Treasures in the Attic

The Value of Future Fiduciary Appointments

Trust Companies

Independent trust companies are frequently named in wills to serve as the trustee of an estate or living trust. These appointments may create a revenue opportunity for an independent trust company next year or fifty years from now. A trust company is sometimes notified of their assignment but isn’t always. Future fiduciary appointments certainly have some value; but how much and how do you measure it?

Valuation Methodology

Future fiduciary appointments are one element that factors into a trust company’s overall valuation. As such, the value of these relationships isn’t generally considered separately from the rest of the business, and the guidance on how these appointments contribute to the overall value of the business is limited. There are, however, many situations where analogous assets may be valued on a stand-alone basis for accounting or other purposes. These similar concepts from other disciplines or industries can provide direction and perspective on the value of future fiduciary appointments.

Future fiduciary appointments are one element that factors into a trust company’s overall valuation.

Contract Valuations

When a business combination such as a merger or acquisition occurs, accounting standards generally require that an exercise known as a purchase price allocation (PPA) be performed. The purpose of a PPA is to allocate the consideration paid for a business to the acquired tangible and intangible assets, which can include acquired technology, customer relationships, contracts (customer and supplier), noncompete agreements, tradenames, etc. Future fiduciary appointments for trust companies bear some similarity to a customer contract; although, a trust company does not have to agree to a fiduciary appointment, the executor of an estate is contractually obligated to hire the trust company unless it does not accept.

There are many different commonly accepted approaches to contract valuation, but the most relevant as it relates to future fiduciary appointments is the income approach. In a purchase price allocation, the value of a contract can be determined using the income approach by projecting out the future cash flows that result from the contract and applying an appropriate discount rate. But in purchase price allocations, the existence of the contracts and terms of the contracts are known, whereas independent trust companies are not always notified of their appointment in a will, and even if notified, the size of the estate and potential revenue is often unknown.

Oil & Gas Reserve Valuations

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine two industries more different than independent trust administration and oil and gas. But the future fiduciary appointments held by trust companies do have a notable similarity to oil and gas reserves. Oil and gas reserves represent a real asset to the landowner, but the size and profitability of these reserves is often unknown. Likewise, future fiduciary appointments are a real asset for trust companies, but the size and profitability of these relationships is generally not known in advance. Oil and gas reserves are categorized as Proven Developed Producing (PDP), Proven Undeveloped (PUDs), Possible (P2), or Probable (P3). PDP reserves currently generate revenue and can be valued using a discounted cash flow analysis. But PUD reserves, which are proven to exist but not currently developed or revenue generating, and probably and possible reserves, which are less likely to be recovered, are not as easily valued.

Can future fiduciary appointments be viewed similarly to the PUDs, P2, and P3 reserves?

So, can future fiduciary appointments be viewed similarly to the PUDs, P2, and P3 reserves? Are known appointments comparable to PUDS and unknown appointments comparable to P2 and P3 reserves?

Valuation practitioners sometimes rely on option pricing to capture the value of PUDs, probable, and possible reserves. As the price of oil increases, PUDs, probable, and possible reserves become more economical to develop. The PUD and unproved valuation model are typically seen as an adaptation of the Black Scholes option model. Applying this same principle to value fiduciary appointments would require significant assumptions about the possible number of appointments, the size of the estates, and the average number of deaths per year. Additionally, a future fiduciary appointment is not necessarily option-like, as there is no set exercise price. And for most independent trust companies who are likely to generate significant cash flows in the near term, the impact of these future cash flows may be too small to matter (once present value math has been applied).

The Right Way To Value Fiduciary Appointments May Be More Subjective

Fiduciary appointments do have value, but separating this value from the enterprise as a whole may not be the best way to think about it. Rather than valuing these separately, we typically adjust our projection and discount rate assumptions and our guideline company analysis.

Discounted Cash Flow Method. As we discussed above, discretely projecting cash flows from future fiduciary appointments is not always possible. But an analyst can factor in the potential upside of these assignments when selecting the appropriate discount rate and terminal growth rate. Should the discount rate be lower since there are additional future revenue opportunities that weren’t built into the projections? Or maybe the terminal growth rate should be higher, as these appointments will allow the company to sustain higher levels of ongoing cash flow growth.

Guideline Public Company Method. Although there are no publicly traded pure-play trust companies, publicly traded investment managers do have a similar structure to independent trust companies. Both earn fees on assets under management / administration and have operating leverage such that when AUM / AUA increase, fixed costs do not increase at the same rate. Therefore, we often use the pricing of publicly traded investment managers to gauge investor sentiment and establish a reasonable range for pricing expectations for businesses that manage or administer assets on behalf of clients.

We may apply an adjustment to the implied valuation multiples of the public companies to account for the differences between an independent trust company and the selected group of publicly trade investment managers. While many independent trust companies are smaller in size, have less access to capital markets, and have lower margins (trust administration is labor intensive), some of this risk may be offset by the growth opportunity presented by future fiduciary appointments. How much of that risk is offset is a matter of the facts and circumstances of the particular independent trust company.

Who Should Value Your Independent Trust Company?

Choosing someone to perform a valuation of your independent trust company can be daunting in and of itself. There are plenty of valuation experts who have the appropriate training and professional designations, understand the valuation standards and concepts, and see the market in a hypothetical buyer-seller framework. And there are a number of industry experts who are long-time observers and analysts focused on the industry, who understand industry trends, and have experience providing advisory services to independent trust companies.

At Mercer Capital, we think it is most beneficial to be both industry specialists and valuation specialists.

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