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RIA Custodians

Asset custodians are the central players in the RIA business and choosing one is the biggest decision most financial advisors will make to build their business. As the place where RIAs park their assets (the same way a captive broker would park assets at Merrill Lynch or UBS), custodians serve hundreds or thousands of these registered investment advisors and make big investments in technology and service on their clients' behalf.

This section features a series of articles under the “Asset Custody Project” label that cover these companies in a way that keeps advisors abreast of their progress – both with journalistic commentary and a common set of data so that advisors can easily compare them. The articles look at the strengths, weaknesses and niche capabilities of these companies.

— Brooke Southall

Here are links to the profiles of custodians:

  • Apex Clearing
  • Raymond James
  • State Street
  • Ceros Financial
  • Fidelity
  • Pershing
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Scottrade
  • Schwab
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Trade-PMR
  • Trust Company of America
  • BNY Mellon
  • Folio Institutional
  • Shareholders Service Group
  • National Advisors Trust
  • Equity Advisor Solutions
  • US Bank
  • If you want a more chronological look at news about the custodians, just scroll down.


    Schwab teamed with AmEx months after rival Fidelity switched from AmEx to Visa

    As Fidelity divorces American Express, Schwab steps in to launch AmEx cards -- with help from RIAs -- as part of broader effort

    Fidelity says the average user got $1,500 in cash back last year, suggesting the average annual card-holder spend is around $75,000

    May 2, 2016 — 6:37 PM UTC by Sanders Wommack

    Brooke’s Note: Everybody, it seems, wants you to use their credit card — and credit card peddlers are relentless. I get thick packages in the mail from American Express at least once a month. I can’t go to my teller at Wells Fargo without getting pitched for the thousandth time on a Visa card — never mind my discount broker, Capital One, and the World Wildlife Fund. Now, add Schwab back to the list, even ...

    2 Comments
    Walt Bettinger: The retail investor tends not to move as rapidly . . . or certainly doesn’t have a mutual fund sales person calling on them, telling them to move, like you have going on in the RIA space.

    Amid hail of DOL questions, Walt Bettinger calls RIAs' draining OneSource 'identified' risk, and explains away LPL/ RBC/BBVA picks of BlackRock FutureAdvisor over Schwab robo

    Schwab CEO admits he underappreciated 'brand' barrier in selling Schwab robo on B2B basis, and DOL 'best interest' issue hangs fire

    April 22, 2016 — 9:23 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke’s Note: The analysts of Wall Street really, really want to be the buddies of the CEOs whose firms they cover. But they also are determined to please the people who have the most power over their lives — their Wall Street bosses. The outcome of these conflicting emotional forces is a quarterly dance that is not to be missed with companies like Schwab whose shares move stubbornly sideways, sometimes for years on end but ...

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    Ed O'Brien: When you look at what eMoney is doing, it is creating tools to help advisors that don't even clear or custody with Fidelity.

    As Ed O'Brien packs his bags for Philly to take eMoney CEO reins, Mike Durbin resumes his job modifying Fidelity's future from finance to software

    Fidelity is piloting eMoney in its own private client business as Thomas McCarthy fills O'Brien's shoes and Durbin eyes more acquisitions

    March 18, 2016 — 8:18 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke’s Note: A cynic might be distressed by this appointment. eMoney was supposed to stay pristinely autonomous. But now Edmond Walters is gone. Mike Durbin is exiting. A Fideity corporate veteran is stepping in. Is the writing on the wall for the squashing of the eMoney spirit? Maybe not, actually. I sat in with Lisa Shidler as she interviewed Mike Durbin and Ed O’Brien for this article. The execs conveyed a jovial sense ...

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    .Bernie Clark: We're quite proud of that [$1 trillion].

    Why Schwab execs are 'proud' of holding at $1-trillion custody mark first achieved in 2013 -- and what makes them pleased with its existing 25% RIA custody market share

    Candidly canvassing 2015 dings -- including a $12 billion RIA defection -- Walt Bettinger seems at peace with vigilantly guarding Schwab's mighty quarter of the RIA asset pie

    February 22, 2016 — 6:43 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke’s Note: The most enduring quality of the RIA business — when viewed as an industry — is how sliced, diced, atomized, fragmented and otherwise incohesive it is as an ever-shifting assembly of advice-mongering shopkeepers. In fact, RIAs are too scattered to count. See: How many RIAs are there? No, seriously, how many?. Yet another enduring feature of the business is how consolidated, elephantine and oligarchic the RIA custody business is. Even so, they still have ...

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    Lori Hardwick elicits streams of superlatives from the industry.

