A lot of advisors joined RIAs over the last five years, but the number of breakaways failed to overcome a larger trend of advisors leaving the industry entirely, research firm Cerulli says.
Back in 2005, Cerulli saw 338,909 advisors in all full-service channels: a post-recession peak.
But since then, the number of advisors declined 5% to 320,378 by the end of last year.
The pain points, surprisingly enough, came in 2006 and 2010, relatively good years for the markets.
In the disaster of 2008, the total number of advisors in the business actually edged up almost 2%.
Most of the attrition has been in the wirehouses, which have shrunk from 18% of the industry in 2005 to 15.8% in 2010, shedding a net 10,000 brokers in the process.
At this point, more advisors are registered with insurance companies and banks than there are brokers in the wirehouses and traditional regional brokerage firms put together.
It shouldn't surprise A4A readers that the one channel that is really growing is RIAs, which have picked up a net 4,819 advisors -- boosting their productive work force by 30% -- since 2005.
And if you count advisors who maintain both broker and RIA registration, the growth is even more spectacular.
Cerulli expects more attrition ahead in nearly every channel. Whatever growth comes for independent broker-dealers will be from dual registration, they say.