Service continues to maintain its commanding lead as the chief criterion by which RIAs rate custodians and clearing firms, according to a 2010 survey by Cerulli Associates. But depending on the size of the practice, advisor priorities vary. As a general rule, larger RIAs have more sophisticated needs such as trust services, Cerulli Director Bing Waldert says. “There tend to be inflection points for RIAs at the $100 million level and the $1 billion level. At the $100 million level, you see them start to operate a little bit more like a small business. They formalize a lot of their processes, they put very distinct operational roles in place,” he says. At the $1 billion level, firms are outsourcing the services to strategic partners or are large enough to perform the services themselves. Likewise, wealth managers tend to have greater service needs than money managers.

Source for all: Cerulli Associates, with the College for Financial Planning, the Financial Planning Association, the Investment Management Consultants Association, and Morningstar.