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.

    USAA is delivering on its promise to be a fount of referrals for Schwab -- to the benefit of both.

    Charles Schwab Corp.'s $1.6 billion USAA deal is yielding 1,000 referrals a week at the right price in an increasingly competitive client acquisition game

    The San Francisco broker's bet that USAA insurance customers would like Schwab offerings better is proving out in the early weeks.

    August 8, 2020 — 1:52 AM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: USAA is getting paid well -- with minimal distraction -- for referring assets and accounts hand-over-fist to Schwab. It gets 15 basis points annually for 24 months with virtually no overhead. It's a pure revenue source. But Schwab has a chance to do ...

    1 Comment
    Skip Schweiss is out of the game, for now, but can 'write his ticket,' peers agree.

    Skip Schweiss exit from TD Ameritrade means the RIA custody business lost its most visible corporate-paid advocate -- for the moment

    TD's now ex-managing director of advisor advocacy is set to become the FPA president, but most peers agree the 58-year-old is poised to 'write his ticket' with another custodian or national RIA

    August 5, 2020 — 9:33 PM by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: The sense of loss is real when a well-known and respected RIA executive leaves. They are a reassuring part of the fabric of our village. But what we have come to see in this burgeoning sector of the financial services world is that the ...

    Walt Bettinger: The people involved in this effort currently measure in the hundreds and eventually will be measured in the thousands.

    Walt Bettinger expects 'hundreds' of Charles Schwab Corp. staff tasked with wiring TD Ameritrade merger to soon soar to 'thousands' of Schwab and TD workers

    The Charles Schwab Corp. CEO reassured Wall Street analysts looking for a sign Schwab believes what it promises about an imminent closing that it has yet to schedule.

    August 4, 2020 — 6:12 AM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: It's happening, folks, and the proof is evident now from the satellite photos of preliminary troop movements taken from space. Tooth-and-nail competitors, Schwab and TD, are now on standby to make workaday staff by the thousands into merger makers and create a company ...

    Christine Sandler: Support[ing] natively digital assets is a marathon, not a sprint ... this year in particular, we’ve seen more interest than ever.

    Fidelity bags $13 billion AUM digital assets win to its custody, as federal regulators attempt to move Bitcoin custody from 'weirdo websites' to mainstream banks

    Backed internally by CEO Abby Johnson, the Boston giant spent five years working in silence on its crypto subsidiary, Fidelity Digital Assets. In 2018, it launched. Now clients, like Kingdom Trust, with RIA assets, are validating Abby's gamble.

    July 29, 2020 — 7:27 PM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: Is an RIA failing in its fiduciary duty if it fails to include cryptocurrency in client accounts? This article does not address that issue. But putting a story with Bitcoin, Fidelity asset custody and RIA assets on the RIABiz page hints that it's no ...

    1 Comment
    Peter Crawford: [Referrals are] what makes this deal so appealing … on an ongoing basis.

    Charles Schwab Corp. shaves $200 million off USAA deal price, after client asset transfers fall billions short and has now closed three of four pending deals

    With TD Ameritrade on deck, the San Francisco acquirer snacked on Wasmer, Motif and USAA's brokerage unit, but the latter's 'warm lead' referral flow has Schwab execs salivating.

    July 8, 2020 — 10:46 PM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: The financial industry fixated on Schwab's DOJ- and shareholder-approved purchase of TD Ameritrade -- for good reason. It's a big damn deal. Buying the Omaha operation deletes its biggest direct threat from below. But don't forget USAA, a super mega-brand, now set to send ...

    Nancy Prior: A lot of this decision [​was made based on] investor behavior ... [and] liquidating these two funds, less than two percent of our assets ... [will have] no impact on any other part of our business.

    Fidelity Investments intends to 'hard close' two institutional money market funds to curb exposure to COVID-19's high-volatility market

    Each fund is of the prime institutional money market that comprises up to 7% of the $4.6 trillion US money market fund industry, but use has dwindled from $1.1 trillion in 2011 to today's $356 billion.

    June 23, 2020 — 1:35 AM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: It's staggering how little return investors get right now by putting loose cash into money market funds. The question, it seems, is why bother at all? A penny earned in interest is a penny earned. But it sure isn't worth taking even a ...

    1 Comment
    ​ Maggie Serravalli is Fidelity's new chief financial officer is a presumed multi-tasker.

    A last lion of the Ned Johnson era, Gerry McGraw, vacates the Fidelity CFO spot for Maggie Serravalli, and makes evident Abby Johnson's 'phenomenal' women strategy

    McGraw was credited with steely leadership during the 2008-2009 financial crisis but also bridged the management revamp toward a big bet on what women can do better in the next decade.

    June 12, 2020 — 3:52 AM by Oisin Breen

    Gerald McGraw has stepped aside as chief financial officer to give the No. 2 C-Suite job at Fidelity Investments to Maggie Serravalli, a move that establishes the most decidedly feminine, big-corporate cockpit in the RIA business.

