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Adviser M&A activity is on the rise

This article is part of
Guide to selling your business

“Then of course, small adviser firms where the advisers are nearing retirement or seeking retirement are looking to sell too.”

Alan Marks, managing director of Harrison Spence says: “The buyers also vary from local firms with a younger management team who are looking to grow and maintain the personal touch that the existing adviser has given through to very large national consolidators who offer a more corporate approach to a purchase.

"There are still more acquirers than sellers which has meant an increase in prices being paid.

"However, any business with a history of “higher risk” sales such as defined benefit (DB) transfers are definitely being purchased as asset and goodwill purchases rather than equity purchases."

Mr Stevens says he is seeing a lot of sole traders looking at their retirement plans because being a sole trader brings additional risks around capacity and key person dependence.

In particular there are worries about what happens to their clients and business if they are unable to work for a sustained period if something happens to them. 

Mr Stevens adds: “However, we have a very diverse network so we are seeing sellers range from sole traders to large limited companies and the drivers are the same: ageing business principal population, increased regulatory and supervisory requirements.”

Such is the value that is seen in the advisory sector, that companies like Quilter are prepared to lend money to advisers who are looking to make acquisitions.

Mr Stevens says: “At Quilter we do not lend our money to just any adviser.

"These advisers and firms have been part of our network for a significant period of time and so we know the businesses we are making loans to really well.  

“Any funding provided by Quilter is on the basis of the successor having appropriate competence, capability and capacity to successfully acquire some additional clients.

"All funding is based on a robust assessment criteria.”

The company also provides support in other areas, such as a free valuation. Connecting sellers with buyers and providing access to third party legal support.

Compliance

All potential buyers and sellers receive an assessment from a supervisory and compliance perspective. 

All sales are subjected to a detailed review of the key risks before they can proceed.

This looks at a number of factors including the number of clients, the retiree’s proposition, the buyer's proposition.

Mr Stevens says: “It is a difficult landscape for financial advice at the moment. Between increasing regulation and challenges around getting and keeping insurance it means operating a financial advice business is constantly met by headwinds.