If a client, say a small business owner in his or her mid-fifties, came into your office without any clue about how much their business was worth, no exit strategy and no plan for passing it on to beneficiaries in some financially-efficient way, you would rightly feel that you have not done your job.
But that is exactly the situation facing many principals of small financial advisory firms. Advisors are, on average, a little over 50 years old. Yet a Moss Adams study found that only 29 percent have a succession plan. Among those without a plan, the majority has no idea what their practice is worth, according to a 2012 survey by Aite Group and NFP Advisor Services Group.
“The thing that makes it newsworthy and concerning is just the sheer volume,” says Kendra Thompson, an executive in Accenture’s Wealth and Asset Management Services, which recently conducted their own study on advisor succession planning. “That really has to do with demographics and the baby boomer population.”
Anywhere from 12,000 to 16,000 advisors will retire every year for the next decade, triggering the need for 237,000 new advisors over that period to maintain the industry’s current headcount, according to Pershing Advisor Solutions. And the amount of assets up for grabs? Huge. Advisors over the age of 60 account for $2.3 trillion of assets, Cerulli Associates says.
So why are most advisors procrastinating and not planning for the big transition? Whether they choose to monetize the book of business by selling to another advisor, merge with an external firm, or transition the practice internally, succession planning can be ripe with perils and pitfalls.
Unlike a widget factory, for instance, valuations are not based on book value because the business lacks hard assets. Instead, value is based on intangibles such as personal relationships, judgment and trust. It’s hard to put a multiple on those.
Could advisors be leaving money on the table by not planning ahead? If the pages ahead are any indication, succession planning takes significant effort and forethought. You would want the same for your clients. Why not for yourself?