RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry

Category

Transactions


Asset Management Wealth Management

Reconciling Real-World Transactions With the Fair Market Value Standard

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.

Far(ther)sighted or Blind Ambition: Tech Platform Nets RIA a Big Price

Farther Finance Advisor’s Recent Capital Raise Implies a Valuation at 20% of AUM and 20x Run-Rate Revenue

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.

Practice Management

Bear Markets Cost RIA Sellers, But Boost Buyers

A Public Service Message That Earn-outs Aren’t Always Earned

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.

Industry Trends

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.

Industry Trends

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.

The Importance of a Quality of Earnings Study

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).

Is a Slowdown in RIA M&A Imminent?

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.

Practice Management

Four “To Dos” Before You Sell Your Investment Management Firm

Considerations for Every RIA Owner

Selling the business you built from the ground up is a bittersweet experience. Many business owners focus their efforts on growing their business and push planning for their eventual exit aside until it can’t be ignored any longer. While this delay may only prove mildly detrimental to deal proceeds in other industries, in the investment management space, there are very few buyers who will be interested in YOUR business without YOU (at least for a little while).

Long before your eventual exit, you should begin planning for the day you will leave the business you built. There are many considerations for investment managers contemplating a sale, in this post we suggest four ways that you should start.

Selling Your RIA? Four Ways to Bridge the Valuation Gap

Valuation gaps are frequently encountered in RIA transactions. Buyers and sellers naturally have different perspectives that lead to different opinions on value. These different perspectives, unsurprisingly, lead to different opinions on value, and the gap can be substantial. Bridging that gap is key to getting a deal done. In this week’s post, we address four ways that buyers and sellers can bridge a valuation gap.

Industry Trends

Not Every RIA Buyer Is a Control Freak

Despite Conventional Wisdom, Some Investors Prefer Minority Positions

The pricing of minority transactions in the RIA space leaves some people scratching their head. Traditional valuation theory holds that investors pay less for minority interests than controlling interests. Reality suggests otherwise.

Practice Management

Why Is No One Selling in a Seller’s Market?

Even in One of Hottest M&A Markets in Recent History, Most RIA Principals Still Do Not Plan to Sell Their Business in the Next Three Years.

Did you know 67% of RIA principals plan to sell, merge, or conduct a transaction through which they will leave the business in the next 5 years? Yet, only 36% have either a signed ownership agreement or strategy in place? There are some explanations to this disconnect that we discuss in this post. Because succession planning is so important, we conclude by discussing how to ensure a successful succession.

Current Events

The Fundamental Value of RIAs? Scarcity.

If the Choice Is Buy vs. Build, "Build" Doesn’t Even Come Close

Are RIA transaction multiples getting out of hand? Contrary to the usual laws of supply and demand, each week it seems like we hear about another blockbuster deal rumored to have happened at an astronomical price, and correspondingly, we meet a new capital source we hadn’t known previously who is looking for way to implement an acquisition strategy in the RIA space. Is this FOMO on a grand scale, or just part of a grander moment in market dynamics?

Wealth Management

Fairness Opinions

Evaluating a Buyer's Shares From the Seller's Perspective

Stock consideration is rarely discussed in RIA transactions, but it is a common financing feature in other industries. We expect to see more stock for stock deals in RIAs for two reasons. As public investment management firm multiples continue to push higher, buyers will be tempted to take advantage of multiple-arbitrage in certain situations. And if capital gains tax rates rise and sellers can use rollover equity to defer gains, the structure will become more attractive to sellers. How can a seller decide whether or not to accept a suitor’s stock? Jeff Davis has a few thoughts.

