The financial advisory business, squeezed by rising costs and a shortage of young talent, may be on the verge of a merger and acquisition boom, according to one of the industry’s practice management gurus.
Advisors across the nation are gearing up to sell or merge their firms to achieve economies of scale to keep their practices viable, said Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions.
“It is happening,” he said in an interview at Pershing’s Insite 2014 conference in Hollywood, Fla. “There are probably more discussions about mergers than any time I’ve seen in my four years around this business.”
Several factors are driving the activity, including continually rising costs, the aging of the advisory field and the basic desire by owners to grow their businesses, Tibergien said.
It adds up to a lot of pressure that will inevitably lead to the transition of many firms, he said.
“One way or another, it has to happen,” Tibergien said. “With [advisors’] average age as high as it is, the clock is ticking. Voluntarily or involuntarily, their business will change hands.”
Costs have been especially burdensome, with studies indicating that compliance, technology, rents and other costs are eating up about 45 percent of advisor revenues, he said, up from a norm of about 35 percent.
While the bull market has allowed advisors to grow by an average of 7 percent to 8 percent per year by merely being in the market, Tibergien estimates that the average advisor needs to grow revenues by 10 percent to 12 percent to keep up with cost increases.
That leaves advisors, particularly sole practitioners, in a tough spot, having to decide whether to cut costs, expand operations or lower fees, among other possible strategic changes.
“Practices under $1 million are really experiencing the strain because you’re not at a level of critical mass yet,” he said. “Critical mass these days, depending upon where you are, is at least $5 million.”