HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Banks and independent advisors have been eyeing each other across the floor for years, and now they’re beginning to dance.
There have been a few such tangos in recent years, but new research suggests that the pace of those deals will increase significantly even within the next 12 months.
Indeed, 65% of banks said they were interested in acquiring an independent practice as part of their growth strategy, according to a new survey announced at the annual Bank Insurance and Securities Association conference here. The survey was of BISA members. Scott Stathis, managing partner of consulting firm Stathis Partners, moderated a panel discussion called “Independent Practice Acquisition” that explored this issue.
Both sides have reason for seeking out such deals, the panel said. While banks get a boost to their growth plans, the independent advisors get one more option for their succession planning, according to Stathis. Moreover, the independent practices also get bank resources for ever-present compliance challenges, said Frank Drago, head of Citizens Bank’s investment services unit, and another panelist.
Kevin Beard, chief growth officer at Atria Wealth Solutions, a new wealth management holding company backed by private equity, discussed the benefits of looking specifically for smaller independent shops. Beard said that while the teams with $1 billion in AUM, or the $1 million producers get much of the attention, there are plenty of good targets on the lower end. The average AUM size for an RIA is just $62 million to $75 million in assets, he said, and these smaller producers will usually be more eager to grow.
When Stathis asked the panel for lessons learned from their experience with acquisitions, Beard cited cultural differences as a potential sticking point.
Toward that end, Drago said banks that pursue this should be aware of those differences especially with compensation. He suggested that banks set up a new grid for the newly acquired advisors instead of treating them like traditional bank advisors.
If these issues can be ironed out, the strategy can be very effective for banks’ growth plans, said Arthur Osman, executive vice president, institution services, at LPL. “The math works,” he said, but added that growth should not be focused solely on acquisitions; organic growth should also factor into the plans.
For actual deal terms, Osman recommends a two-part deal with a second payment based on the retention level of clients after the deal.