A hybrid RIA that has grown rapidly over the last year and a half now faces a major decision: How to proceed after its independent broker-dealer of two decades has been acquired by another firm.

Brian Holmes’ Signature Estate & Investment Advisors, which is affiliated with Signator Investors, has expanded its assets under management by nearly 40% to more than $8 billion since the beginning of 2017, according to the practice’s director of operations.

Advisor Group revenue

SEIA also recently opened two new offices to grow to seven and moved one of its existing locations into a space twice as large, the firm announced June 28. The Los Angeles-based RIA, which Holmes launched in 1997, now spans 19 advisors and 70 direct employees.

The team has yet to decide, however, whether it will go to Advisor Group’s Royal Alliance Associates from its longtime independent broker-dealer. The private equity-backed IBD network has agreed to purchase Signator from John Hancock in a deal slated to close in the fourth quarter.

SEIA Director of Operations Joe Fusaro expressed a positive initial response to the deal “from a 30,000-foot view” but said the team will be considering the best possible option for its advisors and clients. The firm has bulked up in recent years by recruiting from wirehouses, RIAs and IBDs alike, Fusaro says.

“It’s been a little bit of everything,” he says. “Advisors really get attracted to the fact that they can come here and own their own book of business, truly own it, and have a say of what goes on in their firm.”

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The RIA has aligned with Signator since it opened, and Holmes has worked for Signator for his entire 34-year career in the industry, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. Fellow Signator advisor Jesse Brown officially joined SEIA on June 28, opening the firm’s new office in Houston.

In the spring, the firm launched a new location in San Mateo, California, in an effort to better serve its clients in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas. Previously, the firm’s advisors needed to travel nearly 400 miles north to visit their clients.

Brian Holmes, SEIA
Brian Holmes launched his Los Angeles-based RIA, Signature Estate & Investment Advisors, in 1997.

In mid-February, SEIA also relocated its office in Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area to accommodate three advisors’ continuing growth, Fusaro says. The firm, which has five offices in California, another one in Tysons Corner, Virginia and its new Texas location, is actively recruiting.

Experts have pointed to the many such large offices of supervisory jurisdiction and other big practices at both Signator and Royal Alliance as a unifying factor for the two firms. Top producers at the acquiring firm receive personalized services from the home office as members of its so-called Royal Court.

“Those are some of our most successful large OSJ managers and they run very successful practices that are unique,” Royal Alliance CEO Dmitry Goldin said after the deal was announced. “We have a very close, personalized relationship with them, which I think works with Signator’s large OSJ model as well.”

Both Goldin and Advisor Group CEO Jamie Price have said they hope to retain as many of Signator’s roughly 1,800 advisors as possible when the deal closes later this year. The advisors and roughly $50 billion in client assets would fold into Royal Alliance upon closure of the deal as well.

The effort to retain Signator’s advisors remains in the beginning stages, Fusaro notes. The team looks forward to meeting with Royal Alliance as it decides its next move, he says.

“It’s very early in the sense that we need to speak with them and find out what their vision and plans are,” Fusaro says. “The communication is important.”