Ryan Bartley – Catamount Financial Advisors
It’s a near-certainty for business owners: at some point, they will need to part with their business.
While most business owners are aware of this, few have the foresight to plan ahead, an oversight that could cost them a lot of money in the long run, according to Ryan Bartley.
That’s why, as the senior vice president of investments at Catamount Financial Advisors of Raymond James—a wealth management group based in Burlington, Vermont—he decided seven years ago to focus on owners selling or transitioning their business. Working with Alex Bryan, the co-founder, partner and senior vice president of investment, the aim is to maximize returns not only for the owner, but for their families, he says.
Ideally, he says clients start the transition at least three years before the sale. This prepares them for the mental, emotional and financial challenges. It also leaves plenty of time for trust building between his firm and clients.
“It’s proven to be a sound practice, particularly now, given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” Bartley says.
Trends and strategies
Prior to the pandemic, Bartley could often be found traveling to meetings with Catamount clients around the country, working on everything from tax mitigation strategies to estate planning and portfolio management.
Then, during the first wave of the pandemic, business ground to a halt. With the financial markets in turmoil, Bartley says businesses didn’t understand what the future would look like and many took a “wait-and-see” approach.
Within eight months, however, Bartley noticed business beginning to pick up for owners whose companies survived. Planning for a sale once again became a priority as “things can change instantly,” he says.
“Things are very busy now,” says Bartley, with Catamount providing tax mitigation strategies and helping to maximize the intergenerational transfer of wealth. “We pride ourselves on evaluating portfolio performance and doing a risk-versus-reward analysis on investment policy statements. Wealth is preserved by planning and modeling for future generations.”
For Bartley, counseling clients through difficult decisions—such as how and when to sell their business—is his passion and more than an occupation. By offering his counsel, he can educate clients on their best options to attain financial freedom.
“Rushing the process is not advised when you are making a big decision based on a lifetime’s worth of work,” Bartley says. “This can result in both fiscal and emotional challenges if not dealt with correctly before the transaction. I take the time to ensure the owner understands the ramifications of what an exit can bring and then create a carefully considered plan, which is paramount during these vulnerable times.”
So how much money can a client potentially leave on the table when it’s time to cash out?
Bartley says that, under 2021 tax codes, a married couple with a net worth north of $23.4 million could pay 40 percent on what remains after income tax when transferring those funds to its heirs. In that scenario, only 35 to 40 percent of the dollars would pass to the next generation. But through estate planning strategies, including trusts, Bartley says a client’s family can significantly reduce that tax burden.
“The sooner you do the planning, the better for the family in the future,” he says.
Planning ahead comes naturally for Bartley. Earning a business degree at Ithaca College in 1998, Bartley spent 14 years working at Morgan Stanley, McDonald Financial Group, and UBS, a Swiss multinational wealth management firm. Starting as a vice president of investments in 2003, he moved up quickly to senior portfolio manager, first vice president and later senior vice president in 2014. In 2015, Catamount Financial Advisors moved its business to Raymond James.
Bartley says he’s always enjoyed researching where money, taxes and investment strategies intersect. The larger the net worth, the more tax strategies can be used, he advises.
“We invest a significant amount of effort into these clients—and as a result, they’ve become our best ones over time,” Bartley says. “After you’ve done this successfully multiple times, people recognize you’re speaking from experience and that elevates trust—especially if you’ve saved them significant sums of money through various tax mitigation strategies.”
Currently Bartley’s team is working with several businesses on their exit strategies. Getting past the sale or transition is a big accomplishment.
“What prepared me the best for my job is being a business owner myself,” Bartley says. “Every person encounters this situation at some point and has to draw things to a close. It’s a major milestone and most people don’t think about it until it’s time to sell.”
The reward for Bartley is teaching people how to be comfortable at this crossroads.
“By giving them good counsel, they can live their life and not worry about their finances, knowing they’ve done their best to provide financial freedom for the generations to come,” Bartley says. “It requires long-term planning and is a process, but it pays to be prepared.”
View this feature in the Vision Vol. 1 2022 Edition here.
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