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It’s the dream that dare not speak its name: calling it quits at the big firm and heading out on your own.

According to an article in Bloomberg, it’s a dream that’s becoming reality for more and more U.S. advisors. The article reports independent registered investment advisors have more than doubled their AUM — to US$2.8 trillion — in the last eight years ending 2015. Big firms, on the other hand, saw their assets grow only 12%, to US$6.4 trillion.

Read: How Raymond James acquired 3Macs

And leaving is done without fear of litigation, thanks to the Protocol for Broker Recruiting. That’s a 2004 agreement between three big firms — Merrill Lynch, Citigroup and UBS Group AG — formed to reduce litigation and offer customers choice after mergers or acquisitions.

But few anticipated the protocol would be used to help advisors jump ship. The article describes the simple process: “have someone set up a shell company, have the company sign the protocol and then take over the company without fear of a lawsuit.”

Read: How to switch firms

In a July 2016 letter, the IIAC wrote that 35 Canadian independent retail boutiques have left the industry since January 2012.

Faced with the harsh realities of the business, wealth management executive John Cucchiella predicted earlier this year that independent advisors would decrease in number. However, he also drew attention to the possibility of advisors with their own book joining firms with principal-agent models.

Canaccord recently announced it’s raising capital to recruit advisors; advisors from National Bank have joined its ranks.

But moving to a new company or going independent has risks, reports John Lorinc. Investments may not be easily transferred because of fees, penalties or taxes. Further, advisors lose brand identity and access to quality buy-side equity research. Also not to be ignored: disruption to the practice and the effect on clients, who may question the move.

Also read: Echelon loses advisors after acquisition, but made profit

Originally published on Advisor.ca

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