With new deal, Exencial edges near to $1 billion and starts to look like an RIA acquisition alpha dog

After a big 2011 merger, the Oklahoma-based firm is back in deal mode targeting the Southwest

Wednesday 2.6.13 by Brooke Southall

Brooke’s Note: In any market there are three or four oligopolistic players that dominate (according to Joe Duran, and I’m buying it). See: Joe Duran lays out his latest case for why wirehouses — and classic RIAs — risk losing out to a coming oligopoly of new-model holistic firms. We pretty much know who those players are right now in the venture-backed strategic-buying crowd — Focus Financial, United Capital and HighTower. It’s less clear who those players are in the RIA-as-strategic buyer crowd. Mariner Wealth seems to be out front. Banyan Partners is making big noises. See: Scott Dell’Orfano lands at a $1.4 billion RIA with plans to deal its way to $10 billion. At the next level of contention may be Exencial, which has been keeping a low profile since its critical-mass-gaining merger in 2011. We’ll keep an eye on this group down in rattlesnake country where an energy boom is fast generating new wealth.

Exencial Wealth Advisors is buying up Investors Asset Management Inc. of Plano, Texas, which serves more than 200 households in 26 states with more than $190 million in total client assets. See: RIAs are merging then making up names like Exencial, Syntal, Aspiriant and Private Ocean but experts question the practice.

The acquisition of IAM represents Exencial’s latest strategic development to expand its broader regional presence and footprint in the greater Dallas area. The combined entity now serves 726 households and oversees $980 million in client assets.

John Burns, co-CEO of Exencial, says the purchases are being made in the spirit of finding ways to increase both capacity and capability as clients expect and need more and more complex services.

“It’s difficult to do in a traditional firm,” he says. “We have to grow. We gain operational efficiencies and new capabilities.”

Richard Erwin, who founded IAM in 1983, will join Exencial along with his team and continue to manage IAM’s investment portfolios using his firm’s S.E.L.E.C.T. methodology.

Not for beans

Exencial operates a proactive investment committee with asset management processes and also specializes in corporate executive financial planning with an emphasis on employee stock ownership plans. IAM offers growth and income portfolio management based on a unique methodology with a socially responsible mandate.

The virtuous circle created by these mergers is being seen in the growing ability of Exencial to attract quality talent, Burns says. He says he is not only in “exciting” discussions with other RIA principals about possible mergers but also with young attorneys and accountants who don’t want careers in law or bean counting. See: On its march to $50 billion, Mariner finds its groove buying RIAs connected to accounting firms.

$2 billion in sight

Exencial now serves clients from offices in Oklahoma City; Dallas, Plano and Old Lyme, Conn. It took years to get to $980 million, but now $2 billion doesn’t seem like a stretch in the relatively near term.

“Five years ago I never thought we’d have been at $1 billion. Now it seems logical to think we’d [reach $2 billion] in a few years,” Burns says.

Exencial was formed in 2011 when Burns Advisory Group, an Oklahoma City wealth management firm, merged with Dallas-based Executive Financial Group to reach $600 million in client assets.

The latest deal should be a signal to the marketplace, according to David Selig, CEO of Advice Dynamics Partners LLC, the Mill Valley, Calif.-based M&A firm that represents Exencial in its deals.

“To do one deal is opportunistic but John has done two in two years. It’s not a fluke. It proves he can do this.”

John Burns | Richard Erwin

Exencial | Mariner Wealth | Investors Asset Management | Advice Dynamics Partners