RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry


Current Events

Your RIA May Qualify for the QBI Deduction, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) introduces the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction as a partial offset to the bill’s reduction in the relative tax efficiency of pass through entities (S corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships) versus C corporations.  Still, many RIAs will not be eligible for the deduction, and those that do will have a lot to keep in mind as it pertains to reasonable compensation levels and investment income.  We’ll try to sort it all out for you in this week’s post.

Industry Trends

What We’re Reading about the Tax Bill

Most of the sector’s recent press has focused on the tax bill’s impact on RIAs, so in addition to our own writings on the matter, we’ve highlighted some of the more salient pieces we’ve come across regarding the tax bill as it relates to the asset management sector.

Practice Management

The Tax Bill Rendered Your Shareholder Agreement Obsolete

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has really shaken up the underlying economics of investment management firms and, with that, the value of those firms. As a consequence, many owners of RIAs have inaccurate ideas of what their firms are worth, and, worse than that, they have outmoded shareholder agreements suggesting the willingness to transact at inaccurate valuations.

Practice Management

What RIA Owners Need to Know About the New Tax Law

For this week’s post, we’re offering the slides and recording from our recent webinar on the tax bill’s impact on the investment management community.  On balance, we believe most RIAs are better off as a consequence of the legislation, but there are nuances to the “win.”

S Corp RIAs Disadvantaged by the Tax Bill

New but Unimproved

We covered much of what we think the new tax bill will mean to RIA valuations in last week’s blogpost – and it’s mostly good news.  The “rest of the story” involves the bill’s impact on shareholder returns for RIAs structured as tax pass-thru entities (S corporations, LLCs, Partnerships), for which the news is not so buoyant.

What We’re Reading About Broker Protocol

Most of the sector’s recent press has focused on broker protocol, so we’ve highlighted some of the more salient pieces as a preface to our take on the matter in next week’s post.


Focus Financial’s Quest for an Unfair Advantage

A Long Journey to an Uncertain Destination

As part of the analyst community that closely follows developments in the investment management industry, we were disappointed (but not surprised) that Focus Financial Partners pulled their S-1, again, and found a private equity recap partner instead of going public. Picking up on last week’s blog theme, Focus likes to tout their strategy of building an international network of efficiently connected wealth management firms as an “unfair advantage”, but it appears that their real capability is finding capital when necessary to avoid a public offering. Stone Point Capital and KKR bought 70% of the company, enabling prior private equity partners, affiliates who had sold their firms to Focus in exchange for stock, and employees with equity compensation to monetize their positions while Focus remains private.

Will the Fiduciary Rule Ever Become Law?

RIA Central Investment Forum Follow-up

Last week, Matt Crow and I presented at RIA Institute’s 3rd Annual RIA Central Investment Forum, and this question was asked to the crowd of 70+ industry participants in attendance. Only about half the audience raised a hand. This comes after another delay last week, further extending the rule, now set to go into effect June 9th. Even most of those at the conference who thought it would eventually become law thought this deadline was too ambitious. So why the delay?

Looking through the Buffett Brouhaha

The Oracle Still Believes in Human Innovation

Since I gave up politics for Lent this year, I’ve had more time to keep up with the deeper recesses of the financial press, which led me to Warren Buffett’s annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett’s prose is a literary genre unto itself; a remarkably plain-spoken approach to making even the most complex and dull aspects of investment management simple and entertaining. If all “management letters” were penned as well, shareholders might actually read them. Perhaps that’s why they aren’t.

Asset Management Margins and Compensation

ESG Investing Comes of Age Despite (or Maybe Because of) Trump

Investment strategies that screen for environmental, social, and governance criteria (ESG) is a still developing product niche that has, until recently, been more about talk than action. The pitch is that investing in businesses that demonstrate broad-based corporate responsibility provides a pathway to management teams who think long term, mitigate risk, and lead their industries. The beauty of an investment product like ESG is client stickiness.


