An RIA’s margin is a simple, easily observable figure that condenses a range of underlying considerations about a firm that are more difficult to measure. As much as a single metric can, margins reflect the health of a firm—indicating whether a firm has the right people in the right roles, whether it’s charging enough for services, whether it has enough (but not too much) overhead, and much more. But when assessing your firm’s margins, it’s important to consider the context of the firm’s ownership and compensation structure and also the tradeoffs associated with margins that are too high or too low.
The Best Measure of RIA Success
Market performance gives you speed. Employee performance gives you velocity. Practice management gives you momentum. If you want to be successful, focus on building momentum.
The recent analysis by Bloomberg highlights the potential for a bear market to intensify the challenges faced by active money managers, including fee pressures, asset outflows, and growing competition from passive investing strategies. Despite headwinds and the rising popularity of passive products, the resilience of some active management firms suggests a future where the industry might see less competition and more opportunity for alpha. Despite higher market caps than in 2008, asset management firms face a contraction in earnings multiples, suggesting a complex outlook that balances risks with the potential for restructuring and consolidation within the sector.
A Look at Record-Pace RIA Acquisition
In the midst of robust M&A activity, the RIA industry defies typical consolidation trends, continuing to grow with new firm creation outstripping the pace of acquisitions. This expansion has been propelled by a shift from the broker-dealer model to a fiduciary model, alongside the allure of building valuable, saleable enterprises.
A Resurgent Year for Investment Management Firms
In the recent financial landscape, alternative asset managers have significantly outpaced other categories, particularly in the RIA sector, demonstrating resilience and impressive gains amidst market volatility. While traditional asset managers have seen some pressure, larger entities, especially those in private equity, experienced notable growth and stability, largely due to their robust structures and strategic partnerships. The current trends underscore the importance of understanding nuanced market shifts, what these developments mean for various asset managers, and investment approaches in an evolving economic climate.
Although inflation has begun to subside and the stock market has rallied after a turbulent start to 2023, elevated interest rates and macroeconomic uncertainty have contributed to a slight decline in deal volume so far in 2023. Despite the slight decline in deal volume, total transacted AUM increased. In this week’s post we discuss some of the contributing factors of this, and what it means for your RIA.
Market Uncertainty and Fee Compression Trends Lead Investors to Take an Alternative Approach to RIA Investing
In Q3 2023, while most publicly traded asset and wealth management firms experienced share price decreases in tandem with the broader market, alternative asset managers stood out with about 10% growth. This deviation can be attributed to factors like market volatility since 2020, which has boosted demand for stocks of alternative asset managers due to their more predictable revenue streams. Furthermore, the shifting market conditions highlighted potential implications for individual RIAs.
Charitable Giving Prior to a Business Sale Yields Big Results
This post unravels how donating a portion of your RIA ownership before a sale can furnish you with a charitable tax deduction and minimize capital gains exposure. With practical examples, the role of Donor Advised Funds, and timely gift planning to bolster the value of your contribution, ensure maximum benefit for both you and your chosen charity, without the cumbersome tax burden.
During ATO’s annual meeting in New Orleans, industry experts weighed in on pressing topics for independent trust companies. Key discussions revolved around the limited impact of the FTC’s proposed ban on non-compete agreements, the potential advantages of AI in trust administration, and the unique financial trends and risks observed in the TrustCo sector. For those in the trust industry seeking insights on its current state, this conference provided invaluable perspectives and recommendations.
Global M&A activity has plummeted, and RIA consolidators have seen skyrocketing debt costs and eroding capital positions. Despite this, RIA M&A continues with little abatement. In this post, we dive into the factors supporting the relative strength of the RIA M&A market.
Matt Crow Interviewed for Barron’s Advisor Podcast
Steve Sanduski sat down with Matt Crow to talk about the state of the RIA industry for Steve’s Barron’s Advisor Podcast. In the episode, Steve and Matt explore the main drivers of the recent M&A environment for RIAs, the pros and cons of consolidation, and when selling to a consolidator makes sense instead of pursuing internal succession. Enjoy!
In a surprising move, Goldman Sachs has sold its Personal Financial Management (PFM) division, aimed at mass affluent clients, just four years after acquiring it for $750 million. The division wasn’t as profitable as Goldman’s core asset and wealth management businesses, prompting a pivot back to their expertise in ultra-high net worth clientele.
Performance Measurement Is More than Profits and Losses
Measuring the financial performance of an RIA usually starts with GAAP statements, but it shouldn’t end there. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) have their place, but are too vague and nonspecific to provide much in the way of strategic direction for an investment management business. In this post, we propose a path to break down your financials into key performance metrics, giving your leadership a more constructive way to think about what builds value in an RIA.
The RIA industry is facing a potential succession crisis, with many firms still helmed by their founders and lacking in non-founding shareholders. Although succession planning is vital for the long-term success of these firms, it is often sidelined in favor of immediate growth strategies. This article delves into various solutions for RIA principals, from internal transitions to external acquisitions, highlighting their benefits and potential drawbacks.
