The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is proposing a rule that would require investment advisors to comply with Bank Secrecy Act requirements, including implementing anti-money laundering controls and filing suspicious activity reports. Unlike previous attempts, this proposal does not hold investment advisors accountable for identifying their clients, but FinCEN is considering a separate proposal with the SEC for future customer ID requirements. With an increased push from regulators and illicit actors’ growing utilization of RIA intermediaries for AML purposes, the investment advisory sector may soon face stricter regulations, particularly regarding customer identification.
The M&A space in the RIA sector has seen a marked increase in transaction activity over the past ten years, along with advancements in its supporting infrastructure. Professionalization of the buyer market has led to a more detailed examination of target companies’ earnings. Mercer Capital’s whitepaper highlights the importance of Quality of Earnings (QofE) analysis in presenting a more accurate picture of a company’s earnings and cash flows for both potential buyers and sellers.
Trends Shaping the RIA Industry in 2023 and Beyond
In 2023, the RIA industry witnessed growth and rebounded from the previous year’s slump, despite earlier concerns about inflation and high interest rates. This growth occurred alongside a shift in the financial landscape, where public firms in wealth management underperformed compared to the broader market and alternative asset managers. Additionally, RIAs have found the importance of data use, with many advisors using data to enhance portfolio decisions, operational efficiencies, and client relationships.
And His Common Sense Approach to Business and Investing
As a tribute to the late Charlie Munger, we reflect on his legacy and wisdom. His distinctive perspective on cryptocurrency, diversification, and financial projections offers a unique approach to managing investments, contrasting with conventional practices. We provide our thoughts on his lasting Munger-isms.
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.
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.
Diving into the CI US/Bain Transaction
CI Financial’s pivot from a planned IPO to the sale of a 20% convertible preferred stake of its US wealth management division to a consortium of institutional investors is not only a significant move for CI Financial but also sends ripples through the wealth management industry. In this post, we explore the details of this transaction, the potential consequences for CI Financial, and the broader implications for the wealth management industry.
Old Rules of Thumb, Recent Headlines, and the Endowment Effect
The endowment effect has an impact on your RIA and oftentimes rules of thumb and recent headlines can lead to overvaluation. We share the nuances of valuing your firm, from assessing cash flow, growth, and risk to understanding the relevance of non-systematic risks. Uncover the factors that truly influence your RIA’s value and learn how an independent valuation can help you make informed decisions for your firm’s future.
Asset Management Firms Struggle as Market Downturn and Fund Outflows Persist
2022 was a tough year for the RIA industry and the stock market, as persistent inflation, rising interest rates, and geopolitical tensions shook the economy. Asset management firms felt the pressure, but what factors drove this decline and how did it impact the industry? Discover the challenges faced by both active and passive funds, and explore the outlook for asset managers in the face of an uncertain future.
Selling Control Is Losing Control
Harry Truman kept a sign with his personal slogan, “The Buck Stops Here,” on his desk. The reverse side of his sign, which faced the President, says, “I’m from Missouri.” Specifically, Truman grew up in Independence, Missouri, and took pride in his hometown. RIAs would be well advised to value their independence as much.
Early last year, as market conditions began to deteriorate, we (along with many others) predicted a coming slowdown in RIA M&A activity. Despite this environment, we were initially proven wrong: RIA M&A activity seemingly defied gravity as the pace of deal activity continued to keep pace with record 2021 levels. Now, the data suggests that deal activity is beginning to lose momentum. So, is the slowdown here to stay? What does this mean for the future of deal activity? In this week’s post, we discuss a few predictions for the year ahead.
Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?
Investment management is a people business, and there are aspects to a people business which do not yield to financial modeling. This week, Matt Crow addresses industry conundrums for which there are no easy answers.
Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a proposed ban on non-compete agreements in employment contracts. If enacted, the proposed ban would prohibit a common provision of employment agreements that employers use to limit employees’ ability to compete.
Q3 RIA Performance Was Mostly Bad, But in Lots of Different Ways
Most of the 9/30 quarterly results are in, and public RIA performance was all over the map. Mostly, it was a rough quarter in a rough year. Sagging AUM led to revenue cuts which dropped straight to the bottom line. Some firms mitigated their downside by cutting bonus compensation and marking down earnout payments for acquisitions. We did a survey of a cross-section of asset and wealth management firms. Ultimately, it appears some business models are working better than others.
The differential in interest in public investment management businesses and private investment management businesses isn’t sustainable. Will higher interest rates eventually wear down leveraged acquirers, as they have in other growth-and-income sectors? Will PE investors start to question the merits of trading companies from fund to fund instead of testing valuations in the open market? Will the public RIA group follow Pzena’s lead and go private? Or will public investors’ newfound interest in dividend stocks lead them to RIAs? It’s tough to forecast a public RIA resurgence but never say never.
