RIA Roundup: Cetera Buys 1st Pure RIA, The Retirement Planning Group
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RIA Roundup: Cetera Buys 1st Pure RIA, The Retirement Planning Group

Jan 10, 2024

Ali Hibbs | Jun 09, 2023

M&A continued in the RIA space this week, as Cetera moved toward a new affiliation model, Hightower and Wealthspire both added firms with around $1 billion in assets, and Mercer, Kestra and tru Independence all added firms with more than a billion in collective assets.

In news reported earlier this week, Creative Planning acquired $2.5B AUM BerganKDV, Ed Swenson landed at Advisor Group following Dynasty departure and private equity firm Altas took a stake in Mercer.

Related: RIA Roundup: Snowden Lane Surpasses $10B in Assets

Cetera Holdings, the holding company of Cetera Financial Group, announced the acquisition of The Retirement Planning Group.

An independent RIA with 40 employees, including 14 advisors, TRPG is led by CEO Kevin Conard. With headquarters in the Kansas City area, the firm also has offices in St. Louis and Denver.

Related: RIA Roundup: Concurrent Launches Hybrid Platform With More Than $440M in New Assets

The deal represents the first acquisition of a pure RIA by Cetera—which owns a network of independent broker/dealers—and comes less than a month after the company hired former Fidelity Investments senior executive Mike Durbin as its CEO, signaling an intention to move more seriously into the space.

"This acquisition is synergistic on many levels and represents our commitment to constantly identify and deliver multiple options that give advisors a depth of choice and flexibility to affiliate their business with Cetera as they see fit," Durbin said in a statement.

In February and April, respectively, Cetera announced minority investments in Prosperity Advisors and NetVEST Financial. In January, the holding company announced an agreement to acquire the retail wealth business of Securian Financial Group, expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

As of late March, San Diego-based Cetera Financial affiliates oversaw around $330 billion in assets under administration and $116 in assets under management.

Mercer Global Advisors announced it acquired RMR Wealth Advisors, a five-person registered investment advisory team in Madison, Wisc., managing around $350 million in assets for more than 160 wealthy and ultra-wealthy clients and a handful of retirement plans and charities.

RMR was founded in 2009 by Erik Mikkelson, and is co-owned by Doug Giageos and Lisa Sowls.

"We realized we had hit a growth inflection point and had to either significantly reinvest in the company or join a firm that had already successfully created the scale and leverage, as well as the expanded service offering, we were looking for," Mikkelson said in a statement.

Mikkelson said the firm was introduced to Mercer's head of M&A Dave Barton and was drawn to the history and in-house family office services, including estate planning, tax services and corporate trustee services.

"Erik, Douglas and Lisa have built a high-service family office solution for their clientele. In this way they looked a lot like Mercer Advisors," said Barton.

Founded in 1985 and based in Denver, Mercer currently oversees some $48 billion in client assets. Majority owned by Oak Hill Capital, Genstar Capital and—as of this week—Atlas Partners, Mercer has around 900 employees and more than 80 offices nationwide.

Kestra Private Wealth Services, a hybrid RIA platform owned by Kestra Financial, announced the launch of Destination Wealth Advisors on its platform. Formed by former wirehouse advisors, the new firm oversees some $500 million in client assets.

Led by CEO Ben McDonald, who established BGW Wealth Advisors in 2021 after leaving Edward Jones, the firm includes partners Bryant Trombly, Austin Palmer and Dee Buckminster, who left Merrill Lynch.

The decision to launch Destination was driven by a desire for more "flexibility, autonomy, and freedom from corporate agendas," according to Kestra.

"Clients want personalization," McDonald said in a statement. "To that, we tell them that Destination Wealth is a speedboat with the ability to make quick turns and changes. Kestra PWS gives us the resources of a large cruise ship, but leaves us with the speedboat flexibility our clients crave."

With headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., Destination will also establish offices in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Hendersonville, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Los Angeles.

Kestra PWS currently oversees around $4.5 billion for approximately 8,800 clients on the independent RIA side, according to a recent Form ADV filing. Kestra Investment Services, another Kestra Financial subsidiary, provides brokerage services for platform advisors.

Since launching in 2010, Kestra PWS has supported more than 30 firm launches for breakaway advisors.

In its sixth acquisition of the year, Hightower announced it invested in $1 billion AUM RIA Boston Hill Advisors.

