New York City and Princeton, NJ
Comprehensive Personal Financial Planning, sophisticated Tax Planning and Preparation, Investment Portfolio Management
Sought larger, national partner to expand growth trajectory, increase family office service offering
Traust Sollus empowers clients to transform their lives by making the best financial decisions so that they can live the life they want now and in the future.
This vision was established by its founder, Al Zdenek, over 35 years ago as he evolved his high net worth tax-focused CPA practice, from just handling his clients’ tax needs to guiding and addressing his clients’ wealth issues through a financial planning approach. “My transition to planning really started with my own financial situation,” Al noted. “At the time, I worked with a CPA/financial planner to get my own affairs in order and back on track, so I experienced firsthand how transformational comprehensive financial planning can be in clients’ lives.”
- Al Zdenek, Traust Sollus
- Al Zdenek, Traust Sollus
As a result, Al re-established his practice to lead with financial planning, added investment advisory, and kept his tax planning and preparation business in place. “We really wanted to contribute more to people’s lives. We did this by helping them make better decisions and avoid poor or disastrous ones. This would allow them to achieve financial independence sooner and achieve more wealth. This really inspired me to grow and expand the firm, so we could empower more and more clients.”
Traust Sollus’ focus on comprehensive personal financial planning and sophisticated tax planning served the firm well, and Al successfully grew the firm to two locations, 25 staff members, and over $400 million in AUM. Despite this strong growth, Al knew that strategically he needed to make the jump to becoming a larger, regional firm that has scale in order to maintain profitability and continue to attract and retain staff.
“It was becoming very difficult to find the right talent to keep growing the firm, while at the same time we needed capital to fund that expansion, keep our technology up to date, compliance current, and more,” Al said. “So our choice really was either to just continue to run the business or find a larger partner so we could become a regional firm and ensure our team and clients would be taken care of. Ultimately, the job of the CEO is for the firm to not need a CEO; in order to do that, it became clear that we needed a larger partner.”
As part of this process, Al retained an investment banker to help identify a strategic partner to ensure the continuity and success of Traust Sollus. “We had strong interest from all of the aggregators and roll-up firms, and probably looked at over 60 firms in total, but most of them were just the wrong cultural fit and it was a very frustrating process. However, once we met Mercer Advisors, it was clear that we had found our perfect match.”
Al and his COO, Rick Weyers, conducted the interviews, due diligence, and analysis of the many firms they met during this process. Both agreed that the cultural fit, financial planning focus, and philosophical approach to the business that Mercer Advisors brought was unique and clinched the deal.
“Their passion for their fellow team members, for clients, the industry, and the work that we do was so evident not only in the management team, but also in the many other firms that have joined Mercer Advisors,” Al said. “It was clear that they cared that clients get the best advice and shared our values. Additionally, Mercer Advisors truly valued our capabilities, particularly our tax practice, and we could see that our people would have much broader career paths as part of a larger organization.”
A key benefit and synergy that came from the merger of the two firms was Traust Sollus’ tax practice that would be additive to the entire Mercer Advisors’ client base. “We basically doubled our tax preparation and tripled our tax staff through the partnership with Traust Sollus,” noted Dave Barton, Vice Chairman for Mercer Advisors. “We are thrilled to be able to make TS’s tax expertise available to our dozens of offices around the country and look forward to growing this extremely valuable resource.”
Al and Rick also appreciated the enhanced service experience that their clients would receive from Mercer Advisors’ Family Office services. “Finally, someone gets it that having in-house attorneys to complete the gap in estate planning for clients is such a strategic benefit—and at no added cost to our clients, this is a game-changer,” noted Rick.
Both Al and Rick agree that when looking at firms, the best deal is not just about the money, and that waiting just postpones the inevitable. “To us, the real value is having an overlapping culture and approach to serving clients. It isn’t about control, rather it is about ensuring that staff and clients will be well cared for,” Al said. “If you are in your mid-60s and haven’t done anything to ensure your firm carries on, then you’ve already lost control and what you have is really just an illusion.”
Rick concurs, “Mercer Advisors’ offer was clean, easy to understand, and very attractive in meeting our goals and expectations – so much so that it really made the decision straightforward. It just seemed like we were joining our long-lost friends.”
We help RIAs with growth, succession planning or exit strategies. We offer a myriad of solutions to help take care of and service existing clients. Speak with our Vice President of Business Development, William Perysian.