The ability to present a wider array of options to clients is chief among the reasons advisors are choosing to break away from wirehouses, according to a survey by Dynasty Financial Partners of independent advisors in its network.

Ninety-one percent of the 23 advisors survyed said they now have more freedom to focus on the unique needs of their clients.

“Being able to serve your clients as an agent and give them access to multiple vendors for a particular solution — that was critical,” said Steve Altman, a founding partner and senior wealth advisor at Salem, Oregon-based registered investment advisor firm The Davis Altman Group, who participated in the study.

All of the respondents, who have roughly $27 billion in total client assets, said they would go independent again if they had to do things over.

The model of the future

Prior to going independent in 2012, Altman spent 15 years at Merrill Lynch, according to his BrokerCheck profile.

Altman says that after Merrill Lynch was bought by Bank of America in 2008, “it was pretty clear that there was a change of culture” and that “we lost the focus of taking care of the client first.” He goes on to say that this was his primary motivation for going independent.

Independence for an advisor means one is “able to own your own business and set the culture,” Altman said. “It’s the model of the future.”

Merrill declined to comment.

Serving clients in the ways that they ask for

Matt Kilgroe, president and chief executive officer of St. Petersburg, Florida-based RIA firm Cyndeo Wealth Partners, also participated in the study. He spent 21 years at Merrill and eight years at UBS before going independent in 2020, according to his BrokerCheck profile. He also cites flexibility in serving clients as his primary reason for going independent.

“The biggest thing for us was the ability to service the client in the ways that the clients were asking for,” according to Kilgroe.

More specifically, Kilgroe said that being independent affords him “an ability to evaluate business opportunities, deals and investments that were not generated and manufactured at UBS.”

Kilgroe says this is particularly important for ultra-high net worth clients who are frequently presented with investment opportunities.

“We could look at that opportunity at the wirehouse, but to really render an official fiduciary-oriented opinion was not an option,” he said.

UBS declined to comment.

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