(LAS VEGAS) Executives of Raymond James Financial Services met with about 1,500 of the firm’s 3,120 independent advisors during the group’s annual professional-development conference, held March 3-6 in Nevada.
Tom James — chairman and CEO of Raymond James Financial, RJFS’ parent firm — also introduced his successor, Paul Reilly, to those at the gathering, which included nearly 50 of the firm’s 53 Chairman’s Club advisors (who have annualized revenue of at least $1.5 million).
Reilly, 54, will join the firm as president on May 1 and is set to become CEO one year later. He joined the company’s board in 2005 and is currently serving as executive chairman of Korn/Ferry International, a global search firm. He also has led KPMG International, which included some 100,000-plus employees and sales of $12 billion.
“We’ve been trying to recruit Paul for more than 20 years,” James says.
Advisors reacted favorably to Reilly’s introduction at a “town hall” meeting held March 5. “The town hall meeting was very well received based on what I’ve heard reps saying,” said advisor Laura Waller of Tampa, Fla. “They really liked the format and content.”
“At a time where access to and interaction with senior management is most important, the town hall [meeting] format gave us an unscripted insight into what is really going on behind the scenes and afforded us a true connection with the issues at hand,” said independent advisor Jon Wax of Tampa, Fla. “Tom [James] and [COO] Chet Helck cut through the noise of mass media and gave us the real answers we can now take to our clients.”
“The most important thing for advisors is stability,” explains James, “following their programs as usual, reinforcing their ideas, staying positive and maintaining strong client relations.”
Overall, advisors are performing many o the same tasks for clients that RJFS is doing for advisors, such as “distilling news and information and keeping everyone calm” through the present financial crisis.
“There are good investment opportunities in the marketplace and good yields on some bonds,” James says. “With their positive, constructive approach, the advisors can add value to the clients’ strategy.”
“Most advisors are more upbeat than I expected,” he notes. And this is the right attitude to have today, since many investors are looking to change who they work with. “Hosting seminars, for instance, can help those looking to work with someone who really has a helpful frame of mind.”
Given the prevalence of chaos in the marketplace, economy and on Wall Street, James says, many advisors have been contacting RJFS about a possible affiliation. “We can’t see the FAs who are calling, because we don’t have enough time for such a large number of meetings.”
About 100 prospective advisors attended the Las Vegas educational conference, and the total number of attendees was roughly 3,000. “You have to be a very strong, solid advisor to consider going independent in this environment,” says James.
“We’re adding as many people as we can that we can transition successfully,” he explains. In the last fiscal year, RJFS added nearly 400 new FAs.
Bill Van Law, the head of business development for RJFS, says recruiting of wirehouse representatives is up 281 percent in the early part of the firm’s fiscal year. Overall recruiting of FAs this fiscal year is up 71 percent, he says, over the prior full fiscal year.
And the average production, or revenues, of new advisors is up as well, by about 45 percent. In the first quarter of the ’09 fiscal year, for instance, recruited advisors had about $500,000 in yearly sales, according to Van Law.