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Raymond James Sees Growth in RIA Unit; Adds Social Media, ETF Offerings

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Raymond James (RJF) is seeing continued growth in its RIA custody unit, the Investment Advisors Division, and during its IAD annual conference announced two big enhancements to its RIA offerings: Hearsay Social’s social-media platform and 120 no-transaction-fee ETFs.

Bill Van Law, president of the IAD, said that in the quarter ended Sept. 30, the unit attracted three RIA firms with more than $500 million in client assets, giving it a total of about 110 RIA firms and $10 billion in custodied assets. Speaking at the IAD’s recent three-day national conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida, which drew 120 advisors and 38 prospective clients, Van Law said the growth numbers are “very representative of our momentum since the relaunch of the channel last September.” Van Law said that attendance at the conference rose about 40% from last year, while the number of prospects “is up significantly from eight prospective advisors a year ago.”

The Raymond James executive anticipates that three more RIAs could affiliate with the channel this quarter and that the next six months or so should bring “a significant increase” in affiliation. In the past nine months, he says, more than 100 advisors have visited the firm to discuss affiliation.

Those considering joining IAD constitute a mix of advisors at wirehouse firms, independent contractor groups “looking to take the next step toward the RIA platform” and “some wanting to leave their existing RIA” custodian, according to Van Law. “We expected strong interest from the wirehouse advisors, but the number of advisors visiting from existing RIAs—about half—is really a nice, positive surprise. It reinforces how our value proposition is resonating in the marketplace.”

Latest Developments

Raymond James-affiliated RIAs are set to have access to Hearsay Social’s social-media platform and a library of pre-approved content. They also can use their own content in conjunction with Hearsay Social’s compliance and archiving tool.

Its affiliated RIAs will also have access to 120 ETFs without transaction fees, including funds from First Trust, ALPS Advisors, AdvisorShares and Greenhaven, by Nov. 1. In addition,  RIAs can take advantage of additional enhancements to the firm’s platform, including its five-member succession planning and acquisition team.

Van Law says the channel recently tapped Lauren Ahern as its assistant regional director for the Northeast. Ahern will support existing affiliated RIAs while also recruiting new ones.

Future Focus

Though Raymond James recognizes that it “takes time” to reinvigorate a business, Van Law says that he is paring down his travel schedule a bit these days, after a year of being on the road. “We’ve been building momentum, but now I can focus more on those advisors visiting the home office and attending our due diligence events, which we do three times a year—two on the West Coast and one on the East Coast,” he explained.

The unit can compete with larger custodial firms such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity “not by emulating what they do but by drawing on Raymond James’ strengths and by creating a unique offering that addresses what [RIAs] are looking for,” Van Law said.

Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly, who spoke at this week’s conference, “is exceedingly upbeat about the relaunch and about the quality and caliber of the advisors he is meeting,” said Van Law. “We expect to make more announcements about new affiliated RIAs and platform initiatives in the near future.” 

In a separate, prior interview with ThinkAdvisor, Van Law said that “one of the biggest benefits we bring is being a strategic partner” to RIAs that are interested in growing their firms. Custodying with Raymond James gives RIAs access to “our comprehensive platform,” which is the same platform used by Raymond James’ employee and independent contractor advisors.

The IAD provides access to additional Raymond James’ resources such as Raymond James Bank, Van Law pointed out. “Lending is an important need for high-net-worth clients,” as are trust solutions, financial planning and other wealth solutions, so affiliated RIAs “can leverage all the people in our organization.”


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