Compensation Structures for Investment Management Firms Whitepaper
Labor is the single largest expense for any investment management firm, but beyond that simple fact, there is surprisingly little similarity regarding how the thousands of wealth managers, asset managers, independent trust companies, and investment consulting firms pay their people. Compensation studies show considerable variances in how much firms pay for certain positions, and the character of remuneration — salary, bonuses, equity compensation, benefits — varies as a function of firm history, economics, and culture.
Part I of this series focused on variable or bonus compensation, this week we cover the equity component. If the other forms of compensation are meant to attract (salary) and retain (bonus) qualified talent, RIA equity is intended to align shareholder and employee interests while rewarding long-term contributions to firm growth and value. This structure inherently blends returns to labor (employee comp) with returns on investment (shareholder distributions) by its very design. It is typically the most complicated and misunderstood component of RIA compensation but can be highly effective when implemented correctly.
The selection, implementation, and adaptation of compensation models significantly influence an RIA’s profits and the financial lives of its employees and shareholders. In part 1 of the series, we discuss the role of variable compensation, a critical component of RIA compensation models, in motivating employees and promoting business growth. We show how strategic incentive structures can better align the interests of employees with those of the company, effectively balancing risk and reward while fostering growth and resilience in varying market conditions.
The independent trust industry has been flourishing, despite market turbulence, due to increased demand for trust administration services, the relative resilience of trust company fees, and demographic shifts favoring wealth growth. Companies are adapting to changes in the term structure of interest rates, benefiting from fee structures that provide stability in adverse market conditions, and capitalizing on the expanding pool of high-net-worth individuals. With evolving trust laws, growth opportunities tied to generational wealth transfer, and the importance of effective succession planning, independent trust companies are poised for a promising future in the competitive financial landscape.
The first half of 2023 witnessed a minor decline in wealth management M&A deal volume, but an increase in total transacted AUM and deal size, fueled by a surge in the number of deals with AUM over $1 billion and RIA partnerships with private equity firms. This robust RIA deal activity demonstrates the resilience of the sector in contrast to a significant decrease in overall M&A transaction value across all industries. As RIAs continue to offer a growth strategy for strategic buyers and investors, it is imperative for sellers to identify their motivations, the type of partner they seek, and align their goals with the buyer’s strategy to ensure post-transaction satisfaction.
Steady Interest Rates Calm Investor Nerves, Boosting RIA Performance
The second quarter of 2023 saw share prices for asset and wealth management firms reflect the broader market’s growth, particularly following the S&P 500’s transition into a bull market in June. However, smaller asset managers underperformed compared to their larger counterparts and the S&P 500, while earnings multiples for publicly traded RIAs saw an 8.8% increase due to a favorable interest rate environment and higher AUM balances. The upcoming report on Q2 M&A activity is set to provide further insight into these trends, and while comparisons with closely held RIAs require caution, focusing on core business practices can offer protection from market volatility.
An Outdated Contract Is Hazardous to Your Wealth
This week’s post discusses the importance of regularly reviewing and understanding the terms of buy-sell agreements for RIAs, as these agreements can often become sources of contention when unexpected events occur. We highlight issues related to determining the transaction price during a buy-sell event, with scenarios such as fixed-price and formula pricing causing potential misunderstandings or disputes. We also offer advice on avoiding such conflicts, such as getting your RIA valued regularly to manage expectations and drafting fair pricing mechanisms, urging owners to familiarize themselves thoroughly with their buy-sell agreements.
Understanding the intricate complexities of buy-sell agreements can provide a basis for shareholder transactions and mitigate costly legal disputes down the road. We explain the pitfalls of rules-of-thumb based valuation measures, the importance of the ‘As Of’ date, the necessary qualifications of your appraiser, and how updating your agreement annually can manage expectations and avoid surprises. Stay informed and avoid the inevitable challenges by familiarizing yourself with these key components of a well-crafted buy-sell agreement.
While closing a deal is an important milestone, it’s not the end of the process. After the ink dries on the purchase agreement, there’s a host of issues that the acquiror must address regarding the integration of and accounting for the acquired firm. In this blog post, we address one such post-transaction accounting issue. After a transaction, acquirers are generally required under accounting standards to perform what is known as a purchase price allocation, or PPA. This post explores the purchase price allocation process as it relates to acquisitions of assets and wealth management firms, highlighting the valuation considerations surrounding intangible assets like customer relationships, tradename, non-competition agreements, and the assembled workforce.
All Models Are Wrong, Some Are Useful
The much-ballyhooed consolidation trend in the RIA space is in a state of transition. Many acquisition platforms, fine-tuned in an era of zero interest rates and plentiful equity capital, are challenged in the post-ZIRP environment. Picking up on economist George Box’s observation that “all models are wrong, some are useful,” it’s worthwhile to survey the acquisition landscape and see what worked and what still works.