Another year, another record number of merger and acquisition (M&A) deals involving RIAs.

A report by Echelon Partners,1 a Los Angeles-based investment bank and consulting firm, shows that 2017 marked the fourth consecutive year of a record-high number of deals. And the trend may continue in 2018.

According to Echelon:

  • There were 168 RIA M&A transactions – roughly 14 a month – an increase of 22% from the record of 138 set in 2016.
  • M&A activity involving RIAs increased in six of the seven years leading up to 2017.
  • If trend-level growth rates continue, we may see 196 RIA M&A transactions in 2018.

With 12 transactions announced in just the first three weeks of January,2 a new record may be set yet again in 2018.

Insights on Going Through the M&A Process

It’s clear from my conversations with RIAs across the country that the topic of M&A remains front and center, whether they are contemplating making an acquisition, being acquired or seeking a strategic partner. In previous blogs, I discussed how the sheer volume of M&A activity is redrawing the RIA landscape and how to prepare your practice for a potential deal.

At this point, rather than discuss M&A in hypothetical or abstract terms, I thought it might be instructive to hear from an RIA who has gone through the M&A process and is able to share insights and perspectives on the experience.

I spoke recently with Eddie Bernhardt, CFA, Senior Vice President and Senior Investment Team Leader of OFI Global SNW Asset Management. OFI Global acquired SNW, which was an independent firm focusing on building and actively managing high-quality, fixed-income portfolios on a separately managed account basis, in 2017.

Eddie said that while his firm was not necessarily looking for a deal, they did have conversations about possible scenarios with many potential partners. He also discussed his thinking leading up to the acquisition and offered suggestions for RIAs who may be considering an M&A deal. According to Eddie, the most important considerations for RIAs when contemplating a potential M&A deal are to think long term and always stay focused on your clients.

Click here to see the video of my full conversation with Eddie.

  1. ^Source: “The 2017 Echelon RIA M&A Deal Report,” Echelon Partners, 3/7/18.
  2. ^Source: “And they’re off! Early RIA M&A activity sets blistering pace,”, 2/2/18.