Financial Advisors – Going Independent or Changing Firms

  • Thinking about moving?

  • Confused with the plethora of options?

  • Not sure what steps to take?

Financial Advisors – Going Independent or Changing Firms: If you’re thinking of taking the independent path and changing firms, you’re not alone. Many advisors consider going independent or moving to a new firm at some point in their career, yet it can be a risky proposition. There are so many considerations that it can boggle the mind.

Hello, my name is Suzanne Muusers. I have been working with financial advisors for the last 20 years, helping them organize and re-brand their firms prior to moving firms.

This article is a Guide to Going Indy – Changing Firms

7 Steps to Going Indy Decide your Business Model Find your New Home Organize your Book Resign your Current Position Start at your New Firm Organize your New Firm Structure Branding your New Firm

There are 7 steps and a resource section. See clickable links to each section of the article:

1. Decide your Business Model
2. Find your New Home
3. Organize your Book
4. Resign your Current Position
5. Start at your New Firm
6. Organize your New Firm Structure
7. Branding your New Firm

Other Resources:
8. Changing Firms FAQ’s
9. New Skills as the CEO of your Practice
10. Giving Up your Series 7 License
11. Changing Firms Articles & Resources

1. Decide your Business Model

If you’re coming from a wirehouse, going independent can be a huge change from the environment you’re accustomed to working in. If you are changing from one broker/dealer to another, it’s less of a change yet still challenging.

The independent possibilities include:

1. Moving from a wirehouse to an independent model that includes a broker/dealer.

2. Moving from one broker/dealer to another.

3. Changing firms to an RIA model as a registered investment advisor using fee-based compensation. May also retain insurance licenses.

4. Moving to an RIA model as a fee-only financial advisor/planner.

Decide which model works for you and proceed accordingly.

2. Find your New Home

I’ve worked with hundreds of financial advisors since 2004 so I’ve had clients with many different broker/dealers and business models.

A: Broker-dealers

Here are my top 3 picks for broker/dealers for financial advisors based on payout, ease of doing business, technology solutions, and ability to custom brand your practice:

1. Commonwealth Financial Network

2. Cambridge Investment Research

3. LPL Financial

Here’s a nice all inclusive b/d list from Financial Advisor Magazine based on an independent broker dealer survey conducted in 2014.

B. RIA’s

Custodians: For the RIA business model, check out TD Ameritrade (soon to be acquired by Schwab) or Schwab as the custodian for your clients’ assets. (Scottrade may also be an option).

Compliance: You’ll need assistance with your RIA registration and ongoing compliance.

Platforms: XY Planning Network / must be a CFP® with a fee-only business model. I highly recommend this option.

Make a list of your options for A or B and research what’s available.

Which business model appeals to you the most?

Looking for custodian options? Read this blog post by Michael Kitces.

3. Organize your Book

It’s a very worthwhile task to go through your book of clients and determine just what you have so that you can clearly explain your situation to your next broker/dealer or custodian.

How many A, B, C, and D clients do you have? Make a list and divide it into 3 sections: who you think will come with you, those you are unsure will come with you, and those you know will not move.

The big surprise is that you can really only estimate who will move with you. But this exercise gives you a starting point to begin discussions with your new broker/dealer.

In my experience, from 60%-80% of your clients will move with you, eventually – if you have the right marketing and follow up.

Be ready to explain your total AUM and where your assets are invested.

Note: It is very important that you NOT print out your client information if you are currently with a wirehouse or if you have signed a non-compete. In this case, you may have to handwrite all the important client details. Remember, it’s very easy to determine what you’ve been printing from your work computer so you want to avoid any litigation with your former b/d.

For more information, read this article on non-competes/employment agreements

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10 Powerful Marketing Tactics

4. Resign your Current Position

You may be familiar with the song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon. Well, there’s only one way to leave your firm. Do it very simply.

