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RIA Outlook: Trends Reshaping the Industry
To better understand and prepare for the top issues facing the RIA space this year, David Canter, Fidelity’s EVP of Practice

Management and Consulting, met with more than two dozen advisory firms and gathered intelligence at multiple key industry conferences. Please click on the arrows above to see what Canter says will most influence advisors.
There’s an Organic Growth Problem in the Industry
Advisors should get to basics and focus on winning new clients, says Canter. RIA firms that are marketing leaders are 42% more likely to prioritize growth, dedicating more resources and spending 33% more on business development and marketing, according to a Fidelity RIA Benchmarking Study.
The Cost of Compliance is Likely to Increase
Activity in the regulatory space will be ramping up this year. Two acronyms to remember: AML and DoL. AML refers to the SEC's proposed anti-money laundering rules while DoL is used to refer to the Department of Labor's proposed changes to the fiduciary rule.
Cost of Client Acquisition May Snowball
More firms are hiring business development officers, paying centers of influence for referrals, spending more on marketing and client events and discounting/waiving fees for new clients.
Big Firms are Getting Bigger
According to Fidelity estimates, there are more than 500 wealth management firms with over $1 billion in assets under management. With the increasing M&A activity in the space — including some of those smaller firms — Canter says he doesn’t see this trend subsiding.
There is a Continuing Talent Shortage
More advisors are over 70 than under 30, according to Fidelity estimates.
No Silver Bullet Technology Solution
There are no easy fixes. Therefore, advisors should consider a few things when it comes to implementing technology: Are you providing investors with a compelling portal? Is your back office connected to the investor to enable paperless processing? Are you taking all of the information from different sources and aggregating them? How will you provide your advisors with an integrated desktop? What will you build vs. outsource?
Clients Look a Lot Like Firm Owners
According to a Fidelity RIA Benchmarking Study, 23% of clients are at least 70 years of age and they hold 28% of assets. What is your firm doing to engage with a family's second and third generation? Have you done a demography analysis on your book of clients and prospects?
Hard to Differentiate From Competitors
How do you stand out from the crowd in a people-based business? (Hint: it’s not by calling yourself a holistic wealth manager or a fee-based advisor.) Can clients and prospects clearly define what your firm stands for and is known for? Do you have a specialization?
The Breakaway Broker Trend
“Now is the time for big breakaways,” says Bob Oros, head of RIA segment for Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions.

Why? Earlier breakaways paved the way and now big teams are finding exceptional quality in research, technology, client services and back office support.

What's more, the coming generational wealth transfer combined with the value that big teams have created within large institutions provides them with further motivation to go independent.

Also, advisors have the freedom to provide services and products that help best meet their clients' needs and can create high-touch service models with customized solutions and open-architecture platforms.
It’s Life Planning
Can you help your clients manage the moments of truth in their life? That will be the core of successful financial advisory businesses in the future.