Financial advisor Brian Amidei self identifies as a Type A personality.

Not surprisingly, when he left Merrill Lynch in 2011 after its merger with Bank of America, Amidei missed the camaraderie and competitiveness of working in a big wirehouse.

He didn't miss it for too long, however.

At his breakaway firm, HighTower Advisors in Palm Desert, Calif., Amidei and his other team members have crafted workplace policies and practices to charge the environment with a racetrack sensibility and pacing, similar to what they found at their wirehouse but on their own terms. They have started using, for instance, metrics to measure each other's performance similar to those applied by managers at wirehouses.

"We monitor ourselves," Amidei says.

The team members each compare with each other such figures as which advisor brought in the most new assets to manage or the most new clients, he says.

And the firm offers bonus incentives for advisors' reaching pre-set goals.

They cheerlead for each other when it is time to update clients' financial plans, work that might otherwise drag on unfinished for weeks.

Instead, for those tasks, the HighTower team members assemble as a group "to make sure we get through it," Amidei says.

Similarly, M.J. Nodilo likes the control he has gained over his workplace environment since leaving a wirehouse. Although he understands why some advisors might want to replicate the hustle and bustle of a wirehouse, he adopts a different approach.

"I can see where they are coming from," Nodilo says about those advisors who take steps to ramp up competitiveness at their independent firms.

He founded Pathlight Investors in Phoenix after leaving UBS Financial Services more than five years ago.

By contrast, Nodilo has set a more relaxed atmosphere at his RIA firm. "We are able to maintain the kind of work environment we want and that our clients feel most comfortable in," he says.

That can mean being more family friendly.

A client had a hectic schedule recently and had to bring his young son to Pathlight’s office at the same time that he had to concentrate on reviewing and signing documents. But Nodilo played catch football in the hallway with the boy and then let him watch cartoons in a conference room.

"That would have never happened," at the offices of his former wirehouse employer, Nodilo says.

Miriam Rozen is a reporter for Texas Lawyer who writes about financial planning and services.

This story is part of a 30-day series on going independent.

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