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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

This Is How RIAs' Future Looks From Miami Beach

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

The RIA industry is headed for more inorganic growth, including a "wave of succession-related transitions and transactions."

David Mrazik
Managing Director
 So predicts MarketCounsel managing director David Mrazik this morning in the opening "Around the Horn" session at the RIA ally's eighth annual conference. The session, in the style of the ESPN show of the same name, features Mrazik and three other MarketCounsel bigwigs competing to answer first and best the questions being pitched by one of their colleagues. The host/moderator is Ed Slezak, general counsel and managing director at the firm, and the other panelists are: Sharron Ash, chief litigation counsel; Kristen Niebuhr, director of practical compliance; and Andy Wels, chief regulatory counsel. The action is all taking place at the famous Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.

Looking ahead, Ash echoes Mrazik in predicting an "explosion" of RIA-channel consolidation. Ash and Mrazik point to technology and infrastructure as partially driving that consolidation, as many advisors want to focus more on what they do best and leave the technical stuff to someone else. On the flip side, Niebuhr argues that technological innovation gives smaller RIAs the ability to scale more efficiently than ever before.

On the regulatory side, the panel heatedly debates whether or not RIAs' arch-rivals, broker-dealers, should be held to a fiduciary standard, too. Niebuhr expresses support for treating B-Ds and brokers as fiduciaries, too, while Wels warns of a potential end run to put Finra in charge of regulating RIAs, too. He urges the industry to lobby for the creation of RIAs' own self-regulatory organization, distinct from Finra but overseen by the SEC in the same way.

"We control our own destiny," Wels says, adding that he's "waiting for someone to take the lead."

The summit features about 500 attendees, including RIAs, fundsters, custodians, and other players in the RIA-support industry. 

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