How Can I Tell Who Is Associated With A Broker-Dealer?

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We have written a great deal about the difference between a Broker-Dealer and a fee-only fiduciary. Most recently I wrote “Study on Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers” and “FINRA Supports Regulation to Quell Competition“.

But I have found that many consumers are still confused when they are talking to someone in the financial services world if they are associated in any way with a Broker-Dealer. I’ve seen consumers who say that they are only interested talking with fee-only fiduciaries who then go on to say they are talking with firms which are “fee-based” or don’t even have a legal obligation to act in their client’s best interests.

Worried you are working with a broker-dealer? Here, from Financial Planning Magazine, is a list of the top 10 broker-dealers including their subsidiary networks which might have a different name and branding:

  1. LPL Financial
  2. Ameriprise Financial
  3. RCS Capital
  4. Raymond James Financial Services
  5. AIG Advisor Group
  6. National Planning Holdings
  7. Commonwealth Financial Network
  8. Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services
  9. Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network
  10. AXA Advisors

And here is another list from Financial Planning Magazine of the independent broker-dealers who have the most high-end accounts:

  1. J. W. Cole Financial
  2. Investment Center
  3. Harbour Investments
  4. Kovack Securities
  5. American Portfolios Financial Services
  6. Cadaret Grant
  7. Northwestern Mutual
  8. Raymond James Financial Services
  9. Common Wealth Financial Network
  10. LPL Financial

Finally, here is a third list from Financial Planning Magazine of the fastest-growing independent broker-dealers:

  1. Lincoln Investment Planning
  2. Cetera Financial Institutions (now RCS Capital)
  3. Investment Centers of America
  4. Questar Capital
  5. Independent Financial Group
  6. Triad Advisors
  7. Securian Financial Services
  8. Cambridge Investment Research
  9. Prospera Financial Services

If your advisor is on one of these lists, you should learn how to look up their SEC registration and determine if they are truly fee-only and if they have any regulator issues associated with their work.

You should also visit if you want to find a fee-only fiduciary in your area and learn how NAPFA members are different than broker-dealers.

You deserve a fiduciary standard of care.

Photo by Chris Humphrey used here under Flickr Creative Commons.

Follow David John Marotta:

President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.