Mergers and acquisition activity in the RIA industry continues to grab headlines and make history. Despite early setbacks from the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 dealmaking activity bounced back, and Echelon Partners recorded a record-high 205 deals closed last year. The pace has not slowed in early 2021, with Q1 activity achieving a 65% increase over the first quarter of last year.
Our team remains active in the M&A space as well, both at the corporate level and in supporting our partners in completing their own acquisitions. Our team has completed several successful acquisitions throughout our history, and we have built a dedicated M&A team to support our advisor partners as they evaluate acquisition opportunities.
We work closely with advisors who are active acquirers, as well as connect with potential partners for GVA, and are regularly connecting with potential sellers about their objectives. We have seen several common themes emerge from our conversations with sellers regarding what they are seeking in a partner. Here’s what we have observed as the top trends on the sell-side.
A consistent experience is paramount
The acquisition process is inherently disruptive, but for many positive reasons. In some aspects, consistency facilitates a stronger partnership and more seamless transitions. One thing RIAs often look for is a partner who uses the same custodian. Transitioning custodians can be catastrophic for RIAs, a major operational burden that brings a risk of client attrition. Our firm is aligned with LPL Financial, one of the leading custodial platforms in the nation. Our relationship with LPL has been a driving factor in some of our most successful acquisitions and partnerships, making it easier for partner firms to plug into the GVA model on day one.
Enhanced resources and tools close deals
Sellers are not just selling to make a specific profit; they want a clear understanding of how they will benefit from joining your firm. They will be seeking clear details on the resources available to them and how those resources will be delivered. These two factors come together to complete the overall deal structure and help sellers differentiate between potential buyers.
At GVA, our partners come to us because of our in-house expertise, executive leadership team, extensive technology and operational support services, as well as resources for retirement plan consulting and asset management. We most commonly hear clients ask about access to myself and my partners. We make it a priority to stay actively engaged with our advisors and are consistently creating solutions that facilitate even better communication.
Culture and the impact on staff cannot be overlooked
While the firm’s owners are dictating the sale, the entire firm — from advisors to front-office staff — will be impacted by the transaction. The advisors, the relationships they’ve built with clients and the work they engage in every day are some of the main drivers behind the sale, yet they rarely see financial gain from the actual transaction. Keeping a focus on culture creates an environment where advisors can continue to thrive and allows for a more seamless transaction.
We understand that the sales process is incredibly personal for the seller and we make it a priority to be transparent and responsive throughout the process. We make ourselves available to the entire acquisition partner’s team, ensuring their advisors and support staff have their questions answered, too.
Growth needs to be a mutual priority
Advisors who are aligning with another firm are largely motivated by growth prospects. They want the ability to continue running their business the same way, while having access to added resources, tools and scope to up-level their practice. GVA has built a structured firm with open-architecture features and flexibility for our advisors. Our team is growth oriented, and our goal is to help our partners achieve their goals.
As the sales discussions progress and planning becomes more actionable than aspirational, it’s important that both buyer and seller maintain a flexible perspective. While purchase price is almost always the deciding factor, there are certainly plenty of other opportunities to showcase value. Understanding the mindset of the seller is an important starting point.
PAOLI, Pa. — May 11, 2021 — Great Valley Advisor Group (“GVA”), a technology-driven full-service registered investment adviser (“RIA”), has acquired U.S. Financial Advisors (“USFA”). The acquisition expands GVA’s presence in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts, region and adds to its overall wealth and investment management capabilities for high-net-worth (“HNW”) individuals.
Based in Braintree, Mass., USFA is a full-service RIA that provides comprehensive and customized investment, insurance and wealth management services for its clients. Under the leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer John Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, USFA has grown to over $725 million in assets under management and has a network of advisors across the county. The full USFA team is joining GVA. Napolitano will lead GVA’s dedicated HNW practice, which will maintain the USFA branding and offer family office services. The HNW practice will include five additional advisors.
“John and his team have built a strong reputation of excellence in the industry,” said Ryan C. Todd, CPA, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of GVA. “Their experience and expertise in serving the HNW base aligns with our focus on elevating our offering and positioning us for future growth. We are excited to integrate the USFA team with our GVA community.”
Napolitano added: “The team at GVA shares our approach to client service, our passion for wealth management and the dedication to growing our advisors’ careers. Our partnership with GVA and the resources its leadership team offer will support our focus on building a dedicated HNW practice and providing the integrated and comprehensive support this specific client group needs.”
“Our focus is on empowering and supporting advisors to grow their businesses, and the relationship we have built with John and his team is a perfect example of this philosophy in action,” said James J. Spinelli, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director at GVA. “John is clear in his vision and where he intends to make the most impact in the next phase of his career. We are thrilled he is aligning with GVA to make this vision a reality.”
GVA has focused on growth in recent years, strategically adding resources that will benefit the advisors in its network. The firm introduced its dedicated asset management arm, Valor Asset Management in 2016 and has expanded its in-house technology resources and tools for advisors in the last five years. GVA has completed several successful acquisitions in its history and has built a network of nearly 100 advisors across the country. The firm was supported by LPL Financial’s M&A Solutions new premium buyer program in completing the USFA transaction.
“The GVA team has been strategic in its development, building the right capabilities and structure to support a deal of this magnitude,” said Jeremy Holly, LPL Senior Vice President and head of Advisor Financial Solutions. “Our M&A Solutions team supported GVA and USFA throughout a formal sales process, positioning GVA as a qualified and value-added buyer and ensuring the firms were a good fit. We believe this acquisition will be a true benefit to their current and future clients.”
The acquisition closed on May 10, 2021, and will increase GVA’s assets under management by over $725 million. GVA was advised by Stradley Ronon. Financial and legal terms of the deal were not disclosed.
About Great Valley Advisor Group
Great Valley Advisor Group (“GVA”) is a technology-driven full-service registered investment adviser. GVA partners with select independent financial advisors by providing customized technology, investment strategies, compliance, and proprietary compensation tools to help them grow their businesses. Our advisors have the choice and flexibility to run their businesses the way they want. GVA provides advisors with support to get started and technology to help the firm thrive.
For more information, visit greatvalleyadvisors.com.