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Raymond James Confab Highlights Female FAs, Growth and Clients

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Raymond James Financial just hosted its 21st-annual Women’s Symposium in St. Petersburg, Florida. The event drew some 300 of its roughly 850 female advisors, along with 200 other financial professionals, including 23 prospective advisors visiting from rival broker-dealers. The event has been so successful, that organizers say it will relocate next fall.

“We’ve just outgrown facilities here in St. Petersburg,” said Michelle Lynch, vice president and director of the Raymond James Network for Women Advisors, in an interview. “The breakout rooms are busting at the seams. Attendance continues to grow, and moving to a larger venue — the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando — will help us address that need.”

As for the overall success of the Women’s Symposium, Lynch says she could not be more pleased. “Earlier in the week, we had presenters that really spoke to the audience,” she said in an interview, referring to BBC anchor and author Katty Kay and Jan Holman of Thornburg Investment Management.

Kay’s book “The Confidence Code” highlights “what we all struggle with, ruminating or worrying” rather than acting on our dreams, Lynch explains. “That word, ruminating, became a buzzword at the conference, and Holman’s talk on helping women in transition gave everyone actionable ideas, which is also what the conference is all about.”

Raymond James includes about 6,400 advisors in the United States and Canada, about 850 of whom are women. In addition to female reps, more than 100 members of the company’s Capital Markets team attended part of the Women’s Symposium.

The company’s Executive Committee includes Bella Loykhter Allaire, executive vice president of technology and operations; Shelley Broader, president and CEO of Walmart’s Europe, Middle East, Africa and Canada operations, as well as Susan Story, president and CEO of American Water Works, sit on its corporate board of directors.

Raymond James just ended its 2015 fiscal year, and the recruiting results within its employee-advisor channel “were strong … and reflect another year of significant movement … and three of the largest teams ever in Raymond James & Associates’ history were recruited in the past fiscal year ending Sept. 30,” said Tash Elwyn, who leads the channel, in an interview

One team, the Americas Group, has about $2.4 billion in assets (both retail and institutional), and moved to the firm from Morgan Stanley. The other top groups that came on board are Quattuor Capital Partners in New York, which has about $900 million in assets and previously worked for JPMorgan, and the Spanos Group of Beaver, Pennsylvania, which was previously with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and has about $535 million of assets.

This fiscal year, the recruiting news for the company’s employee channel could be good again. “I recently got a call from a big team that looked at us four years ago but was not fully convinced yet of our support, technology and infrastructure …” Elwyn explained. “But now, Raymond James can convince them, since we excel and support teams of their caliber — with three of the biggest teams ever recruited coming on board. We expect these calls to continue.”

One reason Raymond James & Associates may pick up more teams this fiscal year is its emphasis on geographic markets that “are newer for us,” the executive said. “There are more advisors from Baltimore to New York … than in the rest of the country, and RJA is underrepresented,” he said. “It’s the same on the West Coast, where there is a large number of affluent clients.”

About one-third of RJA recruits are from these two markets. Another factor driving the recruiting momentum has to do with broader industry shifts.

“The industry continues to consolidate, and employee advisors elsewhere are seeking a return to the best of both worlds,” Elwyn said, “meaning access to a depth of resources that can be paired with a culture that is what they grew up with and are [still] looking for — where people know who you are.”

Client Panel

On the final day of the conference, a group of clients discussed topics such as how to pay for the costs involved with living longer and how retirees — especially women — can best work with advisors.

“Many of my friends are scared to invest,” said Rita Droney, who works with a Raymond James employee advisor in the Tampa area. “My argument is with them, and I’ve been educated thanks to information from my advisor, Kevin Caldwell. You have to be able to make money to fight inflation, and we will be around a long time. Otherwise, without being invested in the [stock] market, you will run out of money.”

Droney, who joked that she would like her advisor to stop the market’s current bear movement, explained, “I can’t get people I know to understand this. [Being in the market] is almost a necessary evil.”

To be and to stay invested, she adds, it is vital to have an advisor who is compassionate. “We had a good start to our relationship … and I feel comfortable in it,” Droney stated.

“So many people I know are too afraid to pay for advice and to invest [in the markets],” said Yvonne Wiseley, a retired insurance agent who works with advisors Jeff Hearn and Bill Hoyt in St. Petersburg, Florida. “But they try it on their own. They buy and sell stock, and then some go broke.”

The four clients described their desire to get more than just generic information from their advisors and to be able to forge a personal relationship, rather than work long distance. “After I lost my husband, I got so much help,” Wiseley explained. “I meet with them several times a year and look forward to the meetings. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

The clients generally say they see their advisors as part of their broader support group. “I wanted personal contact,” said Linda Gibbs, who works with advisors Rachel McNeil and Bob Hilton. “I interviewed advisors with different companies and wanted someone who would get to know me and my goals.”

Gibbs, a former school executive and currently a recruiter in the education field, says she and her advisors “know the right questions to ask each other.” Thanks to the trust Gibbs has developed with her advisors, “I’ve come to depend on them, and they have steered me in right direction,” she said.

“It’s the little things, too, that build trust,” said Droney, “and not just hearing from the advisor once or twice a year. My advisor listens to what I need and does not just jump in to say do this or that.” She explains that her advisor communicates with her one a month or so “and is not hiding in the corner” when the markets get messy. “I like working with someone who has my back.”

In addition to working with advisors after life changes, such as the loss of a spouse or a move to partial or full retirement, the clients say they are most interested in being able to maintain their independence as they age.

“I do not want to live with my kids and do want to maintain my current lifestyle for as many years as possible,” said Leslie Harvey, a former public relations professional who works with advisor Janet Nichols in Tampa. “It’s important to get leadership on how to maintain this and can’t imagine doing it myself.”

Thanks to the fruitful nature of the relationship, Harvey says, she doesn’t shy away from recommending Nichols: “Why would I not want to share information about someone who has helped me with others?”