For Los Angeles-based RIA Aspiriant, growth is crucial yet deliberate

CEO Rob Francis wants to build a national network and brand

Dec 8, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Jeff Benjamin

Aspiriant is a $12.2 billion advisory firm fueled by grand aspirations of a national network and brand.

Rob Francais, CEO of the Los Angeles-based RIA, wants to take independent financial planning down the same path followed by national accounting firms and law firms.

"Why isn't there a large independent advisory organization that's focused on the high-net-worth space that is completely employee owned?" he said. "What we're building doesn't exist."

Although the firm's history dates to 2002 as the family office Quintile Wealth Management, where Mr. Francais was CEO, it became Aspiriant through the 2008 merger with the wealth management firm Kochis Fitz.

(More: Where in the U.S. are RIAs growing the fastest?)

Since then, Aspiriant, which is among the largest in the Western region, has grown to five locations in California, along with offices in Boston, New York, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Austin, Texas.

Growth is crucial to Mr. Francais' objective of building a national firm, but the growth is also deliberate, he said.

Over the past 10 years, Aspiriant has averaged the addition of a $1 billion advisory firm about once a year.

Slowing it down

And when the acquisitions start happening faster than that, as they did a year ago, Mr. Francais said the firm will slow things down to ensure an orderly expansion.

"We're doing it differently than the consolidators that are trying to buy and aggregate wealth management firms for the opportunity to trade the value," he said. "We're not trying to aggregate to trade it; we're aggregating to actually provide a service."

(More: Midwestern magic? RIA assets soared nearly 30% there last year)

The Aspiriant growth model is done without public stock or outside investors.

When a new firm joins, the owners become partners and owners of commensurate stakes in Aspiriant.

The firm has grown from four partners in 2008 to 65 today, serving 1,700 clients.

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