RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry

Category

Industry Trends


Current Events Wealth Management

Market Indications of RIA Value are Mixed, To Say the Least

Unicorn or Glue Horse?

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.

Practice Management

RIAs Are a Value Investment in a Growth Obsessed World

Maybe That’s Okay

We think of investment management firms as a “growth and income” play. The space has attracted capital specifically because RIAs produce a reliable stream of distributable cash flow with the upside coming from market tailwinds and new clients. For all the trade press touting interest in RIAs, investing trends over the past fifteen years have had a mixed impact on the investment management community.

For asset managers, cheap capital makes stock picking less important. Persistent alpha is harder to prove. Passive and alternative products are more competitive. Investment committees are surly. Fee pressure is rampant.

For wealth managers, cheap capital has made diversification look kind of pointless and bordering on stupid. In the rearview mirror, owning anything other than the S&P 500 has, since the credit crisis, looked like a mistake. While this may not have had an immediate impact on revenue and margins, it does nothing to cement advisor/client relationships.

But what about valuations? Where do RIAs fit in an environment that favors growth stocks?

Transactions

Pzena Going Private Could Have Larger Implications for the Investment Management Industry

Last week Pzena Investment Management, Inc. announced that it had entered into an agreement to become a private company again via a transaction in which holders of PZN Class A common stock would receive $9.60 per share in cash, a 49% premium to its closing price before the announcement ($6.44). In this week’s post, we attempt to rationalize this premium and any implications for the investment management industry.

Asset Management Current Events Practice Management

Schwab’s 2022 Benchmarking Study Offers Insights Into the RIA Industry

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.

Current Events

Another Tumultuous Quarter for RIA Stocks Puts the Industry Firmly in Bear Market Territory

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.

Transactions

RIA M&A Update

The continued strength of RIA M&A activity amidst the current environment dominated by inflation, rising interest rates, and a tight labor market is noteworthy given that all of these factors could put a strain on the supply and demand dynamics that have driven deal activity in recent years. Rising costs and interest rates coupled with a declining fee base will put pressure on highly-leveraged consolidator models, and a potential downturn in performance could put some sellers on the sidelines until fundamentals improve. Despite these pressures, the market has proven robust (at least so far). 

What does all this mean for your RIA if you are planning to grow through strategic acquisitions, considering internal transactions, or considering to sell? Read this week’s post to find out.

What’s the Price of Growth?

Infrastructure Spending in the Investment Management Community

Growth at a reasonable price (margin) is an old concept in investment management, but it bears extending to practice management as well. RIAs are fortunate not to have to spend billions on factories, only to grieve them as “money furnaces” (sorry Elon). But that doesn’t mean RIAs don’t have the same imperative to invest in the people who compose their businesses.

Private Capital Better Than Public for the RIA Community?

It’s Not Supposed to Work That Way, But…

Valuation professionals generally accept that public market capital is cheaper and leads to higher valuations than can be achieved by closely-held businesses. The words and actions of market participants who invest in RIAs do not necessarily align with this belief.

What Can We Make of All This Turnover in the RIA Space?

Some Thoughts on How RIA Principals Can Minimize or Even Capitalize on the Chaos

You’re not the only one dealing with turnover. The pandemic spawned the Great Resignation, and rising inflation means there’s probably a better salary (or signing bonus) out there for anyone that’s looking. The ensuing talent war has created more industry turnover than the end of broker protocol in 2017, and RIA principals are having to invest more time and resources into recruitment and retention than ever before.

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” This phrase comes to mind as we discuss ways for smaller RIAs to capitalize on this chaos in this week’s post.

What Happens to RIA EBITDA Multiples When Interest Rates Rise?

2021 may be remembered as both the busiest M&A year in history for the investment management industry, as well as the year in which valuation multiples in the space peaked. Transaction volume surged last year and carried into the first quarter, as deals negotiated during a period of cheap money, strong multiples, and the threat of changes in tax law drew both buyers and sellers to the negotiating table. It’s time to question what impact the change in market conditions has for the investment management space.

Wealth Management

RIA M&A Q1 2022 Transaction Update

RIA M&A activity continued to trend upward through the first quarter of 2022 even as potential macro headwinds for the industry emerged. In this week’s post, we take a look at deal activity in Q1 2022 and discuss what the current M&A market means for your RIA.

