Hey folks – Bill Hamm here. As we get closer to the broker-dealer launch, I wanted to cover some important parts of starting this new journey and what it means for IFP. Today I’ll be discussing an incredibly important topic regarding broker-dealers: custody and clearing arrangements.
Although we have been an RIA for over twenty years, we’ve always outsourced the commission-based business to the broker-dealer with whom we were partnered. Self-clearing can be extremely profitable for the firm, however, we have decided against it for a number of reasons.
Cost is a significant factor in this decision-making process. We chose Pershing because of their relationships with over 600 broker-dealers. This level of scale allows us to pay wholesale prices, not retail, for clearing and custodial services, passing on most of those savings to advisors and their clients. If we were to self-clear, those clearing costs would typically be allocated as fixed costs. While this is normally not problematic, low trading volume during bad times (such as recessions) can create a drag on financial performance and create significant risk to the firm. Affiliating with Pershing provides significant scale/volume that enables us to characterize these costs as variable, which is extremely beneficial during volatile trading periods.
In addition, outsourcing the clearing and custodial function of our broker-dealer eliminates significant fixed costs associated with creating the infrastructure, hiring the personnel, and providing the resources needed to process securities transactions. There is also a significant cost in maintaining that infrastructure and based on the pricing that we’ve obtained from our clearing firms, it simply doesn’t make sense to bring it in house.
Utilizing an external provider enables our firm to keep up with the latest and greatest in technology. In our case, Pershing provides expansive API capabilities, enabling IFP to integrate multiple state-of-the-art systems in a very efficient manner. This alleviates our need to create that API capability, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Also, BNY Melon | Pershing’s annual technology budget of more than $2 billion gives them a significant advantage in staying up-to-date with the latest technology that works. Their business model of supporting multiple firms creates the need to be at the forefront of new technology in order to maintain a competitive edge. This is a fundamental part of what they do.
The cost and complexity of keeping up with changes in the regulatory environment are better suited to organizations that have the scale and ability to make those changes. The ability to spread the cost of regulatory changes across many firms reduces the risk and impact to any one firm.
Recruiting and Growth
Recruiting and growth of the firm is another consideration. By partnering with a firm that works with over 600 broker-dealers, we have the opportunity to recruit advisors where a clearing firm change is not an issue; the assets don’t have to move. If we were to self-clear, every new recruiting opportunity would require a movement of assets, which can be a speed bump during the recruiting process.
Having been an advisor for over 32 years and operating under both scenarios, I prefer a multi-custodial approach. My client base had different needs and the ability to service them through a multifaceted environment enabled me, in my opinion, to provide a better outcome for them and their families. It also provided them a greater sense of comfort in that by having multiple options, I was working with them on a consultative basis instead of a sales-oriented basis. The ability to bring the vast resources of these custodians to the table also provided them with a sense of comfort and ease.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, however I have always felt that having greater choice can help create greater outcomes for all parties involved.
I hope you enjoyed this first look into our thought process as we head deeper down the path toward our ‘Independence Day’, as I like to call it. This is the first of what I hope to be a series of posts over the next few months, so keep an eye out and we’ll see you next time.
Third party service providers mentioned in this post are separate entities from IFP and LPL Financial.
Posted by: Bill Hamm | November 1st, 2018 at 2:03pm.