While stock-market rallies have come and gone over the past 50 years, solid leadership at Raymond James has been more consistent. That stewardship is being celebrated by the firm nationwide – as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom—on August 16.
Tom James, son of co-founder Robert James and CEO from 1970 to 2010, says the financial and economic swings actually have given the broker-dealer the chance to shine—and grow. The down periods he refers to are those of 1973-1974, 1987-1989, 2000-2002 and 2007-2009.
“Were they the worst years for us? In some senses, yes, but they were also the best,” James shared during an interview. “As we have been able to see in later years, we created discipline, business plans and a strategic approach to the business that has been successful in the long term: You get good opportunities” in bad times, he concludes.
James, now 70, was in his early-20s when he went through his first market decline. “With my background, coming out of business school, and like others of my age, I was very optimistic and looking forward to participating in the family firm, which had about $1 million to $2 million in revenue back then,” he shared.
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The current executive chairman of Raymond James says he largely was tapped to become CEO in 1970 because his father didn’t enjoy running the firm in difficult times. “He preferred to focus on financial planning and training others to do that work,” James shared.
With his father around to offer advice as needed, James put his heart and soul into the business. “In the naiveté of youth, I thought I could be successful doing [what I’d learned in business school] and found out quickly that the real world was a lot different from case studies, which are a bit sterile. You don’t just have a good time in the securities business.”
Once he got over that learning curve, the young CEO worked on expanding Raymond James’ network and also got started doing some underwriting. “I hired an ex-Reynolds recruiter, and we built up a series of offices. I do not know why people elected to come with us,” James joked. “If I’d known how tough this job was, with our resources, I’m not sure I would have done it.”
When the ’73-’74 decline came, some offices had to be closed, and the firm had to find jobs for a number of registered reps at other firms. Management went unpaid, and the firm needed to raise money. “You have to take actions that are tough in times like those,” explained James.