Last updated: 13:13 / Monday, 10 August 2015
Schwab’s 2015

Benchmarking Study Shows RIA Firms Are Achieving Record Growth and Profitability

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Benchmarking Study Shows RIA Firms Are Achieving Record Growth and Profitability
  • RIAs´ revenue and profitability have achieved all-time highs
  • RIA firms have achieved an effective combination of growth and improved operating margins
  • They are increasing assets under management through both client acquisition and organic growth and they are also enjoying high client and employee retention

As many independent registered investment advisor (RIA) firms surpass the 20 years-in-business mark, their revenue and profitability have achieved all-time highs according to results from Charles Schwab’s 2015 RIA Benchmarking Study. Nearly half of firms (42%) participating in the Study have doubled their revenue since 2009, and assets under management (AUM) have increased by 75 percent for half of firms in the Study over the same time period, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1 percent. Along with AUM growth, profitability - measured as standardized operating margin - has risen 36 percent over the last five years and now stands at 27 percent for the median firm in the Study. Moreover, the gap in profitability has decreased between the most profitable and least profitable firms as the industry continues to mature and more firms adopt best practices and technology-led innovations.

Now in its ninth year, the Study includes responses from more than 1,000 firms collectively managing nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in assets. In addition to record revenue and profitability, the data also shows that RIA firms have achieved an effective combination of growth and improved operating margins as they are increasingly institutionalizing operations and making strategic decisions around talent – not only to manage their recent growth, but also to be better positioned to succeed into the next decade and beyond. The results indicate that the sustained, rapid growth trajectory over the past five years has also helped build considerable value in many firms. The benchmarking data indicates firms are not only increasing assets under management through both client acquisition and organic growth but are also enjoying high client and employee retention – attributes of business health and value.

“More than half of the RIA firms in the Study are now embarking on their third decade in business and the data shows that they are doing so from a position of competitive strength,” says Jonathan Beatty, senior vice president, sales and relationship management, Schwab Advisor Services. “As RIAs and the industry-at-large continue to mature, firms are learning from each other and sharing best practices to help build scale and fuel growth. The independent model is clearly winning today among high-net-worth investors, and RIAs are also preparing themselves to capture future opportunities.”

With more than $23 trillion in high-net-worth investor assets still held outside of the industry in other advice models, independent advisors have an immense opportunity at hand.

Over the past five years, the number of new clients has surged by more than 24 percent for half of the Study participants, and in 2014 alone, top-performing firms added ten percent or more new clients, while the median firm added five percent more clients. Firms are also taking on larger clients; the average account size is now $1.9 million, and $3.9 million among the top-performing firms.

Beyond new client acquisition, firms are also successfully winning and keeping the trust of existing clients as evidenced by a median 97 percent client retention rate year-over-year. Furthermore, among existing clients, firms are increasing share of wallet - top-performing firms increased share of wallet by four percent in 2014.

The Study shows that the combination of new assets and larger account sizes has helped drive firm revenues over the past five years, with the median firm seeing revenue CAGR of 13.6 percent rate and top-performing firms experiencing 18.8 percent revenue CAGR. Larger account sizes have also resulted in improved revenue per professional. The median firm reported $554,000 revenue per professional in 2014 while the top-performing firms indicate revenue of more than $800,000 per professional.

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