RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry


Industry Trends

Current Events Transactions Wealth Management

Don’t Get Distracted by Franklin/Legg and MS/E-Trade

Creative Planning’s Minority Sale is the Most Consequential RIA Deal So Far in 2020

It’s hard to imagine, but the most significant piece of news for the RIA community so far this year happened less than three weeks ago and is already almost forgotten: Peter Mallouk sold a minority stake in his firm, Creative Planning, to private equity firm General Atlantic.  The transaction is easily one of the largest, if not the largest, minority transaction in the history of the RIA industry, and potentially provides a blueprint for others to follow.

RIA “Comps” Don’t Always Tell the Same Story

Divergent Performances of LM, TROW, BEN, and AMG Show Industry’s Susceptibility to Company Specific Events Over Market Forces

Relying on comparable public company data in the valuation of your RIA can be tricky and the performance of the publics over the past 12 months bears that out. We don’t typically see a 40%+ increase in value (TROW) and a ~25% decline in a bull market (AMG) for two businesses in the same industry. So, it’s important to understand the impact of market forces but it’s more important to understand the unique nature of your business and what is in your control and what isn’t. This week’s post takes a deeper dive into this topic.

Margins and Compensation Wealth Management

Wealth Management: Then and Now

How the Wealth Management Industry has Transformed Over the Last Decade

As we enter the new decade, rather than taking time for self-reflection, we prefer to take a step back and reflect on the radical transformation of the wealth management industry over the last ten years. Wealth managers have been forced to adapt in order to maintain their client base and remain profitable, and while these changes have not been easy, they have transformed the industry into one that is more focused on its clients’ needs and better regulated to ensure the safety of its clients’ assets.

All Classes of Investment Management Firms Outperformed the Market in Q4

2019 Was Also a Bull Market for the RIA Industry

As good as the fourth quarter was for the S&P, it was even better for the RIA industry. All classes of investment management firms bested the market, which was up 10% for the quarter. Continued gains in the equity markets have allowed these firms to more than recover from last year’s correction, and many of these businesses are now trading at or near all-time highs.

‘Twas the Blog Before Christmas…

2019 Mercer Capital RIA Holiday Quiz

As year-end approaches, we hope to spread some cheer with our second annual RIA holiday quiz. Merry Christmas!


What Should You Expect as an RIA Buyer or Seller?

Advisor Growth Strategies’ New Study Offers Insights into RIA Deal Mechanics

RIA M&A has been a well-publicized topic in the industry. There was a record level of RIA M&A in 2018, and so far in 2019 there are no signs that deal pace is slowing down. Against this backdrop, a new study conducted by Advisor Growth Strategies (AGS) and sponsored by BlackRock provides some insight into the state of deal terms in the RIA M&A market from the perspective of both buyers and sellers. We’ve highlighted some of the key takeaways from the study in this week’s post.

Q3 2019 RIA Market Update

Asset and Wealth Management Stocks Languish in the Third Quarter

The asset and wealth management industry is facing numerous headwinds, chief among them being ongoing pressure for lower fees.  Traditional asset and wealth managers feel this pressure acutely, which has likely contributed to their relative underperformance over the last quarter.  Alt managers, which have been the sector’s sole bright spot during this time, are more insulated from fee pressure due to the lack of passive alternatives to drive fees down. These headwinds have contributed to a decline in EBITDA multiples for traditional asset/wealth managers, which in turn has resulted in lackluster stock price performance.


What We’re Reading on the RIA Industry

M&A Headlines

Recent press in the RIA industry has continued to highlight the current M&A environment. For this post, we’ll discuss some of the top acquisition headlines making news in the investment management industry.

Q2 2019 RIA Market Update

Asset Management Stocks Find Some Relief After Year-End Rout

Broad market indices generally increased over the last quarter, and publicly traded asset and wealth manager stocks followed suit.

Publicly traded traditional asset and wealth managers ended the quarter up 6.2%, beating out the S&P 500, which rose 2.6%.  Alt managers were the bright spot in the sector, up nearly 18%.  Aggregators and multi-boutique model firms did not fare well, despite all the hype about consolidation pressures in the industry and the high-profile deals in the aggregator space.  These businesses ended the quarter down more than 14%.

Asset Management

Are Value Managers Undervalued?

Growth Investing Has Outperformed Value for Quite Some Time Now, and the Market’s Taking Notice

Significant underperformance relative to both the market and growth alternatives has led to continued outflows from institutional investors, which in turn has hampered AUM, revenue, and earnings growth despite relatively favorable market conditions. Since the multiple has also slid for these businesses, it appears that the market is anticipating more of the same. Against this backdrop, we address this post’s original question as to whether or not value managers are indeed undervalued at the moment.

