Leave a comment

The Financial Implications of Selling Your Practice

Prior to selling a financial advisory practice, along with selecting the right buyer, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the financial aspects, including: price versus value and the aspects of the deal.

Price Versus Value
To begin, it’s important to know the difference between valuation and price. For example, you may think your practice is worth a certain dollar amount because of the hard work you have put into it and the wonderful clients you have, however the valuation may show otherwise.

Valuation looks at the entire enterprise value of the firm based on the methodology that is most appropriate for a given situation. Most valuation approaches are classified as: income approach (net value plus future potential); market approach (comparison to similar practices); and asset-based approach (tangible net assets determine fair market value).

While the debate continues as to which is best, and rules of thumb are suggested, the best advice is to seek multiple valuations.

When preparing for your valuation, the following factors are often key determinants for buyers and lenders:

Age of your clients. If a large number of them are nearing retirement, they may be considered less valuable than younger clients who are in the accumulation phase.

Number of clients. A smaller number of clients with higher net worth are easier to manage than a large number with fewer assets.

A buyer will also look at the current profitability of your firm and the amount of growth you have experienced over the past years. Equally important will be how you manage your business. For example, fee-based income is more predictable and looked at more favorably by lending agencies.

Aspects of the Deal
How you are willing to structure payments is an important element of the sale and can affect the buyer’s and loan company’s willingness to participate. Unfortunately, there is no boilerplate formula. On average payment terms were split between three payment types:

  • Down payment: 36 percent
  • Promissory note: 55 percent
  • Earn-out: 9 percent

Advisers need to keep in mind that a sizable down payment may be impractical because the assets are intangible. The bank can’t repossess a book of investments.

However, there are institutes that are set up to make loans of this type. The buyer or seller might also contact his or her B/D or custodian to see if it has a program available.

The promissory note allows the seller to receive fair value over a reasonable amount of time. Most sellers are paid in full within three to five years.

The earn-out compensates the seller a percentage of future revenues based on future performance. Performance can be based on gross revenue, AUMs, net acquired assets or any other measure both parties agree too. It’s a good way for buyers to be protected against an under-performing firm or sellers to receive the full amount of its worth.

The important thing is to set up a deal that you feel okay with and the buyer will be able to find funding for.

phil-flakes

 

Phil Flakes
Co-founder
Succession Link
San Diego, Calif.

 


Leave a comment

Are You in Retirement Without Even Knowing It?

Advisers deal with pre-retirees every day. Some of these clients are anxious to quit working, but many more say they’d like to work in some capacity once they retire. The 2015 Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations study, conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, found that 7 in 10 pre-retirees want to work in retirement. In fact, it’s becoming so common that people now talk about “Retirement 1,” “Retirement 2,” and “Retirement 3,” with each stage representing a reduced schedule and set of responsibilities.

For advisers, this is easy to understand: “dying with your boots on” is an industry norm. Work in retirement may be different or happen at a different pace, with many tenured advisers putting in fewer hours and taking more time off, including sabbaticals. In any case, there’s a clear trend of advisers staying in the business longer—or not leaving at all.

The problem is when you slip into retirement mode without even realizing it.

Maintaining a Viable Lifestyle Practice
Many advisers are comfortable with the idea of running a lifestyle practice but bristle at the suggestion that they’ve entered “Retirement 1.” Whatever you call it—Retirement 1 or a lifestyle practice—there are several key points to consider if you want to keep your business healthy.

  • Am I still growing? By definition, healthy businesses are growing businesses. In our industry, that’s generally measured by assets under management or overall production. At a certain point in an adviser’s career, it becomes difficult to recruit new clients. Existing clients pass away or move into the distribution phase. Attracting new business to replace lost AUM becomes challenging as clients seek an adviser who will outlast them. When AUM starts shrinking, the business owner needs to assess whether the practice has begun to die on the vine, making it less attractive to potential buyers.
  • Am I keeping up with industry developments? Regulatory requirements, new technology, marketing strategies, emerging products that deliver answers to complex client issues—staying on top of all the developments in our industry requires a certain amount of time and commitment. Downshifting to a lifestyle practice shouldn’t mean letting your focus slip or becoming nonchalant about certain aspects of the business.
  • Do I have a documented continuity plan? No matter what kind of practice you have, going without one borders on unethical. The need for a continuity plan is well known, but unfortunately, many advisers still don’t take this essential step to provide for their firm’s (and their clients’) future.

A Personal Choice (But it’s Not Right for Everyone)
Mid-career advisers may observe the attractive lifestyle of more tenured advisers and think, I want that, too! For their part, millennial advisers entering the industry may look around and assume a lifestyle practice is the norm. But if significant growth is on your agenda (and for many younger advisers, it is), the activities that will get you there generally require putting in some evening, weekend and summer work.

Of course, how you balance work and life is ultimately a personal choice. In the independent world, as long as you’re compliant and your clients are protected, it’s no one’s business but yours. Just be sure you’re making the decision deliberately rather than simply falling into it.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


Leave a comment

Anticipating Change in Your Business

Nothing is predictable—in life, the financial markets or our industry—except, of course, change itself. Let’s explore a few somewhat predictable events that tend to bring change, for better or for worse, to advisers’ practices.

“Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity”
If you recognize that quote, you’re probably in your 60s and remember the popular TV show Ben Casey. The series opened with the elder professor teaching his physician protégés about the path of human existence. From the birth of a child through adulthood, procreation, health issues and ultimately death, the trajectory of life is fairly predictable.

Whether they happen to you or a family member, colleague, employee, client or friend, these life events can have an impact on your business. For example, the birth of a child may prompt a young employee to quit work or ask for paternity leave. The 60-year-old adviser may take time off when her first grandchild is born, while the 40-year-old might buckle down and focus more than ever in anticipation of college expenses ahead. When you think about it, the path of human existence is constantly affecting your practice in some way, shape or form.

Leases, Partnerships, Growth, Industry Evolution
You haven’t heard that list on any TV show, but these factors also lead to change at regular intervals throughout the life cycle of a financial advisory business.

  • The end of a lease. I’ve noticed that a lease coming up for renewal can be a crossroads for many advisers. For one, it may present an opportunity to buy the office building; another may see it as a chance to gain space for targeted growth over the long term. One adviser will simply renew the current lease, while another may take the opportunity to minimize office expenses.
  • A shift in a partnership. Partnerships evolve, too. As one partner experiences change due to personal factors such as those mentioned above, it can be like shifting tectonic plates in the partnership. Say one adviser has a health scare and the more reticent partner takes the helm of running the business. The emotional dynamic caused by the shift is palpable. At such junctures, lifelong relationships between colleagues can unravel or thrive.
  • Business growth. Whether an adviser’s success is due to skill, geography, luck, inheritance, passion, the market or other factors, at some point, it becomes clear which firms are consistently growing and which level off. In either case, inertia kicks in; the business in motion tends to stay in motion.
  • An evolving industry. Like individuals, industries are born, change and pass away. Time will tell how long the financial advisory and planning industry endures. Advisers who joined the profession 40 years ago, 20 years ago and today will face very different circumstances to which they must adapt.

What Changes Will Your Practice Confront?
Change is constant and often predictable. But it’s easier to see that when you’re looking in the rearview mirror—just ask any adviser in the second half of his or her career. For those still in the early stages, it’s worth keeping an eye out for all the predictable changes down the road. As the saying goes, we don’t get hit by the things we see coming!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham