If you’ve known me for any length of time, you will at some point have heard me say, “There has never been a better time for breakaways.” Every time I have encouraged advisers to make the leap to independence, I have pointed to years of tech innovations and a growing, enthusiastic group of industry peers willing to lend their support. But what about now? What can we expect from 2021, in the middle of a pandemic and all of its disruptions to our work and our lives?
Say it with me, now: “There has never been a better time for breakaways.”
While it’s true that 2020 forced a lot of financial professionals to reconsider their breakaway plans (and any other plans they might have had for the year, let’s be fair), it also set in motion several factors that have contributed to a surge of pent-up interest in the breakaway journey. Here’s why I expect the floodgates to burst open in the months to come.
MORE ADVISERS HAVE HAD THEIR FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM
It’s hard to overstate the impact of our overnight shift to remote work, even if it now seems commonplace. The pandemic forced our industry into new habits and technologies that have increased productivity and demolished barriers of access. For months, advisers and investors have been able to fit financial advice into their lives at their own convenience.
Many advisers have seen real breakthroughs in getting more of their clients’ families to participate in calls, because video conferences are much easier than asking a household of adults to clear out an entire day to make a trip to their adviser’s office.
Advisers at the big wirehouses have experienced this flexibility in their work and their lives. Many now wonder, “How much more could I accomplish if I had more autonomy?”
PREFERENCE FOR ONE REGULATORY STANDARD
The Biden administration is still finding its sea legs, but it has already signaled a bias toward a more robust fiduciary standard, and the regulation that comes with it. If you’re at a broker-dealer, you’re beholden to both the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Given the choice, more advisers would rather answer to one regulatory body instead of two.
At the same time, the open-source collaboration and sharp-elbowed competition in the independent world has created better, more innovative solutions to help advisers grow their businesses and enhance the adviser-client relationship from beginning to end. Contrast that with a wirehouse adviser selling canned solutions to a captive audience. Which of these models do you think is more responsive to the demands of modern investors?
THE CLOCK IS TICKING
The pandemic forced a lot of people to change their retirement plans. It has also forced a graying workforce of advisers to consider their own succession paths.
The average adviser, someone in their early 50s, might close out their career by selling their book of business back to the mothership. Or they could potentially secure a much greater legacy for themselves by cultivating an independent, future-ready business of their own. Nothing in life is certain, but the independent adviser has a lot more freedom to leave their mark on the industry and decide what their own future should look like.
One thing hasn’t changed: the choice to break away is not a snap decision. Fidelity research shows the average breakaway takes 10 months from start to finish.
But anyone who makes this journey won’t have to look far to find help. And once they finally hang up a virtual shingle and start the next chapter of their careers, 2021’s breakaways might be surprised to see how many of their colleagues are making the same leap to independence.
Global investors heading for ESG ETFs
As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.