RIA Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Investment Management industry

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.


RIA M&A: What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

A Very Incomplete List of What Not to Do in Transactions

In the RIA community, nothing gets people’s blood flowing like a transaction. Big mergers are fantastic, but even deals involving a few hundred million of AUM are widely reported. For all the hype, making M&A successful requires minding Ps and Qs, and is as much, if not more, about attention to detail and being realistic as it is about sweeping vision and uplifting pronouncements.

Industry Trends Wealth Management

Will Finfluencers Replace Financial Advisors?

The CFA Institute Research & Policy Center’s recent report reveals the significant influence of financial influencers (finfluencers) on the investment decisions of Gen-Z, underscoring the urgent need for the wealth management industry to adapt to the digital age. Highlighting a concerning gap, the report notes that a substantial portion of finfluencer content lacks necessary disclosures, potentially leading young investors to make decisions based on biased information.

Despite the challenges posed by finfluencers, the report suggests they offer a unique opportunity for RIAs to engage with the next generation of investors, advocating for strategic partnerships complemented by rigorous compliance and transparency measures. Read the details in this week’s post.

Current Events Industry Trends Transactions

Quality of Earnings Analysis for RIAs

The M&A space in the RIA sector has seen a marked increase in transaction activity over the past ten years, along with advancements in its supporting infrastructure. Professionalization of the buyer market has led to a more detailed examination of target companies’ earnings. Mercer Capital’s whitepaper highlights the importance of Quality of Earnings (QofE) analysis in presenting a more accurate picture of a company’s earnings and cash flows for both potential buyers and sellers.

Current Events Industry Trends

Navigating the Shifting Tides

Trends Shaping the RIA Industry in 2023 and Beyond

In 2023, the RIA industry witnessed growth and rebounded from the previous year’s slump, despite earlier concerns about inflation and high interest rates. This growth occurred alongside a shift in the financial landscape, where public firms in wealth management underperformed compared to the broader market and alternative asset managers. Additionally, RIAs have found the importance of data use, with many advisors using data to enhance portfolio decisions, operational efficiencies, and client relationships.

Industry Trends

The Remarkable Resilience of RIA M&A Activity

Despite challenging macroeconomic conditions in 2023, RIA M&A activity demonstrated resilience, with Fidelity’s November 2023 report showing a 3% increase in deals compared to 2022. The total transacted AUM saw a notable 25% increase, with an average AUM per transaction rising by 21%. Factors contributing to this growth included consolidation forces in the industry, confidence in the macroeconomic environment, and significant investments by firms such as Mercer Advisors and CAPTRUST, as well as partnerships with private equity firms.

Investment Management

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