In a very simple one-page resignation letter, simply state that you resign your position, sign, and date it. Do not explain why you are resigning and do not thank your managers, as this could be used against you. Leave the letter on your desk on a Friday afternoon, call your manager, and leave a message that you have resigned.

5. Start at your New Firm

Monday morning you’ll be in a new environment at your new firm. Take this time to get organized. Work closely with the new firm’s legal department to make sure you don’t run afoul of your non-compete, if you have one.

It’s unlikely that your branding pieces will be 100% up and running so you’ll have to make do until everything is online. You may even run into technology issues such as email and the like. Until then, concentrate on:

LinkedIn – Make sure you update your LinkedIn profile so that your network and clients can see where you have moved.

*Communication – Use this time to connect with your clients, explain why you’ve moved and provide a 30-second commercial about how your move benefits your clients.

Moving Assets – Be ready to discuss how easy it will be to move accounts and assets to your new firm.

*Depends on your non-compete, if you have one. Seek legal counsel.

Only 31% of firms moving b/d’s had a written Marketing Plan in 2014*

*Fidelity Institutional

6. Organize your New Firm Structure

As an entrepreneur with your own firm, you’ll wear many hats. Some broker/dealers will provide a wide variety of technology solutions so that you don’t have to figure out what you need. You’ll pay for this but it could be worth it to you so that you can focus on your practice. If you’re going the RIA route, you’ll have other considerations.

Have you ever:

  • Negotiated an office lease?
  • Purchased office equipment?
  • Hired staff?
  • Negotiated salary agreements?
  • Created policies and procedures for your firm?
  • Defined roles and responsibilities?
  • Created an office budget?
  • Created a branding and marketing strategy?

market your business

7. Branding your New Firm: the Most Important Decision you’ll Ever Make

When you’re independent, you have an amazing opportunity to brand your firm through your logo, company colors, business card, brochure, and website. You can build your business based on YOUR brand, rather than the brand your former firm required you to use.

Your Digital Brand is a Prospecting Tool

When you’re independent, your custom website serves as the foundation to your company’s marketing and prospecting strategies.

Making an investment in your custom brand pays for itself many times over during the first 5-10 years of independence, when you need it most.

Check out my Brand Coaching Program to help you set up quickly in your new firm

Get Experienced Help!

Have you ever managed a project? Because moving firms or starting an independent firm is a project. There are many balls in the air at the same time and you will have to learn to become an experienced juggler.

Your Branding and Marketing Guide to Success

Perhaps the most important aspect of moving firms and going independent is learning to market your firm. If you don’t have a good Marketing Plan targeted to the affluent, at the time you set up shop, you could face a slowdown in revenue or a slowdown in new clients coming in the door.

Plan Your Success

That’s where I come in. I help advisors plan their branding and marketing strategy step by step. There are many advisors doing the same thing. You’ll need to create a distinctive Value Proposition that will allow you to position your firm in the marketplace.

I Help You Grow

You’ll also need me to help hold you accountable so that you are doing the things you need to do and taking full responsibility for your success. I know advisors who have gone independent and sit at their desks waiting for new business to come in the door. That’s not the way it works. You have to be brave and go for it! You have to build a business.

Private Client Website

Work with me to organize your project! You’ll have access to my Private Client Website with tools and exercises helping you with Branding, Prospecting, Marketing, and more. For many years, I have been helping advisors move firms and avoid mistakes along the way.

8. Changing Firms FAQ:

  • Should you go independent to a broker/dealer model or to an RIA? Let’s talk about the pro’s and con’s.
  • Is a 90% payout really better than a 70% payout? What are the differences? I can help you figure this out.
  • Should you give up your series 7 to become an RIA?

    (Please note that you should do your own due diligence as to the implications of going independent or giving up your series 7 license. Seek legal and professional advice before taking action.)

  • Should you outsource investment management? Who are the best money managers?
  • Who are the best custodians?

