He noted the rapid growth of the five firms that dominate the discount brokerage business: Fidelity Investments (which has over 12 million accounts, Roame pointed out); Charles Schwab; TD Ameritrade; E*Trade and Scottrade.
These firms are boosting both average account sizes and revenues per employee and lessening their reliance on trading revenues, Roame said.
Driving “the online tools and advice business,” according to Roame, are a younger generation who grew up with the internet and skeptical baby boomers who got burned in 2008 and distrust financial advisors.
David Booth, chief executive of Dimensional Fund Advisors, agreed with Roame, to a point. Investors are getting more involved with their own portfolios, Booth said, “not so much to manager their own money, but to become more knowledgeable.”
The investment process, Roame said, is being polarized with twin growth patterns in both market-linked products such as exchange traded funds, index mutual funds and indexed separate accounts and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity and real estate.