors
Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas
Year founded: 1937
Chief executive: Shawn Mihal
Total 2017 revenue: $476,612,000
% change year-over-year: -2.2%
2018 ranking: 13
2017 ranking: 11
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12. Royal Alliance Associates
Headquarters: Jersey City, New Jersey
Year founded: 1968
Network: Advisor Group
Chief executive: Dmitry Goldin
Total 2017 revenue: $483,860,000
% change year-over-year: 3.6%
2018 ranking: 12
2017 ranking: 12
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11. Cetera Advisor Networks
Headquarters: El Segundo, California
Year founded: 1983
Network: Cetera Financial Group
Chief executive: Thomas Taylor
Total 2017 revenue: $606,849,000
% change year-over-year: 5.9%
2018 ranking: 11
2017 ranking: 9
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10. Securities America
Headquarters: La Vista, Nebraska
Year founded: 1984
Network: Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services
Chief executive: Jim Nagengast
Total 2017 revenue: $637,300,000
% change year-over-year: 19.0%
2018 ranking: 10
2017 ranking: 10
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9. Lincoln Financial Network
Headquarters: Philadelphia
Year founded: 1905
Chief executive: David Berkowitz
Total 2017 revenue: $740,186,000
% change year-over-year: -1.0%
2018 ranking: 9
2017 ranking: 6
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8. AXA Advisors
Headquarters: New York
Year founded: 1999
Chief executive: David Karr
Total 2017 revenue: $786,527,000
% change year-over-year: 8.1%
2018 ranking: 8
2017 ranking: 7
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7. Cambridge Investment Research
Headquarters: Fairfield, Iowa
Year founded: 1981
Chief executive: Amy Webber
Total 2017 revenue: $811,395,000
% change year-over-year: 14.0
2018 ranking: 7
2017 ranking: 8
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6. Northwestern Mutual Investment Services
Headquarters: Milwaukee
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Eva Marie Schoenborn
Total 2017 revenue: $945,412,000
% change year-over-year: 25%
2018 ranking: 6
2017 ranking: 5
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5. MML Investors Services
Headquarters: Springfield, Massachusetts
Year founded: 1981
Chief executive: John Vaccaro
Total 2017 revenue: $1,050,572,000
% change year-over-year: 185.8%
2018 ranking: 5
2017 ranking: 15
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4. Commonwealth Financial Network
Headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts
Year founded: 1979
Chief executive: Wayne Bloom
Total 2017 revenue: $1,241,572,000
% change year-over-year: 16.2%
2018 ranking: 4
2017 ranking: 4
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3. Raymond James Financial Services
Headquarters: St. Petersburg, Florida
Year founded: 1974
Chief executive: Scott Curtis
Total 2017 revenue: $2,071,244,000
% change year-over-year: 15.7%
2018 ranking: 3
2017 ranking: 3
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2. Ameriprise Financial
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Year founded: 1894
Chief executive: Jim Cracchiolo
Total 2017 revenue: $4,259,992,000
% change year-over-year: 8.0%
2018 ranking: 2
2017 ranking: 2
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1. LPL Financial
Headquarters: Boston
Year founded: 1968
Chief executive: Dan Arnold
Total 2017 revenue: $4,281,481,000
% change year-over-year: 5.7%
2018 ranking: 1
2017 ranking: 1