Buying a book of business is an opportunity to accelerate your practice’s growth and potentially expand the range of services that you can offer. It’s something that you might consider if you’ve only recently launched your advisory firm, or you’ve hit a plateau in an existing business that you’re ready to surpass. Acquiring a book of business from another financial advisor requires some careful thought and consideration to understand both the advantages and the potential risks.
Ready to grow your client base? SmartAdvisor takes the guesswork out of finding leads.
Start With the Right Questions
If you’re considering an acquisition, it’s important to understand that it’s a multi-step process. There are some preliminary things you’ll need to do before you can reach the stage where you’re making an offer. That includes asking some critical questions to evaluate whether an acquisition makes sense for your business. Here are some of the most significant things to weigh.
- What purpose would buying a book of business serve in furthering the growth of your business?
- How does it align with your short and long-term goals?
- How much are you willing to pay to acquire another advisor’s book of business and what is the expected rate of return on that investment?
- Will you need financing to complete the acquisition and if so, where do you anticipate it coming from?
It’s also important to think about how buying a book of business might affect your advisory model. For instance, will you make any changes to your revenue structure? Do you want to expand the scope of services that you offer? If so, what might that mean not only for the clients you’re acquiring but the ones that you already have?
You may find it helpful to talk to other advisors who have been through the process of buying a book of business. They might be willing to share insights on which parts of the process proved most challenging and how valuable they found it to be in growing their businesses.
Do the Proper Research
Due diligence is critical for finding and vetting the right opportunities when buying a book of business as a financial advisor. If you’ve identified one or more businesses that may be potential candidates for an acquisition, the next step is taking a deeper dive into every aspect of how they operate.
Some of the key things to consider here include:
- Business cash flow and gross revenue
- The overall business model and how similar (or dissimilar) it is to yours
- Any potential liabilities that might exist
- The seller’s motivation for unloading their book of business
Choosing a business that’s closely aligned with how you operate your firm could allow for the smoothest transition, both for the new clients you’re acquiring and your team. If you’re buying a book of business a financial advisor is selling for the goal of growing your client base, then you need to be fairly certain you’ll be able to retain those clients once the acquisition is complete.
Aside from researching the inner workings of the business that you’re hoping to acquire, you’ll also want to carefully consider its valuation. Obviously, you don’t want to overpay for any book of business you’re acquiring. Hiring a professional business appraiser could help you get an accurate estimate of what the business is worth. You might include them as part of an advisory team that also features accountants, attorneys or acquisition consultants.
Develop a Transition Plan
Once you’ve agreed to buy a book of business, the real work begins as you hammer out the details of the transition. That includes working with the seller to establish a timeline for completing certain tasks, such as:
- Making client introductions
- Completing all necessary paperwork and finalizing other legalities to make the transition
- Transferring responsibility for the management of client accounts
It’s important to have a clear written agreement detailing exactly what the process will look like. The more participation and input you have from the seller, the easier it’s likely to be.
You may also need to consider any changes that will need to be made on your side with regard to things like onboarding processes or branding on social media. It may be to your advantage to have an attorney review the transition plan if you haven’t done so already, as they might be able to point out any weak spots or concerns that have been overlooked.
How to Find a Book of Business to Buy
There are several ways to go about finding opportunities to buy a book of business from another advisor. If you don’t already have an acquisition prospect in your sights, here are four common options you might explore for finding one:
- Feel out your network: Networking as a financial advisor is one of the best ways to spend your time, as it could help you to make valuable connections. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may put out tentative feelers to people in your network letting them know that you’re interested in buying a book of business. For example, someone in your immediate circle may know of an advisor who’s looking to retire, which could open the door for an acquisition discussion.
- Try a cold-marketing approach: Cold-calling or emailing is another point of entry you might consider if you know of an advisor who’s ready to sell but hasn’t found the right buyer. The key to making this strategy work is building trust, as an advisor may not be willing to sell to you based on your reputation or cold pitch alone. Instead, they need to feel reassured that you’ll show their clients the same level of care that they have in the past.
- Check out a listing service: Listing services can provide ready access to books of business that are already for sale. You might choose this path if you’d like to be able to browse different listings and compare them at your own pace. One drawback, however, is that you might face stiff competition from other buyers so you may need to make multiple offers before one is accepted.
- Ask your broker-dealer: Your broker-dealer may maintain a database of listings for books of business that are for sale. There may not be as many to choose from compared to a listing service, but the competition may not be as steep either.
Buying a book of business from another advisor could help you to leapfrog up the ladder of growth, but it’s not a decision you should rush into. Taking time to thoroughly research the specifics of how it works and how to find books of business for sale can help you determine whether it makes sense for your firm.
Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business
- Maintaining an online presence through a website, blog or social media is critical as more people use the internet to search for and connect with advisors. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on expanding your digital footprint, you might consider using an online lead generation service to cultivate a broader audience. SmartAdvisor, for instance, can bring leads to you so that you have more time to focus on serving your clients.
- Buying a book of business can help you to scale but at some point, you might decide that you’re the one who’s ready to sell. If you’d like to pass the business on to someone else in your firm, developing a succession plan is an important step. While two-thirds of advisors have created a succession plan, that may be something you need to turn your attention to if you haven’t done so yet.
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