Charles Schwab Confirms Trend of Brokers Breaking Away from Major Firms


Charles Schwab Corp. added a record number of independent investment advisors in 2009 as thousands of brokers left Wall Street firms, like Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, to launch their own investment advisory firms. See Reuters “Schwab says ‘breakaway broker’ trend has legs,” by Joe Rauch, Jan. 25.

Schwab reportedly entered agreements to provide custody, trading and other support services to 172 “wealth adviser teams” last year – a 40 percent increase from 2008 and Schwab’s fourth consecutive record growth year in this area. Schwab currently holds $590 billion of assets in custody for advisers at independent firms, according to the article.

Schwab says it sees this trend continuing notwithstanding Wall Street’s contention that the pace has slowed. “There’s a tremendous amount of inquiry,” Bernie Clark, head of the Schwab Adviser Services unit, told Reuters. “The movement, if anything, is increasing.”

Schwab also noted that advisers are leaving firms of all sizes, not just the biggest brokerage houses. “The moves are distributed more now than it’s ever been before,” Clark said.

Brokers who are thinking of leaving their firms should consult with an attorney with experience in representing registered representatives in employment matters. Brokers often need assistance in becoming registered as investment advisers, setting up investment advisory firms, and drafting contracts, among other things. In addition, there are usually a number of other legal issues that need to be addressed, including compensation issues and questions about the enforceability of restrictive covenants in employment agreements.

Page Perry is an Atlanta-based law firm with years of collective experience representing individuals in employment disputes with brokerage firms. The firm is also active in setting up registered investment advisors, establishing hedge funds and dealing with regulatory matters. For further information, please contact