Raymond James Financial (RJF) introduced a new desktop-software system to its U.S. advisors on Monday during its annual independent-advisor conference in Orlando.
The launch took place after retiring independent-channel CEO Dick Averitt passed the baton to his replacement, Scott Curtis (left) before an emotional audience of about 1,600 advisors and 1,100 other guests. (Averitt remains chairman of the organization but has given up day-to-day management responsibilities).
“I get it—you need better technology, and some things don’t work as you think they should,” said private-client CEO Chet Helck, alluding to some of the firm’s past challenges. “The world of technology moves fast; it’s expensive to keep up, and we’re commited to addressing it.”
Helck then gave the stage to Vincent Campagnoli, senior vice president of technology, who was hired in October with 27 years of industry experience, including several years at Morgan Stanley (MS) and UBS (UBS).
“Like in sports, when you’re challenged, it’s best to simplify things—get a game plan and execute,” Campagnoli said in his speech. “The new desktop is simple and easy to use. It’s been built with the FA in mind, so that everything is pretty much one click away.”
The new desktop, which presents data based on client relationships rather than accounts, has been in the pilot stage with some 250 advisors across Raymond James’ multiple channels for several months. It will be shared with roughly 4,500 U.S.-based reps in June and July, not including those coming over via the Morgan Keegan acquisition; these reps should gain access to the new desktop software by early 2013 as part of their IT conversion.
“We could have set back and built everything over two to three years,” said Campagnoli, “but we didn’t want to do that. We decided to get some functionality out there now … we’re moving in the right direction. It’s not the end, but it’s a start.”
Advisors can get up to speed with the new software, called Advisor Access, by attending a training session or two during this week’s conference. They can also watch online videos, ranging from one or two minute to half an hour, to learn about the software from their offices at any time, said Josh Bohlander, director of the technology advisor group, in an interview with AdvisorOne.
Raymond James executives stress that the new desktop is a work in progress, but it is robust and incorporates data from 25 systems. “You can get this all on one screen or with one click,” Campagnoli said in an interview.
The former wirehouse IT exec, who visited with branch offices and teams while he was working on the new software, says that while the larger firms were vigorous in their IT focus and spending, Raymond James could—and would—keep up.
“Should we compare our platforms to those of the wirehouses? Yes. Look at the advisors here, many of whom came from the wirehouses,” stressed Campagnoli. “There’s a need [across all firms] for information integration. That’s why we must keep our eyes on the advisor.”
Given that Raymond James is smaller than some Wall Street rivals, does its IT team have fewer organizational layers to work with in the innovation process? “Yes, absolutely, and this is an advantage,” Campagnoli said.