Focus Financial invests in $600 million wealth manager

Deal comes amid slowdown for large investors in financial advisory firms

Apr 6, 2015 @ 11:31 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Focus Financial Partners, the deep-pocketed investor in financial-advisory businesses, said Monday it has taken a stake in a 45-year-old firm managing $600 million in assets.

Under Focus' umbrella, the Savannah, Ga.-based Fiduciary Group plans to add to its ranks of financial advisers and extend its reach in the Southeast,, according to chief executive Malcolm Butler.

“I'm advising my clients all the time about estate planning and, in a sense, this is estate planning for the business,” said Mr. Butler. “We have set a structure in place that, for the lifetime that I'm with the firm, we are only going to get stronger. And then, at such a point that I or one of the other principals are no longer working here, we have the structure in place to bring in the next generation of advisers.”

The deal took effect last Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed.

Focus, founded in 2006, has been an aggressive investor in wealth management firms. Its “partner” firms, in which it takes an ownership stake, now total more than 30, according to a Focus publicist.

In addition to working with wealthy individual clients, Fiduciary Group also provides financial advice to company-sponsored retirement plans.

The firm employs nine people and has three principal owners, including Mr. Butler. Mr. Butler, 57, who joined the firm in 1980, took over as CEO in 1998. His father, Lee Butler, founded the firm in 1970, according to the firm's website — long before the independent-affiliation business model for financial advisers became fashionable.

Focus' deal comes as large investors in the independent-adviser market have apparently slowed their pace of acquisitions. Overall, the number of those deals was flat last year, representing $47.4 billion in assets under management, according to a study released late last month by the Charles Schwab & Co. unit that serves independent-advisers.

The custodian tracked 54 deals in 2014, the same as in 2013 and only slightly higher than the nine-year average for the survey.

The report only tracks publicly announced transactions.

The report found that “aggregators” such as Focus slowed their pace of acquisitions. Those investors, which Schwab calls “strategic acquiring firms,” represented only 38% of deals last year. That figure is down from over half in 2012.

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