July 25, 2013

Caton Financial Is First Public ‘Partner’ on Ron Carson’s CIA Platform

After eight years of trying, Nancy Caton finds her succession planning solution in Ron Carson’s new platform

It took Nancy Caton eight years and several detours before she found the succession solution for herself, her clients and her firm, Caton Financial in the San Franciso Bay area.

On Wednesday, Carson Wealth Management announced that Caton and her RIA firm, with $218 million in AUM, will become the first public partner of Ron Carson’s Carson Institutional Advisory (CIA) platform, and will continue to run her firm and serve her clients, and look for new ones, as the head of Carson Wealth’s San Francisco branch.

“For eight years I’ve been trying to get some kind of succession plan going,” Caton said in an interview on Thursday with ThinkAdvisor, but joining CIA “solved all of my problems.”

A long-time Raymond James advisor, Caton, now a "very young 65," attempted three different solutions to succession planning—hiring and attempting to groom a more junior advisor to be her successor; hiring an advisor from a bank; and bringing on an ex-wirehouse person. None worked out, for various reasons. She then explored the notion of “finding somebody who had money,” hiring a business broker and “trying a bank” as a buyer for her firm, which “turned into a disaster.” After those detours, she spoke to Ron Carson, who she had known for 18 years, and eventually decided to cast her lot with the new platform, which Carson announced last year.

Caton began her succession planning adventure out of concern for her clients, but throughout that adventure, she discovered “it’s difficult to find people who share” the same ethics and holistic approach to serving clients without being product-focused.

“One of the best parts” of joining CIA, she said, is that “I’ll get rid of that ‘running my business’ part of my job; the HR department is closed.” Instead, she will “have the ability to spend my days” with her clients, “to do what I do best,” while taking advantage of Carson’s research and investing offerings. “I think the clients will be excited” about the new structure of her business, “we can improve their investment situation; we can lower their fees.” She’s had no negative feedback at all from her clients, she reports: “Everybody has been excited; enthusiastic.”

“We’ve rebranded as Carson Wealth Management,” she said, with her title being managing director. Under terms of the deal, Caton will remain with Carson Wealth for at least five years, though she said she has no plans to retire even after those five years.

In the same interview on Thursday, Carson said the CIA platform helps provide “overnight succession plans,” benefiting the owner advisor, while “even smaller offices become Carson Wealth-capable overnight,” referring to those same investment offerings and economies of scale. One of the benefits to Caton and other partners will be the ability to respond to RFPs from institutions, that smaller firms would be unable to accomplish, Carson says. Moreover, Carson says that particularly over the last few years, “larger prospects want details on how your succession plans are structured” before they’ll agree to work with an advisor.

While Caton Financial is the first public “partner” in CIA, Carson said that he will be making a “big announcement” in the second week of September revealing “all of our partners.” He also noted that under “our normal way of doing things, we usually do ‘monetization’ after two years” for partners, but that knowing Caton and her firm for 18 years, that the terms were different in her case.

“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” Carson said. His strategy for CIA “starts with the right partners” and begins by asking “Would I go into business with this person today?” and then realizing “that I can learn as much from them” as those partners can from CIA.

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