Richardson GMP, which calls itself the “only viable alternative to bank-owned dealers,” will remain independent.
In a statement released Thursday night, GMP Capital said “that in response to ongoing speculation regarding GMP’s equity holding in Richardson GMP Limited, and in the wake of a consideration of options available, GMP confirms that it will be retaining its investment.”
When asked to elaborate on why there would be no sale, a spokesperson for RGMP said: “We’ve decided to stay independent.”
RGMP’s Q3 AUA was $28.3 billion, the company reported in an earnings call November 2. In the same call, GMP Capital CEO Harris Fricker told analysts they were entertaining multiple interested buyers, but added the wealth management firm could get along fine on its own. “We have a host of options, luckily, that are all pretty darn attractive,” he said.
Rumours had swirled this year that a bank or large brokerage would purchase RGMP. The most serious fingered TD Bank Group, which reportedly made a $600-million preliminary bid for the firm. That included a premium over the value of half a billion predicted by Scotia Capital analyst Sumit Malhotra in September, based on 2% of RGMP’s assets under administration.
Raymond James Canada, National Bank of Canada and Industrial Alliance were also considered serious bidders, Scotia Capital said in an April 2016 research note.
Ian Russell, head of the Investment Industry Association of Canada, told Advisor.ca in an interview before the announcement that a bank purchase of RGMP would have meant losing “a unique firm, a really good franchise.” He added that “the bigger firms are going after the high-producing, high-performing brokers to build their business, and investing in their technology. That’s a good strategy.”
GMP Capital said in its latest annual report that RGMP had “positioned itself as the only viable alternative to bank-owned dealers.”
The decision to keep RGMP comes before a looming deadline in the firm’s shareholder agreement, which had a buyout clause. On or before November 15, 2016, all three shareholder groups had to agree to start the buyout process, and GMP would have had first dibs on a purchase. Come November 16, any of the three could have initiated the process unilaterally.
RGMP’s Q3 revenue of $7.7 million was up 9% from the same quarter a year earlier. Fricker said the increase was due to higher investment management fees and higher commissions as client assets rose 10%.
Fricker added the three shareholder groups have been working well together, including through a cost-reduction initiative that started 18 months ago.
History of RGMP
In 2003, James Richardson & Sons launched Richardson Partners Financial Limited, having sold its investment dealer Richardson Greenshields to RBC in 1996. Then, Richardson GMP formed in 2009 when Richardson Partners merged with GMP Capital Inc.’s wealth management units. The Richardson family and GMP Capital initially joined with stakes of 35% each, and the advisors held 30%. Over the years, the advisor portion rose to about 40%, with GMP and the Richardson family sharing the balance.
Based on 2015 data, RGMP had the second-highest AUA per advisor among major wealth management firms at $137.1 million. As of November 2, it has $143 million in AUA per advisor.
Shrinking wealth management landscape
Canada’s independent wealth management business has seen a flurry of activity in the past year as firms confront technological disruption and a low-growth, low-yield environment.
In a July 2016 letter, the IIAC wrote that 35 independent retail boutiques have left the industry since January 2012. And 53 small independent firms lost money in 2015, of which 13 are considered institutional. “Few of the estimated 40 retail firms losing money are likely to survive over the next couple of years. […] The pool of IIROC-registered firms is anticipated to fall well below 100 within the next five years.”
Nonetheless, some firms are hanging up help wanted signs.
In September, Canaccord Genuity Group announced a $60-million credit agreement to fund advisor recruitment for its Canadian wealth management business, adding this month that it’s recruiting $2.5 billion in AUA. In June, Raymond James’s Richard Rousseau, EVP Wealth Management, told Advisor.ca he has a team “to recruit advisors specifically from the banks.” And Echelon Wealth Partners, formerly Euro Pacific Canada, has told Advisor.ca that it’s hiring.
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated 3Mac’s AUA.