When it comes to defining their unique competitive advantage, independent advisors point to their fiduciary duty first.
TDAmeritrade's latest survey of advisor attitudes reveals that a full 29% of the people they talked to say investors like knowing they're working with fiduciaries.
This somewhat contradicts previous studies that concluded that investors don't really get the fiduciary model after all.
Sure, prospects like to be told that you're on their side and that you have a legal duty to avoid the conflicts of interest that made a lot of brokerage firms so nasty for their clients in the past.
It would be nice to see a study that compares what advisors think motivates their clients like to what the clients actually like.
Are clients more involved with the "fiduciary brand" or with the trusting relationship they have with you?
Other advisors say their clients are happiest with the personal service and attractive fees (21%) or that investors were simply fed up with paying commisions (19%).
That last point may be the most honest. Tom Bradley, head of TDAmeritrade Institutional, notes that "we've seen RIAs benefit from money in motion due to disruption at traditional full-commission firms."
That means that traditional brokerage models are losing clients, but not necessarily that the fiduciary "brand" is winning them.
In fact, TDA discovered that 90% of RIA firms are at least keeping their client list stable -- or adding accounts -- and that 55% of their new money is coming from the wirehouse.