West L.A. investment advisory firm Aspiriant announced last week that it would merge with Stanford Investment Group to create a combined venture with more than $10 billion in assets under management.
While Stanford’s $850 million in assets under management are nothing to sneeze at, the move represents only a small piece of what Aspiriant is attempting to execute.
“We have a 100-year business plan to build out a national investment management firm for wealthy clients,” said Chief Executive Rob Francais. “We eventually want to be in every large city in the United States.”
As part of the merger, Stanford’s employees will now work for Aspiriant, with five becoming partners. The deal also nets Aspiriant 260 clients from Stanford’s roster.
The deal represents the third merger undertaken by Aspiriant in the last 12 months, according to the company. The company brought Hokanson Associates, a San Diego-based independent wealth management firm with $570 million in assets under management, into the fold in December of last year. That move was followed by a deal with fellow West L.A. advisory firm Glowacki Group in February, which added $360 million in assets under management to Aspiriant’s total.
More such mergers are on the horizon, according to Francais, who said two are being considered for 2017. While the volume of deals might seem high, Aspiriant emphasized that most have been in the works for months, if not years.
The deal for Stanford, which is not affiliated with Stanford University, was the product of 15 months of discussion, according to Francais, but talks didn’t really heat up until the spring. Part of the long courtship period was spent ensuring both firms would fit well culturally, an important point for both sides.
“It takes a while to get to know each other and feel comfortable, but ultimately the deal really made sense,” Francais said.
A major component of the firm’s 100-year plan is making sure merged companies are seamlessly integrated into Aspiriant’s corporate culture. That tactic, said Francais, is designed to preserve the mind-set of smaller independent wealth management firms and scale it.
“We’re taking the benefits of being a smaller shop and making it bigger,” Francais said. “The strategy is to build scale while aggregating assets and talent.”
As Aspiriant begins the formal merger process with Stanford, Francais said both companies are heartened by early returns and the synergistic nature of their respective client rosters.
“As we peel back layers of the onion, we keep finding more overlap and places we complement each other,” he said.
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