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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.


    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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    Jim McCool got off on the wrong foot with RIAs, paving the way for a Bernie Clark era.

    Eight years after historic Schwab-RIA rift, Jim McCool, the controversial former RIA chief and original Bettinger partner, exits

    After McCool hastily axed alternative investments from Schwab RIA platform, Bernie Clark took the chief custody role as part of the healing process

    July 6, 2017 — 11:07 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: We'll never really know how to assign Jim McCool a place in RIA history. It was nearly impossible for a journalist to get him to speak off script and nobody on the inside ever gave me much color about him. But ...

    3 Comments
    Mark Tibergien with his uber-millennial interviewer, Min Zhang, who got an answer to the question of how long he plans to stick around.

    Part of futuristic Pershing Insite 2017 is Mark Tibergien letting RIABiz know that he is intensively grooming his own successors

    The Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO came aboard in 2007 but he'll leave a much bigger, younger, more feminine, techier unit -- with more of a BNY Mellon feel to it

    June 19, 2017 — 11:12 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Min Zhang

    Brooke's Note: Bolstering RIAs' notion of Pershing as the stylistic and practical equivalent of a sensible pair of shoes, the Jersey City, N.J. custodian has long held its national conference in Hollywood, Fla., a lesser-known beachfront city up the AIA a piece from Miami ...

    1 Comment
    Sean Gultig: We’d love to talk to them.

    Small RIA custodians eye 400-plus RIAs who may come into play thanks to TD Ameritrade-Scottrade deal -- but with a cultivated calm

    Accepting RIA orphans is less automatic than more-the-merrier policy of RIA inclusion that traditionally held sway at TradePMR, Folio Institutional, Trust Company of America, Equity Advisor Solutions and Shareholders Service Group grow, learn and seek profits

    June 12, 2017 — 7:36 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

    Brooke's Note: We observe the small RIA custodians with admiration and some wonder. Custody is a scale business. The smaller fry ain't got much scale! Yet the all these smaller players seem to grow and prosper. I can hardly name one that's gone out of business ...

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    Robb Baldwin: If an advisor is not meeting the expectations set out in the LOU, difficult conversations can be made much easier for both parties.

    TradePMR is making RIAs sign a promise to succeed -- to good effect

    The low-profile Gainesville, Fla. custodian is using the inked compact to motivate, make hard conversations softer and make purges of the small and stagnant practices less frequent

    May 18, 2017 — 11:47 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

    Brooke's Note: For the past five years, the RIA business has been going bonkers over the possibilities of engineering technological solutions. Such advances wow us easily but seldom do more than make fractional advances. But other firms have quietly worked on behavioral engineering. We wrote ...

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    Josh Pace: It's dramatic and there's no end in sight.

    How Joshua Pace seized his 'moment' to convince Mark Matson to shift $1-billion-plus of assets to his small RIA custodian after a 20-year tryout

    Matson Money had RIA assets with Trust Company of America as far back as 1996 but its plan to go national made the $7.6 billion RIA see the deeper beauty in the smaller player

    May 15, 2017 — 8:47 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: It was but a detail Irwin Stein and I stumbled upon late in the reporting cycle of our article about Matson Money published last week -- that the $7.6-billion RIA was in the midst of a massive shift of its assets from ...

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    Scott Smith: Schwab and Fidelty can simply decide not to compete with this arrangement.

    DFA RIAs remain in turmoil as Schwab and Fidelity ponder matching TD Ameritrade pricing deal and a key couple of basis points

    The Austin, Texas-based asset manager says its door is open for negotiation but the two big custodians in San Francisco and Boston remain mum as RIA CEOs are pressing for clarity

    May 2, 2017 — 9:32 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: This DFA pricing fracas is causing more RIA and custodian agita than anything I've seen since 2009 when Schwab announced it would no longer hold many alternative investments in custody for RIAs. See: After a wait, Schwab has a program for alternative assets ...

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    SSG software chief Dan Skiles makes his creative contribution to an advisor-crowdsourced painting.

    With Pershing as canvas, Dan Skiles and Peter Mangan paint a picture of a budding RIA custodian

    Shareholders Service Group has 1,500 RIA firms and counting and displayed a satisfying air of permanence at its San Diego conference

    May 1, 2017 — 4:14 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Tim Welsh

    Brooke's Note: Building up Shareholders Service Group has taken a long time. But the product of that patience may be a sort of masterpiece -- an RIA custodian that serves small firms with the same love as big ones and which doesn't compete with its RIAs. These qualities ...

