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.
When business owners think about the value of their firm, they frequently think in terms of the dollar value that they believe they could sell the business for in an arms’ length transaction. However, the nuances of real world transaction terms in the investment management industry can often obscure what’s being paid for the business on a cash-equivalent basis. In this blog post, we explore various transaction structures employed in the industry and their relationship to fair market value.
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 in on the client demographics factor, explain how buyers view client demographics, and explore steps some firms are taking to reach a broader client base.
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?
We’re sometimes surprised when we hear about buyers paying 20x EBITDA for RIAs with under $1 billion in assets under management, so you can imagine our reaction to MassMutual Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Khosla Ventures paying an implied valuation at 20% of AUM and 20x revenue for Farther Finance Advisors, a start-up, tech-heavy RIA with $250 million in AUM. We’ll explore the logic and potential pitfalls of this valuation in this week’s post.
As one of the more active acquirors in the investment management industry, Focus Financial Partners (Focus) has a broad perspective into the state of the RIA industry and M&A activity. In this week’s blog we summarize five key takeaways for RIAs based on Focus’ recent Q2 earnings release.
One reason deal activity can remain strong in tough financial markets is that buyers can use earn-outs to control what they pay for deals, offering more money in the event that markets recover and justify higher valuations, and managing their outlays if performance lags. For sellers, the relevant consideration is bear markets may tank a big part of their expected deal consideration, well beyond their control. A falling tide may not simply work to the detriment of sellers, but also hand buyers a bargain purchase when markets improve. Earn-outs align interests in the near term but can provide asymmetric benefits in years ahead.
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.
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.
The most frequently ignored topic in the wealth management industry may be its first cousin, the independent trust industry. While many still associate trust work with banks, and banks still represent more than three-quarters of the trust industry, the growing prominence of independent trust companies is causing many participants in the investment management space to take another look. In some regards, independent trustcos look a lot like wealth managers, only more evolved. In this post, we discuss fees, what the current market environment and demographics mean for trustcos, regulatory trends, and our outlook for the future.
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.
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.
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.
There are three basic components of compensation for investment management firms: Base salary/Benefits, Variable Compensation/Bonus, and Equity Compensation. This week we focus on Equity Compensation.
Equity incentives serve an important function by aligning the interests of employees with that of the company and its shareholders. While base salary and annual variable compensation serve as shorter-term incentives, equity incentives serve to motivate employees to grow the value of the business over a longer time period and play an important role in increasing an employee’s ties to the firm and promoting retention. While implementing an equity incentive plan will typically have a dilutive impact on existing shareholders, a properly structured plan will facilitate attracting and retaining the right talent and motivating participating employees to grow the value of the business over time. In that sense, a well-structured equity incentive plan is accretive to existing shareholders, not dilutive.
Compensation models are the subject of a significant amount of hand-wringing for RIA principals, and for good reason. Out of all the decisions RIA principals need to make, compensation programs often have the single biggest impact on an RIA’s P&L and the financial lives of its employees and shareholders.
In part one of this series, we focus our attention on the variable compensation component. In the coming posts, we’ll address additional compensation considerations such as equity compensation options and allocation processes.
As we’ve been writing in recent blog posts, consolidation efforts in the RIA space are facing multiple headwinds. Among them, market conditions and inflation are motivating buyers to scrutinize profit estimates more than ever. In that light, we thought our readers would appreciate this guest post by our colleague, Jay D. Wilson, Jr., CFA, ASA, CBA, who works with banks and FinTechs. We’re getting more requests for QoE assessments from both the buy-side and sell-side (the latter wanting to buttress their CIMs).
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.
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.
RIA M&A activity and multiples have trended upwards for more than a decade now, culminating in new high watermarks for both activity and multiples set late last year. Deal momentum continued strong into the first quarter, but we sense at least initial signs of slowing as the macroeconomic backdrop has deteriorated.
If you haven’t already, this may be a very good time to stress-test your financial condition to see what impact weakened markets, higher inflation, and rising interest rates will have on your firm. Unlike most things in finance, these other factors that accompany higher interest rates exacerbate the negative impact on RIAs, rather than mitigating them.
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.
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.
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.
Publicly traded hedge fund managers and PE firms almost doubled in value during 2021 before nearly giving it all back in the first quarter. In this week’s post, we also examine the performance of other classes of RIAs and comment on the current market for privately held RIAs.