Wealth Management

Wealth Management Trend Lines May Be Rolling Over

After a Great Year, Higher Rates and Weaker Markets Threaten Continued Growth

By the spring of 2022, many of the industry trends facing and favoring wealth managers started to shift, threatening margins and valuations. Higher interest rates are undermining valuations in both debt and equity markets, taking an unusually strong toll on everything from U.S. treasuries to tech stocks. This shift creates a downward gravitational pull on assets under management, and therefore revenue, for wealth management firms. At the same time, inflationary forces are pushing up on both labor and non-labor expenses for RIAs. The consequence could be challenging for margins in 2022 and could deflate some of the positive influences on profitability that have provided a tailwind to RIA valuations for several years. Read more in this week’s post.

Does RIA Consolidation Work?

Show Me the Money

RIA group-think has been pro-consolidation for the past decade, and increasingly so. You’ve read the headlines about the pace of deals reaching a fever pitch last year and continuing into this year.  We’ve been skeptical of the believed necessity for RIA consolidation in this blog in the past, and have yet to be dissuaded from our position. But opinions are only opinions, and facts are facts. This seems like an opportune moment to check our feelings against reality. How is RIA consolidation performing so far? The verdict from the public markets isn’t very encouraging.  In this week’s post, we look at three publicly traded consolidators of wealth management businesses, Silvercrest, CI Financial, and Focus.

Current Events

Hot Inflation and Cold Markets: RIAs Hit With a New Storm Front

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.

Asset Management

Do RIA Investors Prefer Growth Over Value?

What Public Company and Transaction Data Multiples May Tell Us About RIA Investor Preferences

This week we look to understand why private market multiples for RIAs have consistently embodied more optimism than that of their publicly traded peers. In doing so, we identify RIA investor preferences unique to the industry, and why such multiples may even be misleading indications of your firm’s value.

Wealth Management

Buy-Sell Agreement Basics for Wealth Managers

The Importance of Buy-Sell Agreements for Wealth Management Firms, and Why It Might Be Time To Revisit Yours

Over the next several weeks, we will be publishing a series of blog posts discussing the importance of buy-sell agreements and other adjacent topics for RIA owners.  Ownership is perhaps the single greatest distraction for advisors looking to grow with their firm, but it can also be an opportunity to align interests and ensure continuity of the firm in a way that is accretive for the firm’s founders, next generation management, and clients. In this week’s post, we emphasize how having a clear and effective buy-sell agreement is imperative to minimizing costly and emotional drama that may ensue in times of planned or unplanned transition.

Current Events

A B2B Fintech in the RIA Space Races to Market

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.

Asset Management

Asset Management Firms See Strong Performance in 2021

The asset management industry fared well in 2021 against a backdrop of rising markets and improved net inflows. Strong performance in equity markets was a major contributor to this performance. In addition, 2021 saw modest organic growth, although there were significant variances by asset class. In this week’s post, we discuss these issues and present our outlook for the industry.

‘Twas the Blog Before Christmas…

2021 Mercer Capital RIA Holiday Quiz

As year-end approaches, we hope to spread some cheer with our annual RIA Holiday Quiz. There is a chance to win a prize with a perfect score! Don’t forget to supply your contact information so we know who to send the prize to. Merry Christmas!

How Does Your RIA’s Client Base Affect Your Firm’s Value, and What Can You Do To Improve It?

We’re often asked by clients what the range of multiples for RIAs is in the current market. At any given time, the range can be quite wide between the least attractive firms and the most attractive firms. The factors that affect where a firm falls within that range include the firm’s margin, scale, growth rate of new client assets, effective realized fees, personnel, geographic market, firm culture, and client demographics (among others). In this post, we focus on the client demographics factor, explain how buyers view client demographics, and explore steps some firms are taking to reach a broader client base.

In the Market for a Good Used RIA?

8 Tips for Being a Buyer in a Seller’s Market

A couple of times a week, we get calls from someone we’ve never met saying they’d like to talk with us about their RIA acquisition strategy. About half are RIAs or trustcos looking for expansion, and the other half are private equity or family offices. Very few are calling because they have a particular target in mind, fewer still have begun the process of negotiating with a potentially interested seller.

If your acquisition strategy these days is starting from scratch, you’re in a tough spot. There’s nothing on the lot, and what is available looks expensive. That doesn’t mean you should give up, though. In this post we offer some practical tips to pursue an acquisition strategy in this market environment, as well as the markets to follow.

Investment Management

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