RIA vs. BD?

13 replies [Last post]
CCrider's picture
Joined: 2006-08-22

Tell me why I would want to have a BD if I'm going fee based?  If I can cut them out....they are gone.
Does anyone know the expenses/fees to become an RIA?

anonymous's picture
Joined: 2005-09-29

You don't want a B/D if you can avoid it.

NASD Newbie's picture
Joined: 2005-08-01

CCrider wrote:
Tell me why I would want to have a BD if I'm going fee based?  If I can cut them out....they are gone.
Does anyone know the expenses/fees to become an RIA?

One word----Google.

hubbabubba's picture
Joined: 2006-08-03

Call some local RIAs to ask them about their experience.

FreedomLvr's picture
Joined: 2006-02-10

Call Fidelity or Schwab and have them pitch you.

Captain's picture
Joined: 2006-04-07

I did this 3 months ago.

1.) We interviewed three B/D firms which would have had us join their
RIA, rather than form our own.
2.) We had 80% of our revenue as fee-based revenue.
3.) We also had been using separate accounts, as well as non-
discretionary mutual fund portfolio management.
4.) Total AUM = $300 million.

First, the B/D question - Why NOT to have one....

If you can avoid it, DO NOT have a B/D relationship. The B/D regardless
of whether or not you form your own RIA and custody the MAJORITY of
your assets with Schwab or Fidelity HAS to carry regulatory oversight over
all of your accounts. They are listed as an 'interested party' on your
statements which are sent to your clients, and it does cause a certain
level of aggrevation when dealing with your own practice issues.

B/D - Why TO have one...

You will give up your trails on your OUTside mutual fund holdings, you
will still be able to be the B/D or agent of record on your variable annuity
contracts.... AND.... it buys you some time to still get 100% of your AUM
to a fee-based ONLY model through your RIA. At least you can control
the assets in the interim without having to explain the whole fee-based
thing in the event you have some clients who are commission-based and
you don't want them to go anywhere else.

The RIA thing - costs, etc.

For starters, you'll have to engage the services of an attorney, or a bunch
of them. Assuming a 4 to 6 person firm, you'll be paying $15,000 in
fees for your LLC, and RIA documents. If you are a single-person firm, it
will be $7,000, roughly. You could also have the attorney hold your LLC,
and apply for your RIA without your name on either document... a good
thing to consider if you have to sign, each year, that you presently hold
no outside business interests...

Don't forget about your first months rent payment, furniture expenses,
office equipment expenses. I'd say that we each coughed up $20,000 to
make sure we had the proper amount of dough in the bank to meet our
obligations to our assistant, and other capital expenses within the first 2
to 3 months.

Startup, time and realistic expectations -

Expect that it will take 8 weeks to transition 60% + of your assets to the
new firm. You will most likely 'bill'for your first time following 6 weeks of
opening your doors, and it will be roughly 50% of what you can expect
under 'normal' billing circumstances for the next full quarter.

We opted for Fidelity.

Annuity contracts canNOT be held on a Fidelity statement unless they are
a Fidelity Annuity. Thankfully, this is leading to a TON of 1035's (which,
by the way, are a piece of cake when you have a fee-only RIA) - the
annuities carry a .25% M/E (skinny...skinny...) which gives you the ability
to bill the annuity at 1%, and STILL save the client money.

Discretionary money management - The BIG BIG Benefit....

There is nothing better than building and managing a group of 8 portfolio
models. You want to make a change with a fund within your lineup? Just
hit a few buttons, and the portfolios (across the board) change for

More on the B/D and their OWN RIA -

They allow most of the things that a normal RIA would allow - The major
difference is that they take SOOOOO much of your revenue to a point that
the profit margins shrink... they call it 'admin' charges. I called it BS and
set up my own firm. They are toooo expensive, and they will also tell you
that 'you don't want the risk of setting up your own RIA... join ours and
don't worry about the headaches...'. Blah, blah, blah.... it's not easy, but I
can see the benefits of going the direct RIA route. On managed account
(separate accounts) they were a JOKE!

The big expenses are as follows:

1.) Attorney
2.) Time - you will spend time on your billing software
3.) Time - you will spend time on your portfolio management software
4.) Rent
5.) Tech and computer expenses
6.) Assistant

You'll also find that the major custodians will help you with the expenses
affiliated with transfering your book - i.e. overnights to your clients, etc.
Also, they may build into the proposal $7k to $10k for some of your
software purchases (i.e. portfolio and billing software) that will need to be
bought prior to collecting one dime from your client accounts.

Too much more to share - it's a great thing.


Greenhills's picture
Joined: 2005-07-26

Excellent post with good information.

CCrider's picture
Joined: 2006-08-22

You are the MAN.  Thanks for the info.  Big help!!