How Does Your RIA Measure Up?
Schwab recently released its 2022 RIA Benchmarking Study. The survey contains responses from over 1,200 RIAs representing $1.8 trillion in AUM to questions about firm operating performance, strategy, and practice management. The survey is a great resource for RIA principals to see how their firm’s performance and direction measure up against the average firm. In our blog post this week, we highlight some of the key results of the survey.
Publicly Traded Alt Managers and RIA Aggregators Have Lost Nearly Half Their Value Since Peaking Last November
The RIA sector continued its losing streak last quarter, underperforming all classes of the S&P, which also saw a decline. Because this industry is primarily invested in stocks and bonds, which have declined significantly over the past six months, the market is contributing to the issue. Asset and wealth managers continued underperformance is probably due to lower industry margins as AUM and revenue decline along with the market while labor costs continue to rise. In this week’s post, learn more about this and its effects.
Is Volatility the New Normal?
It’s de ja vu all over again. The volatility from the onset of the pandemic two years ago has been creeping back up as investors grapple with the global implications of the war in Ukraine. At the end of last year, most RIA owners were enjoying peak AUM and run-rate profitability. Since then, these measures have likely taken a substantial hit as the S&P 500 and NASDAQ are down 12% and 19%, respectively. When this happened two years ago, the market made a sharp recovery in the preceding quarters, but looking forward, we don’t know where the bottom lies. Most RIA principals are likely grappling with a sizable decline in management fees and earnings for the next billing cycle.
With taking a look at the VIX Index, we have assessed that the market volatility is likely here to stay – at least for a while. In this post, we explore what this volatility means for you and your RIA.
February’s CPI growth came in at 7.9% year-over-year (the highest level in recent memory), and the ongoing Ukraine conflict portends further supply chain challenges that could drive prices even higher. The front-end of the yield curve has shifted higher as market participants reason that rising inflation will force the Fed to raise rates sooner and by a greater magnitude than had been previously anticipated.
Historically, a flattening yield curve has signaled an end to a growth cycle, and so far in 2022 that certainly seems plausible. Markets are down and valuation multiples have declined significantly, particularly in high-flying tech stocks. Read this week’s post to find out what this means for the RIA industry.
Dynasty IPO Ticks a Lot of Boxes, and Begs a Few Questions
Last week we were surprised by a rare sighting, an S-1 filed by a prominent player in the RIA community. Dynasty Financial Partners seeks to raise $100 million in a public offering. The mercifully terse prospectus is less than 250 pages, and is recommended reading for anyone who swims (or fishes) in this pond.
Aggregators Continue to Drive Deal Volume in 2021
Deal count is projected to reach new highs in the fourth quarter of 2021 as market activity continues to gain momentum, likely rounding out another record-breaking year for the RIA industry. In keeping with the rest of 2021, deal volume was driven by secular trends and supportive capital markets. As market activity remains robust, competition for deals continues to favor RIA aggregators such as Mercer Advisors, Mariner Wealth Advisors, Wealth Enhancement Group, and Focus Financial Partners (FOCS), to name a few. In this week’s post, we provide more information about the aggregators and offer our thoughts for the future.
RIA M&A Activity Continues to Reach Record Highs
Despite the dip in the second quarter of 2021, RIA M&A activity continues to reach record highs putting the sector on track for its ninth consecutive year of record annual deal volume.
As we discussed last quarter, the same three demand drivers were persistent throughout the third quarter. While fee pressure in the asset management space and a lack of succession planning by many wealth managers continues to drive consolidation, looming proposals to increase the capital gains tax rate has accelerated some M&A activity in the short-term as sellers seek to realize gains at current rates.
Increased funding availability in the space has further propelled deal activity as acquisitions by consolidators and direct private equity investments increased significantly as a percentage of total deals during the recent quarter. What does this mean for your RIA firm? Read this post to find out.
Beginning With No End in Mind
The rise of “permanent capital” providers is both in response to and appropriate for the current environment of premium entrance multiples in the RIA space. While making a permanent capital investment doesn’t eliminate the depressive effects of current valuations on returns, it does help to mitigate them.
Absent self-imposed pressure to generate an exit within the foreseeable future, RIA investors can focus on opportunities for sustainable and growing distributions – the real value of investing in investment management.
Is the RIA Industry in Growth Mode or Shake-Out?
While the wealth management industry is not new, the amount of change, churn, and growth that has occurred in the industry over the past ten years make it easy to forget how far the RIA industry has come since the heyday of broker-dealers. Contextualizing the challenges facing the wealth management industry leaves one to wonder if many of these trends are no more than growing pains in the sector’s life cycle. And if so, what might such analysis suggest about the prospects for the fiduciary model?