Slideshow Where breakaway wirehouse advisers are going now

Published
  • February 24 2017, 5:46pm EST

Independence isn't for everyone. While it's demanding to run your own shop, hundreds of advisers have opted to take on the challenge — and reaped rewards.

This report is a breakdown of the breakaway movement; which firms have been losing advisers, where are they choosing to go independent and how many assets are going with them.

The data is based on announced moves from 2014 to today. Moves between independent firms have been excluded.

The size of breakaways' AUM is rebounding at the start of 2017 from a decrease last year.

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The biggest team to go independent in recent years was a group that left Wells Fargo Advisors to form an independent practice with Raymond James' indie channel. The multi-office team, Next Retirement Solutions, previously oversaw $7 billion in assets, many of which were in retirement plans.

That dwarfs most breakaways. Over the past three years, the average AUM per breakaway adviser was $326.9 million.

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UBS has the most productive advisers among the wirehouses, based on earnings reports. However, advisers leaving the firm to go independent have among the smallest AUMs, according to company announcements.

UBS is the smallest of the wirehouses, with approximately 7,000 advisers compared to roughly 14,000-15,000 for its rivals, based on earnings reports. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also lags its competitors in terms of the number of reported advisers leaving to go independent.

It's also important to note that while these figures represent departures, they do not necessarily represent a net decline in headcount. For example, Merrill Lynch reported that its adviser ranks had grown by 129 year-over-year to reach 14,629 for the fourth quarter of 2016.

For its part, Morgan Stanley says the firm's losses to independents have been stable over the past few years. The average size of those breakaways is also "substantially smaller than our average FA," the firm says.

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