Captain's picture
Joined: 2006-04-07

Forgot one thing on the B/D side of 'why vs. why-not...'

There are a bunch of BD's that will insist that you give them a portion of
your RIA revenue (10 to 15%) if you do a dual deal (RIA and B/D).

There are also a small handful of (in my case...) Fidelity-friendly B/D's -
that means that they understand the need NOT to be involved in the daily
management of your RIA. That being the case, they take NO overrides on
your RIA business. They don't even OFFER a fee-based solution because
they are catering, primarily, to the person doing the RIA and the BD.

After we tallied our fees for registrations in the specific states, and our E/
O insurance on the BD-side, it looks to me like it's a breakeven for us at
best. So, it's my guess that my series 7 will be on 'ice' within 12 months.
I don't see the need. I have one client, directly, with the BD... with a
bunch of outside mutual funds and annuities. Those, too, will eventually
head to the RIA-side... but, for the time, I just wanted to do a simple BD
change letter, rather than opening a new account.

I'll also add this.... don't forget that the custodian (Schwab or Fidelity)
doesn't let you keep any trails. You bill your clients for your revenue
source. The best part, in some cases, is being able to also bill for time
spent with other professionals (i.e. cost basis research for an estate
planner on a date of death case @$200 per hour). There are lots of fringe
benefits that the RIA will give you.

Good luck - feel free to pose any other questions... happy to help.


FreedomLvr's picture
Joined: 2006-02-10

What aspects of compliance are you responsible for as your own RIA rather than working with a b/d?  Are there additional costs associated with it?
Great post!  Thanks!

Captain's picture
Joined: 2006-04-07

The compliance thing is always the big mystery when you start this process.
I can say that we have one person designated as the CCO (Chief Compliance Officer).  We have adopted a compliance manual which pretty much organizes our firm with respect to the responsibilities, etc. of each member.  Once you create your firm, you'll find that you are compliant, generally, right away, since you are new and haven't had a chance to really get going.  But, you are required to document your advisory services, conduct a risk assessment, maintain a client profile and keep copies of your correspondance.  We have contracted with a firm to archive our e-mail correspondence which would allow us to search for certain keywords or phrases at the request of an SEC audit.
The costs aren't huge concerning the compliance issue.  The time will HAVE to be spent keeping things neat and organized, however, it's not going to be the death of any practice.  The B/D has their own set of rules that you have to follow and they are annoying..... but, nothing that gets your underwear in a knot. 
Suitability - we oversee the suitability of each of our investment recommendations.  We profile the client and assign them a risk classification (conservative, mod cons... aggressive) and then complete a Morningstar Risk assessment and keep it in the file.  We then build our portfolios based on that data and select our own funds.  I realize that this isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's a set of asset allocation tools that we ALL adhere to and it can be used to document that the risk and allocation of the portfolio recommendation matches the risk tolerance of the client.  It's simple, easy and effective, and can be a good measure of 'work done' in your file for compliance purposes.
The B/D will give you some of these tools, but I'd rather use what I think is best for my client.  That's why we left our old firm.
We fretted long and hard about 'how much would compliance cost', and 'what's the time involved', and I've gotta say that initially it wasn't as big of a deal as we thought. 
Sometimes, it's just best to get involved and go forward without worrying about the small stuff.  Compliance is a big, big area and can really discourage some people.  But we've reassured ourselves that we weren't reinventing the wheel and LOTS of people have done this very thing well, well, before us. 
So, off we went...

NASD Newbie's picture
Joined: 2005-08-01

There are consulting firms out there that will do all the leg work for  you, essentially a turn-key deal including setting up your files, giving you a compliance manual that has been tried and tested and so forth.
You can find them with Google.

FreedomLvr's picture
Joined: 2006-02-10

Thanks fellas!

Captain's picture
Joined: 2006-04-07

NASD Newbie wrote: There are consulting firms out there that will
do all the leg work for  you, essentially a turn-key deal including setting
up your files, giving you a compliance manual that has been tried and
tested and so forth.
You can find them with Google.

Do make sure that you find one that is basically a law firm. In my
experience, we interviewed a few firms which did exactly what is being
mentioned above. However, the ones which had no legal counsel and
weren't attorneys were advocates of seeing OUR names on the request for
registrations, and the LLC documents. Why? they didn't have the ability
to hold the RIA and ownership of the LLC on their own. They would
frequently comment, that we would submit for the approval AFTER we
had resigned... that would have led to a lag time of 4 weeks for us.... not
a good idea.

You want to find a firm which can serve as your private and confidential
'holder' of an entity that you will assume ownership once you have
resigned. Also, since they are also attorneys, you could have the whole
attorney/client privilege working in your favor should you get sued by
your former firm. Trust me... it's worth it.

You might check out the following:


They are good people.



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