The intricate journey of selling a business you’ve built can be daunting, filled with complex emotions and countless considerations. This process, particularly in the investment management space, requires thorough preparation, strategic thinking, and an understanding of the many dynamics involved. In this post, we explore four critical areas that every investment manager must consider: developing a pragmatic pricing expectation, establishing a solid rationale for selling, preparing your firm’s financial documents, and understanding the tax implications of different deal structures.
CI Financial’s pivot from a planned IPO to the sale of a 20% convertible preferred stake of its US wealth management division to a consortium of institutional investors is not only a significant move for CI Financial but also sends ripples through the wealth management industry. In this post, we explore the details of this transaction, the potential consequences for CI Financial, and the broader implications for the wealth management industry.
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.
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.
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.
Fairness Considerations in Equity Financed Transactions
Stock consideration is rarely discussed in RIA transactions but is a common financing feature in other industries. We expect to see more stock-for-stock deals in RIAs for two reasons. As debt financing becomes more expensive (and scarce) and consolidators start to question how much leverage they want to maintain, buyers will be tempted to use equity consideration instead of cash. 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? Find out in this week’s post.
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.
Higher RIA Aggregator Bond Yields Could Portend Lower M&A and Transaction Multiples in 2023
Before this year, yields didn’t move much and generally stayed between 2% and 8%, depending on the term and credit quality of the issuer. That all changed last November when the Federal Reserve and other central banks began raising interest rates to fight mounting inflationary pressures in the global economy. Now RIA aggregator bond yields are in the 6% to 14% range after fairly steady gains throughout this year.
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 these factors could strain 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
After a year off, ATO held its annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida to discuss industry trends, practice management, transaction activity, and the current competitive landscape.
In this week’s post, we discuss our main takeaways from the meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.