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Raymond James Signals Big Push on RIAs, Names Van Law to Head IAD

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Raymond James (RJF) announced Monday that it had named Bill Van Law as the new head of its RIA custody unit, the Investment Advisors Division (IAD). The appointment, Van Law said in an interview with AdvisorOne on Friday, “represents a renewed focus” on that business that comes directly from Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly and the Raymond James board.

Bill Van LawVan Law (left) said that the firm had been “looking at this business pretty extensively for a year or so,” hiring an outside consultant to help it do so, and while Raymond James “considered going outside” to hire a new executive for the RIA custody unit, it finally decided to go with himself, an internal candidate who “knows the culture” at RJ. 

Van Law knows more than just the culture. He joined Raymond James in 2003 as a senior VP in the firm’s employee broker-dealer, Raymond James & Associates (RJA), and since October 2006 has served as chief recruiter for Raymond James Financial Services (RJFS), the independent contractor BD. He also worked on developing strategy for RJFS and helped build the IAD. Van Law began his career as an FA at Merrill Lynch, where he spent 18 years in various leadership positions, including district sales manager.

“I’ve thought for a long time we haven’t been capitalizing on it as we should,” Van Law said in referring to the RIA unit, which has about 100 RIA firms custodying $7 billion in assets under management. As for which advisors he sees as potential additions to the RJ fold, he suggested that it would “probably not be existing RIAs,” but advisors presently at wirehouses or other independent BD reps who are considering forming their own RIA firms. “We’re in a unique position to focus on this,” he said, noting that “80% of the people we’ve recruited have come over from the national firms.”

The needs of those wirehouse brokers, Van Law said, were complex, and some other independent BDs were not able to meet those needs, which would include access on the Raymond James platform to cutting-edge technology, alternative investments and lending—“all areas that high-end clients need and are using already” at the national firms. He said the IAD would focus on providing the “best-experience for the fee-based advisor and their clients” in terms of technology and pricing but also in helping them transition to the RIA space. “They’ve had to pull together” all the pieces of starting a new business, he said. “If we can do it for them, it will make it an easier process.”

Noting that most RIAs have multiple custodial relationships, Van Law said that while “we have a solid platform, we need to enhance it further and to get the word out.” To help determine what form those enhancements should take, Van Law said RJ hopes to gain insights from a survey it commissioned of advisors who had considered affiliating with Raymond James but eventually decided against doing so. He also pledged to spend the first 60-90 days in his new position talking to existing advisors “and those thinking of making a move” to help guide IAD’s strategic focus.

One of Van Law’s statements seemed to suggest that beyond IAD recruiting new advisors to the Raymond James platform, the increased focus on the RIA channel would help Raymond James in its retention efforts among existing reps. “Because we have such a high productivity level in the independent space, we’re a natural fit” for those reps considering making a switch to a full-blown RIA model. 

Mike Di Girolamo (left), who has been in charge of the IAD division as managing director, will now report to Van Law, focusing on strategy and operations. In a statement, Chet Helck, Raymond James Global Private Client Group CEO, said Di Girolamo will continue to build “on the foundation he helped establish,” at IAD. Van Law spoke highly of Di Girolamo as well, saying “his knowledge in this space is second to none.”

Van Law will report directly to Helck as head of IAD.