Despite the possibility of a double-dip recession, advisors continue to seek career opportunities and staff for their firms. Openings for advisors do exist, and retention has become an issue once again as the financial industry cautiously looks to grow despite volatile markets and a slow-growth economy. AdvisorOne reviewed some recent surveys, news and advisor market metrics to see where the opportunities lie and which factors control them. Here are a few.
Advisory M&A: Less Is More
In late August, Pershing Advisor Solutions released the latest edition of its “Real Deals” quarterly look at mergers and acquisitions in the advisor industry. In collaboration with FA Insight, which AdvisorOne partners with on its annual advisor benchmarking study, the latest Pershing report found that while M&A activity in the advisory industry fell slightly in Q2, deals were larger and total assets exchanged increased. Only seven transactions targeting retail-focused RIA firms with at least $50 million in AUM or $500,000 in annual revenues occurred in Q2 2011, down from Q1’s 11 deals. Q2’s seven deals are also fewer than took place in each of the previous four quarters.
Firms acquired in Q2 2011 had a median of $800 million in AUM, twice the median amount of assets exchanged in Q1. Nearly half the purchases included RIAs with over $1 billion in assets; total assets exchanged were $8.5 billion, up from Q1 just over $6 billion.
Q2’s most surprising trend was the notable increase of bank and trust acquirers.
On the Road Again
Mark Elzweig, president of boutique search firm Mark Elzweig Co., says “advisors are optimistic and remain confident that their franchises are very solid.” He also anticipates 2012 to be a year when many more wirehouse advisors will change firms—a big contrast to 2010 and 2011.
There is already a great deal of activity among independent advisors, what with a record number of smaller broker-dealers closing largely because of the onslaught of new regulatory requirements that skew the market in favor of larger firms.
Though Elzweig focuses on recruiting wirehouse and regional FAs, he notes: “When we’re aware of quality people at smaller firms, we are most definitely approaching them.”
The Carrot …
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch is working on new pay incentives to motivate advisors to zoom in on wealthier clients. Those incentives support advisors and teams with 80% of their business with clients that have $250,000 or more in investable assets.
Also, advisors’ books of business should include 150 households or less. Other objectives require at least 98% client retention, 35% of client assets in fee-based accounts and clients using several products, such as both retirement planning and bank products.
Merrill now has some 15,700 advisors; the new plan appears to dovetail with expanding Total Merrill, its platform for mass-affluent clients, those with between $50,000-$250,000 of investable assets. These plans include doubling advisors servicing this client base—from 500 to 1,000 this year.
… And the Stick