Mercer Capital’s asset management valuation practice is run from our main office in Memphis, Tennessee, and this time of year here means one thing: Death Week. Every year since his death on August 16, 1977, the city of Memphis spends a week memorializing Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll. From all the press lately, you would expect that a similar wake was being held for active management, and with it, much of the RIA community. Elvis is dead, and so too must be active management. We live in the age of auto-tune and robo-advisors, a time when big vocal chords and beating the market have become anachronisms – or are they?
Smaller asset managers outperformed their larger brethren over the last year. Still, it’s important to remember that our smallest sector of asset managers (AUM under $10 billion) is the least diversified and therefore most susceptible to company-specific events. Its strength is more attributable to DHIL’s (~80% of the market-weighted index) outsized gain in market value rather than any indication of investor preference towards smaller RIAs.
On April 29th, 2015, Simmons First National Corporation.(NASDAQ ticker: SFNC), announced it has entered into an asset-purchase agreement to acquire Ozark Trust and Investment Corporation (OTIC) and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Trust Company of the Ozarks (TCO), a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. The Trust Company of the Ozarks administers over $1 billion in client assets for over 1,300 clients with a 16% AUM compound annual growth rate. Simmons First National Corporation has agreed to a purchase price of $20.7 million, with a consideration of 75% stock and 25% cash. The deal is to close in quarter 3 of 2015. Unlike most acquisitions of closely held RIAs, the terms of the deal were disclosed via a conference call and investor presentation; the details of which are outlined here.
Our process when providing periodic fair value marks for venture capital fund investments in pre-public companies is described. This process includes examining the most recent financing round economics, adjusting valuation inputs the measurement date, measuring fair value, and reconciling and testing for reasonableness.
As noted in Mercer Capital’s presentation to the 2014 Acquire or Be Acquired conference sponsored by Bank Director entitled Acquisitions of Non-Depositories by Banks, the relatively high margins associated with asset management is one of the many reasons that banks and other finance companies have been so interested in RIAs over the last few years. Powered by a fairly steady market tailwind over the last few years, many asset managers and trust companies have more than doubled in value since the financial crisis and may finally be posturing towards some kind of exit opportunity to take advantage of this growth.
So, as always, the outlook for mutual fund providers hinges on market performance and asset flows. Any continuation of the recent market momentum would certainly be a bonus for mutual fund providers whose net-of-fee performances are competitive with comparable ETF products. Another market downturn, on the other hand, would likely hasten asset flows out of equities and into fixed income or money market funds with lower fees to their sponsors.