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Renee Baker and Chris Fils

Practice Management > Diversity and Inclusion

How Raymond James Is Cultivating Black Advisor Talent

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What You Need to Know

  • After its ninth annual Black Financial Advisors Network Symposium, Raymond James says it's zeroing in on colleges and universities.
  • This year's event, held in Palm Harbor, Florida, was the best-attended one yet, with over 160 attendees.
  • The firm is planning career fairs, internships and other programs aimed at young people and career changers this year.

After recently holding its ninth annual Black Financial Advisors Network Symposium, Raymond James diversity leaders pointed to the progress BFAN has made over the past nine years.

But, as the firm gears up for the 10th BFAN Symposium next year, company leaders made it clear they’re still working toward new diversity milestones throughout the year, with career fairs, internships and other programs to build a diverse talent pipeline.

The goal of these programs is to expose students of various majors, career changers and others who may not have considered a career in financial services to the opportunities available, according to Renée Baker, head of the Private Client Group’s Advisor Inclusion Networks at Raymond James.

“We recognize that there’s only a limited pool of individuals that are currently Black experienced financial advisors,” she told ThinkAdvisor during a recent interview.

Therefore, the work that the BFAN Advisory Council is doing is “really about creating a pipeline [for] talent development,” said Baker. “So we recognize that, in order to move the needle, we have to get into colleges and universities.”

That is why they’re “working to attract the next generation of leaders through our various training programs that we offer, career fairs and internships and other opportunities where we can share more about this profession and help the next generation see the opportunity that we have here at Raymond James,” she explained.

‘Cultivating Progress’

The ninth BFAN Symposium, held in Palm Harbor, Florida, was the best-attended one yet, with more than 160 attendees, said Baker, who noted there were only about 35-40 advisors at the first BFAN Symposium.

The event’s theme this year was “cultivating progress,” noted Chris Fils, complex manager and BFAN Advisory Council member.

“Cultivating progress is really our goal here at Raymond James: to provide an opportunity for Black financial advisors to network, learn, share and really collaborate on best practices of growing their businesses,” explained Baker, who serves as a judge for ThinkAdvisor’s LUMINARIES industry recognition program.

Pointing out that the firm has four advisor inclusion networks, she said Raymond James is focused on “providing opportunities to shift and disrupt the status quo when it comes to increasing representation in this industry and profession.”

She added: “It is about progress and we know that we want to be part of the change of what it looks like to grow representation in this industry, and there’s so many ways that we’re doing that here at the firm.”

For example, this year, BFAN worked in partnership with the University of South Florida Diversity Initiatives Black Leadership Network to host a student track during the BFAN Symposium, Fils pointed out.

In addition to networking with firm leaders, participating students had the opportunity to listen in on a next-generation advisor best practices panel and hear insights on the firm’s recruitment process from its campus recruiting team, according to Raymond James.

Also, “as we think about the next generation, we’re going to have our next-generation advisors who are in our Advisor Mastery program, which is our training program,” he added, noting it was created in 2012.

He added: “We want to go even deeper and think about those that are in college who are going to be graduating soon, and spending time with the local college and other colleges that we partner with.”

Since 2014, Raymond James has also had a Registered Associate Mentor Program (RAMP) for associates who he said “may be in a support role where it gives them a path to where they spend a year of training … [and] it gives them a glide path to become an advisor if they choose to.”

The firm also started a two-year Wealth Management Associate Program in 2020 that applicants can enter before they enter the training program, he said, noting those enrolled in the Associate Program spend time with advisors, get to run financial plans, help in client meetings and get familiar with the firm’s tools and technology.

That program, he explained, “gives them a longer roadway before they start the training program.”

Collectively, those are all “good pathways to become an advisor and to attract more talent and also encourage a higher success rate,” he added.

Looking Ahead

As Raymond James plans for its 10th year of the Black advisors’ network, “we’ll take the feedback from” the ninth symposium and “really work towards how can we even better amplify the work that we’ve done,” see how it can attract “even more people” to enter the sector and how it can “support and talk more about this profession to more students,” Baker said.

It was too soon to provide specifics on next year’s symposium, she said, noting: “We’ll take the next year to plan. But I can assure you 10 years will be a big celebration in Tampa, where we’ll be celebrating 10 years of Black excellence here at Raymond James and beyond.”

Noting that this year’s Symposium had a few representatives from Canada for the first time, she said expanding BFAN “globally like we have for our other networks is an opportunity that we look forward to for our 10th year.”

In fact, she added, “across all of our initiatives, what we’re looking to [do] is expand into other markets where Raymond James is located.”

(Pictured: Renee Baker and Chris Fils)


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