January 9, 2013

Focus Financial Acquisition of Merriman Boosts Firm to $60 Billion

Merriman gives Focus, one of the largest indie wealth management partnerships, a strong foothold in the Seattle market

Focus Financial Partners, one of the largest partnerships of independent wealth management firms, announced Monday the acquisition of Seattle-based registered investment advisor Merriman LLC.

Merriman is a leading fee-only wealth management firm in the Pacific Northwest, with more than $1.5 billion in client assets. The transaction boosts Focus Financial to almost $60 billion in client assets, reinforcing the company’s continued growth. The deal went into effect on Dec. 31.

The acquired company serves more than 2,000 clients in 49 states, with the majority concentrated in the Pacific Northwest. Founded by Paul Merriman in 1983, it offers comprehensive wealth management, including financial planning and investing, retirement, insurance, estate/wealth transfer, income tax and charitable giving strategies. Merriman has 36 employees, nine of whom are financial advisors, and the partnership is expected to allow the advisors to take a larger stake in the company.   

According to Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO Mark Tibergien, more such RIA M&A activity can be expected, to the point where the entire RIA industry may come to resemble the accounting firm landscape of large national firms, then smaller regional firms, local practices with multiple partners and solo practitioners.

“This emergence of the elite ensemble firms, like an Aspiriant or an Oxford—Focus Financial Partners or United Capital or HighTower could fit into this category”—will have a structure like independent broker-dealers, though their business models are much different, Tibergien said in August.

Rudy Adolf, founder and CEO of Focus, said he is excited to have Merriman join the partnership because it marks the firm’s entry into the Seattle market and expands its West Coast presence.

“Focus had a terrific 2012 from a combination of new firms, subacquisitions and talented recruits joining our firms, in addition to growth from existing firms,”  Adolf said in a statement. “We expect favorable trends to support continued growth in 2013.”

Colleen Lindstrom, CEO of Merriman, said in a statement that Focus’ expertise around acquisitions and succession planning is especially appealing to her firm as it looks to grow and attract new talent.

“When we look at where the industry is headed, it is clear that clients value working with fiduciary advisors,” Lindstrom said. “Our vision has always centered on changing the way people manage money, and partnering with Focus gives us additional resources to bring our expertise to more clients.”

Read Tibergien on Advisor M&A Trends: Expect More Deals at AdvisorOne.

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