Merger and acquisition activity in the industry is on track for another record year. Billion-dollar RIAs, once unicorns, now number in the hundreds. Private equity interest in the industry’s recurring revenue streams appears poised to keep the consolidation rolling.
The industry’s next generation grappled with these trends during the Future of Our Business event, held in New York on Wednesday.
At the firm level, industry consolidation means tougher competition, particularly for smaller shops.
“The pace of change is really quick so you can’t be complacent,” said Leah Jones, director of financial planning at Hightower Bethesda. “Practices need to evolve to stay competitive with larger organizations. The only way you can do that is by leveraging technology.”
Indeed, the proliferation of advisory technology and outsourcing solutions allows advisers to broaden their service offerings, attendees said. Advisers just need to be cognizant of their value proposition and know when to refer clients to an outside specialist.
“You can compete with a big firm by showing that depth,” said Katie Brown, founder and principal of Morton Brown Family Wealth.
Small firms can compete in a consolidating industry, but they need to make early decisions about how to structure their businesses, especially in a profession that often figures equity into its compensation packages. As Brown put it, new firm owners need to make a “conscious decision between a lifestyle practice and building an enterprise.”
NEXT GEN CLIENTS
The next generation client also can be a challenge for the advice industry and advisers of all ages will need to adapt to sharing more of themselves.
Younger clients are more willing to provide information with advisers and connect with them on a personal level, according to attendees. Gaining their trust, though, means advisers will have to share more of themselves and be creative in spreading their message on social media, podcasts and other platforms.
In fact, getting to know more about clients’ personal goals may be the only way to keep them on track for the long term.
Ka’Neda Bullock, founder and CEO of Master Plan Investment Group, pointed out that deep knowledge of clients can help reorient them in down markets.
“It’s not just about market performance,” Bullock said. “It’s about what you’re trying to achieve and why you invested.”
That may be especially important for younger investors, who have little experience with prolonged downturns. Forty-year-old investors today, after all, were just entering their prime earning years in 2008. The brief pandemic crash notwithstanding, many of them have benefited from a bull run their entire investing lives.
But reminding clients of their goals and helping them along their personal journey requires a shift from basic know-your-customer compliance to proactive and ongoing conversations about goals, risks and tradeoffs.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.