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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:

  • Equity Advisor Solutions
  • 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
  • US Bank
  • If you want a more chronological look at news about the custodians, just scroll down.


    Cara Reisman: We want to meet as many needs as possible while still being easy to use.

    Betterment reboots its RIA business big-time with new chief, ACATS for ETFs and the ability to fold existing holdings into robo portfolios

    Cara Reisman absorbs duties of Tom Kimberley -- then gets to work making the New York robo-custodian more like classic RIA custodians

    March 29, 2018 — 12:06 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: This was a hard article to write because its topic was one small step for trading and a giant leap for RIAs and Betterment. Luckily I got Betterment's new RIA chief on the line to get the technical story but also ...

    2 Comments
    Bill Van Law: I am looking forward to time with my family before pursuing the next chapter in my life and career.

    Bill Van Law's exit from Raymond James was preceded by 'administrative leave' and HR investigation, sources say

    The head of the RIA unit succeeded in growing RIA assets to $25 billion but never was accepted as 'RIA native' by RIAs or the industry

    March 23, 2018 — 11:54 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: It is always unsettling when an executive is gone without explanation. Often we never really find out the circumstances. In this case, Raymond James threw Bill Van Law, an A-level exec from its own ranks, into the RIA fray as a reset of ...

    1 Comment
    Mike Durbin: I've never seen us more strategically anxious.

    Mike Durbin says Fidelity Institutional has heightened 'strategic anxiety' softened by its best asset growth ever

    His $2.6-trillion unit's 2017 asset growth includes big adds from AssetMark, Sepio, Carson Group and Principal Securities

    March 23, 2018 — 3:19 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: When Fidelity Investments published its annual report, it provided a rare public glimpse into a very private company. Sure, the company left out many key details but this time around it provided a bunch of great ones, too. The result was three articles. One by ...

    0 Comments
    Not a dry eye after "Fearless Girl" spoke.

    TD Ameritrade brings tears and cheers to RIAs in Orlando

    A little girl blindsided attendees with heart and TD's Veo Village took on a life of its own

    February 5, 2018 — 6:13 AM UTC by Guest Columnist Timothy D. Welsh

    Brooke's Note: From afar I just can't help noticing three big things about TD Ameritrade. One is the way Veo and its open API has made it connect as closely to a wide swath of RIA vendors as it does to RIAs. Another thing ...

    1 Comment
    Tim Hockey: In the industry, retail has a higher return on client assets on a higher revenue base. But both businesses have a strong operating margin.

    Tim Hockey goes to Florida with an RIA 'problem' that's not RIAs

    The TD Ameritrade CEO relies on 6,000 registered investment advisors for 80% of growth -- skewed by big, big 'bus drivers' like Ric Edelman and Ron Carson

    February 1, 2018 — 11:17 PM UTC by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: Virtually every RIA custodian is a B2B company behind the scenes and a retail firm for all the world to see (even Pershing Advisor Solutions is pretty closely tied to a big bank.) But TD Ameritrade finds itself in the more unusual position of depending ...

    1 Comment
    Bernie Clark: We are at an inflection point where new technology craves data, a scenario where incumbents have the advantage.

    Bernie Clark uses Schwab IMPACT 2017 as pulpit to preach Schwab scale as firewall to blaze of dystopian big-data future

    With no RIA deliverable to pitch, Charles Schwab & Co. execs presented their go-big, 'no goals' vision for managing accelerating external change

    November 17, 2017 — 10:45 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Timothy D. Welsh

    Brooke's Note: Tim Welsh artfully draws a picture of what happened to 4,000 people in Chicago over a three-day stretch by reducing it to a few broad strokes. Schwab IMPACT 2017 hammered home the point that Charles Schwab & Co. is very, very ...

    1 Comment
    Lowell Putnam: It ensures everything on both sides of the transaction is 'fit for purpose,' meaning it's just down to the National Securities Clearing Corp.-DTCC to do the necessary work..

    Quovo is developing an ACATS rooter process with Apex Clearing as first to sign on

    The Silicon Alley startup is using its data science as a way of attacking a clog considered not susceptible to intervention

    November 14, 2017 — 11:09 PM UTC by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: When you are a tiny startup competing in a field of giants, you have two choices. You can go low with a microniche or go high and provide a product above and beyond what the giants do because they are stymied by innovator's ...

    1 Comment
    David LaValle: ​There are so many factors. Some of them we can be very perceptive about and others are more difficult to estimate.

    TD Ameritrade calms the RIA Twitter storm but not questions about the spreads on the ETFs replacing the super-liquid Vanguard and Core iShares

    The additional 60-day extension lets advisors breathe but even Wall Street analysts wonder just how far TD Ameritrade should go in inflaming 'consternation' of 'golden goose' RIAs

    October 27, 2017 — 12:45 AM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: I decided for certain RIABiz needed to follow up on the story related to a power struggle between TD Ameritrade and some RIAs with regard to an abrupt change in the ETFs it makes available commission-free. The way TD approached communications around ...

