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Jamie Hopkins

Carson Group Buys $5B Northwest Capital Management in Biggest Deal Yet

A year into a new acquisition strategy, Carson has added up-market qualified plan capabilities and offices in the Pacific Northwest.

Carson Group has fully acquired Northwest Capital Management in a stock purchase deal announced this week, adding more than $5 billion in wealth management and retirement plan assets. It is the fifth and largest acquisition the national RIA has made since getting into the M&A game a little less than year ago.

With a team of 13 and offices in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, NWCM will operate as a subsidiary of Carson Group under the Carson Wealth business. NWCM entities will remain in place and retain branding in the near term, according to Managing Partner of Wealth Solutions Jamie Hopkins.

He said the wealth management side of NWCM's business—which accounts for approximately a fifth of its assets—is likely to be brought under the Carson Wealth banner, while the 401(k) side will remain Northwestern Capital.

The firm will continue to be led by Managing Director and Senior Investment Advisor Brent Petty and Senior Investment Advisor Fred Payne Jr., both of whom have taken equity in Carson.

The deal furthers Carson’s efforts to build out retirement services, begun almost two years ago. After working with Endeavor Retirement to develop training, education and wellness resources, the firm announced early this year the launch of Carson Complete 401(k). In partnership with Vestwell, Carson Complete provides retirement plans for small businesses with less than $3 million in assets, while an existing specialist planning service is suitable for mid-tier qualified plans. The addition of NWCM will enable Carson advisors to offer plans to larger entities such as state governments and certain private sector businesses, said Hopkins.

“This was part of our strategy to be able to go up-market to larger plans,” he said. “NWCM can go head-to-head with anybody on a large plan and win that business. They have so much experience with the RFP process and designing plans that the team is going to really help us go after that market for all of our advisors.”

NWCM will gain access to an expanded menu of resources and services around client support, technology, financial planning, investment research, portfolio analysis, trading and investment monitoring, and compliance and regulation issues, according to the announcement.

“This will enable our teams to better provide the guidance clients require to achieve their personal financial goals,” Petty said in a statement. “We will now have specialized support in technology and investment research, and we will also broaden our depth of compliance and regulatory support. By reinforcing our infrastructure with a best-in-class cybersecurity framework and strong business continuity, we can ensure needs are met without interruption.”

Hopkins said the firm “went live” about a week and a half ago and is already plugged into the technology and advanced solutions around tax, insurance and trust services.

In addition to building out retirement planning capabilities, Carson has been focused on providing a variety of related and tangential services to offer comprehensive holistic planning for all clients in a bid to grow wallet share and serve clients through their entire financial lives.

“It’s not just a Carson move,” said Hopkins. “A bunch of firms have stepped into that arena and said they’re going to help people throughout the life cycle of their financial picture. And we totally believe in that and want to be part of it. That’s why Carson invests in literacy programs for high school and middle school kids, and we do pro bono work and sponsor some nonprofits.”

Pointing out that people tend to do most saving in their retirement plans, Hopkins noted the retirement planning piece will provide opportunities to convert plan participants into advisory clients. At the other end of the financial journey, partnerships announced earlier this year with BOK Financial Advisor Trust Services and Trust & Will have added to Carson’s trust and estate planning services. The firm is also very interested in continuing to add to its tax division, said Hopkins.

All Carson services are available to all Carson Group advisors and clients, he noted.

Supported by Bain Capital, which took a minority stake in 2021, the firm embarked on an intentional inorganic strategy in 2022. Previously, Carson had taken minority stakes and facilitated tuck-in transactions for partner firms with a small in-house M&A team, but the partnership with Bain paved the way for a more robust strategy, Hopkins said.

“The combination of Bain Capital's infusion and management's commitment to a methodical inorganic growth strategy is yielding strong results,” said David DeVoe, CEO of M&A consulting firm DeVoe & Co., calling this latest deal “a major milestone.”

“Carson Wealth is now a major player in the RIA M&A space,” he said.

NWCM is the fifth firm to be acquired by Carson since May 2022, including $800 million AUA Karn Couzens & Associates, $200 million AUM Northface Capital Holdings, $400 million AUM Integrated Wealth and $500 million AUM Shobe Financial Group. Hopkins said he hopes to announce three or four more before the end of the year.

“They don’t always have to be 100%,” he said. “It could be 25%, 50%, whatever the firm's looking for. We try to meet them where they are, but that'll become a bigger and bigger lever for us.

“We're not becoming an aggregator overnight,” he added. “But, to a large extent, a lot of advisors want to take some chips off the table and sell, so we have leaned into that more and now it really is one of our three core growth levers.”

Other growth engines on which the firm is presently focused include Carson Partners, Carson Group’s partnership platform business model launched about eight years ago, and organic growth supported by a proprietary lead-generation program and array of growth-enhancing resources, including coaching services offered through Carson Group’s third entity, Carson Coaching.

Founded in 1983 by CEO Ron Carson, Omaha-based Carson Group collectively manages around $28.2 billion in assets for more than 46,000 families across a network of more than 140 partner offices and 48 Carson Wealth locations.

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