    Completing matriarchal coup, Pershing raids Envestnet's top drawer to grab Lori Hardwick, whom many thought unpoachable

    Pershing's top two executives are now women with Lisa Dolly being replaced as COO by another dynamo

    February 11, 2016 — 7:45 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke’s Note: There’s a viewpoint out there that the battle for the RIA desktop is being waged between two primary players — Envestnet and a post-eMoney Fidelity. Both have shown a velvety touch when it comes to advisor needs. It’s a view that is heartily not shared at places like TD Amertitrade, where Veo, bolstered by its Veo dashboard and dozens of other open-source vendors, provide bragging rights. Nor can Pershing executives be ...

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    Perry Olson extracted Atherton from Portola, built it up, and, nine years later, is now selling it to BNY Mellon.

    What about the 49ers, Palo Alto experiment and China led a $2.7 billion RIA to sell out, brand and all, to BNY Mellon

    BNY Mellon ends up buying RIA -- and paying an extraction fee to Schwab -- after building nearby Palo Alto 6,800-square-ft. branch

    February 10, 2016 — 7:40 PM UTC by Sanders Wommack

    Brooke’s Note: Why does an RIA principal jump into a bank’s arms after 30 years of independence? Why does a big bank buy a nine year-old RIA, after suspending the practice of making such messy micro deals in 2011 — especially when the paint is still drying on its branch across town? Sanders Wommack did some pretty serious gumshoe reporting and digging into documents to uncover what’s up.

    With its purchase of a ...

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    Tom Nally: The perception [is] that RIAs are operating in the Wild, Wild West. As a result, we need to take this issue off of the table.

    With Veo Village hive buzzing in background, Tom Nally rides herd on RIA 'Wild West' threats at vibrant LINC 2016

    The laptop guys in another room won plaudits as the TD RIA custody chief counseled RIAs to embrace more practice audits and communicate more by story, less by Orwell

    February 8, 2016 — 7:07 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Timothy Welsh

    Brooke’s Note: We go, as RIABizzers, with low expectations to conferences held by RIA custodians. But a less jaded Tim Welsh found reassuring signs of live tissue amid the spin, drywall and heavy metal atmospherics at TD’s national conference in Orlando. Though it’s the third largest among the custodians, TD Ameritrade has often led where it could — and it continues to do so outspokenly on regulatory matters. Welsh captures that. TD apparently ...

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    Mike Durbin: You get investment in your business because you prove that you're delivering a return for it. And I feel like we're doing that.

    After years of work to gain parity with Schwab RIA custody, Fidelity is ready to show fruits of its $250 million move to gain an edge

    With ex-Schwabbie Bob Oros in RIA charge, Mike Durbin as leapfrogger-in-chief, and Sanjiv Mirchandani at the big desk, the Boston-based custody division is set to launch its new technology platform

    February 3, 2016 — 7:46 PM UTC by Sanders Wommack

    Brooke’s Note: Perhaps the most seminal decision that an RIA makes is which custodian will hold its assets. Because of that, we wrote profiles of each custodian for RIA shoppers. They are a little outdated, partially because not many newsworthy changes occurred and partially because other news has absorbed all our bandwidth. But Fidelity has been busy enough reinventing itself that we are publishing this new edition of a profile.

    Like any middle child ...

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    David Canter [With Jon Stein, l., at June InVest event]: For an RIA firm, this isn't simply a technology play. [Photo by Julio Gomez of Knowledgent]

    With eMoney in its back pocket, Fidelity Investments won't exercise its option to continue Betterment deal as it nears launch of its own robo

    The one-year semi-exclusive alliance never caught fire with Fidelity RIAs and the Boston giant will now use eMoney as kindling for a new digital-for-RIA launch

    November 19, 2015 — 11:47 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke’s Note: We may all look back on the first six months of 2015 as a return to Eden. A few years ago, robo-advisors promised to simplify the grinding process of financial advice by use of algorithms that still accrued to the benefit of financial advisors and the vendors who served them — and with no angry phone calls from customers, walled off as they were by the buffering of a robo site. In that ...

    4 Comments
    Tom Kimberly: Incumbent custodians like Charles Schwab and others haven’t kept up.

    Betterment hires an RIA chief who reframes the vision from 'robo' to 'one-throat-to-choke' custodian -- and viable Schwab competitor

    Fresh off selling Upside to Envestnet, Tom Kimberly is Betterment Institutional's general manager and architect of a new vision

    November 19, 2015 — 12:31 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke’s Note: Either this hire of Tom Kimberly is a harbinger of a robo extinction event that people are falling over themselves to predict first, or this hire marks the beginning of the end of RIA custodians as we know them. Kimberly was co-founder of Upside, a second- or third-tier robo start-ups that seemed to come out of nowhere in the past few years. He sold it to Envestnet for a $3 million pittance ...

    1 Comment