Registered Investment Advisors: Strategies for growth and differentiation

Executive summary:

  • Better technology and improved access to financial products have made it easier than ever for advisors to become independent
  • Along with independence comes greater responsibilities, and that requires a different set of skills
  • We believe that advisors who embark on the RIA route will need to "think like a visionary" in order to succeed

The promise of independence is luring more and more advisors to the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) channel. RIA headcount has grown rapidly over the past decade and by 2027, Cerulli estimates that RIAs will control nearly one-third of intermediary asset market share.1 This is a staggering change in the investment advisory industry!

Maybe you were one of those who craved more freedom to enable a deeper connection with clients. Maybe you are considering the move? Then read on!

This is the first in a series of articles that will look at the evolution of the RIA channel and the different roles and responsibilities that come with becoming an RIA. We hope to provide you with ideas for best practices to build your own business and help your clients strive to reach their financial goals.

The RIA world is unlike the traditional corporate environment where you likely began, and you will need to constantly elevate the skills and tactics you may not have needed at a broker/dealer or other institution.

Among the themes we are planning to discuss:

  • How to build capacity given time constraints
  • How to create effective teams
  • What steps can a hybrid RIA take to seamlessly integrate technology into their personalized approach without sacrificing the human touch that clients value?
  • How can you differentiate yourself in a crowded market
  • Succession and continuity planning
  • Cultivating a growth mindset

According to recent Cerulli research, the RIA channel now controls 26.9% of the industry's total advisor headcount. There is more competition than ever and the trend toward independence continues to gain momentum. However, that Independence and the ability to call your own shots comes with great challenges.

Success is not static; it takes unwavering commitment to continuously refine and elevate your business. So, as someone who has started their own business – or considering doing so – one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is: What is the differentiating factor that is going to set my firm apart?

In working with many RIAs over the years, I've realized that there is one differentiating factor that the most successful RIAs have in common.

They think like visionaries.

But what is visionary thinking? Visionary thinking is mixing the magic of imagination, a healthy dose of bravery and some serious focus to kick into high gear and get stuff done reliably and consistently.


Imagination isn't just a spark; it's a full-blown wildfire igniting fresh ideas, leveraging groundbreaking products, and game-changing solutions. When entrepreneurs and teams unleash their imaginations, they carve out new paths, disrupt industries, and leave competitors scrambling to keep up. Imagination breeds innovation.


In the relentless arena of business, bravery isn't just a virtue—it's a survival tactic and requires diving headfirst into the unknown, defying the odds, and refusing to let fear dictate your next move. Taking calculated risks and leaving your comfort zone becomes the standard each day.

Creating a culture of execution: Kicking into high gear!

Creating a culture of execution in your business requires a combination of leadership, communication, and empowerment.

It's not just about burning the midnight oil, chasing down leads, juggling tasks, and answering calls in a timely manner. It's creating an energy and culture within your team that focuses on attitude, aptitude, agility, accountability, and activity. Serious hustle means you're always on the lookout for opportunities and never backing down from a challenge. It's the stuff that turns dreams into reality and transforms ideas into success stories. Breakthrough results just might lie in the work you are avoiding today.

How can you become a visionary thinker? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Am I counting too much on other people's 'Best practices' to inform my strategy?

Enough with benchmarking and chasing after so-called "best practices"—did Elon Musk stop to ask what the "best practice" was before diving into electric cars or space travel? Absolutely not. It's time to break free from the confines of conventional thinking and embrace the power of dreaming big. Hire people who challenge the status quo, who refuse to accept "how things are done," and who aren't afraid to try something totally off-the-wall. It's these bold moves that pave the way for real change and groundbreaking success.

Am I selective enough when choosing whom to work with?

It's easy to be lured by every opportunity that comes knocking, but not every client is a match made in heaven. Choose to work with those who not only appreciate your expertise but also resonate with your values. Selectivity isn't about arrogance—it's about integrity and creating time to have real impact on your client lives. It isn't just offering a service—it's creating an experience that becomes synonymous with excellence. Crafting a space where clients don't just come for what you offer; they come because they believe in what you stand for. Just being good won't make you the go-to firm for business; you must be unforgettable. Go above and beyond to exceed expectations, leaving a lasting impression that keeps clients coming back. Build trust, foster genuine connections, and deliver results that speak for themselves.

Am I leveraging data enough to inform decisions?

Being a visionary isn't just dreaming big: it's understanding what data you need that drives those dreams. Decision-making around profitability, sustainability, and efficiency isn't about drowning in spreadsheets and information; it's about leveraging data to make informed, real-time choices that propel you forward, creating
 —not just for yourself, but for the things your clients value most. Don't spread yourself thin trying to be everything to everyone. Instead, focus on being an expert in your field and building a brand that maximizes your time, elevates client engagement, and zeroes in on what truly matters.

Bottom line

In this competitive landscape, thinking like a visionary isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity. Building a culture of execution requires leadership, communication, and empowerment, where attitude, aptitude, agility, accountability, and activity reign supreme. Be selective with your clients and set standards high. Don't forget about the power of data—when used wisely, it can set you free, unlocking your true potential and propelling you toward success.

So, embrace the mindset of a visionary, harness the power of imagination, let your hustle do the talking and unleash the power of your dreams.

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