The Art of AUM Monetization and Acquisitions

The longer term objective of every Advisor is to create a massive book of business that will allow them to harvest predictable revenues far into the future, this is the Dealmaker's Playbook.

The Chairman’s Council |  Strategy Playbook

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Dealmakers Playbook - the Intro

Acquisitions offer incomparable prospects for rapid growth, dramatic transformations and scalable capabilities. Some of the most successful Advisors today pursue growth through mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and alliances.

The Chairman’s Council Advisor is an elite professional who has successfully moved ahead of thousands in their field. Amongst the Top 1-5% of Investment Executives. Members of this exclusive club have earned the right to exploit certain key opportunities and anomalies that thousands of other financial advisors fail to fully grasp.

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There are key distinctions in the way these Advisors scale when compared to all other groups of financial advisors. While others spend their days prospecting for new clients, hosting marketing seminars, lunch events, networking etc., the elite Advisor is focused on deals. In the form of mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, business spinoffs to unlock value or pursue the sale of under performing AUM, they are not your average Investment Advisor, they are Dealmakers.

The dealmaker’s playbook encompasses long term strategies and near-term tactical operations that focus heavily on M&A, here the M&A is short for Monetization and Acquisitions. While it’s clear that many see the advantages of acquiring AUM to grow, few approach it with intent and really fully recognize these opportunities, those that get it are exploiting a highly profitable arbitrage that can put them in a position to earn 3x, 5x or even 10x more than their peers. Of equal importance to AUM acquisition, is to recognize unconventional avenues of Monetization, enabling Advisors to constantly seek out opportunities within their existing business to enhance revenues and create efficiencies longer term. The shrewd Advisor is also always positioning a portion of their AUM for very lucrative exits.

The Dealmaker’s Code

MONETIZATIONS

The longer term objective of every Advisor is to create a massive book of business that will allow them to harvest predictable revenues far into the future. Hence, creating a business enterprise that can be monetized incrementally over time and can be sold for a windfall in the future.

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Listed here are some of the most effective tactical monetization approaches:

Sell AUM to Elevate your Profile

Segmenting clients is perhaps the number one advice given by high value business coaches etc. and most accomplished Advisors undergo the process of segmenting their clientele at some point. While this exercise is useful to clearly define service levels amongst different types of clients, segmenting offers tremendous value for dealmakers. They are able to clearly evaluate the monetization value of every segment of their business, and able to slice and group in many different ways. More notably they are able to identify segments of their business that are not a perfect fit to their longer term objectives. It is our view that focused advisors sell the segments that don’t fit and sell them at a “premium”. The strategy involves finding a buyer that sees this as a pivotal asset to their own growth and would be willing to pay a premium. As an example, let’s say you run a discretionary fee only practice, but have a handful of stubborn clients that refuse to pay a fixed fee and instead continue to pay on a per transaction basis. While these may be good clients, they are not a true match to your long term practice model. As a result these clients would equate to a bit of a drag to your business and can be lower value clients in the long run. Revenues tend to be less predictable and they would require a completely different service offering and internal infrastructure. Over time these clients are not ideal for your practice, we suggest monetizing this portion of your AUM early. The reality is that there might be another Advisor within your firm / branch that may have a transactional focused business, and would be a better fit for that client in the long run. This is sometimes a great opportunity for you to help a young rookie advisor as well. Elevate the rookie advisors in your firm or branch by selling AUM to help them build their business, this will create advocates for your future transition to a competitor's platform (I’ve outlined the rationale here further down). New Advisors who were able to grow because you offered them an early opportunity to scale will forever be an ally, they will never seek to cannibalize your client relationships when you move to a competitor's platform.

The Carveout Strategy and Nurturing Associates

While Advisors with a sizable AUM base are hesitant to bring on an Associate to their practice, there are clear advantages to doing this. As your practice grows you’ll likely get support from the firm / branch to add an Associates to your practice as well. Associates are often added to power the marketing strategies for many Advisors in growth mode, this role is typically heavily utilized for prospecting, managing all aspects of marketing and events - seminars, lunches, speaker series, etc. While that approach has traditionally worked well for many, the dealmakers takes a far different approach. Within their own practice dealmakers often look to build potential carve out businesses at a very early stage, this is an effective strategy and seriously compliments their longer term Monetization approaches. Accomplished Advisor are always planning way ahead, and this strategy is evidence of long term planning. Carve-Outs work like this, for an Advisor whose practice is large enough to sustain an Associate, they would bring on an apprentice, and slowly allocate a sizable portion of their business for the Associate to manage on a day to day basis. This is done with the intent that over time, they will have a natural buyer that would most likely pay a premium for this portion of AUM assets. Some Advisors with much larger base of AUM take this a step further, and effectively segment large portions of their books to multiple Associates under their umbrella, an effective strategy for Advisors that are nearing retirement but hold significant AUM and are able to create a situation where they get the highest valuation for assets when eventually sold. For dealmaker Advisors who actively acquire assets, this is also an avenue to create a sub-branch model that we’ll touch on next.

