April 24, 2013

Raymond James Execs on IT: ‘Can’t Slow Down’

Top technology execs share latest successes at the IBD’s annual conference in Dallas

Bella Loykhter Allaire and Vin Campagnoli speaking at Raymond James' independent-advisor confab. Bella Loykhter Allaire and Vin Campagnoli speaking at Raymond James' independent-advisor confab.

When it comes to moving ahead in information technology, Raymond James seems to have hit its stride, according to company executives and some outside groups. This momentum is being highlighted by managers and tech staff during the independent broker-dealer’s annual conference, taking place this week in Dallas.

“Advisors can do a lot with it, and it’s impressive from the client side, too,” said Vin Campagnoli, chief information officer for Raymond James Financial (RJF), in an interview late Tuesday.

A few days earlier (April 19), Raymond James received the Bank Insurance and Securities Association’s 2013 Technology Innovation Award for the firm’s commitment to technology-based industry solutions and the rollout of its financial planning software, Goal Planning & Monitoring (GPM).  

GPM was launched in August to independent and employee advisors with Raymond James. The firm’s partner in the introduction and use of this software is MoneyGuidePro, and Raymond James says GPM was “the most significant enhancement in 2012 to Advisor Access,” its technology platform.

“That was a good surprise,” said Campagnoli. “It’s amazing how responsive the MoneyGuidePro team has been to our advisors.”

“When we showed GPM to some advisors a year ago, there was immediate feedback, and MoneyGuidePro immediately began working and making adjustments based on that feedback,” said Bella Loykhter Allaire, executive vice president of technology and operations, in an interview. “That is the type of partnership you really want.”

Financial planning tools can be “very difficult to introduce,” Allaire said. But both she and Campagnoli were familiar with MoneyGuidePro from their work at Prudential Securities.

Advisors like GPM, Campagnoli says, because it’s simple to use, sophisticated, intuitive and interactive. “They can adjust plans on the fly, which they like,” he said. “It’s a home run and a big hit right now.”

“About 40% of advisors have built plans with it as of March, which is very impressive,” Allaire said. “It’s relatively new to our advisors, so we are very pleased.”

Top-Down Support

The other significant partnership behind Raymond James' latest IT innovations, Allaire says, is at the executive level.

“We were hired to drive tech and have spent a lot of time on our platform on plans to grow” the technology operations,” Allaire said.

She came on board two years ago, while Campagnoli has been with Raymond James for about 18 months. They were hired after Paul Reilly took the reigns as CEO from Tom James in May 2010.

When it came to the conversion of Morgan Keegan advisors last year, “It did not slow us down," Allaire said. "Senior management also said, ‘do not do a quick conversion, do it right.' And Paul supported this. This was the foundation that meant we were able to get the Morgan Keegan conversion done successfully.”

“Now, I want to do so many things,” said Allaire, the highest-ranking technology executive at the firm. “We are putting pressure on ourselves and cannot go fast enough.”

Moving quickly with top management’s support means doing plenty of due diligence, says Campagnoli. “But because that support, we can start on implementation and keep moving. It’s faster than I’ve ever seen before.”

In addition to their time at Pru, Allaire and Campagnoli have both worked on technology at UBS and Morgan Stanley.  

“That’s the beauty of not being with a large Wall Street firm,” Allaire said. “The decision-making in general at Raymond James, not just with IT, does not involve much procrastination. And that really makes sense.”

The IT execs also say they spend some of their time talking to advisor recruiters on behalf of the firm. “If technology makes advisors more efficient, they do not want to leave," Campagnoli said. "And that’s where we want to be.”

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Read Raymond James CEO on Growth Plans, Regulatory and Diversity Challenges on AdvisorOne.

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