Raymond James IBD Kicks Off Big Texas Confab

New tech initiatives, renewed focus outlined by executives of the independent broker-dealer in Dallas

Raymond James’ independent advisor conference is off to a “big" start Monday, as they say in the Lone Star State. About half of the independent reps in the group—roughly 1,600 advisors—are in the greater Dallas area for the four-day event.

The total number of guests, including sponsors, is about 3,400—making it the broker-dealer’s largest of the past 38 years. For many guests, the highlight of the event will be a talk by former President George W. Bush, who lives in the area and is opening his presidential library on Thursday.

Scott Curtis“Unlike many other firms that seem obsessed with the number of advisors affiliated with their firm, we’re much more focused on the quality of advisors and helping those advisors, like you, increase their client assets,” said Scott Curtis (left), president of Raymond James Financial Services in his opening remarks.

Still, Curtis acknowledged the presence of 65 prospective advisors who are attending the event to check out the broker-dealer.

He also pointed out that in 2008 RJFS included 3,150 affiliated advisors with nearly $110 billion in client assets. As of April 19, it had 3,240 advisors with close to $175 billion in client assets. “So in five years, the advisor count is up roughly 3%, while client assets have increased 60%,” Curtis said. 

The executive went on to highlight the firm’s latest technology-focused initiatives and other steps it is taking to assist its independent and other reps.

“In a nutshell, our primary focus is supporting you and your teams," he said. "So yes, we’re focused on growth–which includes affiliating other high-quality advisors–but not to the extent it distracts us from supporting the advisors who are already part of this organization.”

Part of the broker-dealer's focus this year, he says, is succession planning. In 2012, the firm expanded the practice planning and acquisitions team to four employees.

“We’re pleased to report that close to 50% of Independent Contractor Division branch owners have a plan on file, and over 70% of Leaders and Chairman’s Council members [do],” he said. “But that still means there are too many of you who don’t.” 

Over the past 18 months, this group has helped Raymond James’ independent reps complete 70 practice acquisitions, 63 of which have been of other RJFS’ books of business. These deals entailed total client assets of over $2.5 billion.

IT Issues

As Raymond James has ramped up its technology and platforms, advisors have adjusted their IT goals. In 2012, advisors said their “must haves” concerned client reporting, advisor access and integration, goal planning/monitoring (GPM) and proposal/model-portfolio trading.

This year, the reps are still focused on client reporting and integration (including advanced search functions). But they say their other IT priorities are associated with the opening of new client accounts/e-signatures, money movement, and an enhanced portfolio management center for proposals, discretionary trading and rebalancing.

Vin Campagnoli, chief information officer for RJFS’ parent firm (RJF), says that the high level of investments it is making—both financially and otherwise—is resulting in big improvements. The firm spends over $200 million a year on technology. (It will report earnings late Wednesday.)

“We have increased our spending 30% over the past two years,” Campagnoli said early Monday. “No one else [in the industry] can say that.”

He acknowledged that IT “stability” in recent months had not been steady but pledged to improve that situation along with overall innovation. “I recognize that technology is worthless if it’s not available,” he said.

Still, Raymond James has sharply improved its IT performance in the four areas identified as priorities by reps in 2012. Plus, the firm has helped advisors complete nearly 19,000 plans with its GPM technology; the plans affect more than $7 billion in assets held by clients in non-Raymond James accounts.

“As a firm, we have to recognize innovation and be in front of it—not behind,” Campagnoli noted.  

At the conference, close to half of the 3,400 attendees—some 1,500-- have downloaded the conference application onto their mobile devices. Also, one-third of advisors have installed the Mobile Iron security program on their phones and tablets.

“Technology is the reason I came” to Raymond James, said Jason Blount, an independent advisor in Richmond, Va., who affiliated with the broker-dealer two months ago. “They’re head and shoulders above what I’ve seen elsewhere. It’s easy to use. It’s refreshing.”

As the broker-dealer pushes its reps to embrace more technology and assets, the firm is more committed than ever to giving them the support they need, its leaders say. “Our success as a business depends on your growth and success," Curtis said. "That’s well understood by everyone at the firm.”

Advisors attending the annual conference appreciate the approach.

“I’m here for the community and camaraderie,” said Flora Avers of Ashland, Ore. “The support is incredible, and I really appreciate what they’re doing in areas like succession planning.”

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