We all know that the independent advice industry is growing like gangbusters. But what does that look like in practice? Across the US, what do the fastest-growing RIAs look like? Here at Citywire RIA, we decided to find out.
In this special report, which follows up on our similar 2020 report, we list and briefly chronicle the firms that have grown the fastest in each of the 50 states.
Before you dig in, allow me to tell you a little bit more about what these rankings mean. The goal was to examine only independent, planning-oriented RIAs that have grown substantially over the past five years. To do so, we sliced and diced the most recent Form ADV data reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission at the time of publication, as helpfully gathered by our data partner, Discovery Data.
Only firms that report having a significant number of financial planning clients were considered, since we wanted to make sure we were only considering financial planning-oriented RIAs and not money managers. We also excluded RIAs that are affiliated on a firm level with a broker-dealer or other institution (though a firm’s employees may be dually registered). In addition, we endeavored to remove RIAs whose assets under management aren’t truly ‘theirs.’ This is admittedly a bit qualitative, but we did our best to strike companies that are primarily back-end service providers rather than client-facing planners.
Once we’d done all that, we looked at percentage growth in assets under management and percentage growth in employees since the end of 2016, and thus generated the list you see here.
Does that mean these 131 RIAs are the fastest-growing independent planners in America? No! What makes our list unusual is that we break it up by states. This serves to highlight some under-the-radar stars in places like Indiana and South Carolina, but also means that heavy hitters in big-economy states like California must contend with far stiffer competition. Speaking candidly, it also means that in some states, we really had to reach in order to include just one RIA. While all the RIAs listed in the pages that follow are independent planning-focused shops, those in less populous states may not quite meet the size or growth requirements we’ve required of their hot-state neighbors. (Our state-by-state focus also means, unfortunately, that we are unable to include the fastest-growing Washington, DC, RIA: the sharp and well-rounded Geometric Wealth Advisors.)
Another way in which our list differs from some others is that the above process of picking winners and runners up entailed no interaction with the firms (although after they were selected, we did sometimes reach out to learn more). That is to say: The RIAs in this report did not ask to be here. They could not compensate us in any way to be considered or to be named. For that matter, they could not do anything to not be named; I’m guessing some of these companies were happily flying under the radar, and won’t appreciate the extra attention.
That brings me to another point. The mention of an RIA is not at all an endorsement of its services or its business. All of them do financial planning. But do they all do financial planning well? We don’t know the answer to that, but with 131 firms mentioned, the answer to that question rates to be ‘no.’ Caveat client!
What, then, should you take away from this special report? Certainly we hope to offer a glimpse of what different wealth markets look like. But more importantly, we think there are lessons to be gleaned from the stories and insights we are able to share. Some have grown through marketing efforts, others have stepped up hiring, and some have waded into the heady waters of RIA M&A. All have managed to boost their ranks of employees and assets.
The independent advice industry is growing like gangbusters. But the firms mentioned in the pages that follow are running ahead of this fast-moving pack. Our thanks to Discovery Data for the assistance, and our thanks to you for reading.
- Alex Rosenberg, CFA, CFP (Citywire - Editor, RIA)