U.K. Based Henderson Group Acquires Janus Capital for $2.6 Billion

Coming to America

Though probably not as historic as Plymouth landing or even the Eddie Murphy comedy, Henderson’s purchase of Denver RIA Janus Capital last month is a rare sign of confidence in active managers that have been losing ground to passive investors for quite some time. The era of ETFs and indexing has dominated asset flows for quite some time, so this transaction seems to counter the recent trend.

What Donald Trump’s Presidency Means to the Investment Management Industry

The purpose of this blog is to consider the implications of the election for the investment management industry, which is no easy feat. The Trump campaign was generally heavy on rhetoric and light on policy details. The investment management industry rarely came up, other than when Trump suggested that he would advocate taxing carried interest returns as ordinary income. He never mentioned, for example, the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule, which is set to phase in three months after the inauguration. The clearest indication of what a Trump presidency means to financial services, so far, appears to be its impact on the banking industry.

What Hillary Clinton’s Presidency Means to the Investment Management Industry

Barring some extraordinary circumstance, in one week Hillary Clinton will be elected the 44th president of the United States. Her election will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but since this blog is called RIA Valuation Insights, we’ll narrow the focus of this outlook on her upcoming term as president to the possible impact on the investment management community.


TriState Buys Aberdeen’s Domestic Fixed Income Business

A Pleasant October Surprise

Banks looking to diversify their revenue stream with investment management fee income would be well advised to study TriState Capital’s acquisition-fueled buildout of its RIA, Chartwell. The Pittsburgh depository started with an internal wealth management arm, bought $7.5 billion wealth manager Chartwell Investment Partners in early 2014, picked up the $2.5 billion Killen Group in late 2015, and last week announced the acquisition of a $4.0 billion domestic fixed income platform strategy from Aberdeen Asset Management.


If the Pathstone–Convergent Combo is the Shape of Things to Come

RIA Heads Need to Remember that MOEs are Tricky

When firms of similar size join forces to get a bigger footprint, solve leadership issues, stop advisors from competing with each other, etc. – realizing those benefits is the easy part. The hard work happens because different firms have different histories, and different histories create different cultures. Blending cultures can be awkward, as in MOEs (mergers of equals). This guest post, by Jeff Davis, provides a checklist of dos and don’ts for MOEs that will ring true in the investment management community.

Practice Management

The SEC’s Proposed “Transition Plan” Requirement is One More Reason to Think about your Firm’s Ownership

By now you’ve probably read the SEC’s proposed rules on Adviser Business Continuity and Transition Plans. Most of the proposed rule simply codifies a reasonable standard for practice management at an RIA. Certain of the proposal’s requirements, such as IT management and being able to conduct business and communicate with staff and clients in the event of a natural disaster, are likely to be met with turn-key solutions from vendors. Of more interest is how the requirement for a “transition plan” in the event of the death or incapacitation of an advisory firm owner will be implemented.

Alternative Assets Transactions

AMG Sees Opportunity in Alt Asset Space

Value Play or Falling Knife?

Last week, Affiliated Managers Group (ticker: AMG) announced the completion of its investment in three alternative asset managers – Capula Investment Management LLP, Mount Lucas Management LP, and Capeview Capital LLP. This post discusses this transaction against the dim alternative asset management market environment.

Asset Management Margins and Compensation

Brexit Just Accelerates Downward Trend in RIA Valuations

Gimme Shelter

Brexit’s full impact on the market is still to be determined, but a quick review of asset manager pricing reveals a valuation gap with the broader equity market that opened over the past twelve months, got much worse in June, and even accelerated over the past week. Sifting through the noise at quarter end, we pose, if market valuations in the industry are getting a haircut, what does that mean?

Investment Management

Mercer Capital provides RIAs, trust companies, and investment consultants with corporate valuation, litigation support, transaction advisory, and related services