401(k) recordkeeper Ascensus sold to PE shop and sovereign fund

April 26, 2021

A private equity name familiar to RIAs is buying a prominent 401(k) recordkeeper.

Stone Point Capital and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC are teaming up to purchase a majority stake in Ascensus, which provides administrative and recordkeeping services for roughly $373.6bn in retirement plan assets.

Stone Point Capital is best known to advisors as a backer of Focus Financial Partners alongside KKR. 

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021. Financial terms were not disclosed, though Bloomberg News reported that Stone Point and GIC were paying $3bn for Ascensus.

‘We are delighted to partner with Stone Point Capital and GIC, who share our confidence in the strategic importance and growth potential of the retirement, education, and health savings markets,’ Ascensus chief executive David Musto said in a statement.

Ascensus, which is based in Dresher, Pa., has been co-owned by two private equity firms, also well-known to advisors. The company is co-owned by Genstar Capital — which backs Mercer Global Advisors and Orion Advisor Solutions — and Aquiline Capital Partners, which currently backs RIA in a Box and previously backed AssetMark.

Genstar and Aquiline will keep a minority stake in Ascensus, while another of Ascensus’ private equity backers, Atlas Merchant Capital, will exit.

‘We believe Ascensus is a true leader in providing technology, expertise, and partnership to enable savings across the critical areas of retirement, education, and healthcare. We look forward to partnering with their management team and talented associates to support their continued growth, solutions innovation, and strong service delivery,’ Stone Point chief executive Chuck Davis said in a statement.

The Ascensus transaction marks the latest major deal in the retirement plan management industry which, like the RIA industry, has drawn plenty of private equity interest. Other notable recent transactions included Aquiline’s January purchase of a majority stake in SageView Advisory Group and Empower Retirement’s 2020 purchases of Fifth Third Bank’s and SunTrust’s 401(k) recordkeeping businesses.

Barclays and Goldman Sachs served as Ascensus’ financial advisors, while Willkie Farr & Gallagher served as its legal counsel. JP Morgan served as Stone Point’s financial advisor, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as its legal counsel.