Why I Sold – Part 4

By Jim Whiddon

March 25, 2014

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This article is the fourth installment in a multi-part series exploring the issues Jim Whiddon faced as he decided to sell his practice. To access all the articles in this series, please click on “more by the same author” in the left margin.

The months I spent considering whether to sell my successful independent registered investment advisory (RIA) were difficult personally and professionally. But once my decision was made, it felt good to focus on the positive aspects of a merger that would benefit my staff and my clients.

Investment management

In 2005 I wrote a book, Wealth Without Worry, which brought much exposure to my firm. In it, I outlined our enthusiastic commitment to an evidence-based investment philosophy. This was the core of my firm’s approach to investments and at the heart of every client relationship we had. Above everything else, it was critical to find a partner that was aligned with this philosophy.

We were thrilled to find a suitor that had not only a virtually identical approach to investments but also offered size and resources that would benefit my clients in other ways. The firm’s insight on portfolio management, the result of years of internal and industry-wide research, enabled my clients to build more efficient portfolio models. On the bond side, the firm’s desk of 12 team members customized solutions for individual clients in a way I could never have replicated in any reasonable amount of time. Our partnership also provided access to a highly credentialed eight-person investment policy committee that evaluated findings from academic research to form investment strategy recommendations. Due to these added tools a more robust partner could offer our clients, it was not a matter of asking ourselves, “Do we want to do this?” It was a matter of asking, “As fiduciaries for our clients, how can we not pursue this?”

Thought leadership

Our team was excellent but limited by size. I could never have hoped to build such an extensive learning and teaching network as our new partner had done. The firm assembled a phenomenal national thought-leader team to educate the public while providing direct advisor and client support. This group of well-regarded authors such as Larry Swedroe, Carl Richards, Dan Solin and Tim Maurer reached thousands of investors every week through their books and regular blogs on outlets such as the New York Times, CBS News, MSNBC, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and the Huffington Post. Merging meant they became our colleagues.

In addition, the firm’s bench was deep with experienced advisors and investment specialists who were now just a phone call away. We could find answers to just about any question or circumstance in virtually any area of finance with a single phone call. Furthermore, the firm is a comprehensive service provider for more than 140 independent RIAs throughout the country. The depth of institutional knowledge this network brought was exceptional.

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