Judging by the record number of transactions that were completed last year, independent RIAs are continuing to use mergers and acquisitions as a major part of their growth strategy and succession planning.
Schwab Advisor Services announced Tuesday that the transaction volume reached a ten-year high of 84 deals in 2015, an increase of 56 percent from 2014 and 127 percent from 2006. To achieve that high number for the year, each of the four quarters in 2015 surpassed the number of deals completed in the same quarter of 2014. The third quarter of the year saw 27 deals closed, the highest in the past decade, Schwab says.
All of those numbers boil down to a healthy industry that is growing by a number of different means, including mergers and acquisitions, says Jonathan Beatty, senior vice president, sales and relationship management, Schwab Advisor Services.
Just as significant as the number of deals, the total value of the deals, as measured by the AUM of the acquired firm, jumped to $115.4 billion, a 143 percent increase from 2014’s $47.4 billion and a dramatic surge of 252 percent from 2006’s $32.8 billion.
Likewise, the average annual transaction size was $1.3 billion, up 53 percent from 2014 and the largest average since 2009.
Independent registered investment advisor firms (39 percent) and strategic acquiring firms (32 percent) together made up the majority of buyer types. Others were organizations such as private equity firms (24 percent), banks (4 percent) and international acquirers, 1 percent.
Schwab’s data reflects transactions involving primarily high-net-worth and endowment-focused RIAs with assets under management exceeding $50 million. The data also includes advisors-in-transition who joined an existing RIA and received equity consideration.
“As we look at the numbers, it is another proof of the success RIAs are having,” Beatty says. “It shows investors prefer the fiduciary model and the transparency that is provided by the independent space.
“This is not a consolidation of the industry. This is 84 deals out of 8,300 firms that manage more than $100 million,” he adds.
Firms, many in succession mode, that are looking for strategic buyers are finding them, giving the sellers an opportunity to create continuity for their firms and their clients. Likewise, buyers are finding a way to grow and to add talent.