SageView’s Long: ‘Tremendous’ Consolidation Still to Come in Retirement, Wealth

The founder, former CEO and now chairman also says serving participants—in or out of plan—will be key to succeeding amid field of advisers and recordkeepers.

Randy Long, the former CEO and now chairman of SageView Advisory Group, has stepped aside from the day-to-day business of running the firm he helped found and build into a national retirement plan advisory and wealth management shop overseeing $170 billion in assets. But in addition to meeting with clients, he notes one area he will definitely remain focused on in a strategic advisement role: mergers and acquisitions.

“There’s obviously still going to be tremendous consolidation in the industry, both on the retirement side, as well as the wealth management side,” Long says.

The chairman, whose move out of the CEO role was announced in August, notes that many retirement advisories have already joined larger firms such as SageView, CAPTRUST Financial Advisors or the handful of insurance-backed aggregators. That has led to the ongoing deal flow for the wealth-focused registered investment advisory space.

“There’s been a pretty significant consolidation of retirement plan advisers, overall, and I think we’ll continue to see that, but there just aren’t as many fish in the pond,” he says.

John Longley, former private wealth head of the defunct Silicon Valley Bank, started as CEO of SageView in September, bringing a background in banking, wealth management and experience founding and running a financial technology firm. Meanwhile, Jon Upham, a longtime partner of Long, will continue to focus on the firm’s retirement industry practice.

In speaking of Longley, his CEO successor, Long says: “He is an accomplished executive who has been in the space for many years. … He has built organizations and developed teams and is a really seasoned executive.”

From Plan Sponsor to Participant

Long recalls a time when many plan sponsors ran their employee retirement plan benefits without an adviser. Now, he says, most relatively larger plan sponsors work with an adviser, but it is the participants who are in need of personalized advisement.

This, in part, was the motivator for SageView to move into wealth management and ultimately get private equity backing from Aquiline Capital Partners in 2021 to drive acquisition growth.

Randy Long

“We saw an opportunity to help with financial wellness and engage participants and get them to utilize the plan and services,” he says. “Our clients were asking us: ‘How can we help our participants save more money for retirement so they can retire securely?’”

In January, SageView introduced its own financial wellness platform available for plan sponsors. It also, Long notes, has an operations center in Dallas that has CFPs to support participant outreach for smaller accounts.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to our employers to help all participants, not just those that have money,” Long says. “We’re not just serving accounts over a million dollars. We’re really trying to be holistic to help the participant, and by helping the participant, we are helping the employer.”

That model of serving participants, he notes, is not just something other advisories are doing, but large recordkeepers as well, who are often connecting the work to their own asset management divisions.

Wealth Needs

Long says SageView does on-site education meetings with clients, but there continues to be “huge demand” for independent, fiduciary advice. The wealth management advisory side is there to serve those needs, but that business model, he notes, takes “a lot of boots on the ground.”

“We look at it as one business, not necessarily two businesses of wealth and retirement,” he says. “We even have some advisers who do both wealth and retirement. That’s a testament to our operating model. … As a national platform, we have the ability to help people with our scale across the country.”

Long says advisement should not just be focused on people rolling out of retirement plans for money management—especially as many participants do not seem to be making that move.

“More and more participants are leaving their assets in the plan, so you don’t really need to move the assets,” Long says. “There’s a lot of planning you can do, but it’s more focused on helping people understand the benefits that they have and where they make decisions as it relates to their asset allocation, where they are in retirement and where they should start drawing their assets first.

Long and team, however, still clearly see lots of runway to add wealth management services in more locatnois. The chairman notes that Aquiline’s funding, as with most private equity, has a timeline in the range of three to five years, which means the firm will likely be looking for more PE partnerships in coming years.

“I’m sure, down the road, SageView will have another private equity partner,” Long says. “The valuations have skyrocketed, so it’s not like we’re slowing down.”

Nor, does it seem, will the former CEO. He notes that, with fewer daily commitments to the firm, he will be spending more time with his grandchild and on philanthropic efforts he runs with his wife, Mary Long.