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    Christopher Van Slyke: That pricing is very persuasive. As fiduciaries we'd have to consider TDA the favorite.

    DFA and TD Ameritrade strike 'strategic' deal with potential to shift RIA custody power axis

    Tension in the three-way relationship between Fidelity, Dimensional Fund Advisors and the RIAs who use both vendors creates opening for Tim Hockey

    April 24, 2017 — 6:33 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: What happens in the RIA business when unstoppable force meets immovable object? If the force is Dimensional Fund Advisors and the immovable object is Fidelity or Schwab, DFA goes and makes a deal with a swayable TD Ameritrade. DFA knows that if RIA customers, with ...

    2 Comments
    Benjamin Halliburton: We were scrambling.

    TD Ameritrade shocks RIAs most accustomed to its largesse with a letter, a contract and a tight deadline to sign

    The Jersey City, N.J.-based custodian tells RIAs to accept new terms on branch referrals or be terminated from the program

    April 12, 2017 — 4:08 AM UTC by Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: It is hard to say whether the referrer/referree deal between discount brokers and RIAs is lopsided one way or the other. Both sides seem to make out like bandits. Often, by definition, the discount broker is off-loading an account that it ...

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    Mukesh Mehta and Charles Goldman are friends who have made a point of having dinner together a few times a year.

    In poaching coup, Charles Goldman hires open-API wizard Mukesh Mehta to AssetMark from Cetera

    The legendary chief information officer headed Schwab Institutional's efforts before shepherding in TD Ameritrade's legendary open API

    March 15, 2017 — 8:09 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: In the idyllic world of P.G. Wodehouse, the unkindest cut one member of the landed gentry can inflict on another is to steal their Anatole -- in other words, their French chef. Back to boiled cabbage and corned beef for Aunt Dahlia and ...

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    David Canter: I am very competitive.

    Anything but sales-y, David Canter takes RIA helm at Fidelity with ambition to sell like crazy

    The Schwab alum and long-time sidekick to Bob Oros and Mike Durbin is a lawyer, consulting expert and is 'over the moon' about his new role

    March 6, 2017 — 10:56 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

    Brooke's Note: David Canter is one of the more approachable people in the RIA business -- even though he's a lawyer. But he's no back-slapping salesman and he is taking over some of the biggest sales responsibilities in the RIA realm. Fidelity's ...

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    Ron Fiske: I thought I’d be there the rest of my career.

    Apex Clearing adds Ron Fiske to its Pershing mafia as it plays bigger for emerging asset class -- RIA digital

    Fiske departs Envestnet to rejoin Apex CEO William Capuzzi, a former Pershing colleague, to build on Apex 'big league' success as custodian for firms like Betterment and Wealthfront

    February 8, 2017 — 10:05 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

    Brooke's Note: Bob Oros, Lori Hardwick and now Ron Fiske in the past two months. If you combine RIA business knowledge and the ability to play well with others in a corporate setting, you are likely to get poached. Somebody will think you are ...

    2 Comments
    Tim Hockey: There is an advice continuum with do-it-yourselfers on one end and advisor directed investors on the other. In the middle we don’t want to give them a reason to leave, so we have to offer more choices.

    Tim Hockey invites channel-conflict question before TD Ameritrade's RIAs, sets good tone at LINC conference

    New CEO plants question with his own PR interrogator, relieving tension, albeit with a stock answer, and allowing a successful event to unfold

    February 6, 2017 — 6:22 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Tim Welsh

    Brooke's Note: Our Robin Reilly was supposed to be in San Diego to help write but she got struck down by the flu. Fortunately for us, Tim Welsh, in early-season form, has flown so many miles that no amount of recycled Southwest Airlines air ...

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    Tim Hockey: I understand why advisors might be nervous about that.

    New TD Ameritrade CEO, fresh from bank, will 'reassess' putting TD brand on products and redefining open architecture

    Tim Hockey, poised to meet advisors in San Diego next week, allows that RIA business is a 'real gem' but may also be priming the pump to put more proprietary products on the shelves at 600 TD and Scottrade branches

    January 26, 2017 — 11:05 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

    Brooke's Note:  Banks often make their wealth management profits the old-fashioned way -- by steering clients to their own products. In Canada, which doesn't really have an RIA model, God knows what they do. So it's a little concerning when new TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey ...

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