May 3, 2011

RJFS Conference: Raymond James Lowering Fees, Pushing Social Media & iPads

The independent arm of Raymond James has lowered and eliminated some fees, dropped certain trading limits and is enhancing its social-media and IT policies

Raymond James Financial Services, the independent channel of Raymond James, spread the word about several shifts in its fees, social-networking and other policies during its national conference, now taking place in Las Vegas. While some of the changes were put in place on March 1 or earlier, RJFS CEO Dick Averitt drew attention to them during his keynote speech on Monday.

(The 2011 RJFS conference has drawn about 1,650 -- or more than half -- of the independent channel's 3,200-plus advisor force.)

“We listened to you, and we eliminated the trading limits on the Ambassador accounts,” Averitt (left) said in a general session on Monday, regarding a change that took place in October 2010. “We also heard your comments about cost, and we recently [on March 1] lowered administration fees on both Freedom and UMA accounts, which directly affects your retention of revenues. The savings goes back into your practices or into your pockets.”

In addition, says RJFS Chief Administrative Office Greg Williams, the company introduced a no-transaction-fee (or NTF) mutual fund platform for a popular account on March 1. This eliminates the $30 processing fee for the associated fund transactions.

“This has been in the process for some time,” said Averitt during an interview on Tuesday. “And we asked the mutual fund companies to support it, since they do elsewhere. We told them our advisors would like it and asked them to do it on an optional basis.”

Currently, about 80% of assets are in funds that now participate in the NTF platform, he says, and participating fund company  offset the trading costs.  “We are listening to our advisors,” the CEO explained.

“To add money or rebalance, the fees charged in the past are now gone, so clients can do their rebalancing for free,” Williams said in an interview on Tuesday. “This is huge, and it’s been a long time coming.” The NTF platform is also accessible to employee-advisors affiliated with Raymond James & Associates.

Social Media, iPad

Raymond James is also moving ahead to give its advisors more capabilities in terms of communicating with clients via social media, Averitt says.

“We were one of the first broker-dealers to allow you to work on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn for static posts within the parameters of supervision that FINRA gave us, without any fanfare or public announcement,” he said during his speech.

(Commonwealth Financial Network announced its social-media policy in April.)

While this policy has been in place for roughly nine months, a new policy allowing advisors to communicate via social media on a real-time basis should be in place this summer, according to Averitt.

“I’m pleased to tell you that we are on the cusp on contracting with an outside service with which you will be able to enroll, which will enable us to track and supervise your communications – just as we already do [with] e-mail, to meet the requirements of our regulators,” Averitt said Monday.

This shift should let advisors “participate actively in conversations on these websites, just as your 10-year-old does,” he added.

Other changes – such as letting advisors work and access client accounts on iPads and similar laptops – are being rolled out at the national confab, the CEO says. “We can’t lead from behind,” he shared during an interview. Tuesday. 

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