Mergers and acquisitions involving registered investment advisors continued at a brisk pace during the first half of 2014, indicating a healthy RIA space that is ripe for continued growth, according to Schwab Advisor Services.

During the first two quarters of the year, 29 merger or acquisition deals were completed totaling $32.6 billion in assets under management. That far outstrips the activity seen in the first half of 2013, Schwab says. Activity was up during the second quarter of this year; there were 16 deals totaling $19 billion in AUM, up from 13 deals involving $14 billion in the first quarter.

The total for the first six months was far above that recorded for the first half of 2013, when 18 deals were completed totaling $15.4 billion. Though 2013 ended well, showing a 20% increase in activity, the first half of the year marked the lowest level since the first half of 2008.

The average deal size also increased during the first half of 2014, reaching $1.13 billion, compared with $808 million recorded for the first half of 2013.
The first half of 2013 was the anomaly, though, and this year’s first half marks an overall continued increase in deals, says Jonathan Beatty, senior vice president of sales and relationship management at Schwab Advisor Services, which provides consulting, back office and technology solutions for Schwab advisors.

“You have to look at the backdrop of what is going on in the industry,” Beatty says. “The RIA professional continues to thrive.” As firm owners and principals age, the majority are focused on internal growth and succession plans that pass the businesses on to younger members of the firms.

“This is great for investors because it provides a continuity of ownership of the firm,” he adds. “While we see healthy consistency in M&A activity in the RIA industry, with strategic acquiring firms continuing to show their buying power, we are not seeing the spike in industry consolidation that many analysts and observers have been predicting. Based on the data in our research, it appears RIAs are indeed in a good position to monetize their firm’s value, but they are more often looking to preserve the owner-operator model and maintain their independence through internal succession.”