Did the DOL Create a Buyer’s Market for Advisory Firms?

Did the DOL Create a Buyer’s Market for Advisory Firms?

Every year after tax season, ‘for sale’ signs go up at CPA firms across the country. It’s no wonder.


It’s a grueling business that forces accountants to run a marathon-length sprint at tax time to accommodate their clients, most of whom file on April 15. Once it’s over, it’s not uncommon for CPAs who are near retirement age (or even younger!) to call it quits. The result can be a buyer’s market for anyone looking to buy an established firm.

If you’re a financial advisor looking to expand your practice, you know all too well that the process of buying (or selling) another practice hasn’t been so simple in our own industry. That may be because maintaining a book of business is often not as difficult as building it in the first place. Many older advisors therefore can keep their doors open longer and, in some cases, simply lighten the load over time to create a “lifestyle practice.” That allows the advisor to delay retirement indefinitely, and it keeps their clients happy as well. This reality has made it a challenge for advisors who want to expand their own practices by purchasing another firm. Companies like FP Transitions and Succession Link who specialize in bringing the buyers and sellers of advisory firms have reported that for every seller on their sites, they have between 30 and 50 potential buyers. That’s a lot of competition!

The good news: the game may have shifted entirely with the announcement of the final DOL fiduciary rule. By April 2017, advisors must comply with the new rule that includes changes to producer compensation, products, and compliance. Advisors who operate commission-based practices are facing a transition—and for those one-third of advisors who are nearing retirement, it just may not be worth the trouble.

That’s great news if you’ve been thinking about expanding your own practice. Thanks to the DOL, the number of ‘for sale’ signs on advisory practices is likely to escalate in the next 12 months, and for the first time in ages, there may be more sellers than buyers. If you’re ready to consider the opportunity, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Choose a firm with similar values.


Taking on a practice is a complex, “Brady Bunch” challenge. Take the time to be sure your philosophy and culture are aligned. If your focus is financial planning, an investment-focused firm won’t be a natural fit. The same is true for active versus passive investment styles. From a team perspective, synergy with your own team will go a long way to reduce integration pains. The same goes for the clients. Some advisor’s clients might be used to “kitchen table” meetings versus having to come to your office, some may prefer a more formal setting, and some may prefer a more “robo” approach. Think through which differences you can live with—and which you can’t (or shouldn’t).

2. Consider technology.


Technology is another challenge. Whether it’s a CRM system, the clearing firm used or other key systems, evaluating and understanding your target’s technology platform is a key consideration. This is especially true now that “robo” strategies are becoming more important to growing practices. Of course, if you’ve found the perfect firm, their technology platform (or lack thereof) needn’t be a deal breaker, but it will need to be addressed—particularly if your technology platform is not completely defined and built.

3. Consider transitioning new clients to fee-only.


Since you’re going to have to initiate contracts with each new client at the time of the business transition, you may want to introduce a fee-only structure from day one. Discuss why a fee-only agreement may be best for the client, and clearly lay out how much they’ll be charged each quarter and what they receive in return.

4. Make client retention your #1 priority.


No book of business is worth the price if you don’t retain the clients within it. Work with the seller to create a strong client communication plan with his or her client base. Get introduced personally when you can to be sure the transition is relationship based, not paper based. To incent the selling advisor’s involvement, consider structuring the selling price on a percentage of retained clients or assets under management measured at specific time frames in the future.

5. Don’t rush the transition.


Even if the seller is ready to call it quits yesterday, a smooth transition is vital to client retention. Many sellers are willing to work together with a buyer for a period of time to assist with the details of account transfers and to hold their clients’ hands through the change. In this relationship-based business, a smooth, careful transition can be the difference between simply taking on more work and achieving your long-term plans for your growing practice.

Keeping these five things at the top of your mind and setting up conscious processes around them will help maximize the opportunity of buying another advisor’s business. I can’t say that the post-DOL environment will increase advisory practices up for sale in a similar way that CPA practices are for sale after April 15, but being prepared for the opportunity will give you the best chance for success.

Bill Acheson
Investing in Life
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Bill Acheson is Chief Financial Officer of GWG Holdings, Inc. Bill is ideally suited to inform financial professionals and investors about specialty finance, alternative inves ... Click for full bio

Building a Better Index With Strategic Beta

Building a Better Index With Strategic Beta

Written by: Yazann Romahi, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Beta Strategies and Lead Portfolio Manager of JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF at J.P. Morgan Asset Management

With the global economy warming up, but political uncertainty remaining a constant, it’s more important than ever for investors to position their global portfolios to navigate long-term market volatility. That’s where the power of diversification comes in, says Yazann Romahi, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Beta Strategies at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Lead Portfolio Manager of JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN).

Not all diversified portfolios are alike  


In their search for diversification, many investors turn to passive index ETFs, which track a market cap-weighted index. But these funds aren’t always the most effective way to steer a steady course through volatile markets—and there are two key reasons why.

