Kitces: Merging A Fast-Growth Firm Into A Much Larger One To Get The Operations Monkeys Off Your Back, With Jenny Martella

By Jenny Martella, MBA, CFP®

Wealth Manager, Principal

June 5, 2024

Modera Wealth Manager and Principal Jenny Martella was interviewed by Kitces in a 90-minute podcast on how she partnered with Karen Keatley to grow their firm and ultimately decide to join Modera in 2020.

“What’s unique about Jenny, though, is how she and her previous business partner were so successful in the early years of growing their advisory firm, that they decided not to hire up the operations staff they would need to keep up, and instead chose to merge into Modera Wealth, and become smaller partners in the much-larger enterprise, so that they could re-focus on their own strengths of serving clients rather than spending more and more time on firm operations.

In this episode, we talk in-depth about how Jenny and her partner grew their firm from $19 million to $250 million of assets under management in just 7 years, thanks in large part to investing in a professionally designed website that highlighted their status as a women-run fee-only financial planning firm, how Jenny felt an increasing burden of operational responsibilities, from hiring to compliance, as the firm grew and there were more clients to serve, and how Jenny’s desire to get these operational monkeys off of her back, as well as a lack of a viable internal successor, led Jenny and her partner to look to merge with a larger firm that would reduce these operational burdens and ensure her clients would be served well no matter her own future career choices.

We also talk about how Jenny and her partner managed the merger process itself, including how Jenny first tried to merge with firms their own size and found that many of them wanted Jenny’s firm to be their succession plan, the ‘courtship process’ that led Jenny and her partner to decide to merge into a much-larger RIA like Modera Wealth Management instead, and how Jenny and her partner used the consulting firm FP Transitions to advise them both on their partnership agreement and on the terms of the sale of their firm.    

And be certain to listen to the end, where Jenny shares the challenges she experienced going through a merger into a larger firm, including transitioning clients, learning new technology systems, and the loss of the brand identity and client acquisition pipelines from their previous firm, how Jenny carved out a new role for herself within Modera that not only ensured her clients would continue to be well-served, but also allowed her the impact she wanted to help shape Modera as a whole, and how Jenny maintains a running list of quotes and scripts for herself that helps her find the right words at the right time (or occasionally just some personal inspiration) when communicating with clients.

So, whether you’re interested in learning about merging with a larger firm to achieve operational efficiencies, how to overcome the technical and emotional challenges of selling a firm, or how to develop better client communication skills, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast, with Jenny Martella.”

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