    5 Comments
    MIchael Kitces: TD Ameritrade continues to maintain that lots of firms are happy, but I have not heard from one that is pleased with the changes. Literally not one.

    TD Ameritrade is 'gathering feedback' after Michael Kitces's blogged overture for RIA collective bargaining on wholesale ETF line-up shift

    The blogger and RIA platform owner offered three compromises and one request for a deadline extension but the RIA custodian is thus far having none of it

    October 20, 2017 — 11:47 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Update: TD Ameritrade gave ground today (Monday) on a key aspect of its wholesale ETF line-up change -- when it will go into effect. The broker-dealer sent out an email saying it had extended by 60 days the time that advisors can live on the terms ...

    7 Comments
    Josh Pace nearly doubled Trust Company of America in size before selling it for a giant price.

    E*Trade enters RIA custody business by purchasing number five player

    The New York-based discount broker buys Trust Company of America with plans to rebrand it and invest heavily in its technology

    October 19, 2017 — 11:49 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: Trust Company of America has always been the RIA custodian with the unconventional clients, i.e. TAMPs, and the one with the name that sounds more like a community bank than a national player in wealth management. Now, with E*Trade as its ...

    0 Comments
    Paul Reilly confirmed that, for the first time, the fastest growing segment in the firm’s private client group last fiscal year was its RIA channel.

    In calm after storm Raymond James showcases three RIA tipping points at RIA confab -- and two of them are good

    The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based broker-dealer took unabashed aim at the brokerage model as Tom Giacchetti warned RIAs about an SEC no longer content with firing warning shots

    October 12, 2017 — 8:57 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Anthea Penrose

    Brooke's Note: What happened at the Raymond James RIA conference at the Boca Raton Resort Oct. 2-4 stayed at the ... you know. Except for what ended up on the pages of RIABiz. For that we can thank Anthea Penrose, public relations manager for Raymond James private client group.  ...

    1 Comment
    Mike Durbin: The number one thing I will do in this job is serve as chief advocate for our clients.

    'No BS' Mike Durbin leapfrogs up the Fidelity Investments ladder but can he serve RIAs, eMoney and Abby?

    RIAs run out of superlatives for the eight-year exec's ability to 'get it' at both the intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial level as he ascends to president of $2.3-trillion Fidelity Institutional

    October 6, 2017 — 8:06 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: It bears repeating. Fidelity Investments is both a giant mom and pop business and one of the more corporate corporations you'll ever run across -- and that is why it remains on top of the heap with more than $6.2 trillion ...

    0 Comments
    Matthew Borden: When it goes to the jury it’s gonna be plain to see through what the bank is doing .... Meanwhile my clients are [n]ot cowering from the bank and not shirking their duties to their clients.

    Silicon Valley $300-million RIA strikes back at $30-trillion BNY Mellon with act of counter-intimidation

    Lyell Wealth's response in the Atherton Lane case discloses dirty laundry list of allegations including blatant cross-selling, bullying ex-Atherton advisors out the door and retaliation against clients considering following them

    August 10, 2017 — 4:23 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

    Brooke's Note: Here's a hell of an interesting case involving four advisors breaking away from an RIA -- Atherton Lane -- to form their own firm, Lyell. The twist is that the RIA it left had just been purchased by BNY Mellon -- and here they are being sued ...

    0 Comments
    Greg Fink: We went through a process at Fidelity to make sure Triad and parent owner [Ladenburg Thalmann] was OK with us breaking away.

    Three advisors in Atlanta break away with $1.8 billion and make seven-year Fidelity relationship manager their CEO -- whose duties now include managing a lawsuit from former IBD

    ACG Wealth replaced Triad with their own broker-dealer and allegedly depended on a verbal assurance that may be tested in court

    July 27, 2017 — 11:41 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

    Brooke's Note: The RIA model is so powerful that sometimes it seems to make all things possible -- like taking all the parts you liked from your old life to your new life and leaving the parts you disliked behind. And if you like none ...

    1 Comment
    Bill Capuzzi: InvestCloud is similar to Envestnet and we want to be agnostic and provide our advisors choice. It really is about providing advisors with choices they want on the front end.

    InvestCloud, a start-from-scratch Envestnet emulator and Jamie Dimon darling, gets cozier with Apex to better reach RIAs

    Apex RIAs can now customize portfolios via InvestCloud, which JP Morgan has a stake in, perhaps creating a counterweight to back-end monolith Envestnet

    July 19, 2017 — 6:50 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: Like "plastics" in The Graduate, I have been hearing about InvestCloud for quite a while. But we have held off writing about the company for a couple reasons. For one, what it does is hard to grasp. It's trying to do so much ...

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