Mergers and acquisitions of advisory firms continued at a brisk pace for the first half of the year, according to Fidelity Investments.
In the first half of 2016, there were 51 mergers valued at $34 billion compared with 138 transactions valued at $145 billion for all of last year, according to the Fidelity 1H 2016 Wealth Management M&A Transaction Report by Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, a division of Fidelity Investments.
Transactions last year were dominated by one $15 billion deal involving the sale of the majority interest in Edelman Financial Services in Fairfax, Va.
This year, mergers and acquisitions have been dominated by what Fidelity calls strategic acquirers, firms that buy part or all of a financial advisory firm to help them grow. Thirty-nine percent of the transactions have been purchases by these firms, as opposed to acquisitions by banks or others, says Fidelity. Two-thirds of the sellers have been wealth management RIAs.
Five states -- California, Colorado, Texas, Florida and New York -- dominated the transaction landscape, accounting for 28 of the 51 deals that involved firms of $100 million to $20 billion in assets under management.
A need for scale to help improve firm profitability has driven this continued industry consolidation, the report says.
Firms looking to sell should consider many factors to make their companies worth as much as possible, according to Fidelity.
“Potential buyers will want to know your firm’s future revenue growth potential, along with your historical growth rate,” the study says. In addition, “your firm is often only as valuable as the price investors are willing to pay for your advice. That boils down to the quality of your people, or human capital. Your personnel are the critical element to attracting and retaining new clients and revenue sources.”
Also, “the demographics of your clients shed some light on how their accounts may grow or depreciate over time, indicating your firm’s current stability and future ability to grow revenue,” according to the report.
"The biggest takeaway here for RIAs is that M&A strategies are becoming an increasingly important consideration for the future of their businesses,” says David Canter, executive vice president, practice management and consulting, Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions. “In order to realize their full potential value, advisors need to think about the firm they want to partner with and whether their businesses are in a good position for a successful acquisition.”