Can a veteran custodial executive switch gears and help propel a mid-sized advisory firm into the RIA big leagues?
Jim Dario, a well-known figure in the advisory world who most recently was head of product management and strategy for TD Ameritrade Institutional, is about to find out.
Recently named head of wealth management at SageView Advisory Group, Dario has been tasked with fast-forwarding the firm’s growth, backed by the deep pockets of majority owner Aquiline Capital Partners, a prominent private-equity firm with ties to other financial-service firms.
SageView’s $175 billion institutional retirement plan business will be the key to growing the firm’s approximately $4 billion retail wealth management business, according to Dario, whose custodial experience includes stints as a top executive for Pershing Advisor Solutions and Fidelity Investments over the past 20 years.
The “expertise and trust” SageView has built up with retirement plan sponsors has led to a demand for the firm’s services as a fiduciary and financial planner for individuals, Dario says.
“We have knowledge of their workplace benefits and details of each company’s plans,” he explains. “That puts us in an excellent position to offer comprehensive advice to plan participants based on the benefit of their plans as well as specific planning features to meet their goals.”
And from a recruiting point of view, Dario can dangle a very enticing carrot to prospective advisors and advisory firms: 1.5 million plan participants as prospects.
In fact, mergers and acquisitions will be a big part of SageView’s growth plan, Dario says. The RIA M&A market is notoriously expensive, but Dario says SageView is “looking to Aquiline to help provide the fuel to expand.”
Dario’s growth plans for SageView face daunting challenges, however.
The RIA will run into stiff competition in the M&A market, from the likes of free-spending buyers like
and experienced aggregator powerhouses such as Mercer Advisors,
and Hightower Advisors.
What’s more, the robust M&A market may be slowing down in the wake of the war in Ukraine and heightened market turbulence. “Turmoil in the markets, war and inflation are always part of the landscape,” Dario says. “I expect the long-term growth trends for fiduciary advisory firms will continue.”
SageView also faces formidable competition in the retirement plan market. Captrust, its main rival, has a substantial lead in assets, with over $680 billion in its institutional business and around $35 billion in AUM in its retail wealth management business.
In addition to targeting like-minded firms that are attracted to the retirement plan market, SageView is also looking to buy firms that “give us additional competencies and capabilities,” Dario says.
SageView is currently in negotiations with an RIA that has a “a strong competency in the ultrahigh-net worth market” as well as with firms that have specialties in real estate investing and tax planning and preparation services, he says.
Dario, who lost his job at TD Ameritrade along with other top executives last January following
purchase of the rival RIA custodian, also plans to build up SageView’s advisory platform and upgrade its design, product development, technology, pricing, and promotion.
Dario is the latest in a number of senior wealth management industry executives to join SageView. Tony Notermann, formerly at Advisor Group, was named chief financial officer last June. Also that month, veteran
executive Jeremy Holly, who headed M&A strategy for the giant independent broker-dealer, was named chief development and integration officer.
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