As a financial advisor you’re a pro at helping others manage their money over time. But you might not be as savvy about selling your practice, which is one of the most important steps in your career.
This is a good time to sell. Over the next 10 years, aging advisors are expected to flood the market with their practices, according to Cerulli Research. Today, though, prices may be reaching a peak.
But even when selling in a good market, it pays to plan. If you sell under duress — because of a death or disability — the price tag for your practice could drop as much as 30%. Here are six points of consideration when selling a practice that should help you get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
1. You can remain engaged after you sell your practice Especially if you are an independent advisor, you don’t have to ride off into the sunset. You can structure a deal that allows you to focus on the business activities you particularly enjoy. For instance, you can remain with the buyer’s firm and shrink down your book to that of a lifestyle practice, shift to a rainmaker role or join the firm’s investment committee.
“Selling a business is not the same as retiring,” observes David Grau, Jr., founder and CEO of Succession Resource Group in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Advisory firms consult with Succession Resource Group on everything from practice valuation to acquisition and succession planning. Grau recommends that sellers envision their role in the new firm after the sale and include that in their negotiations with prospective buyers.
Wirehouse advisors are usually required to exit the firm within a few years, once they begin to transition their business to a younger advisor.
2. Bank financing has boosted down payments for sellers It’s used to be that sellers received a down payment ranging from 10% and 30% of the purchase price and then the buyer would pay the seller earnouts (the remainder, based on the performance of the business) over a three- to five-year period.
Sellers are now getting 65% to 100% of firm valuations upfront, according to data compiled by Succession Resource Group, because banks are willing to lend most of the purchase price. Banks also give borrowers up to 10 years to repay the loan, and this generous financing is boosting prices. Of course, in many deals, there are clawback provisions to protect buyers in the event that revenues disappoint.
For RIA practices with less than $1 billion in assets under management, multiples rose to about 2.7 in 2018 — up from 2.2 in 2017, SRG says. Multiples for commission-based practices, though, slipped slightly — to 0.88 from 0.90.