Charles Schwab aims to spotlight the RIA brand in a high-net-worth online advertising campaign that should launch soon.
In theory, the Schwab ads will promote the RIA channel and not the firm's direct discount brokerage business.
But it's hard to know how effective they will be unless the Schwab name is prominently displayed.
Can Schwab use its significant cachet with mass affluent retail investors to push readers of Forbes.com and WallStreetJournal.com to a local independent advisory firm?
If not, then all the long-awaited ads really do is get the Schwab name out there one more time.
It's also interesting that this kind of broad-based push has to come from Schwab and not any umbrella organization that serves the RIA industry.
Individual brokerage firms have their own promotional campaigns that propagate the storyline the brokerage channel has created for itself over the years: happy retirees, risk-adjusted returns, personal service.
RIAs have had to adopt a more grassroots-style approach.
Either way, we will have to watch the Schwab site, RIAstandsforYou.com, closely to see how successful this push becomes.
The messaging is simple, stressing RIA independence and the transparency of a fee-based aproach. The word "fiduciary" doesn't come up -- instead the materials just say advisors "do what's best for you."