Advisors have no shortage of growth strategies -- seeking mergers and acquisitions, finding referrals for new clients, creating new efficiencies.
But few choose the “all of the above” approach that Newport Beach, Calif.-based hybrid RIA United Capital Financial Advisors has used to mushroom into one of the largest firms in the country.
After doubling its revenues in the two-year period from 2013 to 2014 and growing largely through the addition of broker-dealer representatives, United Capital made some of the largest RIA transactions of 2015.
“While our focus has been on existing RIAs and folks coming out of independent broker-dealers, we’re not channel dependent,” says Matt Brinker, senior vice president and member of the Acquisitions Executive Team. “What we’re worried about above everything else is culture. We’re looking for people we can give the United Capital keys to and feel confident that they’re going to be great stewards of the brand.”
In February, United Capital recruited the Capital Investment Council, a 23-member team based in Denver that managed $2 billion as a subsidiary of Spanish bank BBVA Compass, the largest recruitment in firm history.
That deal was followed in April by acquisitions of firms in Indianapolis and in Chapel Hill, N.C., that have a combined $625 million AUM. Then, in June, United Capital added more than $550 million in assets from StanCorp Financial Group as the latter exited the wealth management business.
In August it absorbed McDonald, Cox & Klugh, a multi-office South Carolina financial firm with $415 million AUM. Then, in November, the RIA added firms in Maryland and Pennsylvania with a combined $1.5 billion in managed assets.
At the end of last year, United Capital had $16 billion in assets managed from 79 offices nationally, an increase of 25 percent from the end of 2014. That year, the firm reported $11 billion in assets, enough for tenth place on Financial Advisor’s 2015 RIA Ranking.
Unlike other giant hybrids like Hightower, Dynasty Financial Partners and Stratos Wealth Partners, advisors joining United Capital take on its brand and become its employees.
“We’re one company with one ADV, we own 100 percent of the business and we buy 100 percent of the business from our partners,” Brinker says. ”Since we participate in the profitability of United Capital, we have mutual alignment to grow topline revenue and keep our costs as low as humanly possible to make sure our operating expenses are at the ideal equilibrium to keep our clients happy and to grow the business.”
In exchange, recruits receive an equity stake in the company, with the option to redeem a portion of their stake for cash. Brinker says United Capital seeks advisors for partnerships, not succession. “Our typical partner is 48 years old, their catalysts for joining us are growth, scale, leveraging our digitally-backed office and leveraging our client experience. When advisors are 45 years old, their firms tend to be 10-15 years old. They’re figuring out what the next 10-15 years are going to look like from a business perspective and worrying about how they can maintain their lifestyle.”