One of the fastest ways for independent financial service businesses to grow is to acquire another book of business, adding a lump of clients and their assets to a portfolio all at once. The reality is, however, that setting out to buy a business isn’t that simple.
First, your business must be able to handle a sudden influx of new clients. Your infrastructure must be strong, you must have the people and resources available to provide quality service to clients immediately following the transition, and you must have the financial means to purchase. Second, the current marketplace right now is favoring sellers more than ever. Not only are we experiencing a 50:1 buyer to seller ratio on the open market, but values are at a high and the competition is stiff. We’re seeing a greater number of experienced buyers vying for a seat at the table, and we’re seeing more savvy sellers making strategic decisions. Finally, being able to meet the asking price alone doesn’t necessarily constitute a good fit. Even if you have everything in place to make an acquisition, you must meet a seller’s specific criteria in other areas to be considered.
The good news is that our industry has several other ways to achieve the same exponential growth as buying a book of business without a “traditional” acquisition. Strategies like mergers, continuity partnerships, succession planning, strategic partnerships, and sell & stay tracks offer alternatives for advisors who may not have the enterprise strength to execute a traditional acquisition strategy. The following avenues take planning and patience, but they can yield incredible growth and value in the long run.
Buying & Selling,
Looking back over the past few decades, you can easily spot the trends and physical changes in our industry. Since 2000, when FP Transitions formally opened its doors, I’ve seen our profession, especially in those working under an independent broker-dealer or hybrid model, steadily shift to fee and advice-based solutions. Early on, most practices that we represented were made up primarily of transaction or non-recurring revenue; today advisors build businesses with a focus on fee-based income streams. Independent insurance companies are evolving as well with a sophisticated and wide array of recurring revenue.
Along the way, these practices have become not just more valuable, they are also physically larger and stronger. This requires more qualified people to analyze, give advice, produce revenue, as well as the adjunct talent to support these professionals. Looking forward, we see an ever increasing need to recruit and retain the best talent in the industry to support not just where your practice is today, but where that growing business will be ten years from now. Everyone has read about the need for recruiting; but the story has shifted in the past few years and will continue to do so going forward. Rather than simply hiring next gen talent as the need arises, this could well turn into a fierce competition to adequately reward and retain that talent as more and more advisory businesses reach the next level of success and draw upon a talent pool that has scarcity written all over it.
Building Your Team,
Over the past two and a half decades of working in this industry, as a regulator, an attorney and now at FP Transitions, I can safely say that I have never seen a better time to be the seller of an independent financial services or advisory practice. The commonly applied term, “a seller’s market,” barely does this observation justice. We are seeing so many supporting elements (price, terms, taxes, financing, demand, etc.) come together right now, that this may be the peak for sellers for years to come.
So here is my message: If you’re thinking about selling what you’ve built and handing the reins to a strong, next generation acquirer at any time in the next two to three years, you need to start thinking about these items today. You really need to understand why this may be the perfect time to call it a day and to sell for the full value you’ve built over the length of your career and to let someone else be responsible for the future. In a nutshell, here are the elements that are creating, perhaps simultaneously, this great opportunity at the peak of your career:
Selling Your Practice,
State of the Market,
This month's Journal of Financial Planning includes an in-depth piece written by FP Transitions' President & Founder, David Grau Sr., J.D.: Sustainability and the Future of the Profession. See excerpt below and click to read the whole article.
"It only makes sense for independent advisers to design a wealth management cycle that addresses the client life cycle. To be clear, I'm not saying for one minute that independent advisers can't make a very good living–they can and are for the most part. Today's independent advisers are not failing in their work of providing professional, relevant, and much needed financial services advise to their clients; they are failing to sustain a business beyond their own careers, leaving their clients to do that portion of the planning on their own, and advisers (and their broker-dealers, custodian, and insurance companies) are leaving an incredible amount of money on the table as a result for no good reason."
