Raymond James, which works with over 7,000 independent and employee advisors in the U.S. and several other countries, recently announced plans to launch its own robo advisor. Advisors will get a preview of it over the next few months, with a pilot rollout and then a branch launch set for later this year.
To get a better sense of the thinking behind the technology project, we spoke with Tash Elwyn, president of Raymond James & Associates, the firm’s employee channel. He has been with the St. Petersburg, Florida-based firm since 1993, when he came on board as an advisor trainee.
Can you tell us a bit about the robo feature of the new platform? How will advisors use the robo to work with clients?
Elwyn: Our philosophy at Raymond James has always been to support the advisor-client relationship and give advisors options based on how they choose to run their businesses. Many in the industry have introduced robo advisors to disintermediate financial advisors, but our digital platform uses robo-like technology while keeping the advisor-client relationship at its core.
Our strategy was to bridge an already powerful advisor-centric technology infrastructure with collaborative and client-facing digital tools that together comprise our Connected Advisor digital advice platform. Our advisors are able to use these tools to work with clients at all stages of the relationship — from automating onboarding to collaborating with clients to offering more sophisticated support in addressing clients’ increasingly complex needs.
There will be an online information-gathering option for clients that will help streamline the account opening process for both advisors and clients. The automation will help create efficiencies within an advisor’s practice and allow for more time to build relationships.
Existing collaboration tools include secure mobile client account information for advisors to access anywhere and respond more quickly to client questions, as well as Vault, a secure, cloud-based file-sharing solution accessible via advisors’ websites or via Investor Access, our client account access portal.
Other existing tools include Client Reporting, e-Signature and Goal Planning & Monitoring, Raymond James’ retirement planning software. The digital touchpoints of Connected Advisor will aid in discovery and data collection, proposal review, account opening, electronic agreements, monitoring and more.
In the current environment, advisors need to differentiate themselves with high-value services that address clients’ complex needs, so we’re focusing on technology to support our advisors with best practices and sophisticated client insights. We’ll harness data to provide insights around client needs, which will help advisors optimize financial outcomes and manage risk.
Why did Raymond James decide to design the robo-like feature alone vs. using a partner?
Elwyn: Integration is an important consideration in all of our technology offerings, and having an in-house digital platform allows us to ensure the data is accurate, the tools are fully integrated and the navigation is seamless. We have the resources and capabilities to build what we need, specific to our advisors and in keeping with our culture, so we decided it would be best to build the platform in-house.
Is Connected Advisor designed to help advisors bring in new — perhaps younger, tech-savvy and even female clients?
Elwyn: Connected Advisor is designed to assist advisors in addressing current and evolving client needs, while also expanding their offerings to new clients. The financial landscape facing the next generation of clients is different than the one their parents or grandparents faced when they began accumulating wealth, their expectations for communication are different, and — in many ways — they are different. But what research tells us is that across generations, when individuals are facing more complex situations, they tend to turn to an expert for help.
Connected Advisor creates greater ability for advisors to serve smaller accounts, through investment platforms such as our Freedom Foundation and efficiencies with onboarding and servicing, so they can build relationships with these clients over time, but also will provide data insights to help advisors even better support clients with the most complex needs.
How will Connected Advisor help advisors work with other clients, like pre-retirees and those in retirement?