A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Echelon Partners Deal & Deal Makers Summit, which was an invaluable experience as both a speaker and an audience member. Echelon’s summit focuses on doing deals in the RIA space, and it was kicked off by expert sessions with 30+ industry experts, enabling us to provide audience members with a half-hour to pick our brains, get to know us and explore any topic that piqued their interest.
Kickoff and Buyer/Seller Challenges
The expert sessions and the dinner that followed were great opportunities for the conference participants to get acquainted with the experts, speakers and each other and network. The next day opened with “Buyers of the Round Table,” featuring Rush Benton of CAPTRUST, Dave Welling of Mercer Advisors and Kurt Miscinski of Cerity Partners discussing the low cost of money and the growing volume of deals. The panelists talked about the challenges associated with evaluating cultural fit with a focus on getting a collective buy-in from leadership and the rest of the team. One of my favorite quotes from that panel is that “culture cannot be acquired or mandated, it must be embraced,” which highlights the problems many executives face with integration. Check out the podcast episode to find out who said it.
Other areas of focus included buyer and seller challenges. On the seller-side, the panel explored why people sell and how selling to a bigger firm can solve problems with time management, talent acquisition, and growth. On the buyer-side, they talked about whether or not it is a seller’s market, why sellers are leaving money on the table, and the impact of funded buyers with impatient capital who are overpaying for deals. The discussion of whether or not we are in a deal bubble in the RIA market and what is contributing to that capped off a well-rounded discussion.
The next session was the keynote debate between Pershing’s Mark Tibergien and Echelon Partners’ Dan Seivert which has been a staple of the conference since its inception. Regardless of whether or not Mark and Dan actually believed the stances they were taking, they conducted a formal debate of seven different topics such as “the ideal way to grow with recruiting vs. acquiring” and “sharing synergy value and how it is split.” After each debate topic, they opened it up for questions and discussed their real views on the same topics which provided a lot of insight into the way they see deals.
Additional Panels and Final Thoughts
Following a short break, the conference transitioned to a panel format with the first discussion being centered on working with private equity investors and included Jeff Dekko of Wealth Enhancement Group, Jim Gold of Steward Partners, and Larry Roth of RLR Strategic Partners. The next panel focused on recruiting and breakaway deals, and it featured Bill Willis of Willis Consulting, Jeff Bischoff of Old Greenwich Consultants, and Robb Baldwin of TradePMR. Last up was an interview format of Manny Roman of Pimco on the people’s side of dealmaking.
Next, Dan Seivert took over with a solo session on deal structures, valuation, and transaction trends. Dan discussed the net reduction of advisors each year, the stage where there are peak margins, and what private equity firms are looking for before they invest. We moved back to the panel format in which I was one of the speakers. The topic was the “Battle of the Outside Council,” where Ted Cohen, Chris Frieden, and Dave Mrazik and I conducted a negotiation of a purchase agreement live for the audience. It was a phenomenal experience in which we addressed topics including purchase price adjustment, non-competes, reps and warranties, and employee agreements. Each of us took one buyer-side and one seller-side issue and got into an actual negotiation with real-world scenarios. It was lively, fun, engaging for the audience, and we received great feedback and were told that it was a very highly rated session.
Finally, the last section was on financing options for fueling deals. The panel included Aaron Hasler of SkyView Partners, Ed Swenson of Dynasty Financial Partners, Dustin Mangone of PPC Loans, and Rick Dennen of Oak Street Funding, who talked about capital availability in the market, types of deals they fund and who they focus on.
The event was a tremendous success with great networking opportunities and quality speaker from whom the participants learned a lot. I would highly recommend checking it out next year, and if you haven’t already, tune into the latest episode of my Fueling Deals podcast for a detailed breakdown of valuable takeaways from the conference.