(San Antonio) “These are tough days involving tough business decisions,” says Donald Runkle, chief compliance officer for Raymond James Financial Services in St. Petersburg, Fla., which includes some 3,150 independent advisors in the United States.

Runkle, who was interviewed during a recent Financial Services Institute conference, is referring to the decisions advisors have to make when it comes to managing their business practices. Some practices include five or eight staff members, he points out. “And there’s not much that’s variable in terms of their variable costs.”

That means the Raymond James executives and staff are “proactively seeing how we can assist advisors and help them increase efficiency,” he explains.

This approach is being taken for both existing RJFS advisors and new recruits, according to James Fulp, executive vice president of sales for the independent-contractor division of the company, who was also interviewed during FSI’s February event in Texas.

“As the current market starts to have an impact on advisors and their business, we are trying to help them see other advisors and successful professionals who they may want to merge with as opposed to staying on their own,” Fulp explains.

RJFS is facilitating such mergers to support existing advisors, attract prospective advisors and help advisors as they retire.

Fulp says, “We expect more deals in 2009 as advisors reach a point when they need to change their business model.” Some advisors are folding up their tents in some cases, as cuts are made to training programs like those at Merrill Lynch, for instance, and they have to find a new place to work and a new way to do business, he explains.

jlevaux@researchmag.com .