9. New Skills as the CEO of your Practice:

transition to independence

The skills that allowed you to build the business you have now are not the same skills you’ll need for the next 5-10 years. Your level of income will increase according to the new skills you acquire.

10. Giving up your Series 7 License

At some point in your career, you may consider giving up your series 7 license to create a more streamlined, simplified way of marketing and serving clients.

A few questions to consider:

  • What could you do with an extra 5 or more hours per week that you wouldn’t be dealing with compliance on FINRA marketing issues?
  • If you decide to blog, how much better would life be without waiting for your posts to be approved?
  • What should you do with your clients in individual stocks – should you have another advisor house them?
  • How will you transition client assets to managed account programs at your RIA?
  • How will this affect your business for the transition period?


  • You’ll be able to help clients by being able to communicate your views more appropriately
  • You’ll be able to engage in better marketing tactics
  • Rather than wait for compliance, you’ll be ahead of the game with time sensitive issues
  • Blogging – you can be more interactive with comments allowed on your blog
  • Personality – you’ll be able to demonstrate your personality
  • You can write a book to use for marketing purposes
  • You can have a radio show and widen your sphere of influence
  • You’ll be more efficient and better able to provide great service to clients
  • No more spending 50% of your time going back and forth with compliance
  • Less paperwork and processing, protect clients without trading fees
  • Have more time to watch client portfolios and anticipate issues
  • Access to more managed account portfolios and unique strategies
  • You will be held to a fiduciary standard rather than suitability standard

Giving up your series 7 to become an RIA is an exciting adventure. There are many considerations and roadblocks in the way, but in the longer-term you could be far better off. Let me help you figure out what’s best for you.

11. Articles & Resources:

Here are some great articles about getting started with your own firm. I disagree with points made in some of the articles about under-spending on your brand. I believe in going after a higher quality of client and you can’t do that with a low-end brand. Here are some great articles to review and come to your own conclusions:

Transitioning from wirehouse to independence

6 Reasons You’re Charging the Wrong Fees

Meeting The Requirements To Start Your Own RIA Without Breaking The Bank

Setting Up An RIA And Starting A New Financial Planning Practice On Less Than $10,000

Financial Planning Business Resources:

Financial Planning Software –eMoneyadvisor

Online Meeting Scheduling – ScheduleOnce

Paperless Office – LaserFiche or LaserApp

Electronic Document Signing – EchoSign

Transcription – CopyTalk

Socia Media, email, and archiving – Smarsh

Best CRM for Advisors – Redtail

Connect with Me

Prosperity Coachinh on LinkedInProsperity Coaching on TwitterProsperity Coaching on FaceBookProsperity Coaching on Instagram

What Clients Say

“Suzanne’s advice was invaluable when it came time for me to brand my independent financial advisory firm. Our work prior on target market, combined with help selecting my company name and colors and building my website have helped me attract my ideal clients and a consistent flow of leads from my website.”

Shanna T.

Financial Planner & Leader

“Don’t think twice about hiring Suzanne. Give coaching the time it deserves, be open, and trust that Suzanne will keep you on the right track.”

Kevin G.

AIF, CRPC, Financial Advisor, New Jersey

“I highly recommend Suzanne’s services to anyone who is interested in growing their business and maintaining a healthy balance outside of work as well.”

Monica B.

Holistic Practitioner

“Working with Suzanne has helped me to develop a distinctive brand. Having a cohesive brand gives me the confidence to network with and approach high level prospects. If I had not hired Suzanne, I would not have made this progress.

Nicholas E.

CFP® New York

“I truly feel that without Suzanne’s guidance, my business would not have flourished. Her expertise in my field helped me produce the results I needed more quickly. But most importantly, she made me safe enough to recognize the weaknesses in my business (and myself). You can fix anything once you recognize the problem!!”

Peggy B.

Financial Planner ChFC, CLU, AEP, IAR

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