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.
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!
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.
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.
Terms Bridge Seller Expectations and Market Realities
The secret of selling your RIA for peak pricing lies in the terms, but it’s not as straightforward as it may seem. Investment management transactions these days involve creative deal terms, risk-sharing and evolving market conditions that keep the market bustling, despite a host of economic challenges. From managing buyer-seller relationships to balancing risk and reward, we explore how industry players are adapting to maintain the appearance of peak pricing, while carefully guarding against market downturns. Find out how the art of the deal is being redefined and learn how to navigate the market to achieve your transaction goals.
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.
RIA M&A activity has remained resilient through the first quarter of 2023, even as macro headwinds have emerged for the industry over the past year. Fidelity’s March 2023 Wealth Management M&A Transaction Report listed 68 deals through March 2023, up 19% from the 57 deals executed during the same period in 2022. These transactions represented $108.3 billion in AUM—a 21% increase from the first quarter of 2022.
RIAs started the quarter strong, but bank failures and interest rate hikes led to underperformance. Alternative asset managers, however, saw a last-minute rally during the final few days of the quarter, leading to this category outperforming the S&P during the period.
The Importance of Sell-Side Due Diligence
Last weekend I had a chance to join my dad for the annual Concours on Amelia Island, a fantastic gathering of car collectors and interesting automobiles of all kinds and eras. Coinciding with the weekend’s events were collector car auctions from all the major houses. A cursory review of prices paid and those auction sell-through rates suggest that there’s not much of a recessionary cloud hanging over the economy yet—at least not the economy inhabited by classic car buyers.
One car that caught my attention last weekend sold for a comparatively modest sum. The beautiful 1949 Packard convertible pictured above and featured at the RM Sotheby’s auction brought just under $45,000. If you’re younger than 65, you can be forgiven for not knowing Packard, as the marque was discontinued in the late 1950s. Bad markets and a bad transaction got the best of a great automaker, which is a cautionary tale for anyone planning the future of their business. This week, we review lessons from the consolidation of the automobile industry that have merit in the RIA space.
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.
Navigating the Challenges Ahead
2022 proved to be a challenging year for the stock market as a whole and the RIA industry. With persistent inflation, rising interest rates, a tight labor market, and heightened geopolitical tensions, it’s no surprise that this resulted in the decline of nearly all stock market sectors over the last year, which was especially true for the RIA industry. But with the prospect of a potential recession in 2023, the worst may still be ahead.
RIA M&A activity set new records in 2022, even as macro headwinds for the industry emerged throughout the year. However, deal volume was most significant in the first half of 2022 and began to cool in the second half of the year, particularly in the fourth quarter. Although transaction volume is still up over the prior year, there has been a decline in the size of these transactions.
RIAs Outperform the S&P 500 in Q4 2022
The RIA industry saw a strong fourth quarter rally, driving most categories of publicly traded investment managers to outperform the S&P in the last quarter of the year. Alternative asset managers, however, declined from their early-November peak to perform in line with the S&P during this period. In our blog this week, we take a look at the performance of the RIA industry by sector and AUM in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The 2022 Mercer Capital RIA Holiday Poem
It has become a tradition for the RIA team at Mercer Capital to end the blog year with a “unique” annual summary of industry events, riffing off Clement Clark Moore’s classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” We hope all of you in the investment management community are enjoying the holiday season and looking forward to the many opportunities of the new year. We look forward to hearing from you in 2023. For now, please enjoy the
finest only holiday poem written about money management.
Don’t Let Your Clutch Slip!
As the RIA team at Mercer Capital looks back on 2022 and ahead to next year, we’ve noticed a few themes emerge in discussions with clients that we expect to hear more about in the new year. Don’t think of these as predictions but simply the current state of market behavior—the implications of which will soon be evident.
Two weeks ago, Westwood Holdings Group completed its acquisition of Salient Partners’ asset management business. The deal is expected to add $4 billion in AUM and $31 million in annual revenue to WHG, pricing the total consideration at 1.5% of AUM and just under 2x revenue. Masking losses through acquisitions is typically a risky proposition, but this may be an instance where it actually makes sense.