    1 Comment
    Thomas Peterffy founded Interactive Brokers in 1978, but his firm only entered RIA custody in 2002. Now, in 2020, he's got the RIA bug.

    When Interactive Brokers sweetened its RIA custody offering in 2019, it worked -- so now it's investing in more sugar

    The Greenwich, Conn. custodian now has 25,000 funds on its supermarket, new simplified trading software and a heightened sense of urgency as Wall Street scoops up competitors

    June 3, 2020 — 4:43 PM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: In the unlikely event the Department of Justice (DOJ) disallows the Schwab-TD merger, it'll be because the DOJ concludes that the deal is anti-competitive. Yet it's almost as if Schwab's competitors have -- ever since -- gone out of their way to reassure regulators ...

    The TD Ameritrade headquarters building has only a 25% chance of remaining so and it's starting to look like August for when its walls are (at least figuratively) breached.

    The odds are now 75% that Charles Schwab Corp. swallows TD Ameritrade Holding, says Morningstar, a probability Wall Street math and internal memos seem to support

    With Thursday set for TD and Schwab virtual shareholder votes, August is circled on the calendar for a 'Schwabitrade' close, memos suggest, with the TD brand sticking around for ... quite a while

    June 2, 2020 — 2:15 AM by By Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: It's pretty certain that it is happening -- the end of TD Ameritrade -- and soon. Schwab is expected to better than squeeze by DOJ's margin of legally hawkish concern and eventually achieve $2 billion of cost savings by combining. Now it seems that the ...

    1 Comment
    Abby Johnson: '[We] are now joining with several financial institutions to accelerate the availability of a secure, transparent and more reliable network.'

    Tired of having their screens scraped, Schwab and Fidelity launch API initiatives to curtail the practice -- rewarding some, but not all scrapers with cleaner data

    Opening up their APIs gives both powerhouses the ability to share data while also making it more secure -- it also puts them back in the driver's seat in choosing who gets it.

    May 29, 2020 — 4:45 AM by By Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: In retrospect it's a wonder it took so long for Fidelity, Schwab and other big financial firms that hold virtual goldmines of client data to try to reap more value from them. In fact, it appears, it has often been just the opposite ...

    Ari Sonneberg: I do not think that the current turmoil in the market will be something that helps this deal.

    Schwab's merger with TD Ameritrade was sterling until the Covid-19 pandemic and financial collapse took some of the shine off the deal

    Charles Schwab & Co.'s decision to buy TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. in Nov. 2019 looked like a lock, but 'Schwabitrade' has been rocked by wholesale branch closings, plummeting share prices and emergency rate cuts to near zero.

    April 14, 2020 — 11:13 PM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: Today Schwab announced its earnings and the company gave its first peek into just how much Covid-19 is cramping its revenues and business model -- revenues beat expectations, but earnings per share fell four cents below expectations thanks to acquisition and pandemic expenses ...

    Mark Tibergien: There were at one time five potential candidates ... [and] these were all qualified leaders with the potential for long-term impact on the company.

    Behind the scenes, Ben Harrison's rise to replace Mark Tibergien at Pershing was more shock and awe than a symphonic succession

    Harrison's appointment was baked in the cake -- or not -- and Tibergien departed with Swiss-watch precision in Moss Adams-style--or not.

    March 13, 2020 — 7:22 AM by Oisin Breen

    Mark Tibergien passed the baton to Ben Harrison at BNY Mellon’s Pershing unit with the precision of maestro directing a symphony, or so it seemed from the outside. Inside, it was more like shock and awe.

    Ben Harrison: We’re not in any business at Pershing not to be a market leader ... We don’t aspire to be two or three … [and] we’re moving in that direction.

    Mark Tibergien sets up Ben Harrison to challenge Schwabitrade with a $150 million cut to Pershing's minimum and millions more to develop Veo-busting technology

    The CEO suite hand-off in Jersey City pulls a trigger on a plan to bypass Fidelity's and eventually Schwab's custody units by luring disaffected RIAs.

    March 11, 2020 — 7:58 AM by Oisin Breen

    Brooke's Note: We all shop price. Then we buy value. That overpriced cup of coffee or micro-brew in your hand right now is proof of that. So when you are Pershing and your RIA custody competitors mark prices down to 'zero' then opportunity knocks. Service, ...

    Ben Harrison: No other custodian is doing this [cash sweep to high-yield third parties] because it cuts too much into their revenue stream.

    Pershing finally matches Schwab on zero-fee trades but it offers big incentives to pay a subscription fee to score perks like auto-sweep to in-house Flourish/Stonecastle-type FDIC cash manager

    The Jersey City, N.J. custodian is seeking to disrupt custody's Big Three on value and price by giving RIAs a much better cash choice than having it swept to an in-house bank

    March 6, 2020 — 3:34 AM by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: Read this article with care. Pershing is announcing assaults on three new fronts -- in custody, its own line of members-only ETFs and in FDIC cash management. It's all selling for as low as a $25 per month "subscription fee." It's all brought to ...