As long-time readers know, we've been conducting a financial advisor satisfaction survey — how FAs really feel about their firms — for 19 years. With the rise of the independent broker/dealer, we thought we'd take the pulse of how independent-contractor FAs feel about their affiliated firms. Actually, it was Anthea Penrose, spokeswoman at Raymond James, who suggested that we begin to conduct such a survey. Of course, Anthea might have been egging us on for the simple reason that she reckoned Raymond James Financial Services would score high, that its FAs were largely satisfied. She was correct. (See page 34.)

Some may wonder why we featured only four of the 15 firms who participated. (By the way, we were hoping to get respondents from firms with the most assets. In the end, IBDs that are listed in the package were chosen simply because their FAs participated in a statistically meaningful way; we eliminated IBDs that had, say, only 25 surveys filled when the IBD had 1,000 or more affiliated FAs, for example.)

Last month in this space I noted that the big four wirehouses weren't too concerned about breakaway brokers decamping for IBDs or RIAs. But the independent world is growing, no doubt about it, while FAs at wirehouses are expected to remain flat to down in the coming years. (Of course, wirehouses still have most of the money.) Yet we found that about a third of our respondents did in fact work for a wirehouse or as an employee of a full-service brokerage in the past. Some firms lost more to independent land than did others. The one overarching point you'll find from the survey: Independent FAs are a pretty contented lot. Our advisor respondents gave strong ratings to their firms and said they planned to stay put. For a profile of the average FA who is going indie, please turn to page 32 of the package.

How the survey was conducted:

On Feb. 23, 2011, Registered Rep. e-mailed invitations to participate in the research to all independent broker/dealer subscribers with a valid e-mail address. A link to the survey was also included on, as well as in electronic newsletters delivered between Feb. 23 and April 23. A total of 3,585 completed surveys were received by April 23, 2011. Fifteen firms met the required qualification of 50 or more advisors rating the firm.

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