Understanding Advisor Consolidation: Types and Implications

The hype machines love to spin the fastest around M&A.

“Advisors are old.”

“We don’t have enough young people.”

“Value is now.”


“Sell, partner, prosper.”

Here’s a reality check.

There are more new RIAs launched each year than those that sell.

The cycle of new advisors breaking away to create large firms to have new advisors break away is evergreen. Consolidation isn’t novel.

Actually, we have always been in the business of compounding.

The publications know how to get clicks, and private equity knows how to use a calculator. The headlines coupled with our own aging can make it feel like the industry is spiraling down into a series of a few brands. But there’s no need to fear. The lessons we learn from consolidation and breaking away can help us all elevate outcomes for clients, advisors, team members and even shareholders.

The Consolidation Landscape

At Milemarker, we are built to accelerate consolidation. We move billions of rows of data daily for firms that fit into various classes of roll-up solutions.

Firms that are less than simple have advisors and professional leadership that require deeper insight and control over their data.

The landscape of these firms is fairly diverse as you get into the details, read the ADVs, and study each business. However, most firms fit into four key categories.

The Four Corners of Consolidation

While each type is unique, there is always a bit of float between each quadrant as businesses work to move into a more highly evolved version of themselves.

You will find that the industry exists largely in a name-it-and-claim-it state. If you don’t like the term consolidator, you use something else. Create your own category. You do you.

My breakdown is primarily tied to advisors’ affiliation with a common ADV.


The top independent firms in our industry are the consolidators. These firms have the power to wholly acquire and move their new purchases into their core operating system. They operate generally as corporate RIAs and often seek to focus on only one central brand.

For the consolidator, it’s a race to centralize, synthesize, and optimize every time a new deal is signed.

They invest heavily in data management, infrastructure, and technology to streamline everything possible. In many respects, the need to aggregate services and experience for their retail customers invites them to build solutions to gain better control of their destiny.

Although they may present in a polished fashion through a single national identity and ADV, the effort to centralize operations, data, and experience is nonstop.


The aggregators are bringing together advisors but paying homage to the spirit of independence with shared compliance, technology and varying degrees of operations. Nearly all of their advisors are operating under their own DBA, marketing materials and fragmented marketing efforts despite the idea of scale via a centralized partner.

In these models, advisors can gain a community and an effective lobbying group that can fight for their interests with Custodians, asset managers, tech providers, and the broker-dealer.

The massive struggle here is that nearly every business in this model wishes they possessed more control like their friends, the consolidators, have. Centralized investment menu, singular tech providers, low exceptions, and straightforward operational workflows.

When it comes to Aggregator marketing efforts, most of these firms feel the struggle when it comes to how well they can deliver tangible results for their offices.


The idea of an integrator seems to have the most subjectivity. I think it is the most diverse.

Organizations like XYPN come to mind in this category. Integrators often possess a shared worldview and desire to come together and share some services but not enough to where we can call anyone’s comfort or agency into question.

Integrators will get you a discount on a lot of systems but won’t be able to profit enough from their partnerships to reinvest much in the level of continued improvement that you will see in the consolidator or aggregator camps.

When private equity looks at these businesses, they want to push them to a common ADV, seek to diversify revenue streams, and increase each office’s LTV.


The last class is for all of us who love being special snowflakes. I’m not sure if any firm really wants to wear the terms integrator, aggregator, or consolidator. They are utilitarian titles that often cause you to circle the trade’s transactional nature. Innovators don’t want to be bound by utility or titles. They want what they want when they want it.

In a sense, innovators are moving away from that daily and quarterly scramble of the tyranny of the urgency to create client and team experiences that they love. Their nuanced breakdowns of the success of each core channel in the current business model informs their business model’s evolution.

In this process of self-actualization, the Innovator class firms can take these metrics and provide them to each office and operator to help them have real-time guidance on how they are operating, making decisions, and likely investing time in areas that are more of a personal affinity a most effective use of time.

The innovator-class firms also count every second their advisors spend trying to extract value from their technology suite. Rather than continuing to exist as a lobby group to get their technology provider to prioritize an enhancement roadmap, Innovators are getting control of their data, building their apps and dashboards, and streamlining the experience advisors gain.

Can You Consolidate without Selling Out?

As we dissect the narratives around advisor consolidation, it’s evident that the industry’s pulse is as vigorous as ever, driven not by mere survival instincts but by a deliberate strategy and clear vision. At Milemarker, we understand that consolidation isn’t a fleeting trend but a fundamental aspect of our industry’s evolution, reflecting different firms’ diverse ambitions and strategies.

From Consolidators, who are streamlining and centralizing at breakneck speeds, to Aggregators, who celebrate the spirit of independence while seeking scale; from Integrators, navigating subjective definitions of collaboration, to Innovators, who are redefining the boundaries of what a firm can achieve—each model underscores a deep commitment to not just grow, but excel.

Contrary to the doomsday pitches of an industry consolidating to a few giants, the real narrative is about the rich mosaic of deployed strategies. Each firm is not just reacting to the market dynamics but actively crafting its trajectory, leveraging unique strengths and insights.

So, let’s shift our focus from the simplistic ‘sell, sell, sell’ mentality and recognize the sophisticated dance of strategic maneuvers that truly define our sector. Milemarker is at the forefront of this evolution, processing billions of data points to empower firms to navigate and master their consolidation pathways.

We’re not just participants in this industry; we’re pioneers and architects, crafting a diverse and robust financial advisory landscape that values precision and foresight as much as growth. Let’s continue to push the boundaries, redefine industry standards, and lead by example. That’s the real story of our evergreen industry, and it’s far more exciting than any headline could capture.

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