The market for advisory practices is suddenly one of the hottest topics on the conference circuit. At separate meetings sponsored by the National Association Of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and Tiburon Strategic Advisors in late April, the subject of mergers and acquisitions was near the top of the agenda.

Attendees at the NAPFA conference in Toronto were encouraged to hear that quality advisory firms can now command multiples of two times revenues. One reason for this is that several buyers have managed to achieve client retention rates as high as 95%. In the not-so-distant past, that was considered a good retention rate for an advisor with his own clients, not when clients came on board through an acquisition.

Speaking at the Tiburon conference, Keith Mitchell, who heads his own M&A firm, said advisory boutiques with high-net-worth clients in top markets remain in demand. "The advice and assist market will grow at above average rates," he predicted.

And echoing the importance of client retention enunciated at the NAPFA meeting, Mitchell said, "Acquirers are showing more respect for the culture and social contract of the acquiree."

Mitchell also called Schwab's new transitions program for advisors seeking to buy or sell practices "a good idea, since there aren't a lot of models for RIAs to consolidate their businesses."