FPT in the News,
FP Transitions is pleased to announce the sale of financial services practices in the following locations during the months of May and June:
- Central Louisiana • $4,000,000
- Baltimore, MD • $2,561,000
- Houston, TX • $1,435,580
- Sacramento Area California • $1,004,486
- San Francisco Bay Area California • $712,000
- Eastern Virginia • $2,200,000
- Charlotte, NC • $221,600
- San Gabriel Valley California • $720,800
- Dallas, TX • $584,000
- Southern California • $1,000,000
- Columbus, OH • $1,067,000
VIEW CURRENT LISTINGS HERE
VIEW COMPLETE LIST OF PRACTICES SOLD
LIST YOUR PRACTICE WITH FP TRANSITIONS
Selling Your Practice,
Buying & Selling,
In the work that we do, our clients want to build something bigger and stronger, for one reason or another. The goal may be to grow and then sell it to a third party or a consolidator for maximum value. Sometimes the goal is to create a sustainable enterprise capable of supporting a gradual transfer ownership, leadership, and responsibility to an internal successor.
Many advisors arrive on our doorstep using terms like “silo” and “ensemble” to describe to us what they believe they have built. However, these terms merely describe the organizational structure, which is just one facet of the strength of an independent advisory enterprise. They are not sufficient for diagnosing ALL structural elements needed to support a sustainable, profitable, valuable enterprise in this highly-regulated and sometimes complex industry. When we start a growth path with limited terminology, we inevitably have to ask a lot more questions of our clients to figure out exactly what they mean, what they really want to accomplish, and how to help them get there.
As I talk with young advisors at local events and national conferences, I’ve increasingly heard concerns about broaching the topic of future ownership in the firm where they work. Some junior advisors have been promised ownership but don’t have anything in writing. Others don’t know the best way to bring up the topic in the first place.
It can be intimidating to ask the founder if their plans for their practice include you. However, you need to plan your career and to know how it will impact your family and life outside the office.
Take for example, Jennifer’s story:
In my work, I’ve become a “professional traveler,” so I spend a lot of time in airports, and I get to talk to many of the pilots. Airline pilots are adventurous souls who enjoy finding ways to go faster, fly higher, and see things from a level that others cannot. They are also very methodical and go about everything with a checklist mentality, a clear purpose, and as much knowledge on the subject matter as they can muster. I find a lot of our entrepreneurial advisors to be cut from the same cloth. The goal of building something bigger, stronger, and better, helping clients with a different view of the financial world, and then sharing what they’ve built with others is woven into the very fabric of their being. Entrepreneurs like to grow, and they like to do things right.
Growth, of course, can mean many things. You might want to grow your top line revenue and assets under management. Maybe you’re looking to hire and build your team in order to improve client experiences. Perhaps you want to acquire a practice–or two–to quickly grow revenue, assets, the client base, and your own income. But, just like a pilot who wants to go faster and fly higher, eventually you’re going to need a larger plane, a stronger engine and airframe, even additional skills that maybe you don’t have–or don’t necessarily have a passion for developing.
Over time, we’ve seen that independent advisors don’t naturally build large, profitable, sustainable businesses. The ambition is there, and recurring, fee-based revenue certainly helps, but the skill-sets that prompt most of you to hang out your own shingle and start gathering clients who entrust you with their financial goals and assets are different than what it takes to run an organization of professionals and create scale. For these reasons and others, this is still more an industry of book builders than it is of business builders.
Building Your Team
Last week, FP Transitions attended the NAPFA Spring Conference in Phoenix, Arizona which wrapped up on Saturday. Thank you to all the clients and visitors who stopped by to visit with us. We always love hearing your questions, stories, and plans.
The Next Generation Showing
I was happy to see so many young people involved this year. NAPFA’s Genesis group–members 33 old and younger–was well represented and students from Kansas State University and Texas Tech University were working as event volunteers.
I had the opportunity to speak with several of them, and they said that in meeting so many advisors, they were learning what different job environments were available; they could work at a business with 100 advisors, join a solo practice, or anything in between. In doing this exploration, they have a better chance to start out on the right foot. It was exciting to see the early sparks of motivation and passion in these young advisors-to-be.
Several advisors stopped by the FPT booth to talk about bringing their son or daughter into the business. Having worked in a family business myself, I know how rewarding it can be. There are special considerations, though, and as advisors brought up, situation-specific concerns: How do we balance work and family? What impact does that have on the kids who aren’t in the business? How will it affect an office with non-family staff and advisors?
We are proud to announce that our Ryan Grau, CVA, CBA, FP Transitions’ Valuations Director & Partner, was recognized as one of this year’s 40 Under Forty Honorees by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) for his accomplishments and contributions to the profession.
Please join us in congratulating Ryan on this honor!