How Independent Financial Advisors Can Choose the Right Broker-Dealer

Last Edited by: LPL Financial

Last Updated: March 27, 2023

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Being an independent financial advisor allows you more freedom and opportunities to build the business you want for today and into the future. From how you serve and advise your clients to how you operate your practice and build your team, having more independence means having more control. However, without the right partner to support your chosen business model and practice structure, having more control can feel like having more challenges.

Choosing the best broker-dealer is key to practice success

As the financial industry evolves to meet the complex needs of investors, independent advisors must mitigate practice challenges in order to stay competitive. Pain-points still linger for advisors who pursue independence for more control, yet fear being overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that running a business requires (ex: risk management, compliance, and/or regulatory reviews). 

For financial advisors going independent, it pays to be selective… 

Choosing the best broker-dealer (BD) firm or custodian for your business is crucial (as is taking the time to consider and weigh your options). Depending on the type of independent advisor role in which you operate (i.e., registered investment advisor, hybrid RIA, retirement specialist), the right broker-dealer partnership will look different for each advisor. 

While multiple factors should go into your decision, there are some key characteristics all broker-dealers should share. The goal of your BD should be to help you feel empowered, not limited. If your current broker-dealer is not: 

  • Tailoring their services to your chosen advisor business model
  • Providing sufficient levels of scale and resources to support you and your team
  • Effectively communicating and understanding your practice values
  • Limiting drawbacks & amplifying the benefits of being an independent financial advisor

... then, it may be time to compare broker-dealers to find a better fit. 

How to find the right broker-dealer to match your practice’s purpose 

The wrong broker-dealer relationship can have a negative impact your on business’ success, and not just from a financial or operational standpoint. It can negatively affect your ability to reach your practice’s potential, hurt your ability to connect with clients, or even hinder your own personal fulfillment--regardless of the flexibility and freedom of your business model. 

Choose a partner that understands, supports and is aligned with your values and practice culture. While you may not be able to source this information entirely outside of an independent broker-dealer evaluation, you can get a sense of a potential BD’s fit through preliminary discovery, including:

  • Reaching out to industry professionals, recruiters, and affiliated partners of each broker-dealer and asking about their experience with each firm.
  • Reviewing positive and/or negative feedback to get a sense of each BD’s reputation and track record with financial advisors and affiliates.
  • Reviewing each broker-dealer’s website, marketing materials, and mission statements to get a sense of each BD’s values and their recruiting strategy.
  • Understanding the recognition, awards, and accolades that a firm has received. Learn more about LPL’s recent recognition as one of Newsweek’s most responsible companies.

Ask not what you can do for your broker-dealer ask what they can do for You 

The process of identifying the right broker-dealer partner can seem overwhelming. However, by focusing on core capabilities and asking specific questions about how those features can benefit your financial business, you can confidently compare firms and be better positioned to choose the right firm for your business. 

As an independent financial advisor, regardless of which broker-dealer you choose, you must feel confident in their ability to help you stay competitive. If your BD can’t give you access to the valuable tools, expertise, and support that financial advisors of similar size and scale are accessing, your practice will struggle to retain and attract clients.

A strategic partnership can elevate your practice potential and increase your client outreach. And, as previously mentioned, you can determine which broker-dealer is right for you by identifying your business needs and asking direct questions about their capabilities in the following key areas: 

Advanced Technology, Tools & Platforms 

Why is it important to discuss financial technology with your broker-dealer? 

Adaptive, flexible financial technology is more than a “nice-to-have” asset–it is a necessity to help you keep up with market changes and the rapid pace of digital trends. If reliable technology is not updated and well-maintained, it quickly becomes obsolete and limits essential integrations for your clients. Choosing a partner that makes significant investments in their advisor tools and investor technology helps you streamline your business and increase your value to your clients.

Questions to ask your broker-dealer about their technology innovation and operational services:

  • Do you have a demonstration of your current tech capabilities and how it supports and integrates with best-in-class reporting tools and platforms?
  • As a broker-dealer, what technology capabilities are you investing in for the future?
  • How can your digital platforms help my financial advisory practice increase efficiency while remaining cost-effective?

Keep in mind, some firms may offer a variety of services depending on your desired level of broker-dealer involvement (i.e., account admin, advisory oversight, regulatory compliance, and clearing services communications). RIA firms or fee-based advisors should get clarity on the quality of management around tech communications and whether a broker dealer’s technical capabilities can keep up with the size and scale of their practice. 

Service & Support (including broker-dealer transitions)

Why is it important to inquire about the type of access and dedicated support a broker-dealer provides? 

As an financial advisor, you should feel confident in relying on your broker-dealer as a one-stop-shop for anything you need to grow your business, including: 

  • Client service teams who serve as a direct extension of your staff and can address your needs quickly and efficiently.
  • Research insights to help you stay on top of trends and effectively guide clients, particularly in times of market volatility.
  • Marketing expertise that can help you attract and connect new prospects to your independent practice to grow your client base.

