January 16, 2013

United Capital ‘Rolls Up’ Paragon Investment Management

Announcement is latest in RIA consolidation trend

The RIA consolidation—or ‘rollup’—trend continues, with the announcement Wednesday of the acquisition Seattle-based Paragon Investment Management by United Capital Financial Advisers.

United Capital has acquired the majority of assets of Paragon, a firm run by Shari Burns that was founded in 1991 and claims more than $1 billion in assets under management.

The news follows a series of similar such announcements recently involving larger RIAs buying their smaller counterparts. Focus Financial Partners announced on January 9 that it had acquired Merriman LLC, an RIA also based in Seattle.

Paragon adds a team of 15 investment professionals to United Capital. Paragon, for its part, will offer United Capital’s wealth management resources in Seattle and the surrounding areas.

“Shari and her team have set themselves apart in the Seattle marketplace and we believe that their addition represents an extraordinary opportunity to share our client-centric tools and unique offerings with her affluent clients,” United Capital founder and CEO Joe Duran said in a statement.

Paragon has been ranked four consecutive years on the Barron’s Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors list.

“By leveraging United Capital’s platform, our office will be able to spend less time on the administrative, accounting and regulatory areas of running a financial advisory business and more time focused on the most important aspects of our client relationships,” Burns said.

United Capital and its affiliates advise on $15 billion in assets and has 41 offices located around the country.

Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO Mark Tibergien noted last summer that 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.

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