Amid the market swoon sparked by the coronavirus, financial advisors have had to calm clients. But many advisors are also likely wondering about their own financial health. Specifically, what are their firms worth in the new normal and will there still be buyers for them?

Some 30% to 40% of advisors are set to retire in the next 10 years, according to various sources. What will it mean for demand if their firm valuations crater?

“I’m considering retiring, but I don’t want to give my firm away because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus,” said one participant on a DeVoe & Co. webinar on Wednesday. “How might I think about deal structuring and protecting my value?”

Dave DeVoe, the M&A consulting firm’s founder and namesake, said during the webinar that the merger space will likely go through a number of phases amid the pandemic and economic crisis.

“We are at the middle or perhaps the beginning of the black swan event,” said DeVoe, “and this virus is not only affecting the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, it’s also affecting the stock market, and we can also rest assured it's going to have a profound affect not only on the economy but on businesses like yours.”

He said that in the first phase of the crisis, M&A deals already in progress will likely be completed. He uses the metaphor of a storm and how it affects travel. “You’re on a plane and flying across the country. If you’re pretty close to your destination, that plane is probably going to land. If you just took off, you might turn around. … And I think that’s what’s going to happen with mergers and acquisitions as of today. We have a number of live transactions.”

He reminded participants that in 2008, despite a stock market shock, there was a record level of M&A activity—some 88 deals, according to DeVoe & Co.

The second phase, however, will see a lull in activity, he said. “Planes that are on the tarmac, planes that are getting boarded, suddenly these are sitting and waiting. They are trying to learn about the storm.” There was a subsequent decline in deals in 2009, and a lull in firm valuations as advisors waited for their firms to reach their previous levels of worth. That meant people bided their time and waited to do deals.

But with more retirees approaching retirement, waiting now might not seem as appealing as it did in 2009.

“We don’t have the luxury in many cases of advisors waiting around for everything to get back to normal,” DeVoe said.

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