The Sub-Branch Model

This maneuver is being used more and more by some of the largest Advisory groups. Here, top performing Advisors realize that being among the highest producers in their Branch or Firm gives them bargaining power. Many use this clout to relocate their team into separate office space, often away from the primary offices of their firm or away from branches. This creates a boutique feel and really sets them apart. However one of the most valuable benefits of this Sub-Branch move, that is quite advantageous to the Advisor, is the opportunity to shelter your AUM ahead of a moving to a competitors platform in the future. Often, when an Advisor switches platform, their client list is redistributed to other Advisors within their branch. By forming a sub branch, the Advisor often has a much higher success of moving their clients, without the friction of other advisors poaching their clients. One simple reason for this is that sub-branches are often autonomous, so they tend to be linked to a primary branch, but with less influence of the main branches administration, therefore in the event of the sub branch Advisor moving to a competitor, it’s less likely that the main branch administration team would mobilize quickly enough to impact the move.

Move Early and Move Often

Another effective monetization tactic is to take full advantage of the signing bonuses offered by competitors to move. Let’s face it, if you’re on one of the premium platforms, most clients are indifferent. If you’re able to build good rapport with your clients and offer big value to them when you move, you will be highly rewarded. Some Advisors move with another intent, often if you are a high grossing producer news gets around to the other firms quickly, this offers some interesting opportunities to negotiate, but it also gives you a chance to look inside. The smart Advisors seek to get the highest signing bonuses of course, higher payouts and move strategically to firms with higher numbers of older advisors, this opens the door for future acquisitions, consolidation and carveout opportunities.

Move Again to Maximize your Retirement - 5 years before retirement

For Advisors nearing retirement, moving to another platform is often seen as risky. However, those that are effective at building fences around their clients by applying the Carveout Method, the Sub-Branch Model and have a reputation of elevating young Advisor in their branch, can comfortably move to another platform and earn a substantial bonus towards funding their retirement aspirations.

Sell Into a Profitable Retirement

Advisors that follow this road map are in a solid position to monetize your AUM for a premium at retirement, they will have many potential buyers available, whether selling to Associates or other Advisors like themselves.

We believe, when done strategically, the combination of this list of Monetization strategies can facilitate in building serious wealth for high performance Advisors. The elegance of this approach is its simplicity, each strategy individually maximizes value of your AUM, however together, over a period of time, Advisors can increase their revenues by as much as 3x, further combing these with the effective Acquisition strategies, combined revenue through to retirement can be as much as 5x what the average advisor will earn on their AUM.

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ACQUISITIONS

It’s estimated that 25% of high performing Advisors grow by strategic AUM acquisitions. Whether with intent or opportunistically, most Advisors understand that an opportunity to acquire AUM can often catapult your business growth and increase revenues fast.

Always be Buying

Position yourself to be known as a friendly and premium buyer of AUM, seek opportunities to be involved in the consolidation of available AUM within your branch & firm. Start early to build fences around every advisor nearing retirement in your branch. Look for strategic opportunities in which other Advisors are in crisis and may require shelter or support, stand out by offering strategic partnership early ahead of other advisors, offer shared resources, consolidate to increase grid participation. This is often a huge benefit to Advisors that are close to retirement and are in passive management mode, they’ve stopped growing and are simply living off of their AUM. Forming a strategic partnership a few years ahead of their retirement will offer a boost to their income with a higher grid participation, while securing your position to acquire the AUM and allowing for early transition.

Buy More

While some very accomplished Advisors navigate upmarket with their existing clientele, the reality is that this can take many years. Instead move up market by acquiring AUM from smaller Advisors, keep in mind that many of these Advisors may have a small group of high value clients. Remember the only way to grow fast is through acquisitions, but you’ll add some lower quality AUM along the way. When the opportunity arises to add Associates to your practice, do it every time, and use this as a mechanism to create future carve outs in your business. Your long term strategy is to control the top 25% of your book, and have two Associates managing the middle 50% of your book, with the intent to allow them to carve out individually 25% when the time is right. They will pay you the most for your assets. Always position the bottom 25% of your book for sale to young rookie Advisors in your branch. This strategy will allow you to build strong advocates on both ends of the spectrum, Advisors thinking of retirement will see you as a partner for their exit, while Rookies will see you as a source of AUM to buy and grow their business.

Buying Whales

Almost every Advisor has a whale relationship and a handful of high value clients, you need to assemble a business of whales, seek out small Advisors that have relied on a few big relationships in their business. While others may see this as a risky move to acquire, it requires good planning, proper execution, but buying a few Advisors AUM with established whale clients can put you miles ahead.

The Ambassador Strategy

Build strong relationships inside your branch, your city and across your platform, be known as the first call for Advisors within your organization planning an exit, be known as a buyer of large AUM / Books.

Be an Ambassador of your firm and branch by working with external wholesalers to identify Advisors close to retirement at other firms. Meet with them, encourage them to move to your firm. You will always get the first right on acquiring that business and your firm’s management will love you, greater advantage.

Revenue Share and Strategic Partnerships

One strategy that is seldom used, is to create partnerships with Advisors at your firm from other jurisdictions who may have clients in your town or city. Although some Advisors have had success building the Home and Away book of business, there may be Advisors with clients in your jurisdiction that have tried this approach and are stuck with a small orphan base of clients that they are not fully servicing. This may be an opportunity for you to build a partnership with a clear path to acquisition.

Conclusion

In the world of Wealth Management, the demographics are changing, it's estimated that one-third of Advisor in the US will be retiring within 5 years. There is a significant imbalance of older Advisors in the industry, over half of the industry now stands within 10 years of retirement. This presents a compelling opportunity for the entrepreneurial Dealmaker Advisor. For those who pursue a focused Monetization & Acquisition strategy, they are bound to stand out amongst their peers as legends and have an opportunity to make 3x to 5x more than their peers in the process.

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The Chairman’s Council |  Strategy Playbook

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