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RIAs 'Must Do More to Justify Their Fees': Mariner Wealth's Bicknell

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As CEO and president of Mariner Wealth Advisors, Marty Bicknell leads the firm’s strategic direction and growth strategies, analyzing and anticipating market trends and opportunities for Mariner.

When Bicknell founded the firm in 2006 with seven others and $300 million in assets under advisement, the goal was to keep clients at the center of all the firm did, according to the company. Bicknell wanted to build a company that could simplify clients’ lives by providing all the resources they needed under one roof.

Mariner — which is based in Overland Park, Kansas — continues to grow and had announced 12 acquisitions since early 2021, including a recent deal to buy Portland, Oregon-based Cascadia Advisory Services, which oversees $775 million in assets under advisement.

The firm has added over $15 billion in assets this year and now has more than $50 billion.

Despite those acquisitions, Bicknell stresses the importance of organic growth for advisory firms.

Via email, we asked Bicknell a series of questions that touched not only on his professional knowledge, but also what he does off the clock.

1. What industry statistic or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

Marty Bicknell: As many people know, the RIA industry is very fragmented. There are over 4,000 firms and 90% of them are under $1 billion in assets.

It has been written that it’s rare for RIAs to grow organically. Most don’t grow at all.

At Mariner Wealth Advisors, our most important indicator is organic growth. We measure revenue from new clients to the firm monthly. Organic growth is the biggest component to the strength of a firm.

2, How has it been changing recently and how do you expect it to change in 2022?

Our growth has been consistently in the mid-teens year over year, and we expect that to continue.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

Firms should dedicate resources to organic growth. Without growth, how do you provide opportunities for professional development and growth to your entire organization?

Invest in growing your firm and your people.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this and other trends?

I follow all the industry news, including ThinkAdvisor.

More on this topic

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic?

We have a deep desire to get back to work in the office. Our plans are to start in January.

I believe being together in the office is critical to training and development, and to our culture. I don’t think we will return to the office 100%, but I do think we will be there 60-80% of the time.

6. What’s your biggest hobby and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

Golf, golf, golf. Did I mention golf? I play every weekend if possible.

7. How about your charitable activities?

A cause I’m involved with and really proud of is Halo, an orphanage that uses art to rehabilitate youth.

Homelessness is a big issue, especially for children, and we need to do everything in our power to address it.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

“Atomic Habits,” “Tiny Habits” and “Mini Habits.” All three are great reads.

Why? Willpower is difficult. Habits let you be on the offense, so you don’t even need willpower. For example, you want to eat right. My habit is to buy my willpower at the store. If I don’t buy junk food, I’m not tempted to eat it.

9. Any special holiday plan you’d like to share as we near year-end? Or a New Year’s resolution?

My New Year’s resolution is the same as last year — to positively impact the lives of many, including our clients, our associates and our communities. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

10. Is there any other update or piece of advice you’d like to explain to our advisor audience? 

I still hear rumblings about fee pressure. It’s just not true. However, there is margin pressure.

Firms must do more to justify their fees. Those who aren’t adding services will face fee pressure, or worse, they will have retention issues.

Tax, trust and estate, insurance, retirement planning, robust investment options, etc., are all services to consider. The strong firms of the future are building those resources in a truly integrated way.