Tag Archives: financial advisors

Selling An Advisory Practice May Take Time

As a financial adviser gets older, an issue that begins to loom large is how to successfully sell his or her practice and retire. It’s not a question that can be left to the last minute. Most strategies require a financial adviser to take a big step out of his or her comfort zone, and some can take 10 years to execute.

“It’s very infrequent where I see one small adviser sell to another small adviser, or even a larger adviser,” said Jay W. Penn, managing partner at Tru Independence, a consulting firm that provides services for financial advisers. “Even a one-man practice with $1 million in gross revenue isn’t worth that much because the revenue stream is totally dependent on one guy. If that guy leaves, how do you value that business?”

Penn says that an outright sale rarely succeeds because the client base for small advisers is a reflection of the adviser. Finding another firm with a culture that will mesh with his clients is very hard.

Use Partnership Approach

The most successful strategy is to gain scale and join with multiple partners. One partner can buy out the other partner, or the older partners bring in junior partners who will buy the firm over a period of five to 10 years. During that time, the new partners meet and become comfortable with all the clients.

Tom Sudyka, managing director of Lawson Kroeker Investment Management in Omaha, Neb., started as one of two young advisers hired to work for the firm. Over a 10-year period, the young advisers became junior partners, then bought out the founding partners. Sudyka and his partner are now bringing in two new junior partners to start the process again.

The founders structured the firm as a small corporation with 2,000 shares of stock. Each year, the founders had the firm independently valued on a formula that looked at revenue and cash flow. Then the two junior partners would together buy 10% of the shares out of their savings or with a loan.

“You want a nice continual flow and continuity for your clients,” said Sudyka. “We tried to get away from the broker mentality. From the time I got here, I went to meetings with Lawson and met all the clients. By the time we transitioned over, the clients were comfortable with the next generation of managers.”

Sudyka says that acquiring the next generation of advisers is a big issue for the industry. “They need to have the same philosophical investment approach and concern for clients as the firm in order to be a match and bring them on.”

Another way to get bigger is to partner with a company like Tru Independence. The consulting firm can take over back-office operations and noncore activities for a small firm. This practice gives advisers more time to prospect for clients and find potential partners. Tru Independence, which works with many small firms, often plays the role of matchmaker by finding potential partners from its large network of clients.

The challenge with this approach is that one- or two-person firms often can’t afford to bring someone on at full salary. To do it right, the firm needs to get bigger. One way is to acquire smaller advisory firms with younger talent. These younger advisers bring an existing book of clients with them and agree to buy the larger firm over a set number of years. The younger advisers have the desire to grow a firm but don’t have a large, established business. The older advisers have the larger business but have stopped growing. By marrying the two, the established firm gets a younger team to drive the growth.

However, often the established firm may not have the money to buy the smaller firm.

Succession Plan

“It’s difficult to get financing from a bank on an unsecured basis for financial advisory firms that are small businesses with revenues of $3 million to $7 million,” said Bob Jesenik, chief executive of Aequitas Capital, a financial services firm in Portland, Ore. Aequitas can provide loans or purchase a minority stake to give an established firm the capital to acquire a smaller one.

The two firms value each other by assets under management, then get proportional shares when they come together as a partnership. Typically, the more established firm will have a higher ownership percentage, such as 70%, which the younger partners will eventually buy out. By bringing the younger team in as partners, the older advisers get a succession plan and seamless transition at the same time.

For full story go to Investor’s Business Daily.

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Survey Finds Nearly Half of Advisors Don’t Do Monthly Reviews

Rydex Investments, the sponsor of leveraged ETFs and the CurrencyShares, exchange-traded products that track foreign currencies, released its Advisor Benchmarketing Supplemental Survey this week. Here are some highlights:

· Most of the advisors (55%) surveyed review the ETF universe and their clients’ ETF holdings monthly.

That may be the majority, but is a little more than half really most advisors? Is this a positive statistic? Well, let’s flip it around. Nearly half (45%) of all advisors DON’T review the ETF universe and their clients’ ETF holdings monthly. So, the odds are nearly 50/50 that your advisor isn’t on top of things. That’s not what I want to hear. Let’s hope your advisor isn’t one of them.

· Open-ended mutual funds and ETFs will be a primary vehicle or product focus for 2009 for investments, according to 98% and 83% of advisors respectively.

That agrees with what I’ve been saying for months. In fact, I think ETFs will surpass mutual funds in the cash inflows for 2009.

· When selecting ETFs for their clients’ portfolios, investment objective and index exposure are the most important criteria, according to 60% of advisors surveyed. The second and third most important decision making criteria are fees (45%) and benchmark tracking accuracy (35%), respectively. It’s interesting to note that more than a third of advisors (38%) do not find Morningstar rankings (or rankings from other research providers) important as decision criteria for ETF investment.

It makes sense that you have to decide what you want before you look at fees. I’m curious to know why so many advisors don’t use the Morningstar rankings.

· Most (80%) of the advisors surveyed said that they are knowledgeable on the differences between ETNs and ETFs, with almost all of them declaring themselves ‘very knowledgeable’ on the tax consequence differences between ETNs and ETFs (97%). Only about a third (30%) are knowledgeable on tracking error differences between the two.

Tracking error is the difference in return between an index fund and the index it follows. This typically results from the costs required to create and hold a portfolio of securities. Index funds should shoot for a tracking error of less than 10 basis points. Since ETNs don’t hold securities, they don’t incur any costs to create or hold a portfolio. They are merely a promise by the issuing bank to pay the return of the index. Thus, a well run ETN should have no tracking error.

· When advisors research different ETF choices, more than half (55%) use the Morningstar ETF center, 40% use the Yahoo! Finance ETF Center and about one third (34%) use ETF provider sites.

For my list of the best sites for researching ETFs check out How to Decide Which ETFs Are Best for You.

· Despite the current economic situation, ETF assets grew to more than $725 billion globally by the end of 2008, according to consulting firm Strategic Insight, and are expected to continue growing in assets over the next few years.

According to the Investment Company Institute, the trade group for the mutual fund and ETF industries, in 2008 U.S. mutual fund assets fell 20% year-over-year to $9.6 trillion, while U.S. ETF assets slid 12.7% to $531.3 billion. I will address the growth in ETF assets in another posting, but that attests to the growth of ETFs outside the U.S.