The bigger they are, the more likely they are to grow—by acquisition.
So-called advisor “mega teams” with more than $500 million in assets under management are in the best position to acquire a book of business from another advisor, according to analysis from Cerulli Associates, the Boston-based global analytics firm.
According to Cerulli’s study, published in the first quarter 2016 issue of “The Cerulli Edge-Advisor Edition,” 45 percent of advisors planning to retire within the next five years prioritize client retention when asked about their transition plans, and the researchers believe that “mega teams” are best positioned to take on the clients of a retiring advisor.
"These teams are most likely to win acquisitions from retiring advisors because, as a buyer, mega teams can maximize earn-outs for a seller," said Kenton Shirk, Cerulli’s associate director. "They also have the infrastructure to assume additional client relationships, and they are best enabled to provide a seller's clients with an ongoing positive experience.
“As broker-dealers and custodians consider the risks of mass retirements and successions, they may need to finance internal acquisitions," Shirk says. When doing so, Shirk says they are more likely to provide resources to practices that are better equipped to handle the transition. “This is yet another factor that could lead to increasing asset control for the industry's largest advisory teams."
Currently, only 23 percent of advisors are affiliated with a mega team, but those teams control 54 percent of the financial industry’s assets. In the RIA channel, mega teams manage 68 percent of the assets, but account for 29 percent of the advisors.
In Cerulli’s analysis, mega teams are also more likely to attract “tuck-ins,” advisors who want to go independent but also want the infrastructure and support of an existing firm, rather than to start a business from scratch. This analysis is supported by the rapid growth of large hybrid firms like Stratos Wealth Advisors and United Capital.
Cerulli’s report says that advisors are attracted by value-adds like transition assistance, back office support and access to model portfolios.
According to Cerulli, larger firms are more likely to form advisor teams as a method of succession planning.
Smaller teams will have to take a similar approach and specialize and enhance their services to become more attractive to advisors looking to sell their book of business, Cerulli reports.