Why Has the Public Market Soured on RIA Consolidators?

Recent Capitulations for AMG and Focus Suggest Investors are Starting to Question Their Business Model

While it’s no secret that the last year has been especially challenging for the RIA industry, Affiliated Managers Group (AMG) and Focus Financial (FOCS) have underperformed most of their peers by a fairly significant margin in the last few months.  AMG is down nearly 50% over the last year, and Focus has lost over 50% of its value since peaking last September. For this post, we’ll offer our take on the driving forces behind this decline.

Practice Management Transactions

What We’re Reading on the RIA Industry

M&A and Practice Management

Much of the sector’s recent press has focused on the current M&A environment as well as practice management issues for RIA firms, so we’ve highlighted some of the more salient pieces on these topics and a few others that are making news in the investment management industry.  


Ignoring the Obvious: What the Market isn’t Telling us About RIA Valuations

Over the weekend, the Financial Times published an article touting the rising level of merger and acquisition activity in the U.S. wealth management industry.  The piece echoed much of the typical commentary on the RIA industry’s prospects for deal activity: a large, profitable, but fragmented community of firms needing scale to develop the necessary technology infrastructure and serve sophisticated client needs.  The article talked to leaders in several PE-backed consolidators and some M&A specialists in the space, all of whom talked their book in general agreement that valuations were strong and consolidation was on.  What the article didn’t address is that while private equity has indeed been actively pursuing the investment management industry, the public markets seem to have lost interest.

Asset Management

RIAs Still Reeling from Last Year’s Sell-Off

Despite Recent Uptick, Investment Managers are Underperforming

Ordinarily, we’d expect investment manager stocks to outperform the S&P in a stock market rally.  This isn’t always the case though.  So far this year, most classes of RIA stocks have underperformed the market despite its relatively sharp increase through the first three months. The explanation isn’t necessarily obvious. 

RIA Stocks Suffer Worst Quarter Since the Financial Crisis

Most Traditional and Alternative Asset Managers in Bear Market Territory After Turbulent Year for Global Equities

Following a decade of (fairly) steady appreciation, RIA stocks finally capitulated with the market downturn and growing concerns over fee compression and asset flows.  As a leading indicator, such a decline suggests the outlook for these businesses has likely soured over the last year or so.

‘Twas the Blog Before Christmas…

Mercer Capital RIA Holiday Quiz

As year-end approaches, we hope to spread some cheer with the greatest only asset management themed holiday quiz. Merry Christmas! We will be back in January.

What We’re Reading on the RIA Industry

Much of the sector’s recent press has focused on succession planning and M&A trends, so we’ve highlighted some of the more salient pieces on these topics and a few others that are making news in the asset and wealth management industries.

2018 BNY Mellon/Pershing RIA Symposium Recap

Earlier this month, Matt Crow and I attended the BNY Mellon / Pershing RIA Symposium in San Francisco. The conference was well attended, and the presentations were excellent despite the constant drone of fair wage protesting outside the hotel venue. For this post, we’ve elected to summarize some of these presentations and their potential implications for your business.


Asset Manager M&A Trends

Deal Activity Continues to Accelerate Through the Third Quarter 2018

Asset manager M&A was robust through the first three quarters of 2018 against a backdrop of volatile market conditions.  Several trends which have driven the uptick in sector M&A in recent years have continued into 2018, including increasing activity by RIA aggregators and rising cost pressures.  Total deal count during the first three quarters of 2018 increased 45% versus the same period in 2017 and total disclosed deal value was up over 150%.  In terms of both deal volume and deal count, M&A is on pace to reach the highest levels since 2009. 

RIA Stocks Post Mixed Performance During 3Q18

During the recent market cycle, asset managers have benefited from global increases in financial wealth driven by a bull market in most asset prices. These favorable trends in asset prices have masked some of the headwinds the industry faces, including growing consumer skepticism of higher-fee products and regulatory overhang.

Will Direct Indexing Become the Next ETF?

Since their launch in 1993, exchange traded funds (ETFs) have steadily attracted assets from mutual funds and active managers that have struggled to compete on the basis of performance and overall tax efficiency.  Now many industry observers believe that the same may very well happen to ETFs with the recent rise of direct index investing (DII).  For this week’s post, we look into the pros and cons of DII and the implications for the investment management industry.

Asset Management Wealth Management

The Haves and Have-Nots of the RIA Industry

Despite the old maxim of a rising tide lifting all boats, the current markets are clearly more buoyant for wealth management firms than asset management firms.  Many asset managers are trading at or near all-time lows from a valuation perspective, while financial advisory shops continue to accumulate client assets.  For this week’s post, we’ll take a closer look at this trend, and what it means for the broader industry.

Investment Management

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