While positive equity markets and higher short-term interest rates provided tailwinds, minimal attrition of existing financial advisors combined with another strong year of recruiting experienced advisors remained as critical drivers of growth. In addition, 126 new financial advisors completed our in-house training programs.
In 2017, advisors continued to join Raymond James through the various affiliation options – from traditional employee advisor to independent contractor to independent RIA. While we are regularly recognized for providing best-in-class financial advisor technology tools and other areas of support, advisors’ reasons for affiliating with Raymond James highlight our culture that emphasizes client-first focus, commitment to advisor support and a conservative management approach.
From Left: Tash Elwyn (President, Raymond James & Associates, Private Client Group), Dennis W. Zank (Chief Operating Officer, Raymond James Financial, Chief Executive Officer, Raymond James & Associates), Bella Loykhter Allaire (Executive Vice President of Technology and Operations, Raymond James & Associates), Scott A. Curtis (President, Raymond James Financial Services)
Meanwhile, as some competitors continue offering lucrative upfront payouts to entice advisors away from their current firms, very few have chosen to leave Raymond James. Annual regrettable attrition has been consistently below 1%. This is an especially notable accomplishment in the year following the major acquisitions of Alex. Brown and 3Macs, particularly given the typical attrition rates following these types of transactions within our industry. Our culture of advisors as clients also plays a role – our advisors consistently express a willingness to recommend the firm to other high-quality advisors at competitor firms – reflecting their overall satisfaction with Raymond James’ service and support.
In 2017, many resources were dedicated to the ongoing updates stemming from a heightened legal and regulatory environment, including preparing for the applicability dates of important provisions of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Fiduciary Rule, which were somewhat uncertain for much of the fiscal year.
Despite that uncertainty – as well as our opposition to specific requirements of the rule that unintentionally disadvantage the investors the agency is attempting to protect – we implemented changes to operational processes, technology systems, product pricing and financial advisor compensation to ensure compliance. While considering the necessary changes, our focus remained on preserving flexibility and choice for advisors and clients, an approach that we believe is the right one, even though it requires additional education and training for advisors and branch associates. This is a philosophy that will continue as we navigate evolving regulatory expectations and requirements, including our continued support for implementing a uniform standard of care applicable for all clients and account types under the purview of a single regulator.
In addition to our DOL efforts, we continued to deepen our risk management and supervision teams, including hiring new leaders at various levels of the organization to help guide areas of increasing complexity and attention. These additions – along with a significant increase in associates over the last few years in supervision, compliance, legal and anti-money laundering – are about better ensuring we protect clients, advisors and the firm while also allowing for growth, flexibility and independence for advisors.
The year also saw the expansion of existing solutions and services, and the introduction of new ones. For example, we continued to build out the scope of services we offer to support advisors and their higher-net-worth relationships. Among the introductions: more structured products, a Private Wealth Mortgage service within Raymond James Bank and the expansion of the Private Institutional Client desk, which offers an array of potential investment opportunities for ultra-high-net-worth clients.
We also continued our focus on providing advanced technology to support advisors and clients. Significant investments included expanding and improving efficiency for mobile and clientexperience applications; security upgrades, additional resources, and training to combat increasingly more sophisticated cybercriminals and digital fraudsters around the globe; and continuing to build for the future. For example, we developed and piloted “Connected Advisor,” a platform combining already powerful advisor-centric technology infrastructure with collaborative, client-facing digital tools. This re-imagined approach is Raymond James’ response to the robo-advisor trend, but is decidedly different: Our focus is on supporting the advisor-client relationship, helping advisors efficiently and effectively connect and communicate with clients and serve their needs with technology solutions that streamline all stages of the relationship – from automating opening accounts to collaborating with clients to offering more sophisticated support in addressing clients’ increasingly complex needs.
While we manage and respond to the current environment and prepare for the future, we remain thoroughly committed to a tenet our mission statement clearly articulates: Our business is people and their financial well-being. We firmly believe in the value of personalized guidance from experienced, competent, professional financial advisors and remain dedicated to supporting them as they endeavor to assist clients with navigating the inevitable life experiences that impact their financial futures.
1938 - 2017
As we look toward the future, we also remember those who helped make Raymond James what it is today. This year we lost Tony Greene, founder and former chairman and CEO of Raymond James Financial Services, and former member of the Raymond James Financial Board of Directors. Tony was an inspirational leader and is missed by many friends at Raymond James.