First, traditional market cap-weighted indices are actually less diversified than investors may think. For example, in the S&P 500, the top 10% of stocks account for half the volatility of the index. Within sectors, while you might assume that sector risk is distributed across the ten major sectors fairly evenly, it is a surprise to many that at any point in time, one sector can be as high as 50% of the risk.

Second, cap-weighted indices come with some inherent weaknesses, including exposure to unrewarded risk concentrations and overvalued securities. So, while these indices provide investors with exposure to the equity risk premium and long-term capital growth, as is the case with any other investment, investors can also experience painful downturns, which increase volatility and reduce long-term performance. For investors seeking equity exposure with broader diversification—and potentially lower volatility—strategic beta indices may be better positioned to deliver the goods.

How do we define strategic beta?


Strategic beta refers to a growing group of indices and the investment products that track them. Most of these indices ultimately aim to enhance returns or reduce risk relative to a traditional market cap-weighted benchmark.

Building on decades of proven research and insights, J.P. Morgan’s strategic beta ETFs track diversified factor indices designed to capture most of the market upside, while providing less volatility in down markets compared to a market cap-weighted index. Rather than constructing an index based on market capitalization—with the largest regions, sectors and companies representing the largest portion of the index—our strategic beta indices aim to allocate based on maximizing diversification along every dimension—sectors, regions and factors. The index therefore seeks to improve risk-adjusted returns by tackling the overexposure to risk concentrations and overvalued securities that come as part of the package with traditional passive index investing.

So, how do you build a better index?


As one of just a few ETF providers that combine alternatively-weighted and factor-oriented indices, our disciplined index methodology is designed to target better risk-adjusted returns through a two-step process.

First, we seek to maximize diversification across the risk dimension. This essentially means that we look to ensure risk is more evenly spread across regions and sectors, which balances the index’s inherent concentrations. As uncontrolled risk concentrations are unlikely to be rewarded over the longer term, we believe investors should strive for maximum diversification when constructing a core equity exposure.

Second, we seek to maximize diversification across the return dimension. Research shows that there are a number of sources of equity returns beyond growth itself. These include risk exposures such as value, size, momentum and quality (or low volatility). When creating a diversified factor index in partnership with FTSE Russell, we seek to build up the constituents with exposure to these factors. We therefore select securities through a bottom-up stock filter, scoring each company based on a combination of these return factors to determine whether it is included in the index. These factors provide access to a broader, more diversifying source of equity returns as they inherently deliver low correlation to one another, providing diversification in the return dimension.

So, whereas traditional passive indices allow market cap to dictate allocations, the diversified factor index seeks to ensure that we minimize concentration to any source of risk—whether it be region, sector or source of return.

How are you currently weighted versus the market cap-weighted index, and how have your under-   and over-weights enhanced risk-return profiles?


Crucially, our weightings don’t reflect specific views on sectors or regions and are instead, by design, the point of maximal diversification. It is important to remember that market cap-weighted indices typically carry a lot of concentration risk—for example, at various points in time, a single sector can explain half the risk of the index when left unmanaged. At the moment, three sectors explain two-thirds of the risk of the FTSE Developed ex-NA Index—these being financials, consumer goods and industrials. In contrast, the FTSE Developed ex-NA Diversified Factor Index—or strategic beta index, which JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN) tracks—is explicitly designed to maintain balance and therefore these sector allocations range from 8% to 12%. In the short term, any concentrated portfolio can of course outperform a more diversified one, if the concentrated bet paid off.

Investing wholly in a single stock may outperform over short-term periods. At other times, it may significantly underperform an index. However, it is well understood that an investor is better off diversifying across lots of stocks for better risk-adjusted long-term gains. The same applies here. From a pure return perspective, if financials, for example, account for half of a cap-weighted index in terms of market cap and have a strong run over the short term, of course, this index would outperform over this period. Over the long run, however, it is fairly uncontroversial to suggest that the more broadly diversified index could achieve better risk-adjusted returns.

Seeking a smoother ride in international equity markets?


For investors targeting enhanced diversification through a core international equity portfolio, JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN) targets lower volatility by tracking an index that more evenly distributes risk, enabling them to get invested—and stay invested.

Learn more about JPIN and J.P. Morgan’s suite of strategic beta ETFs here.

Call 1-844-4JPM-ETF or visit www.jpmorganetfs.com to obtain a prospectus. Carefully consider the investment objectives and risks as well as charges and expenses of the ETF before investing. The summary and full prospectuses contain this and other information about the ETF. Read them carefully before investing.

 

J.P. Morgan Asset Management
Empowering Better Decisions
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See how ETFs differ from other investment vehicles, learn how to evaluate them, and discover how ETFs can be used effectively to achieve a diversity of investment strategies. ... Click for full bio