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How Advisors Can Get a ‘Leg Up’ Now: Gabe Garcia

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RIA dealmaking activity was off the charts in 2021 and could move higher in 2022, says Gabe Garcia, managing director and head of RIA Client Experience, Business Development, and Strategy at SEI

“The momentum and intensity will continue for at least the next 12-24 months [since] strategic acquirers are plentiful, the cost of capital is low, [and] private equity is seeing what wonderful businesses [RIAs] are and that the recurring cash flow is very attractive,” explains Garcia in a podcast interview with ThinkAdvisor.

He made these remarks just ahead of the 2021 ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES awards ceremony in New York last November. Garcia was a judge for the industry awards, which recognize advisors, BDs, RIAs, asset managers and other firms for excellence in several categories.

Noting that RIA M&A activity was on track to surpass 2020’s record-setting level, Garcia said: “Through Q3 [2021], there have been more transactions and RIA deals than in all of 2020.”

There were 307 deals last year, a 50% increase over 2020, according to Echelon Partners’ RIA M&A Deal Report.

Garcia says that “price compression, margin compression, added technology needed to deliver a digital experience for three distinct demographics: millennials, Gen Xers and boomers, create an intense need to gain scale.”

A 25-plus-year industry veteran, Garcia was previously with Cresset Capital Management (2020-2021), E-Trade Advisor Services (2019-2021), BNY Mellon’s Pershing (2010-2019) and Charles Schwab (1995-2010).

As for the industry’s intention and drive for “a more diverse workforce that resembles the population broadly,” he’d like to see “an evolution that moves beyond a focus purely on diversity and talks a little more about inclusion: how we can support each other and give people a sense of belonging.”

That means “not worry[ing] about the numbers or ratios, though critically important in having a diverse workforce, but thinking about how inclusion can be just as prominent in the conversation and in the effort to move forward.”

Garcia started out at Shearson Lehman in 1992. Over the two succeeding decades, he has worked with RIAs as a consultant and executive leader at custodial firms that support the RIA channel.

His plans center on continuing to help RIAs “get a leg up in their careers and, hopefully, learn some of what I had the benefit of learning from my mentors,” he says.

These include Mark Tibergien, the former CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions, who “taught me about caring beyond the business metrics and how we can work in ways that go beyond just corporate business-building and brand-building to lift and elevate the profession,” he says.

What motivated Garcia to participate in judging the LUMINARIES? The awards focus on earning a high level of merit in diversity and inclusion, thought leadership, executive leadership, dealmaking and growth.

“This industry has a true spirit of thinking in innovative ways about the future,” he says. “It’s very important to all of us to [recognize] those who are breaking new ground, doing interesting things and setting the standard so that others can follow in their footsteps.” 

Garcia discusses this topic and a range of issues, including his professional journey, in this podcast.


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