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Is TDA Competing for Your Business?

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During the opening session at TD Ameritrade’s institutional conference this morning, President and CEO Fred Tomczyk touted the firm’s referral program: When TDA comes across investors with over $500,000 in assets, they’ll be referred to one of the company’s RIAs. But one advisor in the room this morning was not happy about that: “You’re going after the same client as I am,” he said. His typical clients, in fact, are not those with over $500,000 in assets. TDA made it sound as if any end investor with under $500,000 would go into the company’s packaged products platform: Amerivest. Tom Bradley, TD Ameritrade’s head of retail distribution and former head of the institutional biz, is now in charge of Amerivest. Year over year, the Amerivest platform is up 110 percent in assets, while the firm’s advice platform has grown 58 percent. That’s a big difference, but nothing to sneeze at on the advice side either. But whether the large, self-directed platforms like TD and Schwab are competing with RIAs for their business is a big concern. Of course, RIAs at the other big custodians have been concerned about this issue for some time, but advisors at TDAI haven’t really voiced their concerns on this quite as loudly. But things change. In response, Bradley said $500,000 was not a hard and fast cut-off line, and that the company will find what the best fit is for every client. For more sophisticated situations, where the client needs tax and estate planning etc., they’ll send them to an advisor. Many investors in the Amerivest program will grow out of the program, if they grow their wealth beyond $500,000. Pete Dorsey, managing director of institutional sales, said advisors are not competing with low-cost, packaged products because they are designed for self-directed investors. The average account size in that platform is $100,000, he said.

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