Stay as analyst at a RIA or join Wirehouse team


Currently I am an analyst at an independent RIA shop (~13 billion AUM total) that does both institutional investment consulting (advising on 401k, 403b, and DB plans) and traditional wealth management. I’ve been with the firm for 5 years, since I was out of college and feel like I’m starting to plateau at the firm.

I’ve recently interviewed for an analyst position on big AUM wirehouse advisor team. Culture is obviously much different from an independent RIA, but I would be getting exposure to some UHNW clients and some different work. Hours would be much longer at the wirehouse as well.

One reason I am attracted to the wirehouse analyst position is that I think there may be much better exit opportunities. Several of the other analysts who were on the team in the past have gone on to IB and other good roles, and I think it would be a better name on my resume than an RIA that not many people have heard of.

I don’t know yet what the compensation differences would be, but can guys give shed any light into potential exit opportunities? Do you think my thinking is accurate here? Some background, I went to a non-target undergrad with a very average GPA.

Morgan Stanley FA to IB? Uh, not likely. I mean, it’s certainly happened but the FA gig didn’t help at all.

Why do you feel you’ve plateaued at the RIA? Honestly, nothing could pry me away from a $13B RIA unless it was absolutely horrid working conditions.

Pretty much everyone goes the other way - Wires -> RIAs. Not the other way around.

Take some time off and get reenergized. Move up the ladder at the RIA and demand equity. There’s a 95% chance the grass is not greener at UBS.

I’m guessing the RIA situation is case-by-case, and you should see how other people there have done in their careers, as well as if those opportunities are still the same now.

Generally speaking, big companies have a more uniform compensation and promotion scale. Big companies are probably better on average than small companies, but the “outlier” opportunities, meaning fast track and abnormal rewards for good employees, are generally uncommon.

Sounds like you obviously haven’t been working hard enough. Shame


Fancy names look good on resume, but more hours and you are just a cog in a giant system, no thanks. I would stick at the RIA and see if you can move into a more senior role. If you’ve been there for 5 years I assume they don’t hate you.

Grass is rarely often greener unless you KNOW its a perfect fit for you for the long haul (hours/comp/future/etc).

its all about how lean the headcount per dollar of AUM. thats what you should be concerned with. not brand name.

I think this has been my realization as well. Don’t think the extra hours would be worth it and don’t dislike where I am, just frustrated occasionally by the issues of working at a smaller firm. There will be headaches at every firm, so thanks for your guys input.

Also, as far as requesting equity in the firm, what is a reasonable ask? I Don’t necessarily expect them to say yes the first time I ask, but what would be realistic? Asking for 1%?

Really varies by RIA and how they view you. On one hand, asking for equity (instead of a raise, for example) demonstrates you want to be part of the firm for the long-term. On the other, you need to be sure they feel the same way about you. If you ask for equity and they say no, either the owner(s) are really tight, you’re not quite at the level of where you need to be, or - worst case - they don’t view you as someone they want having a stake in the business.

I’ve never been on that side of the table so I can’t speak from experience, but the guys I know that have risen the ranks at RIAs generally bring up the equity question fairly casually during a 1x1 meeting to gauge the reaction of their boss. A pretty standard answer I hear is that the manager will say something like, “thanks for bringing this up and let’s discuss it during your next review.” That buys you both some time to come up with a more formal discussion. But, it probably depends heavily on the culture of the firm and your relationship with the owner(s).

What is the company worth? If the owner believes it is worth $100 million, he’s not going to give you 1% equity…

I believe the firm has revenues in the ~$4-5mm range give or take.

That sounds like a great way to bring it up, Sweep. Again, I really don’t think they would offer me equity at this point, but can’t hurt to bring it up during a review. It will at least set the table for down the road.