Scott Kays, founder and managing principal of Kays Financial Advisory in Atlanta, sold his 35-year-old fee-only firm to Mercer Advisors, according to an announcement made Monday.
Kays Financial brings more than $800 million in assets under management and approximately 700 clients to Mercer, which manages $24 billion in total client assets. Kays Financial is Mercer's 37th acquisition, but the first announced in 2021. Mercer CEO Dave Welling said he saw it as the start of a “formidable juggernaut in Georgia and the Southeast.” Details of the transaction were not disclosed.
"We are committed to serving our clients with excellence. Part of that duty includes making sure their needs, and families' needs, are taken care of for decades to come, and beyond my business lifetime,” said Kays. “It became clear we needed to partner with an established national firm that could ensure continued high-quality customer service in perpetuity and present our staff with career development opportunities.”
Kays clients should also benefit from the wider range of services Mercer can bring.
“Relinquishing control after being independent for decades is always a challenge for business owners. So long as the firm selling is aligned from a philosophical and cultural standpoint, a firm like Mercer is often an ideal fit for an RIA seeking a continuity plan,” said Louis Diamond, executive vice president and senior consultant of Diamond Consultants.
The Atlanta firm is larger than most of Mercer’s transactions, said Diamond, suggesting Mercer may try to compete for larger deals in the future.
John Duncan, vice president of wealth management acquisitions at consulting firm Steven Douglas, added that cultural fit is one of the biggest hurdles senior advisors face.
“It’s not just about getting the biggest equity out of their firm, but it’s also about who’s taking it over. Most advisors aren’t looking to say 'I want to leave in the next six months.' Most advisors are saying 'I’m looking to retire, but I don’t know when.' It's more about is this a cultural fit for the advisors and the investors of that firm,” Duncan said.
Kays started the RIA in 1985 as a hybrid fee- and commission-based firm. By 1990, the Georgia native felt confident he could run his business without selling products and transitioned to a fee-only service for high-net-worth individuals.
As Kays grew the business, he added additional advisors such as Dr. William Alan McKnight, Andrew Medders, Bradley Mundy and Bryan Strike. All are principals, including Helen Shingler, director of operations and chief compliance officer, and Nicholas Coppola, portfolio manager. Kays Financial also has a support staff of nine people.
Seven of the principals are certified financial planners, four are chartered financial analysts, two are certified public accountants and one has a doctorate.
"That struck me as a superior team," said David Barton, vice chairman at Mercer.