Mariner Wealth Advisors, the Leawood, Kan.-based advisory firm whose rapid growth in the past eight years has been fed by an aggressive acquisition diet, has used its war chest to buy a stake in yet another large firm, this time buying a majority piece of Pennsylvania’s Vantage Investment Advisors, a 14-member team located in State College, Pa. The deal was announced today.
Vantage, which manages $1 billion in assets and is based in the town that is home to the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, is helmed by Robert R. Thomas, and will bulk up Mariner’s already considerable Northeastern presence. Founded in 2000, Vantage offers portfolio management asset allocation services and creates custom plans for its clients—including trusts, non-profits and businesses, in addition to individuals.
Mariner has grown from a firm of eight people in 2006 to more than 500 people at the end of 2014, said Martin C. Bicknell, chief executive officer, in a recent interview with Financial Advisor. The firm’s founding in 2006 happened just before the financial crisis, when the firm was able to quickly pick up a lot of people leaving giant Wall Street firms and advisories hurting at a time of strained revenues.
The growth was not planned at first, Bicknell told Financial Advisor. "It was born out of the crisis of '08-'09."
Barron's ranked Bicknell and Mariner the No. 2 independent wealth advisor nationally in 2013 and 2014.
Mariner tends to focus on partners with a certain client service philosophy (bucking the trend among larger financial advisories, the firm eschews account minimums). The firm offers its partners a menu of services that many of them might not be equipped for—trust and estate planning, tax advice, retirement plan services, insurance consulting and investment banking. Also important for its partners is that it offers them a candy store of back office capabilities, so they can offload more cumbersome human resources chores such as payroll, medical plans, employee searches, IT, etc.
In a press release, Bicknell said, "Vantage represents a great cultural fit and their growth orientation aligns perfectly with our goal to increase the number of clients we are able to serve in the Northeast.”
In 2012, the firm bought New Jersey firm Brinton Eaton (which managed $700 million). Last year, Mariner bought Jersey Shore firm Housen Financial Group, which managed more than $800 million at the time. That firm’s leader, Chris Housen, recently told Financial Advisor that he joined because Mariner offered him great resources. “I didn’t want to grow a compliance department, grow a technology department, hire controllers. They do that.”
Silver Lane Advisors acted as financial advisor to Vantage Investment Advisors.