Qualified Plan Advisors acquires $4 billion retirement shop

Retirement market is increasingly consolidating, among advisory firms and record keepers

Jan 9, 2018 @ 1:56 pm

By Greg Iacurci

Qualified Plan Advisors, an Overland Park, Kan.-based firm focused on defined-contribution plans, has acquired an advisory group overseeing roughly $4 billion in retirement assets, furthering the consolidation trend that's gripped the retirement market.

QPA has roughly $8 billion in DC assets under advisement and about 100 advisers following the acquisition of Ascende Wealth Advisers Inc., based in Houston, in early January. And Glenn Spencer, CEO of Qualified Plan Advisors' parent company, Prime Capital Investment Advisors, is on the lookout for other chances to grow.

"We see really good opportunity moving forward in that space," said Mr. Spencer, former president and global CEO of Lockton Companies Inc., who joined Prime Capital in late December to help run and grow the business.

The retirement market has become increasingly consolidated in the past several years, both among record-keeping firms and 401(k) advisory firms.

So-called RIA aggregators have become a popular avenue for retirement plan advisers looking for practice management and other support in what some see as an increasingly challenging operating environment, including new regulations like the Labor Department's fiduciary rule and drastic fee compression.

There are roughly 15 of these aggregators, which actively gather plan assets through acquisition of advisory practices or an affiliation model in which firms join the aggregator's RIA and/or broker-dealer.

"There's increasing consolidation and I think there's going to be more," said Fred Barstein, founder and CEO of The Retirement Advisor University.

Prime Capital is aiming to double in size over a three-year span. Qualified Plan Advisors, representing roughly 60% of Prime's revenue, will play a large role here, via other acquisitions and the hiring of high-caliber advisers, Mr. Spencer said.

While the largest retirement plans are typically the territory of national consulting firms such as Aon Hewitt, Mercer and Towers Watson, Mr. Spencer said there's potential in the middle market, where retirement-plan-specialist advisers frequently operate.

"It's highly, highly fragmented when you get outside of the big consulting firms," Mr. Spencer said. "We really like the economics of this space."

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