RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry

Alternative Asset Managers Asset Management Industry Trends

Market Resilience: Asset Managers Thrive Amidst Economic Volatility in 2023

Despite persistent inflation, elevated interest rates, and heightened geopolitical tensions, the asset management industry and the stock market as a whole saw a resurgence during 2023.  Our index of publicly traded asset management firms generally tracked the movement in the broader market, with stock prices for smaller asset managers (AUM under $250 billion) up 30.3% and large asset managers (AUM over $250 billion) up 22.0% over the year ended March 31, 2024, while the broader market (S&P 500) was up 29.9%. Read more about the market’s resilience and future outlook in this week’s post.


RIA M&A Update: Q1 2024

Following a year where deal volume in the RIA industry nearly matched the all-time high of 2022, RIA M&A activity cooled in the first quarter of 2024. RIA deal activity experienced a greater decline than the broader M&A market, with activity dropping 29% compared to the M&A activity for all industries, which fell 9%. However, despite the decline in the total number of deals, there was a significant uptick in total transacted AUM during 2024. Total transacted AUM through March 2024 was $139.2 billion—a 63% increase from the same period in 2023. Get the details in this week’s post.

Industry Trends

RIA Market Update: Q1 2024

With Valuations Up, Investor Interest Moves to Alts and Big-Name Managers

Share prices for most publicly traded asset and wealth management firms trended up alongside the broader market in Q1 of 2024. Alternative asset managers continued to outperform the S&P 500 and other RIAs, ending the quarter up about 12.6%. On a year-over-year basis, all sectors of RIAs experienced growth as the markets rebounded from the 2022 slump.  Read more for a full overview of RIA performance.


Revenue Share Transactions: Considerations for RIAs

Revenue share transactions offer a strategic option for RIA owners looking to monetize a portion of their firm without ceding control, addressing needs for succession, growth capital, and liquidity. This structure benefits sellers by allowing minimal operational interference post-transaction, as the investor’s return is tied to top-line revenue rather than bottom-line profit. However, revenue shares shift risk to common shareholders and require careful structuring to function effectively over time.

Practice Management

An Ontological Approach to Investment Management

Review of “Winning at Active Management” by William W. Priest et al.

“Winning at Active Management” by Bill Priest is an important book for managing a successful investment management practice. Emphasizing the importance of corporate culture, Priest argues against traditional command-and-control structures, highlighting that knowledge-based businesses like investment management thrive on intellectual contributions from all levels of the organization. The book provides a fresh perspective on the role of culture in mergers and acquisitions within the investment management sector, preaching that cultural compatibility is crucial for the success of such transactions.

Margins and Compensation

How EBITDA Margins Affect Revenue Multiples

Whenever someone asks us what their RIA is worth as a multiple of revenue, we respond by asking about their firm’s EBITDA margin. This week’s blog post explores how RIAs can enhance their value by focusing on EBITDA margin, revealing the pivotal role of profitability in investor attractiveness. It also provides strategic insights for balancing growth and profitability.

Practice Management Wealth Management

Employee Alignment Is Essential in Wealth Management

Employee alignment is crucial in asset and wealth management due to the industry’s reliance on human capital. Creating alignment between employees and shareholders is essential for the growth and success of these firms, particularly for firms with non-employee ownership. Effective compensation models and incentive programs can align interests, supporting the long-term growth and success of the enterprise.

Practice Management

Capital Budgeting for Team Building

Tools for Long-Term Greedy Practice Management

The recent cancellation of Apple’s decade-long “Apple Car” project underscores the opportunities that capital budgeting offers for strategic decision making. Capital budgeting is a modeling exercise that has applications in the RIA community as well, where resource allocation decisions are more likely to involve human capital as opposed to equipment. This week, we explore the concept of returns to labor versus returns to capital in investment management, illustrating how long-term strategic thinking about human capital can lead to significant returns using the same tools integral to decision making at industrial concerns.

Current Events

Will RIAs Be Subject to Anti-Money Laundering Rules?

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is proposing a rule that would require investment advisors to comply with Bank Secrecy Act requirements, including implementing anti-money laundering controls and filing suspicious activity reports. Unlike previous attempts, this proposal does not hold investment advisors accountable for identifying their clients, but FinCEN is considering a separate proposal with the SEC for future customer ID requirements. With an increased push from regulators and illicit actors’ growing utilization of RIA intermediaries for AML purposes, the investment advisory sector may soon face stricter regulations, particularly regarding customer identification.


Reconciling Real-World RIA Transactions with Fair Market Value

When RIA owners think about their firm’s value, they frequently think in terms of the dollar value they believe they could sell the business for in an arm’s-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. The details of transaction pricing—things like contingent consideration structures and thresholds— rarely make it into the trade press or RIA rumor mill, adding to the confusion. In this blog post, we explore various transaction structures employed in the industry and their relationship to fair market value.

Investment Management

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