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Financial industry news and events for RIAs.

6 min read

Evaluating Service Without Being Served – Transition Support to Business as Usual

Mar 21, 2023 8:49:19 AM

How registered investment advisers can help ensure their next RIA custodian offers the support they need to meet their goals.

Advisors considering a change in RIA custodians face a difficult challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

With the right research and a curated technology demo, advisors should be able to identify which providers have the right technologies to support their business. But technology is only part of the advisor-custodian relationship. One big component that can be trickier to evaluate: service.

When assessing service with a prospective RIA custodian, advisors should focus on how the provider would first support their team during the transition and then throughout the ongoing relationship.

Transition Services

Let’s face it, migrating clients to a new custodial service provider sounds like a big task – and it is. However, if handled properly, the transition does not need to derail an RIA’s business.

A seasoned custodian transition team should be able to mitigate the short-term impact of a move on advisors and their clients, while setting the firm up for long-term success.

When evaluating prospective providers, RIAs should focus on finding a custodian that would support their transition with:

  • Experience – Support team members that specialize in transitioning RIAs. RIAs have their own unique sets of challenges and opportunities that can impact the transition, so having a project coordinator and dedicated transition team with deep experience serving RIAs can be a key to navigating hiccups in real-time and completing a successful transition.
  • Accessibility – Dedicated and readily available support team members that will work with the advisor’s team every step of their transition. These team members should be accessible to the advisor any time of day throughout their transition to help them handle whatever challenges that may arise.
  • Advanced Technology – The custodial services provider should have proven solutions in place to streamline how the advisor transitions their client account data. To this point, TradePMR recently launched an Account Transfer tool to help advisors transfer client accounts in bulk while limiting the opportunity for human error.


Transitioning providers can be a vulnerable time for an RIA. While tackling a massive data move and a potential overhaul of firm technology and processes, the team is still responsible for managing day-to-day activities (connecting with clients, operating a business, identifying growth opportunities).

Having a team committed to working hand-in-hand with the RIA throughout the transition can not only contribute to the success of that transition, but it can also help ensure that the RIA can maintain business as usual through the move. A transition should be a non-event for clients – a strong transition team can help make sure that’s the case.

Ongoing Support


Once an RIA is onboarded onto a custodial platform, that’s when the real work begins. The day-in and day- out operations that the advisor has been waiting for since they started the sales process.

Unfortunately, what some advisors find is that once the papers are signed and the transition is complete, it can become harder to get support for their RIA. This can leave advisors wondering if the provider’s talk of strong service was nothing more than lip service.

When evaluating an RIA custodian’s approach to ongoing communication and support, advisors should consider asking the provider’s team direct questions including:

  • When I have questions, who do I contact?
  • Do I have access to specific people that are tackling my requests?
  • Do you have a massive call center? Or am I able to directly call real people?
  • What kind of automated service solutions do you use? Are those my only options when I need support?
  • Do you use service tiers? With my asset level, how much service do you think my team deserves?
  • Does the support team understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing RIAs?
  • Will your support team know my business when I call, or will I have to reexplain my firm’s unique position in the market every time I get on the phone?

Engaging with providers on these questions can help to paint a picture for how the vendor would provide day-to-day support for the RIA.

If the custodian is going to force an advisor to spend hours waiting on hold only to connect with someone who doesn’t understand their needs, that could cause a ripple effect negatively impacting the RIA’s business, and its clients.

Provider’s Focus

Some custodial service providers work with a broad range of advisors that operate different types of businesses and may even support a retail direct-to-consumer offering. Their broad generalist offerings may take a more cookie-cutter approach to fit the wide range of needs of their customer base.

Take, for example, zero-fee trading. Zero-fee trading can be an exciting offering for retail investors that primarily trade in single-stocks and ETFs. However, if an RIA heavily leverages mutual funds to build client portfolios, a zero-fee model could involve that advisor/their clients paying disproportionately high fees to trade those mutual funds, potentially restricting how that advisor can invest for their clients.

While this kind of offering can make sense for a big-name custodian looking to serve as many advisors and investors as possible, it isn’t necessarily a benefit to RIAs. RIAs can benefit from an offering that is curated to their unique sets of goals, challenges, and opportunities.

That’s why TradePMR is 100% focused on serving RIAs.

Experience and Expertise

With a complete focus on the RIA model, the TradePMR support team spends every day working with independent advisors. The team invests the time to understand each firm’s unique position, their goals, and how the provider’s custodial services and technology can support their success.

Every time an advisor calls into TradePMR, they speak with a real person who has been trained to understand their needs and is empowered to support their business. Having this deep bench of knowledgeable team members on-hand can help ensure that RIAs aren’t stuck waiting for answers to their questions. TradePMR understands that advisors and clients don’t have time to waste.

Finding Strong Service from Day 1

If you feel like you could be getting better service from your RIA custodian, you’re not alone. Before you move forward with a new provider, we recommend you build an RIA custodian request for proposal (RFP).

An RFP is your opportunity to dive into all the questions you want a prospective provider to answer before signing on the dotted line. The RFP can dive into everything from firm culture to RIA trading technology to cybersecurity policies. Importantly, this document is also where your team can ask in-depth questions about service to make sure your next provider will offer the support your firm needs to succeed.

To help advisors get started, TradePMR has developed an RIA custodian RFP template. Get your version today complete with sample sections, questions, and recommendations to make the most of your RFP.


If you’re considering a change in providers, we should talk. We can dive into your business, your burning questions, and how TradePMR would respond to your RFP.


Written by TradePMR