When it comes to RIA growth, all is not what it seems

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16 October 2015
William Trout
The continued accrual of AUM by the RIA channel masks some hard truths. First, the success of the independent advisor industry remains very much linked to the failures of the traditional brokerage model. Registered reps continue to flee an environment they see as oppressive and poorly aligned to client interests. Second, while robos are not yet taking much business from RIAs, they are exerting pressure on fees. The emergence of RIA roll ups like HighTower speaks to a much needed focus on scale. Sure, there will always be the man-and-a-dog shop with its loyal clientele. The most skilled and strategic advisors still can name their price, with value add services like financial planning and wealth transfer commanding a premium. That said, it won’t be long before the investments-focused customer resists paying his human advisor for much beyond running the machines. Sound futuristic? Well, it's what many advisors do today: they use an algorithm to generate an asset allocation based on client goals, followed by a yearly check in. The real wonder is that clients pay 1% for this kind of hand-holding.

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