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Jumbo RIA Aspiriant Beats Out Competitors in Merger

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Aspiriant, one of the largest fiduciary RIAs in the country with $8.4 billion in assets under management, snapped up Hokanson Associates in what could be the beginning of a series of acquisitions.

That's according to Aspiriant CEO Rob Francais, who's had expansion on his mind for years now.

"We are open for business," he says, adding that he hopes to close another deal next year.

Hokanson's San Diego office will become Aspiriant's fourth office in California and ninth in the country, adding to its roster of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Irvine, as well as New York, Boston, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Founder Neil Hokanson says he and his colleagues chose Aspiriant over United Capital, Focus Financial and a long list of other suitors. 

A spokesman for United Capital says the firm never engaged in negotiations with Hokanson, although it did send the firm marketing emails. Focus did not immediately respond to a request for comment

"We've had many inquiries going back for years," says Hokanson, whose firm manages $570 million in client assets. "We were drawn to Aspiriant's strategy to remain independent."

"We have known the people of Hokanson for many years," Francais says, "and we know they are cut from the same cloth and committed to the same things.” He adds: “Their service model is consistent with ours … and we love the geography."

In teaming up, five Hokanson principals are slated to become Aspiriant shareholders. The merger, the terms of which were undisclosed, is expected to be finalized at the end of the year.

Aspiriant is among a growing number of RIAs that have built detailed internal succession plans in which the owners of the firm incrementally sell their stakes to new generations of leaders from within.

The two firms initiated talks about teaming up in April.

"It was a slow, deliberate process on both our parts," Hokanson says. The merger "will provide the assurance of a long-term succession plan so that we can continue to serve generations of our clients -- now and in the future."

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