How to prepare your IFA business for sale

Henry Blunt

If you’re looking to sell your financial planning business, there are a few elements of your business that you can sharpen up in advance of entering negotiations with a buyer.

I’ve been involved with many transactions as a broker and now a buyer for Wren Sterling. In my experience, the more prepared someone is, the more likely a buyer is to commit to the next stage of the process, regardless of how good a business looks on the surface.

Here are the top 5 areas to focus on if you’re thinking about selling and if you would like to have a confidential chat about selling your business to Wren Sterling and to find out more about our process, please make an appointment.

1. Data

Like many aspects of modern business life, data is king. If you primarily use offline ways to store records, you should try to make these electronic because the people looking over your business will not be sitting in the back of your office going through paper. I’ve seen businesses with a fantastic client record fall down because they can’t transfer that way of working into a new environment.

Buyers are interested in your ability to create profit in your business and to retain clients. A detailed profit & loss account for the last three years is a minimum requirement, as well as up to date AUM and income statements.

2. Continuity of staff

Are your staff able to come with you? A buyer is interested in clients and assets, but ultimately, the success of buying a business comes down to the ability to maintain and grow it and in financial planning, that is often people. It’s understandable that you might not want to rock the boat too much, but you also need these people to help you achieve your goals. We’ve seen incentive schemes work well leading up to a sale to ensure continuity, and it makes them feel more of a part of the journey.

3. Client agreements and service propositions

How are you working with clients and how compatible is that with a buyer’s model? Buyers will want to know about the service levels you offer, how you communicate with clients and what they might expect from a buyer.

In time, you will probably need to harmonise your service levels, so it makes sense to be on the same page when you start out so the journey is simpler for your clients.

4. Compliance

Get your files in order and be open about advice you have given. DB transfers are an area that many financial planners have experience in, but they’re flagged as a risk by PI insurers, so be upfront about work done in that area. If you consider that a due diligence process could last several months, you probably don’t want to do it too many times. Giving people confidence straight away that they’re not going to find any gremlins can give the deal a much higher chance of succeeding.

5. Prepare for change

Selling your business is an arduous task, regardless of how well you prepare. There will be seemingly endless questions, checks and repetition. Focusing on the end goal is what helps business owners in this position, but make sure you prepare your family and fellow directors as well as you can for the journey ahead.

Working with a business such as Wren Sterling, who has been there and done it with many other companies, means we appreciate the pressure you’re under and we have based our practices around what’s best for all parties. Ultimately, the success of the integration and the continuing client service is down to how well the owner integrates and approaches life post-acquisition.


Interested? Speak to Henry Blunt, Wren Sterling's Acquisitions Director
Henry Blunt
About the Author

Henry Blunt is Wren Sterling’s Acquisitions Director. Henry joined Wren Sterling in November 2021 following eight years at Retiring IFA, where he was Managing Director for the past six years. Henry previously established and developed the Retiring Accountancy brand in the North of England. Henry is skilled in every aspect of mergers and acquisitions activity with a deep understanding of vendor motivation. He has advised acquiring parties on hundreds of deals, focusing on the long-term viability of the deal by prioritising the future treatment of clients and employees. Henry holds a BSc from Newcastle University.