Wealth Management

Purchase Price Allocations for Asset and Wealth Manager Transactions

There’s been a great deal of interest in RIA acquisitions in recent years from a diverse group of buyers ranging from consolidators, other RIAs, banks and diversified financial services companies, and private equity. These acquirors have been drawn to RIA acquisitions due to the high margins, recurring revenue, low capital needs, and sticky client bases that RIAs often offer. Following these transactions, acquirors are generally required under accounting standards to perform what is known as a purchase price allocation, or PPA. In this post, we describe what a purchase price allocation is and discuss the common intangible assets acquired in the purchase of private asset and wealth management firms – existing customer relationships, tradename, non-competition agreements with executives, and the assembled workforce.

FAIR … The F-word in RIA M&A: Part 2

What Is a Fairness Opinion?

Process and value are at the core of a Fairness Opinion. It is backed by a rigorous valuation analysis and review of the process that led to the transaction.  In this second of a two-part series, we discuss some of the issues that are considered in a Fairness Opinion.

Asset Management Wealth Management

FAIR … The F-word in RIA M&A: Part I

When Do You Need A Fairness Opinion?

Fair is often the first-four-letter word that most children learn, and it often leads to more arguments than other choice words. Although children eventually learn that life is not always fair, we spend a lot of time ensuring that major economic events are. Transactions are rarely straightforward, and as the pace of M&A activity in the investment management community continues to accelerate, more shareholders are scrutinizing both the pricing and terms of transactions. In this post (and in the next), we explain when you should consider getting a Fairness Opinion and what that involves.

Current Events

Q1 2021 M&A Update

An RIA M&A Frenzy

Despite the hiatus in M&A beginning in March of last year with the onset of COVID-19, 2020 was a strong year for RIA mergers and acquisitions and 2021 is expected to be even stronger.

Playing the Match Game: Finding the Perfect Fit Between Buyers and Sellers

Guest Post by Louis Diamond of Diamond Consultants

For both buyers and sellers, knowing where your firm fits into the RIA M&A landscape is an important first step towards identifying compatible transaction partners.  The universe of RIA sellers can be categorized based on firm culture, the motive behind the transaction, management’s expectations for post-transaction roles, liquidity needs, the status of next-generation management, and the like.  As RIA transactions have proliferated in recent years, several different buyer profiles have emerged that address the concerns of these different seller types.  In this week’s guest post, Louis Diamond of Diamond Consultants identifies four common buyer profiles and the types of sellers that fit well with each.

Current Events

Q4 2020 RIA Transaction Update

Deal Activity Rebounds After Brief Lull; Deal Terms and Multiples Remain Robust

After a brief lull during the second quarter of last year, RIA deal activity surged in the fourth quarter, rounding out a record year in terms of reported deal volume.  Concerns about the pandemic and market conditions were quickly shrugged off, as deal terms and the pace of deal activity returned to 2019 levels after the brief pause at the peak of the shutdown. 

Current Events

Did Macquarie Pay 11x EBITDA for Waddell & Reed? Yes and No

Catching a Falling (Butter) Knife

Last week, Macquarie Group announced its acquisition of Waddell & Reed (WDR) for $1.7 billion. At first glance, the pricetag implies an EBITDA multiple of over 11x and some are asking why Macquarie’s new CEO paid such a premium for a business whose AUM has halved over the last six years. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In this post, we dig into the deal economics and explain why paying a premium does not necessarily mean Macquarie over paid.

The Role of Earn-Outs in RIA Transactions (Part Three)

In last week’s blog post, we covered five considerations for designing earn-outs. While there is no one set of rules for structuring an earn-out, keeping those conceptual issues in mind can help anchor the negotiation.  This week, we look at an example RIA transaction to illustrate how the considerations come into play when buyers and sellers are working out deal pricing and structure. 

Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse

The Role of Earn-Outs in RIA Transactions (Part Two)

Like old sports cars, acquisitions don’t come with warranties, so protecting yourself against buyer’s remorse is critical. Even with escrows and punitive terms, you can’t guarantee that you’ll get what you pay for in an acquisition; but, with a properly structured earn-out, you can at least pay for what you get.

Investment Management

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