From the November 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Raymond James Hosts Women FAs; Shares Growth Story

At the end of August, the firm included 5,300-plus advisors with close to 2 million accounts and $215 billion in assets in the United States, Canada and overseas.

(Saint Petersburg, Fla.) Raymond James hosted its 15th annual Women's Symposium from September 30- October 2 with about 100 of its 640 female advisors attending.

"We want to focus on how our women advisors are handling the market and their clients, and on what is working now for them to make a difference for clients," says Karen Schultz, director of the Raymond James Network for Women Advisors.

One presenter, Danielle Page of Raymond James & Associates (the firm's traditional employee channel) in Philadelphia, described what she has done to improve her fee-based business, client base and her overall business processes since coming over from UBS 18 months ago, shortly before the financial crisis hit.

Kathy Muldoon of Dallas, an independent advisor in Raymond James Financial Services, said she moved "to call clients before they called us" during the downturn. And in 2009, discussions with clients focused on revisiting their financial plans, revealing their risk tolerance and spending. "Our role as financial counselors is not going away," Muldoon shares.

Raymond James executives agree. "The world now really recognizes the value of financial advice and there's a renewed appreciation and demand for it," says Raymond James Financial COO Chet Helck. "Clients are telling advisors and they are telling us, "I want someone who will pay attention to me and give me a lot of help and consideration ... based on my situation, not a cookie-cutter approach."

At the end of August, the firm included 5,300-plus advisors with close to 2 million accounts and $215 billion in assets in the United States, Canada and overseas. "And the fiscal year ending September 30 was by far the most prolific recruiting year we've ever had," Helck adds.

For instance, RJ&A now has 1,280 FAs, after hiring about 220 advisors with some $105 million in sales commissions and fees over the past 12 months, according to Dennis Zank, RJ&A's president. And 190 of these advisors have been hired to work in existing branches. Most are joining from the wirehouse firms, he adds.

The ratio of client accounts coming into RJ&A vs. departing has been four to one, Zank notes, with some 75,000 accounts coming over to RJ&A. In addition, advisors have boosted assets under management by 5 percent.

"These results reflect the fact that we've had a record recruiting year and strong retention of existing advisors," he explains. "Also, we are viewed differently than your typical Wall Street firm, and a lot of clients allow us to handle all or part of their assets to see if indeed the experience is different."

RJ&A's "manageable growth rate" is, historically, about 15 to 18 percent a year, Zank adds.

At the independent channel, recruiting is expected to be much higher than the nearly 600 advisors who joined in the 2008 fiscal year, according to Bill Van Law, national director of business development for RJFS. "This should be another record year," he says. In terms of recruited revenue, there was a 45 percent jump in the '08 fiscal year, and preliminary estimates for '09 are up roughly 135 percent.

Pre-retirement-age clients looking for such advice, rather than for a product pitch, are in many cases in a panic as they hope to make up for lost ground, Helck adds. "They have to get it right now, with no margin for error in their financial plans. And that creates real demand for quality, expert advice. And this is what we've always done, so our style has really come back into vogue -- after being dismissed some 10 years ago."

The high-level, individualized, consultative approach to financial planning combined with open architecture make Raymond James quite bullish, he says. "You can still be successful today, but you need help. And advisors have to be good to earn and keep the respect of their clients," notes Helck. Selection, allocation, portfolio management and risk management, along with salesmanship, all come into play.

Raymond James is spending a lot of time and energy on how it organizes and offers support, education and functionality to boost relationship management for advisors and help them rely on a disciplined advisory practice. In general, the firm spends about $160 million a year on technology to roll out such improvements, according to Helck. "Making systems relationship-oriented and not account-oriented is huge; it's revolutionary," he says.

Overall, the firm is looking at "lots of opportunities" for growth, says Raymond James Financial President Paul Reilly, who will become CEO in May 2010. "Never waste a good recession," he explains. "It's a chance to step back and reflect on your clients and your processes. You can really look and listen."
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