The Americas Group, which manages about $2.4 billion for both retail and institutional clients, has moved to Raymond James in South Florida from a wirehouse. Raymond James says this is the largest team it has ever recruited to any of its channels.

“We are delighted to have attracted the Americas Group, which is widely recognized as one of the most successful advisor teams in the country, to join our firm in South Florida,” said Tash Elwyn, president of the firm’s employee broker-dealer Raymond James & Associates, in a statement.

The group includes veteran advisors Don d’Adesky, W. Kristopher Lemke, Matthew Cicero, Jose Cabrera Sr., Kevin Gourrier and Ryan Weber. It has offices in Boca Raton and Coral Gables and serves high-net-worth individuals, institutions and banks primarily located in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Moving the practice to St. Petersburg, Florida-based Raymond James from Morgan Stanley involved a lot more than geographic considerations, according to d’Adesky, who heads the Boca Raton practice.

“We spoke to up to 13 firms … and some independent firms made such an effort,” he said in an interview. “You have to look in the mirror, which we did. We knew we did not want to own our own branch.”

For its part, Morgan Stanley says it is “no longer able to accommodate [the advisors’] business model. They serve a number of smaller central banks in Caribbean and Latin American countries, and for regulatory reasons we are shifting coverage of these clients to our institutional business and will no longer serve them in wealth management,” the wirehouse explained in a statement.

The freshly recruited Raymond James team says it plans “to focus on our clients, grow the business and sit with them to discuss issues like mortgages, risk tolerance, etc.,” according to d’Adesky. “We have lofty targets for growing our business with high-net-worth individuals and mid-market institutions.”

Plus, d’Adesky states, the clients don’t appear to be going anywhere because of the team’s move. “They say, ‘I have done business with you for many years. As long as you are there and monitoring my portfolio, I’m with you.’”

The group’s move out of a wirehouse, he adds, is about finding the right competitive and cultural fit. “There a huge push from robo-advisors, who are compressing fees. And the major firms … are focusing on ROA (return on assets). They have to have economies of scale for the client,” d’Adesky explained.

In this high-pressed environment, the Americas Group was looking for “the ability to have tools to enhance the client experience and [for clients] to monitor their own portfolio on the institutional side,” he said. “With our retired clients [retail] clients, we are continuing on the same path and hope to grow to have the economies of scale we need to be as competitive as possible.”

Flood Zone

Also recently, a former employee-advisor team with JPMorgan went independent with Raymond James in New Braunfels, Texas, near the area of South Texas affected by storms and flooding in May. One of the now-indie reps, James “Trey” Mahan, says the company’s community focus played a big part in the group’s decision to affiliate with Raymond James.

Mahan moved to Raymond James Financial Services with his partner Gregory Snider. The team, which does business as South Texas Wealth Management, has about $1.2 million in yearly fees and commissions and manages about $140 million in client assets. Many of its clients are current and former business owners.

Mahan was with Chase Investment Services in 2010, Merrill Lynch from 2011 to 2013 and then JPMorgan through mid-2015, according to his Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records; Sniper worked for Chase from 2007 to 2012 and JPMorgan afterward.

Most of Mahan and Snider’s clients live in the Hill Country of South Texas, and only a few of their homes are near any of the rivers that flooded recently. The community of Wimberley, which lost about 350 homes, is located about 30 miles from New Braunfels.

“We were better prepared in some respects, because those who live by rivers in New Braunfels went through the floods of 1998 and 2000. They did what they could to make sure [a lot of damage] didn’t happen again,” explained Mahan.

Further south, in the area around Victoria and Eagle Ford Shale region, rainwater and flooding negatively affected some of the team’s clients. “Homes have been hit, and some businesses have been put on hold as well,” Mahan said. “Many weren’t prepared there, because they had not seen this type of weather in a while.”

As people around South Texas dry out and businesses get up and running again, the new Raymond James team will focus on which niche markets in these largely rural areas it wants to target. “We are thinking strategically about these smaller markets, and it’s a key reason we came to Raymond James,” Mahan said.

Some of the larger firms, like the wirehouses, prefer advisors grow their practices in large metro areas. “But we don’t want to grow in San Antonio, in Austin,” he explained. “We may add clients there, but these folks are retiring to areas like New Braunfels. It’s just a matter of timing.”

Raymond James and at least two other wealth-management firms have pledged to finance relief efforts for victims of flooding in Texas. Wells Fargo is spending $275,000 to boost the efforts of the American Red Cross, as well as local nonprofits in affected regions of the Lone Star State, while Bank of America has pledged $250,000 to the American Red Cross and Rebuilding Together. Raymond James is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross in Austin and Houston.

M&A News

In other news, Raymond James has announced plans to buy Producers Choice Network, a private insurance and annuity marketing organization that it has partnered with for about a decade. The deal should close this summer, when Producers Choice will become part of the Raymond James Insurance Group, including about 60 employees.

Those employees will be retained in the firm’s current location. Principals Blair O’Connor and Dwight Eberts are expected to expand their roles within the organization.

“Enhancing the support services we offer financial advisors so they can serve the holistic planning needs of their clients is an evergreen priority,” said Scott Stolz, senior vice president of Raymond James Private Client Group Investments & Wealth Solutions, in a statement. “This addition brings more life insurance and annuity specialists to our team to support advisors, while also adding a small external wholesale segment we believe can leverage our internal resources for future growth.”