Alera Group Wealth Services, a growing division of national insurance and financial services firm Alera Group, today announced the acquisition of Wharton Business Group, an employee-owned RIA in Malvern, Pa., that manages more than $3.5 billion in assets for business owners and institutions.
The deal brings Alera’s investment advisory arm from $1.2 billion to $4.7 billion in AUM. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“The team shares our fierce commitment to collaboration, and we look forward to leveraging its expertise to bolster our existing wealth management services and national presence,” said Alera CEO Alan Levitz.
Founded in 2017 with backing from private equity firm Genstar Capital, Alera brought together 24 firms in property and casualty insurance, retirement and wealth services, and a combined revenue of $150 million. The integrated company now brings in around $1 billion in revenue with more than 130 offices nationwide.
The firm is now shifting focus to wealth management, with an eye to grow both assets and geographical reach, according to executives.
“We recognize that there’s an ability to serve clients’ needs in a multifacted way,” explained Alera Executive Vice President and Wealth Services Practice Leader Tina Hohman.
Founded in 1992, WBG specializes in investment advisory and business continuity services, including leadership succession and estate planning—typically working alongside other advisors to business owners. Investment services include portfolio evaluation, investment policy development, manager selection, security selection, continuous active management, portfolio rebalancing and investment fee analysis.
Under Alera, WBG will retain its brand and control over investment strategies, while using Alera’s back-office capabilities.
According to B.J. Webster, founder and managing director of WBG’s three-person team, a need for internal succession planning and Alera’s business structure were key drivers in the decision to enter into the partnership.
“We can’t very well go out and preach succession and leadership planning without doing it ourselves,” he said. “And it’s very important to be responsible about what you’ve built. That’s what we’re doing here.
“We have a very focused strategy and a great team,” said Webster. “As part of Alera Group, we’ll continue providing these services, but can also offer to connect clients with a network of experts and advisors in other planning areas whose interests are aligned with theirs.”
“Alera is emerging as a major future player in the RIA space," according to David DeVoe, CEO and founder of the RIA M&A consulting and strategy firm DeVoe and Co., which served as the sole financial advisor to WBG throughout the transaction.
Noting the positive benefits accrued to both parties, he said, "This level of a transaction helps them take their wealth management business to the next level.”
“WBG represents the kind of firm we want to partner with,” said Hohman. She said Alera will continue to acquire wealth firms, looking for those with unique investment strategies and niche expertise, and will focus on geographical areas already served by Alera’s other divisions.
Alera hopes to bring its wealth services branch to $10 billion in AUM over the next year, she said. With an existing RIA firm based in the Midwest, the addition of WBG brings a wealth management anchor to the mid-Atlantic region, and she said opportunities have already been identified in the Northeast.
“So, we're really focused on looking to the West, South Central and the Southeast regions for larger firms to acquire and partner up with our existing offices and other divisions,” she said.