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Mercer Advisors

Mercer Advisors Acquires Colorado RIA, Says M&A Activity Remains Strong

Concerns that M&A activity among RIAs would dampen in 2019 haven't become reality, according to Dave Barton, vice chairman at Mercer Advisors. “If it was just me, I could do 30 deals, easy,” he said.

Mercer Advisors announced the acquisition of Confluence Financial Advisors on Thursday, the second registered investment advisor it's bought so far this year. But it won't be the last. The pool of sellers has remained robust, and Mercer expects to do at least as many deals as it did last year, one executive said.

Confluence Financial Advisors, an RIA that manages $240 million, will join an existing Mercer office in Boulder, Colo. The five-person team that includes co-founder David Gardner, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, wanted to be part of a larger group and approached Mercer about the deal. 

Mercer, the Denver-based RIA with more than $15 billion in assets under management, takes over back and middle office tasks for its advisors, which was part of what attracted Confluence. Those basic business functions were consuming more than a third of Confluence employees' time, according to David Barton, vice chairman and head of mergers and acquisitions at Mercer. It was a pain point that kept Confluence from taking on more clients.

It isn't the only RIA with that problem, Barton said.

Concerns that volatility or a market downturn would dampen deal activity between wealth managers in 2019 haven't become a reality yet. Merger and acquisition activity has kept pace with 2018, a banner year for deals thanks to RIA consolidators like Mercer. There were 181 deals among RIAs in 2018, 13 more than in 2017, making it the sixth-straight year deal volume reached a new high, according to a quarterly M&A report by Echelon Partners, a Los Angeles-based investment bank and consulting firm focused on wealth and investment managers.

Barring a cataclysmic event, Carolyn Armitage, managing director at Echelon Partners, said the investment bank expects 2019 to be "another blockbuster year."

Last summer, Barton hired two deal veterans who'd had stints at Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. Mercer expects to make only about eight acquisitions in 2019, the same number it made last year. It's the most the firm can comfortably onboard each year and has nothing to do with the number of sellers that would be a fit for Mercer, Barton said. The constraint has allowed Barton's group to be especially selective, he said.

“If it was just me, I could do 30 deals, easy,” Barton told

Mercer has about 350 employees and a total of 37 offices across the United States. In November, Barton said the company wanted to open offices in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Nashville, Tenn.


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