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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

Raymond James Exec: ‘No Robo-Advisor Plans’

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Speaking after the opening sessions of the firm’s 2015 independent advisor conference in Las Vegas, Raymond James Financial Services (RJF) President Scott Curtis made it clear that the firm will not be pursuing a robo-offering, unlike Charles Schwab (SCHW), for instance.

“We have no robo-advisor plans and are committed to supporting advisors with the technology and services they need to be successful,” the executive said on Tuesday in an interview. (The firm has a direct-to-investor offering, but it is limited to clients who once worked with Raymond James advisors.)

“We don’t believe [robo-advisors] will replace competent, caring advice,” he added. “But we have to pay attention and think about out what advisors need to do to keep up and adjust [online].”

Some 1,900 affiliated reps are attending the Raymond James National Conference for Professional Development, along with more than 70 prospective reps. “That’s up from the 50 to 55 or even the 60 we get. It’s definitely a bigger number,” Curtis stated.

Why the jump? “Other firms continue to either get between the advisors and the client or do things that may manipulate what advisors do with clients,” Curtis said. “Our way is to tell advisors, ‘Do it your own way … we are not financially trying to motivate you to do [certain activities] or penalize you if you do not do them.’ That’s not what we do.”

Curtis acknowledged six of the nine Raymond James indie advisors who have been affiliated with the firm for 40 years or more during his opening talk, before highlighting the growth of the business.

“The advisor count has grown 5% in the past five years, and both assets and revenues per advisor have increased by 75%-80% over that period,” Curtis explained.

“I congratulated everyone on their success and encouraged them to think about what they have to do with the business to keep up with client expectations and regulations,” he added.

The firm has nearly 3,400 independent reps today, down several hundred from 2005, but is “comfortable” with the success of its FA force, the executive says, and its focus on “high-quality advisors.” Average fees and commissions per advisor are about $540,000 per year.

This is below the level of most of the wirehouses, where production per rep averages roughly $1 million, but more than double the level of LPL Financial (LPLA), which is at about $250,000.

Curtis pointed to Goal Planning & Monitoring tools as a way the firm plans to keep up its growth.

“The most successful advisors are those using it,” he said. “Some have tripled their assets levels. They are using it to facilitate deeper relations with the client … which is something an online provider cannot do.”

Other technology efforts focus on asset aggregation tools and e-signatures. The firm wants the functionality of its mobile application for clients to “be more consistent with its website.”

“We want to synchronize this a bit more,” Curtis explained.

As for the Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary rule, “We are combing through the 700 pages with assistance from [industry groups] SIFMA and FSI,” said Curtis, a Financial Services Institute board member. “I have nothing specific to report, but it appears to be significantly better than what [appeared] in 2010.”

Raymond James may issue its own letter on the matter, “but there’s lots of work to be done [first],” he added.

— Check out Raymond James Kicks Off National Indie Event on ThinkAdvisor.


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