Mercer Advisors acquires two RIAs as M&A activity heats up

Five deals this month already beats last year's quarterly consolidation pace

Jan 9, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

Mercer Advisors bumped up its assets under management to $11.6 billion with two acquisitions, which adds fuel to a fast start for merger and acquisition activity in 2018.

The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based registered investment adviser, which is backed by private equity investor Genstar Capital, announced Tuesday morning the acquisition of Murray & Co. Asset Management, and Pinnacle Investment Management.

Murray & Co., based in Austin, Texas, has more than $85 million under management.

Pinnacle, based in Hartford, Conn., has $183 million under management.

These two deals bring the January RIA-acquisition total to five just nine days into the year, which compares with an average of four acquisitions per quarter last year, according to David DeVoe, managing partner of the consulting firm DeVoe & Co.

He expects firms like Mercer, with deep financial pockets and lots of internal expertise, to drive merger and acquisition activity in 2018.

Citing the double-merger announcement on Monday from an RIA that is part of Focus Financial Partners, Mr. DeVoe said consolidators like Mercer and Focus will be a growing force behind RIA acquisitions.

"If I'm an RIA and I have aspirations to grow fast, I'm joining one of the consolidator firms," he said.

In the Focus Financial deal, the acquisition was made by The Colony Group, qualifying it as a "sub-acquisition," according to Mr. DeVoe.

Daniel Seivert, chief executive of the investment bank Echelon Partners, agreed that M&A activity is increasingly being driven by RIA consolidators.

"Operational efficiencies and strong infrastructure are being leveraged to entice smaller firm principals to join larger firms so they can gain from that support and focus their efforts on clients and growth, versus running the day-to-day business," he said.

According to Echelon's research, consolidators have been responsible for a growing share of deal activity, representing half of RIA acquisitions through the third quarter of last year.

That's up from 40% in 2016, and 31% in 2013.

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