Advisors are driven to sell their advisory practices for a variety of reasons, but ceding some element of control to others often results in many sleepless nights, a new study says.

A study by RIA-aggregator HighTower and market research firm Optima Group Inc. found that emotions among advisors run high during these types of transitions. In fact, 70% of advisors reported experiencing anxiety about the decision to sell their firms, while 64% indicated they were anxious about losing or diluting their brand identity.

The study was based upon 30 interviews with key decision makers of advisory businesses with AUM of more than $750 million, both pre- and post-transaction.

Culture and values, the study found, were top priorities for every advisor in the study. Several said they would only consider a partner that could support an elevated, high-touch client experience.

They also noted that it’s a deal breaker if they don’t align.

Fifty percent of advisors cited capitalizing firm ownership as a primary driver for considering a transaction; 41% said they thought it would help them to streamline succession planning; 27% wanted access to capital for growth initiatives; 27% hoped to gain a better technology platform; and 23% wanted to outsource back-office operations.

Trust was as issue for some advisors, even though they all asserted their desire to retain control of client relations, the study found. It pointed out that one respondent, who had not yet sold, expressed concern about how a promise of autonomy could potentially change during a down market.

The study also found that 45% of advisors were anxious about losing or diluting their brand identity, 36% said they were worried clients would react negatively, and 32% expressed concern about having to change aspects of their investment approach.

Bob Oros, CEO of HighTower and a leading acquirer, said advisors looking for an acquirer are passionate about finding, first and foremost, a firm with people they can trust to shepherd them into the future. “While valuations, legal paperwork and negotiations are all necessary, what matters most is getting a read on the people and culture you’re joining,” he said in a prepared statement.

Oros suggested that during the selling process, advisors should have several meals together with prospective buyers, get to know members of the extended service teams (not just the deal-makers), and visiti the firm’s corporate offices to watch people and familiarize yourself with the culture.

“Ask yourself, do I really like these people? The end goal is to make sure you have found an acquirer that aligns with your culture and values. When those are aligned, trust and true partnership follow,” Oros said.

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