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(Graphic: Charles Schwab)

Improved productivity, operations and financial results are among the benefits of scale seen in the study. Firms with at least $1 billion in AUM enjoy 51 percent greater revenue-per-client and 71 percent greater AUM-per-professional than firms managing $250 to $500 million in assets. Clients with assets of more than $5 million accounted for half of the revenues at RIAs with $1 billion or more in AUM, while they accounted for just one-fifth of the revenues at firms with $100 to $250 million in AUM. Larger firms also reported improved margins. The standardized operating income margin at firms with $1 billion or more in AUM was 25 percent greater than that of firms managing $250 million to $500 million in assets.

“The power of growth is evident in the results of our annual study,” said Beatty, “and although we understand growth is not the strategy of every RIA, we do see the overall industry trend is a disciplined approach to growing and to maximizing financial results. Interestingly, we see many similarities in the practices and operation of the fastest-growing firms that lead to growth, including attracting and retaining clients through existing client referrals and their centers of influence.”

Cultivating Relationships, Creating Referrals

The RIAs in the 2013 study reveal the importance of offering outstanding client experiences. Based on study results, the path toward growth and increased profitability requires the ability to attract the right kinds of clients and to serve them well. RIAs that excel at relationship cultivation benefit more from referrals from existing clients and centers of influence (COI).

The fastest-growing firms in all AUM segments generated more new business from referrals than their peers, approximately three times more net assets flows from new client acquisition in 2012. Moreover, across all peer groups, these fastest-growing firms acquired referrals from COIs at a higher rate than all other firms do from COIs and existing clients combined.

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