Captrust Financial Advisors has acquired the $4 billion AUM Frontier Wealth Management in Kansas City, Mo. With additional offices in St. Louis, Mo.; Wichita, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; and Denver, Co., the move represents a meaningful, though not deliberate, expansion of the firm’s presence in the Midwest.
Led by CEO Nick Blasi, Frontier offers financial planning, investment, insurance and other wealth management solutions to individuals, families and professionals, in addition to corporate retirement plans. Along with the five new locations, Frontier brings 46 employees and more than $4 billion in client assets to Captrust.
Blasi said the decision to sell was driven primarily by a desire to provide more opportunity for the firm’s younger employees.
“As we reflected on what the next three to five years looked like, we really were focused on our core capabilities and what we needed to expand to meet our clients’ needs in this evolving market,” Blasi said. “We were also talking a lot about career paths and what it meant to provide opportunities for our younger employees as they move forward and expand their careers.”
Blasi said that investments in certain areas of the existing business—marketing, investment services and cybersecurity—were necessary to achieve their growth targets and these were all areas where Captrust has scale. For instance, Captrust’s in-house information and cybersecurity team, led by Chief Technology Officer Jon Meyer, is a unique resource among registered investment advisors, who overwhelmingly tend to outsource these services to reduce operating costs.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “I was just blown away with the depth of skill and thought that they had put into those capabilities, the career opportunities they offered their team and the culture that they had built.”
Captrust’s equity policy was also attractive to Blasi’s team. The firm offers equity as part of every acquisition to foster a feeling of co-ownership throughout its rapidly growing network. While those packages take different forms for every new firm, Captrust ultimately offers equity to every single employee that has been with the firm for at least three years.
“That was a very large decision influencer for us,” Blasi said. “The opportunity to be a shareholder at Captrust, and to earn shareholder rights, was very important—the culture and the opportunity it creates for a lot of our current, future and younger team members.”
According to Rush Benton, who leads wealth management acquisition for Captrust, Frontier represented an ideal acquisition prospect, and a years-long relationship with Blasi helped to facilitate the deal.
“Nick is a bright, young talent in this industry,” Benton said. “He had built essentially a smaller version of Captrust. He had his own business and his own clients, and then he started to make an acquisition or two, and then grew it geographically by adding some really good folks.”
The desire and the ability to grow are important attributes Captrust looks for in potential partners, according to Benton. He said not to be fooled by the apparent deceleration in merger and acquisition activity so far this year. He fully expects to end 2022 with about the same number of transactions as last year, which landed Captrust among the top 10 RIA acquirers with 11 completed acquisitions.
Blasi brings a roster of other potential acquisition targets, according to Benton. One firm that has already signed a letter of intent to join Captrust was brought to the firm’s attention by Blasi, who had been considering acquiring the firm himself before deciding to sell Frontier.
“They sort of come in pre-sold and pre-vetted, if you will,” said Benton. “We have a number of those, actually, and two are women-owned firms. So, we’re excited about that.”
The Frontier acquisition wasn’t a deliberate attempt to expand regionally, though it does bolster the Captrust presence in the Midwest. “We won’t move into a new region with a firm that’s not growing,” Benton said. “We may look at picking up the clients of a smaller firm with an advisor who just wants to retire if we already have a presence in their area but, if we move into a new area, we want a firm like Frontier that already demonstrated that ability to grow.”
Beyond 2022, Benton pointed to the seemingly limitless pool of potential sellers and said he only expects to see more over the coming decade. Fifteen years from now, he said that he expects there will be “a Captrust blimp flying over the SuperBowl. And my grandchildren are gonna look at it and say, ‘Hey, isn’t that the company my granddad was with?’ That’s what I’m looking for.”
Founded in Raleigh, N.C., in 1997, Captrust embarked on an ambitious acquisition growth strategy in 2006, adding 57 firms over the past 16 years. The firm now oversees more than $100 billion in assets under management and more than $650 under advisement across more than 70 offices and 1,100 employees.