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Creative Planning Strikes Its Biggest Deal to Date

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Creative Planning is extending its 2020 buying spree and just struck its  biggest to date — buying the $6 billion retirement division of Iron Financial, which is based in Northbrook, Illinois, and has 15 employees.

“We are excited to bring the Iron Financial retirement division into our fold,” Creative Planning CEO Peter Mallouk said in a statement. “Iron Financial is a well-established firm with an innovative approach that aligns perfectly with our values and vision.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Creative Planning stood as the clear choice for us,” said Richard Friedman, head of corporate retirement services at Iron Financial, in a statement. He cited its “best-in-class, industry-leading fiduciary offering.”

The deal will help “expand the scale and offering” of those services, providing “a broader investment policy and research team, expanded technology, greater scale and more services,” Friedman added.

The latest acquisition follows about 10 other deals announced by Creative Planning last year. With the Iron purchase, Creative Planning — based in Overland Park, Kansas — has close to $70 billion in assets under management.

Mallouk told ThinkAdvisor the firm will continue to look for more acquisitions, ones that strengthen its presence in major markets, include new offices in secondary markets and with firms that share its culture, investment approach and focus on financial planning.

RIA Dealmaking

Creative Planning’s latest purchase follows the most active month on record for M&A activity in the RIA space, according to DeVoe & Co, which recorded 29 transactions in January.

This dealmaking level sets the stage for 50 or more transactions in the first quarter, which would top the record-setting 40 transactions in the third quarter of 2020.

“This unprecedented volume is being driven by COVID’s succession wakeup call, high valuations and seller’s interest in gaining the power of scale,” said David DeVoe, the firm’s founder and CEO, in a statement.

Among the firms with multiple acquisitions in January were Mercer Advisors, Beacon Pointe, Hightower and CAPTRUST, which each acquired two or more RIAs.

DeVoe does not expect “this extreme level of activity” to continue for several months or quarters. If there were more than 30 transactions a month, valuations would likely decline, leaving “some sellers without their favorite buyers,” he said.

Excluding sellers with more than $5 billion in assets, the average AUM of sellers in January RIA acquisition deals was $958 million, according to DeVoe, slightly less than the $1.02 billion average for all of 2020.