When Moss Adams’ advisory consulting practice – in Beatles-like fashion – broke up and its talented researchers began solo careers, many financial advisors and executives in the industry felt a sense of loss.
The Seattle-based consulting firm had done a good job [from 1992 to 2008] of providing quality reports and backing it up with consulting by its team members including Mark Tibergien, Philip Palaveev, Dan Inveen, Rebecca Pomering and Eliza De Pardo
Where would such insightful reports – especially with compensation and best practices — come from in the future?
The answer now seems to be coming clear after two compensation reports – with one authored by ex-Moss Adams researchers and a second one featuring Moss Adams branding, data and methodologies – were published by two different firms.
FA Insight of Tacoma, Wash. launched its “Study of Advisory Firms: People and Pay” report on Oct. 28 and its findings are summarized in an RIABiz article published today.
The report was compiled and written by Dan Inveen and Eliza De Pardo, two former Moss Adams researchers. The report’s two authors formed their own firm last year after their former employer had entirely withdrawn – people thought at the time – from the market. TD Ameritrade Institutional is sponsoring the FA Insight study.
The other advisory compensation report, Adviser Compensation & Staffing Study, was published earlier this year by Investment News, which acquired the rights to publish under the Moss Adams name. The person doing the writing and analysis in the Investment News/Moss Adams study is a former Cerulli consultant, Matt McGinness. He is the principal of Best Practices Research in San Diego.
Investment News publisher, Suzanne Siracuse, oversees the collaborative venture.
“We didn’t have the staff to do it so I took ownership,” she says. “Rebecca Pomering has taught me the ropes.”
How did Investment News come to own the studies of Moss Adams?
Rebecca Pomering, CEO of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC, says her company wanted somebody to own the study to keep it going on behalf of the advisory industy. Here is her explanation spelled out in an earlier e-mail response:
“We have wound down the national practice we had providing management consulting to RIAs,” she writes. “We continue to provide investment banking and valuation services to RIAs across the country, but our tax, audit, and management consulting is just delivered to RIAs (and a dozen other industry groups) in our geographic markets (Wash, Ore., Calif., N.M., Ariz).
“So Moss Adams is definitely still in the consulting business, but we are no longer providing management consulting to RIAs on a national basis. The primary services RIAs should look to us for (as they always have) are investment banking (Jet Wales is the contact) and valuation (Owen Dahl is the contact), and tax and audit services for businesses in the Western States. We have also continued the Moss Adams Annual Advisor Study (in partnership with Investment News) because we know how valuable that data is to the advisory industry.”
Indeed, Moss Adams data distinguishes the Investment News/Moss Adams study from the FA Insight study, according to Siracuse. “The other studies are not able to use that,” Siracuse says. “That’s what sets our studies apart.”
But the data can only take you so far, contends De Pardo, director of consulting for FA Insight.
“The data is a starting point but it’s not the end game,” she says.
The other factor setting the Investment News compensation study apart is that it draws on survey results from 750 respondents, a big advantage over the smaller sample size used by FA Insight. [FA Insight used survey results from 200 firms.]
The size of the survey is not the telling factor in a report of this kind, says De Pardo.
“It isn’t so much about having the largest sample,” she says. “It’s about understanding how all the human capital issues relate to your business.
Moss Adams diaspora
What next for these two branches of the Moss Adams diaspora?
Investment News of New York will continue to publish reports but it remains to be seen whether it expands using staff dedicated to consulting and research, Siracuse says.
FA Insight will produce another big study next year but it plans to place emphasis on matters other than compensation, De Pardo says.
Editor’s note: Investment News got a bonus when it made Pershing its Moss Adams study sponsor. Pershing’s head of RIA custody, Mark Tibergien [who left Moss Adams in 2007], is presenting the study on behalf of Investment News in cities around the country — a big advantage, according to Siracuse. “He was the grandfather of the study,” she says.