Two separate studies say M&A slowed down last year as well as in the recent quarter, but neither Schwab nor Pershing expect the lag to continue long.
Schwab found 23 deals involving RIAs in the first quarter of 2011, only slightly under the record 25 recorded in 1Q 2010.
As they point out, RIAs are usually the buyers in these transactions as aging independent advisors sell out.
However, private equity "and others" remain interested in buying the occasional advisory firm, Schwab says.
Pershing took a bigger and longer-term view, focusing on firms generating more than $500,000 in revenue on at least $100 million in AUM.
They found just 41 of these big deals throughout 2010 but noted that "an uptick by year end suggests an imminent turnaround."
At this end of the market, Pershing sees slightly smaller firms on the M&A block than previously -- average seller AUM they looked at was $400 million, down 15% from 2009.
They suspect these companies are also selling at a discount of 10% to 15% to the 2007 peak. The smaller the seller, the bigger the discount.