Let's face it. Choosing an independent broker/dealer to join isn't easy. There are literally thousands, and each firm claims to offer the best. In a continuing effort to help our readers become more familiar with their options, we've asked the heads of five independent b/ds to answer a few questions about their firms and themselves. We publish these Q&As with indie executives quarterly.

The five firms illustrate the diversity in the independent b/d world. For example, Woodbury Financial Services, the subsidiary of an insurance company, is in the midst of transitioning its reps to a full-time advisory model from one where the reps sold almost exclusively insurance. And then there's Raymond James Financial Services, the subsidiary of a financial conglomerate with a hand in each of the financial-services channels. Meanwhile, Cambridge Investment Research is arguably one of the last truly “independent-independents” of its size. Philip Palaveev, a consulant for Moss Adams, says most independent b/ds have been snapped up by larger organizations, and therefore cannot make the claim that they are genuinely independent. That said, whether a b/d fits into the “independent” channel is more a function of whether the firm's reps work as independent contractors, as opposed to employee reps.

In the meantime, the independent channel has managed to grow significantly over the last five years, becoming the largest channel in the business in terms of reps. Average revenue per independent b/d grew to $110 million in 2006, from around $92 million in 2005, according to Moss Adams. Overall revenue for the entire independent channel reached $3.5 billion in 2006. Palaveev says that number has grown about 19 percent per year for several years.

What's more, individual independent reps are upping their game. They're serving more clients, and expanding asset and production levels. Average annualized production per rep, while nowhere near wirehouse levels, was up over 20 percent to $126,527 in 2006. Exclude insurance-owned b/d reps from the equation, and that average production number rises to $157,000. The average number of clients was up to 340 in 2006, compared with 296 the year prior. Further, from 2004 through 2006, average assets under management per independent rep increased by 70 percent to $104 million, according to Moss Adams' latest data.

Read on to find out what this month's featured executives have to say about their firms, and why you should join them.