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Fewer Licensed Reps are Managing More Assets Under Management According to New Discovery Data Research

Report highlights rep movement, total rep population, and COVID-19 impact.

EATONTOWN, NJ — December 7, 2021 — According to Discovery Data’s 2020–2021 Special Pandemic Rep Movement Report, as uncertainty took hold of the financial markets and the broader economy, financial advisors largely responded by staying put at work, hunkering down in their roles during the worst of the crisis—or leaving the industry altogether.

Like most industries, the investment advisory space saw a significant impact from COVID-19. There were 740,020 reps as of June 30, 2021, down 3.3% from January 1, 2020. This is the fastest decline in the number of registered reps Discovery Data has recorded since the 2007–2008 financial crisis.

Discovery Data reported a 17.4% year-over-year decrease in rep movement in 2020. Last year also saw the lowest percentage of moves relative to Discovery Data’s overall history—just 7.1% of all reps changed roles.

The population of new reps had been trending up until pandemic reports surfaced in February 2020. Fewer reps started careers in 2020 than any other year going back to 2010. The number of new reps joining the industry rebounded somewhat in 2021; however, there are still more reps leaving the industry than joining.

“If current trends continue, we expect to see the number of licensed reps continue to decline over time,” stated Saleem Khan, Chief Data and Analytics Officer of Discovery Data. “The industry must introduce new incentives and earlier education to attract and retain new advisors and reps. The share of more-tenured advisors has grown significantly and has far outpaced the entrance of new, less-tenured advisors.”

The growth in assets under management has significantly outpaced gains in RIA advisors. In addition, the number of individuals working as support staff has declined, meaning that advisors are managing more assets with less support. By June 30, 2021, there were 223,966 RIAs managing $110 trillion in AUM. That’s 4% more advisors managing 34% more assets in a span of 18 months.

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Discovery Data is the leading provider of data, insights, and analytics on the firms and people driving the financial services and insurance industries across North America. The top asset and wealth management, fintech, media, consulting, and insurance companies turn to Discovery Data to improve their business performance.