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.
If you haven’t already, this may be a very good time to stress-test your financial condition to see what impact weakened markets, higher inflation, and rising interest rates will have on your firm. Unlike most things in finance, these other factors that accompany higher interest rates exacerbate the negative impact on RIAs, rather than mitigating them.
2021 may be remembered as both the busiest M&A year in history for the investment management industry, as well as the year in which valuation multiples in the space peaked. Transaction volume surged last year and carried into the first quarter, as deals negotiated during a period of cheap money, strong multiples, and the threat of changes in tax law drew both buyers and sellers to the negotiating table. It’s time to question what impact the change in market conditions has for the investment management space.
RIA M&A activity continued to trend upward through the first quarter of 2022 even as potential macro headwinds for the industry emerged. In this week’s post, we take a look at deal activity in Q1 2022 and discuss what the current M&A market means for your RIA.
After a Great Year, Higher Rates and Weaker Markets Threaten Continued Growth
By the spring of 2022, many of the industry trends facing and favoring wealth managers started to shift, threatening margins and valuations. Higher interest rates are undermining valuations in both debt and equity markets, taking an unusually strong toll on everything from U.S. treasuries to tech stocks. This shift creates a downward gravitational pull on assets under management, and therefore revenue, for wealth management firms. At the same time, inflationary forces are pushing up on both labor and non-labor expenses for RIAs. The consequence could be challenging for margins in 2022 and could deflate some of the positive influences on profitability that have provided a tailwind to RIA valuations for several years. Read more in this week’s post.
Publicly traded hedge fund managers and PE firms almost doubled in value during 2021 before nearly giving it all back in the first quarter. In this week’s post, we also examine the performance of other classes of RIAs and comment on the current market for privately held RIAs.
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, diversified financial services companies, and private equity. These acquirers 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.
A purchase price allocation is just that—the purchase price paid for the acquired business is allocated to the acquired tangible and separately-identifiable intangible assets. As noted in the following figure, the acquired assets are measured at fair value. The excess of the purchase price over the identified tangible and intangible assets is referred to as goodwill. Because most investment managers are not asset intensive operations, the majority of value is typically allocated to intangible assets. In this week’s post, we discuss common intangible assets acquired in the purchase of private asset and wealth management firms including the existing customer relationships, tradename, non-competition agreements with executives, and the assembled workforce.
RIA group-think has been pro-consolidation for the past decade, and increasingly so. You’ve read the headlines about the pace of deals reaching a fever pitch last year and continuing into this year. We’ve been skeptical of the believed necessity for RIA consolidation in this blog in the past, and have yet to be dissuaded from our position. But opinions are only opinions, and facts are facts. This seems like an opportune moment to check our feelings against reality. How is RIA consolidation performing so far? The verdict from the public markets isn’t very encouraging. In this week’s post, we look at three publicly traded consolidators of wealth management businesses, Silvercrest, CI Financial, and Focus.
Is Volatility the New Normal?
It’s de ja vu all over again. The volatility from the onset of the pandemic two years ago has been creeping back up as investors grapple with the global implications of the war in Ukraine. At the end of last year, most RIA owners were enjoying peak AUM and run-rate profitability. Since then, these measures have likely taken a substantial hit as the S&P 500 and NASDAQ are down 12% and 19%, respectively. When this happened two years ago, the market made a sharp recovery in the preceding quarters, but looking forward, we don’t know where the bottom lies. Most RIA principals are likely grappling with a sizable decline in management fees and earnings for the next billing cycle.
With taking a look at the VIX Index, we have assessed that the market volatility is likely here to stay – at least for a while. In this post, we explore what this volatility means for you and your RIA.
February’s CPI growth came in at 7.9% year-over-year (the highest level in recent memory), and the ongoing Ukraine conflict portends further supply chain challenges that could drive prices even higher. The front-end of the yield curve has shifted higher as market participants reason that rising inflation will force the Fed to raise rates sooner and by a greater magnitude than had been previously anticipated.
Historically, a flattening yield curve has signaled an end to a growth cycle, and so far in 2022 that certainly seems plausible. Markets are down and valuation multiples have declined significantly, particularly in high-flying tech stocks. Read this week’s post to find out what this means for the RIA industry.