RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry


Practice Management

The Ultimate Investment Vehicle

Is the Value of your RIA More a Function of Risk or Growth?

On paper, the RIA model is a value generating machine: a reliable stream of distributable cash flow resulting from sticky, recurring revenues and growing effortlessly with the investment returns available in a diversifiable variety of financial markets. The reality, of course, is more nuanced.

Industry Trends 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.  

Buy-Sell Agreements for Investment Management Firms

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

As difficult it is to imagine a valuable car such as the Ferrari 250GT SWB being forgotten, what we see more commonly are forgotten buy-sell agreements, collecting dust in desk drawers. Unfortunately, these contracts often turn into liabilities, instead of assets, once they are exhumed, as the words on the page frequently commit the signatories to obligations long forgotten. So we encourage our clients to review their buy-sell agreements regularly, and have compiled some of our observations about how to do so in the whitepaper. We hope this will be helpful to you.

Five Questions to Ask Your P&L

A Great Start to 2019 is a Thorough Lookback at 2018

Now that January is almost over, we know that many of you have wrapped up quarterly investor communications and can now take a moment to think about your firm’s operations, direction, and other practice management issues. A useful place to begin your plan for 2019 is doing some fundamental research on your own business, starting with the P&L.

What is Your Firm’s “Brand” Worth?

Building the Value of an RIA Involves Making it More Than a Group of Professionals

The announcement from Merrill Lynch last week that they were cutting advisor compensation stood in stark contrast to a lawsuit filed in October by former Wells Fargo brokers, alleging that their practices had been impaired by association with the bank. While Merrill feels comfortable flexing their brand muscles by redirecting advisor cash flow back to the firm, Wells Fargo is accused of actually having negative brand value. These two situations highlight the dynamic interaction between investment management professionals and the firms they work for while demonstrating the significance of branding to build professional careers and advisory firm value.

It’s Not Just Elon: Founder’s Syndrome Depresses the Value of RIAs as Well

Like all founder-led companies, RIAs can benefit from the entrepreneurial zeal of the men and women who started them.  Unfortunately, that same appetite for risk-taking can lead to reckless behavior, and the identification of a founder with a namesake enterprise can complicate succession planning.  In any event, the risk associated with a founder-led RIA can lead to extreme results: taking advantage of a moon-shot opportunity, or a business that’s lost in space.


The Role of Earn-outs in Asset Management M&A

Despite the relatively high level of financial sophistication among RIA buyers and sellers, and broad knowledge that substantial portions of value transacted depends on rewarding post-closing performance, contingent consideration remains a mystery to many industry M&A participants. Yet understanding earn-outs and the role they play in RIA deals is fundamental to understanding the value of these businesses, as well as how to represent oneself as a buyer or seller in a transaction. We offer this whitepaper to explore the basic economics of contingent consideration and the role it plays in negotiating RIA transactions.

Margins and Compensation

Staffing for Value

With last week’s release of the 2018 InvestmentNews Compensation & Staffing Study, trends in pay and performance expectations are making the rounds in the RIA community.  Even though we are a valuation firm, we are often asked to weigh in on compensation matters, as officer pay and firm value are typically intertwined. 

Why Scale Doesn’t Always Resolve Succession Issues

Recent challenges at Och-Ziff and Hightower highlight the struggles RIAs face in transitioning the business to the next generation of management.  Size doesn’t alleviate this problem and may actually exacerbate it for some asset managers.  In this week’s post, we explore what went wrong in these instances and what you can do to avoid a similar fate.do to avoid a similar fate.

Thinking About Going Exclusive?

Five Considerations for RIA/BD Hybrids Looking to Drop Their BD Status

With the Advisor Rule looming and commissions dwindling, it may be time for some RIA/BD hybrids to take it to the next level: drop the broker-dealer license and register exclusively with the SEC as an investment advisor.  This week’s post focuses on what’s driving the downward trend in BD-only registrants and when it makes sense to abandon the hybrid model.

Five Things RIA Owners Can Do to Turn Success into Momentum

While the fundamentals of your firm may appear to deteriorate during bear markets, the fundamentals of the industry will continue to drive success for a long time. Today, the fundamentals of your firm are probably the best they’ve ever been. That’s why this is the perfect time to consider your formula for success, prepare for the next downturn, and build the competitive momentum you’ll need to ride the industry trends to greater success in the future.

Current Events

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.

Current Events

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.”


Valuing an Offer for Your RIA

The Devil’s in the Details

In this final blogpost on evaluating unsolicited offers for your RIA, we take on this issue of valuing an offer.  Valuing the offer for your RIA can be more difficult than valuing the firm itself.


Coping With Deal Fatigue?

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

If you’re entering into negotiations to sell your RIA, buckle up, stay composed, be mindful of your goals, and don’t catch deal fatigue.


Unsolicited Offers for Your RIA

Is the First Bid the Best?

The primary danger of an unsolicited offer is that it lures potential sellers into thinking the deal is done and the process will be easy.  As with most things in life, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.


What Is My RIA Worth?

Of all the topics we cover in RIA Valuation Insights, the most popular concerns what an investment management firm is actually worth.  As a consequence, we thought it would be worthwhile to offer a webinar on the topic, and are planning to do so on Tuesday, October 3. 


An Example of Structuring Earn-outs for RIAs

If you’re considering an offer for your firm that includes earn-out consideration, think about having some independent analysis done on the offer to see what it might ultimately be worth to you. If you’re working the buy-side, prepare to spend lots of time fine-tuning the earn-out agreement—you won’t get credit if things go well for the seller, but you will get blamed if it doesn’t.

Asset Management

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