Overall recruiting activity slowed in 2016, dipping below the frenzied pace set in 2015.

Uncertainty around the fiduciary rule combined with smaller wirehouse deals helped drive activity lower last year, according to recruiters. In June, UBS announced its intention to cut recruiting by 40% this year, and shift resources to advisers currently at the wirehouse.

Another key difference: In 2015, there were two large acquisitions (Barclays and Credit Suisse's U.S. units) that drove hundreds of advisers to consider finding a new home. Only one such deal closed in 2016: Raymond James' acquisition of Deutsche Bank's U.S. Private Client Services unit. The regional firm retained over 90% of the advisers.

Will this year see a pick-up in recruiting activity? Movement between firms seems to be muted so far. But the pull to independence has stayed steady in recent years. Larger and larger teams are opting to strike out on their own. For example, HighTower helped two billion-dollar breakaway teams go independent in recent weeks.

Click through to see which firms have been leading the pack over the past year.

Data is based on announced hires at wirehouse, regional and other firms. It excludes independent to independent moves.
Adviser recruiting momentum slows 2014-2016.png
2015 was a particularly strong recruiting year as rival wirehouse firms picked up recruits from Barclays and Credit Suisse, both of which exited the U.S. wealth management market. The two banks employed elite brokers, some of whom oversaw $1 billion or more in client assets. Deutsche Bank also bowed out, selling its U.S. Private Client Services unit to Raymond James.

Jeff Bischoff, founder of Old Greenwich Consultants, says it "was the end of an era, with the European banks going back home."
Adviser recruiting AUM drops dramatically 2014-2016.png
OWS Going independent recruiting momentum adviser moves chart.png
Despite the overall downward trend, the independence movement hasn't slowed down. More wirehouse teams managing large books of business continue to explore a variety of new ways to launch their own firms.

Danny Sarch, president of Leitner Sarch Consultants, says every adviser he meets with inevitably asks him about the indie option.

"When I look at my own practice, I think this is the third year in a row that of all wirehouse departures, fewer than half are going to another wirehouse," he says. "I think that barring something different, it's hard to say this is not a trend."
Adviser recruiting data 2014 to 2016 based on states.png
2016 recruiting moves AUM data for top firms.png
Regional broker-dealers and firms that facilitate breakaways reported strong activity last year.

However, industry insiders say that overall recruiting activity was dented late last year after the Department of Labor issued new regulatory guidance on its fiduciary rule that targeted back-end compensation common to many transition packages.

"In fact, as the deals have gone down —and that is a fact —since the DoL released the [guidance], the big firms have used it as a rationale to lower their standard deals from what they were at their peak. I don't blame them. People have been pointing out the insanity and their inability to make money off the biggest deals," Sarch says.
When advisers switch firms recruiting data.png
2016 adviser recruiting moves data for top firms
Steward Partners is an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James.