Large RIA United Capitals national aspirations just got a $38 million boost.
Private equity firm Sageview Capital anted up $30 million, the bulk of the capital infusion, according to United Capital CEO Joe Duran. Bessemer Venture Partners and Grail Partners, which have funded earlier rounds for the firm, put in a combined $8 million.
The funding is intended to let the firm scale up during what Duran describes as a big round of industry consolidation. I dont think that there is any debate that there will be five to eight big [RIA] firms in the next few years, he says. We are an emerging brand and this money allows us to accelerate that.
United Capitals immediate goal is to grow its market capitalization to $1 billion, according to Duran.
We think that will take between $200 million and $250 million in [annual] revenues, he says. Our goal over the next three to five years is to grow to [that size].
To do so, he says, United Capital will need to double in size every couple of years. The firm intends to use the new capital injection to grow in three ways -- acquiring firms, recruiting advisors and luring new clients, Duran says.
To get into a market, we buy an existing office and then recruit into it, he says -- typically recruiting advisors with between $30 million and $100 million in AUM. However, he adds, We are very fussy about culture. If we cant find a suitable person, we [open] an office and grow it that way.
United Capital has opened offices this year in Atlanta, Ga., Great Falls, Va., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Great Falls, Va., Duran says.
Founded in 2005, the firm has 47 offices nationwide with more than 7,000 clients, 95 advisors and $9 billion in assets under management, plus an additional $9 billion under advisement through its pension consulting affiliate, the firm said in a statement.
Duran often speaks of his firm's plan to grow by presenting clients a unified brand. When you order a cup of coffee at Starbucks, it should be customized but in an individualized and predictable way," he says. "So that if someone enters any Starbucks in the country, they can be confident about the experience.
Such a strategy has some detractors. Jumbo roll-up firm Focus Financial, with $65 billion in assets, has based its growth around a number of large, independent practices; its founder, Rudy Adolf, pointedly criticizes the concept of a national brand.
I think for most firms, such an aspiration, quite frankly, is foolish, Rudy Adolf recently told Financial Planning. A national brand really first and foremost means that you have a national client experience ... There is no firm in this industry that we know of that has an ability to deliver this type of a promise, which is at the very essence of a brand.
Rudy can have its own opinions," Duran says. "But whether its us or Edelman Financial or The Mutual Fund Store, there are firms that are trying to create national brands with consistent experience for clients.
Duran also points out that at least one large Focus firm has itself announced the development a national brand.
This year the firm is launching a new liquidity program that would give some of its advisors a chance to sell shares of its privately held stock once a year, typically in October, Duran says.
Duran claims that advisors who already own shares in United Capital have seen the value of their shares rise as much as three times since before the recession of 2008 and 2009. Its a pretty nice appreciation, considering that their underlying businesses have grown, but not that much, he said.
Advisors in good standing can sell shares after working for the firm for a prescribed length of time, according to Duran, who also says the move isn't aimed at retiring advisors.
Our advisors tend to be quite young, he says. They tend to be between 40 and 50. They still have a long career in front of them and love what they do.
- Small Advisors: Regional RIAs Want You
- United Capitals Joe Duran: Imitating Starbucks
- Rolling Up the Firms: Focus Financial's Rudy Adolf
- United Capital Acquires Virginia Wealth Manager