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Aspiriant Set To Acquire Deloitte's Wealth Management Business, Expand Nationally

Charles Paikert Family Wealth Report Editor New York July 20, 2010

Aspiriant Set To Acquire Deloitte's Wealth Management Business, Expand Nationally

Aspiriant, a West Coast independent wealth manager dropped a bombshell on the industry yesterday, announcing it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Deloitte Investment Advisors, the wealth management business of Deloitte Tax. 

The move nearly doubles Aspiriant’s assets under management from $4 billion to $7 billion and gives the firm a nascent national footprint with six new offices in Boston, New York, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

“We’ve built the firm around the principles of permanent independence, comprehensive services, objectivity and employee ownership,” Rob Francais, Aspiriant’s chief executive, told Family Wealth Report. “This is the first time we’ve exercised the brand and this is a validation that others want to be part of what we have built.”

The Deloitte acquisition demonstrates the “momentum and viability of the RIA model when it gets to size,” said industry consultant Tim Welsh, president of Nexus Strategy, of Larkspur, California.

“This is a big deal. It gives Aspiriant a big boost towards building a national brand and validates their strategy to share ownership across multiple partners,” Welsh said.

Rebranding expected

The deal is expected to close in September; when it does, the Deloitte offices will be re-branded under the Aspiriant name, Francais said.

Financing was done through a combination of equity and “traditional bank debt”, he said. Private equity firms were not involved, Francais added. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition is a “major step to getting a national footprint,” according to Francais.

He envisioned an office in Chicago to act as a hub for the new offices in the Great Lakes region and satellite offices in southern California and the Bay area to complement Aspiriant’s current offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Options involving other firms around the country are also in play, he said.

Aspiriant was formed in January 2008 when Francais merged his Los Angeles-based firm, Quintile Wealth Management, with San Francisco-based Kochis Fitz Tracy Fitzhugh & Gott, headed by Tim Kochis, a well-known industry luminary who is now chairman of the firm.

More equity partners

Equity participation among the firm’s top executives has been Aspiriant’s mantra from the beginning, and Francais said “some of the key people” from Deloitte will join the firms’ 30 equity partners as part of Aspiriant’s “expanded ownership.”

The Deloitte deal made sense because the two firms have a “shared philosophy” of wealth management, Francais said, as well as close personal ties.

Francais himself was a tax partner at Deloitte from 1988 to 200, before joining Harris MyCFO and then forming Quintile in 2002.

What’s more, 13 of Aspiriant’s 16 managing directors have experience working at the “Big Four” accounting firms, Francais noted. “We’re literally cut from the same cloth,” he said.

When the deal is completed, Aspiriant will have around 800 clients.

“This was the next step for us,” Francais said.  "We did what we said we were going to do and it couldn’t have been a better opportunity for us.”

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