Feeling disillusioned or sensing your career progression has plateaued at your current Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm? Either impression can be a sign that you need to pursue a new path.

If you’re feeling that way, you are definitely not alone. According to a 2019 study by Fidelity Investments, only four out of 10 financial advisors are satisfied with their current firm. That stood out as a shockingly low number to us! About one-third of advisors report that their current firm does not live up to providing the value they were initially promised.1

Whether you’re burned out and looking for a better work-life balance, or you have run out of opportunities for growth, you may feel anxious to leave your current RIA firm as quickly as possible, especially if you have been unhappy for a long period of time.

Fortunately, there are a variety of different options for you to consider as you think about your next career move. You may want to join a new RIA firm, affiliate as an independent advisor of an RIA or create your own fee-only firm. The career path of a financial advisor can be quite a rich one; there are myriad ways of fulfilling your passion for helping clients make good financial decisions.

Transitioning Away From Your RIA Firm: Four Steps Toward a New Professional Path

Embarking on a new career journey is not as simple as turning in your letter of resignation and working to help transition your existing clients. The process varies for RIAs in various niches and locations.

Here, we provide a high-level overview of the areas you should think about before you officially depart from your RIA firm. Note that this list is far from exhaustive, and depending on what route you take, your to-do list could grow more complex.

1. Research Your Options

It can take a few months (or a few years) to properly research what steps you’ll need to take to leave your existing firm, based on how comfortable and experienced you are. If you plan to pursue entrepreneurship, the research and preparation process can become even more extensive. For instance, you will need to research the appropriate regulations to successfully operate as a fully independent RIA in your state well before you begin the process, in addition to weighing the monetary risks that come with the benefits of working for yourself.

Perhaps the most paramount factor to consider is where will you get your clients. Will you be starting from scratch? If you are expecting a few clients will come over with you, then get advice about provisions included in any agreements you may have signed when you first started. These agreements may include non-solicit, non-service, non-accept or non-compete clauses, which can place a barrier on what you do when you leave your RIA firm — especially when it comes to your existing clients. For more guidance on the subject, we recommend the Next Generation Planner article “To Be or Not to Be an Entrepreneur” by Wealth Advisor Alliance co-Managing Partner Jonathan Rogers.

2. Explore Your Motivation: Questions to Consider

If you think you want to go independent, you may want to evaluate why. Take a few minutes to reflect with the following questions:

What are the restrictions in your past experience that lead you to want to be independent?

What opportunities do you think this will open for you?

Do you have a defined brand beyond yourself in mind, or are you the primary brand your clients will see?

Are there things you may be giving up?

Will you miss having others to bounce ideas off of?

Will your clients or potential clients believe you have the resources to help them if you are a truly solo operation?

Are you more motivated by the branding you can do, the ability to control the client experience, or building ownership in your own business?

How much time will you realistically spend working on the operations of the business (compliance, marketing, technology, etc.) that will take you away from working with clients and building the business?

3. Prioritize Your Options

Take some time to think deeply about what you believe is missing from your current position to determine exactly what you’re looking for out of your new career path.

For instance, do you feel that your firm is requiring you to spend too much time on administrative or tactical tasks, instead of allowing you to devote more time to building existing and new client relationships? Do you want the opportunity to mentor younger financial advisors and build a solid team to provide more robust client service? Do you want to work for yourself and develop your own approach to client service, outside of a traditional organizational framework? Your answers to these questions will have a big impact on the path you choose — and chances are, you’ll still have to make some trade-offs.

If you decide to accept a position with another RIA firm, you may not have to do business development, which some advisors despise. The trade-off is that the upside of your long-term compensation will cap out at a much lower level. If you do have business development responsibilities, the more you receive in base compensation, the less you will participate in the compounding growth of your book of business and the revenue associated with it.

On the other hand, if you take the entrepreneurial route, your days might be filled with a multitude of different tasks — from operations and accounting to client service and support — though you’ll get the benefit of being your own boss.

WAA’s parent company, Forum Financial Management, has created a hybrid of these two approaches that gives advisors upside on their book of business, while some guaranteed revenue from servicing relationships. This translates to not having to recreate the wheel or be the one to turn it when it comes to operations. We call this the “supported independence” model, as it is primarily an entrepreneurial model with some support like you would receive as an employee.

Starting any new position will bring with it a learning curve that may put you out of your comfort zone but taking the time to weigh all the pros and cons and fully assess your needs will ensure you feel happier and more fulfilled as you embark on your new path forward.

4. Spread the Word and Rely on Your Support Network

Financial advisory is a relationship business — from the connections we create with our clients and their families to the partnerships we make with other professionals in the field. Once you are ready to take your next step, it is important to proactively inform your contacts about your plans. Within your firm itself, you will likely work with your management team and other relevant teams to create a strategy for ensuring a smooth internal and external transition.

Outside of your firm, make sure to notify your community of peers and relevant centers of influence about your career move so that you can continue to foster those relationships after you have left your current firm. Your support network can offer advice to strengthen your own expertise and they can help you create new opportunities for success in your next venture.

5. Invest in the Right Partner

If you decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship, you may have already spent time dreaming up your service philosophy, the unique value you will bring to clients and who you want to serve. But running a successful RIA firm requires so much more than just a vision — you need a wide range of tools, processes and solutions to keep your business running smoothly. These include operations staff members and systems to round out your back office and the right technology to help you deliver better service to clients and position your business to scale.

When starting your own business, it is also prudent to investigate marketing coaches or a team of consultants who can help you create a marketing plan, build a brand identity, define your message and promote your services to the niches or ideal clients you are hoping to attract.

At the Wealth Advisor Alliance, we specialize in advising advisors on the solutions they need to run their businesses the way they want with ease and efficiency. We help them focus on the following key areas:

  • Reporting and Trading: Most advisors outsource trading and operations to the Wealth Advisor Alliance, so they have more time to focus on serving their clients and building their team.
  • Tools and Technology: We help advisors realize efficiencies with innovative technology solutions that enable a more streamlined client experience.
  • Compliance, Billing and BackOffice Support: Advisors delegate operations to our team, which has broad experience in client service and support.
  • Networking: We help advisors connect with a community of their peers so they can continue to receive specialized planning knowledge and education.

Whatever path you choose, you want your practice to grow at the right pace and at the right time. Reach out to learn how we can help you start your new career path with confidence!


We help advisors establish and grow successful wealth management practices. To learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work, contact us at team@waalliance.com. You can follow us on Twitter@theWAAlliance and on LinkedIn.

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1Retaining Is the New Recruiting.” Fidelity Investments, 2019.


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