Aspiriant to add $570 million San Diego RIA to its ranks

Additional deals expected as $9 billion firm is primed for growth, CEO says

Nov 10, 2015 @ 6:00 am

By Liz Skinner

Aspiriant is taking over a San Diego firm with $570 million in assets under management, in a deal that will boost the Los Angeles-based advisory giant to nearly $9 billion and more than 1,200 clients.

Under the terms of the deal, the five principals of Hokanson Associates will receive ownership shares in Aspiriant in exchange for the firm's assets. The value of those shares was not disclosed. Following the deal, which will close at the end of the year, Aspiriant will have 51 principals, up from 46 today.

The transaction will add a fourth California office to Aspiriant, which already has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Irvine, as well as five additional locations in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

The transaction is Aspiriant's first since 2010, when it acquired $2.9 billion in assets and 12 principals from Deloitte Investment Advisors, part of accounting firm Deloitte. It took years to integrate those assets into Aspiriant, which also spent the last three years upgrading its systems and processes to prepare for growth. Now the firm is primed, said Aspiriant's chief executive Rob Francais.

“We are open for business,” he said. “We spent a lot of time building the organization and now we're ready.”

Hokanson Associates, which has 12 employees, was a good match for Aspiriant's culture, which is focused on client service and long-term stability, Mr. Francais said.

“It was clear from the beginning that we were cut from the same cloth and shared the same values and commitments,” he said.

Neil Hokanson, president of the 25-year-old firm, said he knew Mr. Francais from a stint on the Charles Schwab RIA advisory board and reached out to him about a possible deal in late April after considering other succession and growth options.

“Several years ago we decided that we needed more investment depth, as well as a plan for succession,” Mr. Hokanson said. “The deal will allow us to provide clients a higher and broader sweep of services.”

Aspiriant began looking for advisory firm candidates about a year ago, and is seeking firms with assets of $500 million or more, unless they are located near one of Aspiriant's existing offices, in which case it will consider smaller firms, Mr. Francais said.

Aspiriant is especially interested in advisory firms in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas, and in expanding its presence in the cities of Minneapolis and Boston, he said.

The Hokanson purchase would boost Aspiriant to No. 17 on the InvestmentNews list of fee-only registered investment advisers, up from its current No. 22 spot.

Aspiriant would likely rise to No. 16 during the first quarter of 2016 after Financial Engines' acquisition of The Mutual Fund Store is completed. That deal was announced last Thursday.

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