After a “four-year, overnight merger” process, Angie Herbers Inc., led by Angie Herbers, and Wealth Management Marketing Inc., led by Kristen Luke, are merging to form a new, as-yet-unnamed company with 14 employees that will be based in San Diego.
Herbers, whose firm was founded 12 years ago (and who has been writing for Investment Advisor and ThinkAdvisor for nearly that long; view her most recent writings here), made that quip in an interview Thursday in which she explained the rationale for the merger and the offerings to advisors that the merged company will provide.
The merger is one of equals, with Herbers holding half of the new company’s stock and Luke holding the other 50%. “It’s a true merger,” said Herbers, “creating a new brand and a new name,” which will be rolled out either late this year or early in 2015. Herbers will be managing partner; she and her four employees will move from Manhattan, Kansas, to San Diego, where Wealth Management (founded in 2008) and its 10 employees (including Luke) is based.
“Kristen and I have worked with mutual clients for more than four years,” Herbers said, and “lots of clients told us we should merge; it took us four years for us to say ‘You’re right’” to those clients.
For clients, Herbers said, normally “I would come in at the very beginning and develop a strategy” to help create “great people, processes and procedures, M&A or a succession plan,” but then would refer to Luke’s firm for fulfilling an advisory firm’s marketing strategy.
“I was referring all this business to Kristen, and then we’d work together,” says Herbers, and that’s when clients would say “Why not work together under one firm that offers it all? Once we said yes, it became easy to put together” the merger.
Herbers admits, however, that while she helped “facilitate over 100 mergers” for her advisor clients, “it’s different when it’s your own.”
Why the merger? Herbers says she’s doing it “for myself and my employees and my clients,” since “the missing piece [at her firm] has always been the marketing strategy.” Moreover, she feels strongly that “the competitive landscape of the advisory industry is changing,” which means that for advisors “it’s harder to get new clients from referrals only,” which necessitates a rigorous marketing strategy. “I either had to do this as an advocate for my clients,” Herbers aid, “or send all that business to Kristen.”
Herbers says “our ultimate objective is to be the leading business management firm for independent advisors — for marketing, operations, recruiting and human capital, M&A and succession planning.”
So what’s the plan for two consultants? “We have a clear operational plan that will be rolled out in 2015. We don’t want to do it too fast; we’re asking our clients to change with us, so we need to give clients time to get used to having one firm” to work with.
The toughest part of the process turned out to be the most rewarding, she said. “I was worried” about asking the employees to relocate halfway across the country, Herbers said. “I offered moving packages, and they all agreed,” she says, which served as a “validation of what I worked all my career to accomplish: happy employees. It was the best moment of my professional life.”
Check out Should You Be Managing People? How to Tell by Angie Herbers on ThinkAdvisor.