Founded in 2006 by managing partners Joseph Trainor and Michael Edwards, the firm currently has 17 employees, including eight advisors, overseeing more than 1,000 client accounts. With two offices in North Andover, Mass., the firm has an additional location an hour south in Natick.

Boston Hill expects to leverage Hightower's growth consultation services, middle and back-office operations, and infrastructure to improve services for new and existing clients, according to a company statement.

With approximately $148.2 billion in retirement assets and $119.9 billion in assets under management, Chicago-based Hightower offers a wide range of practice support services to its stable of 132 businesses, located in 34 states and Washington, D.C.—in areas such as technology, talent, marketing, investment management, compliance, accounting, payroll and human resources—as well as a variety of M&A transaction services.

Last week, Hightower added Vigilant Wealth Management, with $2.3 billion in client assets.

Wealthspire Advisors, an New York City-based RIA subsidiary of insurance giant NFP, has entered into an agreement to buy ACG Wealth Management, a privately held RIA based in Richmond, Va.

Led by J. Saunders Wiggins, ACG comprises more than 15 professionals serving more than 240 families and 285 plan sponsors with a little less than $1 billion in investable assets.

Its retirement plan businesses will be integrated into NFP's Atlantic region retirement division, led by Managing Director Jessica Espinoza.

"We’ll continue to provide the same services and care that our clients have known for decades but now with the support of a much deeper pool of resources," Wiggins noted in a statement.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2023, subject to customary conditions.

Founded in 1995, Wealthspire advisors manage almost $20 billion in client assets from 20 offices in 12 states on both coasts and in the midwestern U.S.

tru Independence, a Portland-based network of RIAs with $10 billion in collective assets, announced the launch of a new firm on its platform—Gainline Financial Partners.

Previously affiliated with Wells Fargo's FiNet, Gainline manages around $200 million and represents tru's first partner in Boulder, Co.

Gainline partners Charlie Barkmeier and Paul Rohr were seeking "increased autonomy," according to the announcement and were drawn to the network by its truView ‘experience-as-a-service’ platform, which combines technology, behavioral finance and human capital.

"truView as a business management system is in a league of its own, surpassing all other technology solutions we have come across," Rohr said in a statement.

Advyzon-based truView, unveiled last month, provides business insights, client information, portfolio management, risk metrics, and planning and investment management solutions in an embedded, single-source technology.

"It is extremely validating to hear Charlie and Paul affirm that the EAS business platform aligns with their client philosophy and approach," said tru CEO Amit Dogra.

After gaining $1 billion in new assets in 2022, tru added of $1 billion AUM Seven Mile Advisory in NYC in April. More recently, the firm added $300 million AUM Crossover Capital Advisors in Yardley, Penn.

Coastal Bridge Advisors, a bicoastal boutique independent RIA with some $2.6 billion in assets across fewer than 350 clients, announced the firm promoted Jeff Kalapos to chief investment officer.

Previously in the role of director of investment services, a position he held for five years, Kalapos will continue to focus on investment strategy and oversee external manager relationships in his new role, in addition to taking on a larger promotional role at the firm.

Kalapos spent the first two years of his career working at Merrill Lynch with Coastal Bridge predecessors before leaving to join the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2007. In 2014, he rejoined his former colleagues at Coastal Bridge, serving in the roles of support advisor and planning associate before moving into his most recent role in 2018.

"Not only has Jeff made significant contributions to Coastal Bridge Advisors professionally, but he has also proven himself to be a wonderful person and colleague," Coastal Bridge President Jeff Fuhrman said in a statement.

Kalapos played a key role in developing the Coastal Bridge investment management program and helped to increase assets by around 25%, including 10% growth in client accounts. With a master's degree in business, he recently earned his CFA certification and holds a Chartered Investment Management Analyst designation.

Coastal Bridge has offices in Los Angeles and Westport, Conn.

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Cetera Holdings Buys First Pure RIA, $1.4B AUM The Retirement Planning Group Mercer Advisors Acquires RMR Wealth Advisors Kestra PWS Brings Former Wirehouse Quartet Together to Create Destination Wealth Advisors Hightower Adds $1B Boston Hill Advisors Wealthspire Advisors to Acquire ACG Wealth Management tru Independence Supports Launch of $200 Million Gainline Financial Partners Coastal Bridge Advisors Promotes Jeff Kalapos to Chief Investment Officer