John Taft heads RBC Wealth Management in the United States and recently stepped down as chairman of SIFMA, the financial-services lobbying group. Based in Minneapolis, he has worked in the industry since 1981 and recently spoke with Research about challenges confronting both the industry and the firm he leads.
RBC earned the top spot in the 2011 U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study announced by J.D. Power & Associates earlier this year. It hired John Moran, formerly of Morgan Stanley, to lead its operations in the greater New York area — which includes about 60 advisors and 45 employees in late November.
How has RBC been building its wealth-management force in the United States?
We said publicly in ‘08 and ‘09 that we had tremendous growth, like the other non-wirehouse firms, and added over 300 advisors from recruiting alone and doubled that number with acquisitions. Things were changing dramatically then, and we benefitted from the dislocation [of advisors from the wirehouses].
How has RBC’s growth strategy changed recently?
In 2010, 2011 and 2012, our focus is on adjusting growth and helping advisors join the platform based on their business and productivity. This is very much our top focus, as we’ve gotten back to normal recruiting activity that emphasizes attracting high-quality FAs whose perspective on the business and whose business model matches that of our firm.
As part of this focus on productivity, some lower-end producers have left the firm, namely those in the lower two-quintiles. We also put in a coaching program, FA Forward. And, in 2011, we reduced the compensation of advisors whose production is under $300,000.
We married this approach with the continued recruiting of advisors with productivity equal to or greater than the firm’s current goals. There’s no change to this strategy in 2012.
What other goals for RBC can you share?
One of our other targets, or a stretch goal, is to get production (or GDC) per rep to $1 million. That is currently the average revenue figure for our sister firm in Canada, Dominion Securities, and we know it can be done. They have 1,300 advisors. We are importing such goals and will continue to work with the best practices of the Canadian firm.
Last year, we embarked on a global initiative and effort to restructure the wealth-management platform globally by bringing more capabilities to it and doing more with the resources within it. This includes the intellectual and other capabilities of RBC Global, which can be accessed by clients everywhere in our system. If, for example, a client wants to set up account or international trust in the Channel Islands or Geneva in a certain currency, we can offer such services.
What is the size of your advisor force in the United States and the scope of your RIA business?
We’re down a bit to 2,029 as of October vs. about 2,100 two years ago for reasons I’ve explained earlier.