First Published 11/3/17
In the interest of full disclosure, one of the services our consulting firm offers is assistance to advisors in surfacing and bringing to the table appropriate merger and acquisition targets. That said, let us look at the options:
· Find them yourself
· Auction sites
· Consultants, like us
In my opinion, one of the best ways for an advisor to meet and broach the idea of a merger or acquisition is to do it yourself, if you can make the time. This may be surprising coming from a firm that offers this as a service. Here is something else that may surprise you; it is not about the money. If you read earlier articles in this series, you will find that we believe that these transactions are often 60% emotional for the seller, and only about 40% financial. So it stands to reason that if you can meet a seller under favorable circumstances, you can begin to develop the needed relationship. I am not advocating that you work the deal alone. Since this series is for First-Time Buyers, I have to assume that you have not done this before, and the process is full of land mines and pitfalls that you will undoubtedly encounter. Get help. However, surfacing targets is something you can be very good at if you are willing, and able to put in the time. It takes commitment; you have to market yourself in the same way and with fervor equal to your quest to find clients.
· Join local organizations and study groups populated by advisors, especially aging advisors.
· If you are affiliated with a broker dealer, ask about anyone in your area who is getting “long in the tooth.”
· Offer to be advisors’ continuity plan and even to take an option, (pay a little something), on being the first one to look at their book when they are ready to retire down the road. This does not obligate you to buy, only to be the first one to look at it. First right of refusal in other words.
· Spend 1-2 hours per week calling local advisors who have been in business 25+ years. Same day and time, week after week. Use the SEC site or BrokerCheck to see how long the firm or advisor has been around. Most broker dealers buy lists of advisors; ask them for a list in your area.
· Use LinkedIn and Facebook to identify and reach out.
· Tell every wholesaler that you are looking.
· When you take on a client, ask who their former advisor was. If he or she is getting older, call them. People often leave advisors because they are slowing down.
Bottom line, it is just like prospecting for clients. Determine your criteria and spend a defined amount of time each week prospecting for a “get to know you meeting.” Be willing to tell anyone who asks what you are looking for; be specific.
In my view, Auction sites are great for Sellers. They are not great for Buyers. This is not to say you will never find one there. You might. But by their very nature, they are set up to be a bidding process. If you get 5 bidders on your house, do you come down on the price? Are you more flexible on your terms? Of course not. I am not suggesting that you never look at them; I am simply suggesting you be aware of what you are up against. Advisory firms are most often purchased in a process that looks more like courting than bidding. You want to be in on the courting.
Recruiters can be a good way to find targets, especially if your time is limited. They can make hundreds of calls to help you uncover possible targets. However, be careful not to expect too much help beyond finding them. With a few exceptions, recruiters operate to recruit which means gathering basic facts and effecting an introduction. They are not prepared or qualified to help you complete the deal.
There are consulting firms that help you work the deal, and others that will actually help you find the targets and then work the deal. Find out what the limits of their abilities are and compare their fees and activities to your other choices.
Casey M. Corrie
As a reminder, these articles are attempts to help First-Time Buyers avoid pitfalls inherent in the process of advisory firm acquisition.