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Raymond James Focusing on Diversity for Future Growth

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Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly says that, despite the purchase of the Morgan Keegan advisors in 2012 and the Deutsche Bank wealth reps in 2016, the firm is firmly focused on organic growth.

Part of that growth story, he suggests, is tied to what he describes as the firm’s long-timer “values and culture.” But part of this strategy is forward looking, as well.

“As you saw with our ‘client of the future’ [internal educational] campaign that we rolled out last year, the client is female,” he said in an interview Wednesday after speaking some 1,700 independent advisors and 1,400 other guests at the firm’s yearly conference in Nashville.

“Our Black Financial Advisors Network has doubled its number of advisors [to about 50], and we want to roll this out [its structure] to [more] affinity groups — which would include advisors that reflect the clients we serve,” explained Reilly.

Both he and members of both the Black Financial Advisors Network and the Network for Women Advisors admit these efforts take time to produce major results.

“Before 1985, there were not many [blacks] in the business, but that began to change in the 1990s,” said Joel Burstein, a co-founder of the group and also a branch manager for Raymond James & Associates in Miami.

And shifts in the deomography of the advisor population do not happen overnight.

“There’s got to be a 20-year lead time,” Burstein explained. “You have to build a strong foundation and base, which is important for changing the images of what people and firms see as an advisor and what the black community sees it can do – in other words, institutional changes.”

While not easy, “It’s good for firms, clients and the community,” he added.

Reilly and other executives say they agree wholeheartedly and are using the structure of the firm’s group for women advisors, which includes 900 female registered reps, to guide what it does with black advisors.

“The Network for Women Advisors has enabled us to be women friendly in our recruiting, training and in other areas. We have the same [goals] for the Black Advisors Network. There is a steering group to help us figure out how to boost diversity and recruiting, and it is becoming an advocacy group for us,” the CEO said.

“We want [our advisors] to keep pushing us, as the Network for Women Advisors has done for the past 20 years,” he explained. “We see that model being rolled out for other groups … We are making good traction and intend to roll out [the model] for other diversity initiatives.”

Complex Issues, Plans 

Bringing in advisors from groups that have been underrepresented in the business for decades required a lot of organization, as well as financial resources.

One of Raymond James’ training programs, for instance, targets women in or looking to start a second career. The group also works with registered client associates to move them into careers as advisors.

“We recently surveyed women advisors and asked them about hurdles they faced in the career,” said Michelle Lynch, director of the Network for Women Advisors. “One obstacle was pay, especially as they switched careers and had to start building a book of business.”

For instance, an attorney making $200,000 a year contemplating a move into the advisor space would be seeing a drop to $50,000 in income initially.

“So we are looking to see what our training program could include … in the first few years … to help with this transition,” Lynch stated.

The women’s network also has organized a donor-advised fund to support women with limited financial means who are interested in careers as advisors.

To make greater strides in diversity, members of the Black Advisors Network says, will require these efforts and so much more.

“For big change, you have got to think bigger,” said Tony Barrett, a group co-founder and Delaware Valley Complex Manager. “Raymond James cannot be the sole source of solutions and thinking. It’s about other firms, too, which we are reaching out to. It has to be about industry solutions.”