Three months after announcing plans to grow to $5 billion in assets under management, EP Wealth Advisors is nearing $2 billion after acquiring Moore Financial Group.

"It was an easy fit because we were very culturally aligned and our service offering was very similar and we had all the infrastructure that he was looking for," says EP president Patrick Goshtigian of Moore partner Jon Moore.

Torrance, Calif.-based EP Wealth acquired the small family-owned firm in Littleton, Colo., for an undisclosed sum. Moore manages a modest $60 million, but with the close of the deal, EP now manages $1.9 billion.

DEEP RELATIONSHIP

The roots of the deal stretch back more than 20 years ago when Goshtigian and Moore  met playing beach volleyball in Redondo Beach, Calif., both say.

At the time, Moore was working for the firm his father founded in Palos Verdes, Calif., in 1987. He and his wife later moved to Colorado and began developing the firm's operations there, while his father ran the California side of the business. Roughly 40% of Moore's clients are still in Southern California and the younger Moore returns frequently to serve them.

After the elder Moore retired a few years ago, his son says, he began looking for a larger partner -- partly in response to his clients' concerns about who would take his place if anything happened to him.

Despite their long friendship, Goshtigian and Moore went through a lengthy process before deciding to join forces.

USING A CONSULTANT

Coincidentially both had begun working with the same mergers and acquisitions consultant, David Selig of Advice Dynamics Partners in Mill Valley, Calif.  

Initially, Moore said he was choosing between a handful of potential partners, including EP.

"After dating four or five firms," Moore says, "it comes down to trust. I had a partner I trusted in my dad, of course; I trusted Patrick already. Then it came down to infrastructure. They custody with Schwab, too. That made it easy."

"We were personal friends for quite a while," Goshtigian says, "and it was nice to have that overlap because the main foundation of these deals has to be the relationship and a mutual level of trust."

COLORADO BASE

Both firms have been growing rapidly, say the two planners, who think they can grow faster together.

The merger allows EP to branch out into Colorado, which "isn't as saturated as California in terms of independent firms," says Moore, now an employee of EP.  

"He allowed us to take over the day-to-day issues of running the business," Goshtigian says, "and we are providing the portfolio management and operational support that allow him to spend more time with clients."

It's increasingly difficult for small firms to thrive today, the M&A consultant Selig said in a statement released by EP. "In addition to relieving the business pressures related to lack of scale, this merger is a positive for Moore’s clients in that it comes with a built-in succession plan," he said. "EP Wealth has a well-architected succession platform, so the firm will live well beyond the founding generation and its clients will continue to be served in the same quality way."

Moore Financial has two other employees, aside from Moore, who have joined EP. In recent years, EP has brought on five other advisors: Bennett Gross in 2012, Sean Cartin and Ben Porras in 2013, and Adam Phillips and Charles Alvaré in 2014.

Read more: