RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Asset Management industry


2018 Was a Banner Year for Asset Manager M&A

Asset manager M&A was robust throughout 2018 against a backdrop of volatile market conditions.  Several trends which have driven the uptick in sector M&A in recent years continued into 2018, including increasing activity by RIA aggregators and rising cost pressures.  Total deal count during 2018 increased 49% versus 2017 and total disclosed deal value was up nearly 140% to $18.0 billion.  In terms of both deal volume and deal count, asset manager M&A reached the highest levels since 2009.

Trust Banks

Trust Banks’ Performance and the Role of Technology

Trust banks have generally lagged the broader indices since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Against a bearish backdrop for the industry, all three trust bank stocks declined in the last few months of the year with falling client asset balances and rising labor costs. Northern Trust and BNY Mellon performed more in line with the market and traditional banks while State Street’s underperformance is largely attributable to investor skepticism surrounding its purchase of Charles River Systems last summer.

Industry News and Trends

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.

Industry News and Trends Wealth Management

Is Focus Financial an All-Terrain Investment Vehicle?

Management Claims Their Model is Recession Proof; Unfortunately, it isn’t Analyst Proof.

Last week was turbulent for equities around the globe, but Focus Financial (Nasdaq: FOCS) was hit particularly hard.  Less than five months since IPO, Focus closed Friday at $27.45, decidedly below where the offering priced at $33, and not much more than half the share price achieved less than three months ago.

Industry News and Trends

Edelman/Bach Rift Highlights Challenges to RIA Partnerships

Partner-Level Conflicts at Firms of All Sizes Continue to Fragment the Industry

The recent controversy surrounding Ric Edelman’s cease-and-desist letter to his former partner, David Bach, is another reminder of how difficult it can be to sustain wealth management partnerships despite their (sometimes) obvious advantages.  This week’s post will explore the sources of these disputes and what you can do to avoid them.

Call Reports

Q3 2018 Call Reports

Coping with Rising Volatility and Fee Pressure

While equity market volatility was relatively subdued during the third quarter, 2018 as a whole has seen much higher volatility than last year.  This volatility may be an opportunity for active asset managers, although the industry continues to face fee pressures and increasing costs.  Scale is increasingly important for asset managers as assets flow into lower fee products due to secular trends in the industry and de-risking during recent periods of heightened volatility.

As we do every quarter, we take a look at some of the earnings commentary of pacesetters in asset management to gain further insight into the challenges and opportunities developing in the industry.

Industry News and Trends

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.

Asset Management

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