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Peter Mallouk

Industry Spotlight > RIAs

Creative Planning Buys Wipfli's $5B RIA

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What You Need to Know

  • Milwaukee-based Wipfli includes 80 advisors, the Avid digital investment tool and a retirement-plan services group.

Creative Planning says it has acquired Milwaukee-based Wipfli Financial Advisors  an RIA with offices in nine U.S. states that manages $5 billion in client assets  from Wipfli LLP, a national tax, accounting and consulting firm.

Wipfli Financial Advisors is bringing 95 employees to Overland Park, Kansas-based RIA Creative Planning, including CEO Jeff Pierce and 80 advisors, according to Creative Planning. They will join Creative Planning’s 350 advisors.

“It’s an incredible fit for all parties,” CEO Peter Mallouk said in an interview. “We share a planning led approach, investment philosophy and focus on education and credentials.”

Also, Mallouk explained, “Wipfli’s RIA strengthens our presence in the upper Midwest. It’s a great strategic relationship, [and] Wipfli and Creative will enter into a referral relationship as well.”

As part of the deal, the wealth management and investment advisory affiliate of advisory firm and CPA Wipfli will “maintain a significant minority ownership stake” in the venture with Creative Planning, according to a statement.

The transaction includes Wipfli Financial Advisor’s digital investment tool, Avid, and its retirement-plan services group. These additions will “complement” Creative Planning’s recent acquisition of Lockton Retirement Services and its emerging wealth division, Creative Planning said.

Other transaction terms were not disclosed and the timing of the deal’s closing is subject to certain approvals and conditions.

Wipfli’s Roots

Founded in 1930, Wipfli was named after founder Clarence Wipfli. The firm launched Wipfli Financial Advisors in 1999 with a “mission to make objective, fiduciary-focused financial advice available to the everyday investor,” according to Creative Planning.

The presence of the Wipfli Financial Advisors team in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Montana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin “will help us better serve our clients throughout the U.S.,” according to Mallouk.

Explaining why Wipfli Financial Advisors made a deal with Creative Planning, Pierce said in a statement: “From leading with financial planning and a similar evidence-based investment approach, to the incredibly strong cultural alignment and deep commitment to both clients and employees, we knew Creative Planning was the right firm for us to join.”

“Going forward, we will be able to provide additional services to our clients to meet their needs for many years to come while investing in our team through a strong commitment to training and development,” he added.

The transaction “creates a strategic relationship that will allow our clients to access a broad set of services through innovative financial platforms,” according to Kurt Gresens, Wipfli managing partner and chairman of the board.

M&A Activities

The deal is Creative Planning’s third transaction this summer, following its June purchase of Rosen Capital Management, which works with about $114 million in assets, and Ferris Capital, which manages $755 million assets.

Other recent acquisitions by Creative Planning included Keystone Wealth Partners  ($644 million of assets, Heritage Way Advisors ($450 million), Hatton Consulting ($440 million) and Resource Management ($1.9 billion), all of which were announced in April; it also bought Emery Howard ($1.8 billion) in March and Reilly Financial Advisors ($2 billion) in January.

Overall, Creative Planning managed or advised on more than $225 billion in client assets as of Dec. 31, with “continued plans for growth throughout 2022,” it said Wednesday.

Top Trends, Challenges

The RIA space is “fragmented with largely fragmented approaches; some firms integrate, others don’t; some share an investment approach, others don’t; some have long time horizons and others shorter,” Mallouk told ThinkAdvisor. “There is a lot of diversity in approaches in our space. It makes it great for sellers, who can really choose a firm that matches their needs.”

However, he said: “The secret of the RIA space is that most firms are not growing at all. But that has been masked by a strong market over the last five years. The No. 1 challenge for RIAs to compete in the future is to have an approach that can result in growth.”

Current client concerns, meanwhile, are “not centered around one thing, which is unusual,” Mallouk pointed out. “Usually a prevailing narrative takes hold. Today, it’s all over the place, from inflation to rising rates, Ukraine to Taiwan, politics to social issues.”

On an optimistic note, he said: “The Fed will get inflation mostly under control, and the consequence will be a mild recession. Also, any predictions, including my best take, are generally worthless as the economy is too dynamic to be predictable.”

(Pictured: Peter Mallouk, CEO of Creative Planning)


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