RIAs led in a year of recruiting slowed by the pandemic

According to InvestmentNews’ Advisers on the Move database, which tracks registered reps and advisers as they transition between firms, total moves of experienced advisers fell 24% in 2020. That calculation includes advisers who transitioned as part of a merger or acquisition but excludes moves between related firms. 

The pandemic was the clear culprit. Industry recruiting activity had been steady year-over-year in January and February but fell off a cliff as COVID-19 hit the United States. Amid the cascade of office closures that began mid-month, total moves fell 10% in March alone. 

Recruiting never fully recovered. In each quarter of 2020, it was lower than the comparable period of 2019, according to the data. 


Yet in the slower year for transitions, the RIA channel stood out. Across all types of moves, the channel led in net gains, which were up 20% compared with 2019. 

A year of remote work appeared to accelerate the trend of advisers going independent for more control over their business, and in many cases, opportunities for higher take-home pay. Independent broker-dealers also saw a year of positive gains, though on net the channel was down from 2019. 

Importantly, 2020 transition volume was also dented by a decrease in advisers switching firms following a merger or acquisition, which accounted for about 10% of transitions in 2019. Advisory M&A activity hit a record in 2020, but whether advisers formally change their firm registration is subject to the particulars of a deal. Moves resulting from recent M&A activity could also be reflected later as firms fully integrate. 

2020 Top Net LossesAdvisers Lost
Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC564
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated492
Edward Jones423
UBS Financial Services Inc.315
Nationwide Securities, LLC195
Equitable Advisors, LLC163
TD Ameritrade, Inc.160
TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC151
Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC146
MML Investors Services, LLC134

2020 Top Net GainsAdvisers Gained
LPL Financial LLC1075
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC516
Cambridge Investment Research, Inc.158
Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC156
Raymond James Financial Services, Inc.151
Raymond James & Associates, Inc.119
Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated117
RBC Capital Markets, LLC96
Rockefeller Financial LLC81
Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments71

2020 Channel ChangesAdvisers Gained
Independent Broker-Dealer1,291
Regional Broker-Dealer126
Insurance Broker-Dealer-892


The InvestmentNews Advisers on the Move database is designed to capture all recruiting activity of retail financial advisers/teams of advisers as they move from one firm to another. The activity recorded within the database comes from a number of sources, including InvestmentNews and other media reports, press releases, direct submissions that have been reviewed by InvestmentNews and regulatory filings. To qualify as a move, no more than 60 days can have elapsed between the date an adviser/team leaves one firm and the date they join another. Any adviser registration changes that came as a result of merger and acquisition activity are not recorded as moves in the database.

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