Why is a broker-dealer’s transition support so crucial to your business success? 

During a broker-dealer transition, your business may be changing but your clients still need your dedicated attention. Sometimes, the challenge of transitioning and re-papering can be the reason advisors choose to stay with their current broker-dealer and inhibit their future growth. Concerns for your practice, employees, and your clients can sometimes over-shadow the need to move forward with a new BD. 

With the right firm, you will be able to see concerns as challenges toward new opportunities, and be better able to navigate those challenges as they arise. A firm that recognizes your day-to-day commitments, and the need for minimal disruption, is crucial. The right partner will recognize the importance of communicating and respecting your practice during a time of transition and help you stay committed to serving your clients throughout the process. 

Business Consulting & Open Architecture Flexibility

Why is it important for financial advisors to know the process and intention of their broker-dealer’s consulting capabilities? 

Your broker-dealer should be dedicated to helping you reach your business goals and providing quality insights catered to your business’ needs, now and into the future. Regardless of your advisor focus–and whether you’re an RIA vs. financial advisor, or a small-scale practice vs. a multi-client firm–you’re helping investors make big decisions. Knowing how you need to adjust, pivot, or better serve your clients requires quality data from knowledgeable, consultative expert. 

Why is a broker-dealer’s current and future open architecture key to an advisor’s business planning? 

Understanding your broker dealer’s open architecture framework and how their offerings work for your business is pivotal to how your firm can grow and evolve. Open architecture affects more than client portfolio potential. It affects your practice potential as it relates to client outreach, your ability to transition to new business models if necessary, and your ability to optimize your strategy through new products or client-based service offerings.

Make sure you’re clear on what’s available from your broker-dealer in regard to flexible business models, their financial stability, and if their access to capital fits your current needs and future business objectives. Start thinking about how your current broker dealer’s open architecture and support has positioned your practice so far, and how you will need to be positioned in the future, by asking yourself some key questions: 

  • What are your main pain-points or frustrations with your current firm?
  • Are you able to meet your clients’ needs or do you find yourself feeling limited by your current firm’s lack of flexible offerings?
  • Do you find it difficult to attract new clients or lack confidence in retaining your current clients?
  • Does your BD keep you well-updated on new offerings that could improve your client service?
  • Does your BD provide both qualitative and quantitative data for your business with consistency and clarity?

The answers to these questions can help advisors see the service gaps they currently have and assess how, and if, their current firm is capable of providing solutions. 

Financial Stability & Access to Capital

How does my broker-dealer’s financial stability and overall industry reputation affect my business in today’s market? 

Past financial crises caused massive shifts in how advisors viewed broker-dealers and larger firms. These shifts have led many advisors to transition to an independent advisor model–a trend which is still heavily present in today’s financial world. Investors think more intently in how they find trusted financial advisors to guide and direct their wealth plans–and advisors may apply that same approach when choosing their broker-dealer or custodian. Assessing a firm’s strength and stability, and their reputation for how they distinguish or promote themselves in the industry, matters in the short-term and long-term for advisors.

Why does a broker-dealer’s future financial plans and philosophy affect an advisor’s practice? 

While smaller, newer broker dealers may present unique benefits for your current firm, they could also pose challenges in the future. With more consolidation occurring through RIA mergers and acquisitions and large firms joining in partnerships with smaller firms, it’s essential to understand your BD’s business goals and viability for the future. Significant growth is a crucial aspect of business for most advisors, and it often requires investment.

A broker-dealer should be able to meet you where you are, but also have the scale and capabilities to get you where you want to go. A firm that can support your growth with access to capital allows you to make more strategic investments that help you position yourself for future opportunities to grow. Should you choose to implement a succession plan or sell your financial business, the right partner is essential in helping you realize the full value of your practice.

Choose a broker-dealer that’s committed to your vision for the future

Aligning with the right broker-dealer for your practice is essential in helping you keep your business competitive while optimizing every aspect of independence. With the partnership of a BD that respects your business’s goals and provides the right resources and support to help you attain those goals, you can continue growing with confidence at every turn. 


The Importance of Choosing the Right Broker-Dealer

Your broker-dealer affects your independent financial practice, from the technology you use every day to the compensation you receive. The right broker-dealer can help build your practice.

Why Choose LPL Financial?

For you, your clients, and your business. Get the resources you deserve to build the practice you want. LPL’s goal is to support your vision and help your business thrive.

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The views and opinions expressed by LPL Financial Advisor(s) may not be representative of the views of other Financial Advisors and are not indicative of future performance or success. Neither LPL Financial nor the LPL Financial Advisor can be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered.

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