Courtesy of RIABiz and reporter Lisa Shidler
MarketsMuse Editor Note: Kudos to Lisa “Lois Lane” Shidler for her insightful expose profiling how custodians to RIAs excel at squeezing lemons from customers who they must think are lemmings. Though Ms. Schilder neglected to spotlight the fact that custodians systematically sell their customer orders to select principal trading firms (e.g KCG) who cherry-pick orders they can exploit for trading profit, her insight i.e. the practice of imposing exorbitant trade-away fees on those very same customers who seek to secure the real best prices via independent execution only firms is a topic worthy of sharing this story with industry regulators. Too bad those latter folks don’t get it…perhaps because they’re beholden to the biggest custodians in the industry?
Here are a few excerpts:
The big four RIA custodians are now charging advisory firms giant new fees — in the tens of thousands in some cases — relating to some ETF purchases.
Schwab Advisor Services, TD Ameritrade Institutional, Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC and Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services are levying what are known as “trade-away” fees to RIA firms that buy exchange traded funds through a broker-dealer other than the one owned by the custodian. The advisor typically chooses to use these third parties because they believe that RIA custodians are executing trades poorly along the bid-ask curve and forcing them to make ETF purchases at unacceptably high prices.
At first blush the fees look fairly benign. The fee at Fidelity is a $20 fee per account per trade. TD Ameritrade charges $25 per account. Pershing’s fee ranges from $8 to $20 per account depending on the volume of the trade. Schwab declined to disclose its fee through its spokesman, Greg Gable.
These fees have put RIAs like Chris Romano, director of research and trading with Fusion Investments Group LLC in Pittsburgh invests, in a bind in certain instances.
Though his firm manages about $139 million in assets, the bulk of them are institutional and banks custody them. Fusion advises for other RIAs but those assets are held away. In short, his firm manages just $11 million of mostly ETFs with Fidelity’s RIA custody platform, which means Fidelity’s $20 fee is too costly for the size of trades that he does.
“We don’t even consider trading away [in effort to get best execution] at Fidelity because of the high ticket trade away fee,” Romano says. “On the smaller account sizes, it can be a really significant fee. If the fee is $20, that can really add up.” Continue reading