A letter to Raymond James associates and advisors from Paul Reilly on planning for our return to in-person work
The pandemic has been life-changing for us all. Many of our associates, advisors and their family members contracted the virus and some suffered serious illness or worse. It has been a frightening and uncertain time.
Facing circumstances with which most of us had limited experience and simultaneously dealing with personal challenges that came with the pandemic, you capably responded – and our technology and infrastructure withstood a severe test, particularly early on when the markets suffered extreme volatility. In the beginning and throughout, you continued to put clients first and deliver exceptional advice and service. Despite the turmoil and because of your efforts, we’ve been able to deliver record financial results. I have said it countless times during the pandemic: I am exceptionally proud of the strength of our associates and advisors, and with how our organization has responded.
As I further reflect on the months since the onset of COVID-19, I’m reminded yet again of the resilience and commitment of the associates and advisors at Raymond James. It also brings to mind words rarely used to describe a corporate workplace: love and gratitude.
So often we hear each other say, “I love my job. I love my coworkers. I love working at Raymond James.”
Words that express the enormous respect we have for one another as well as the bond we share … the values we stand by, our respect for diverse opinions, our caring and willingness to help each other. While we all enjoyed the creativity and camaraderie of Zoom social gatherings, our relationships were cultivated and flourish in personal interactions. They are part of our ethos and the foundation of our culture.
We are lucky to be part of a strong and supportive community. I’m personally thankful for all you have done for each other, your families, clients, colleagues and communities, as well as for the ongoing success of this firm, under difficult circumstances. Your commitment is admirable and I am deeply grateful. Our people-focused culture is what differentiates us from our competitors. It informs our passion for and pledge to the highest service levels to clients and advisors. It’s what makes this such a special place to work. And it’s why it’s so important that we return to working together in person.
As we begin to resume in-person gatherings and work, the prospect of returning to the office might bring a mix of emotions. Many of us are excited to see colleagues in person again, but some may have reservations about changing remote work routines or have safety concerns. These are some of the reasons we are announcing our plans later than most firms. Providing plenty of time for vaccinations and confirming the virus spread had become controlled and our communities are safe was also paramount in our planning. This time also helped ensure we have a well-considered plan to support flexible work arrangements, and that you have ample time to prepare for the school year, to manage child and elder care, and the many other things disrupted by the pandemic.
All of our lives have been altered by COVID-19, but we’re emerging from this difficult season having proven our resilience and our fortitude, as individuals and as a firm. While we continue to monitor reports from health officials and recognize how quickly things can change, I’m excited to say that we’re ready to return to the office, to be together again.
Looking to a full return in September and reflecting our values and lessons learned, our efforts will be grounded in three key principles:
- We will keep your health and safety as our priority, and take all necessary precautions to ensure a safe work environment for all.
- We will be more flexible and mobile with how and where we work than we were before the pandemic.
- There are valuable benefits to returning to work in person.
Health and safety
Your safety has remained our number one priority throughout the pandemic, and will remain so as we look to a full return to the office.
- We’ll continue to follow CDC guidelines. For now, our existing on-site health and safety measures will also remain in place, including daily symptom attestations, thermal temperature screenings, social-distancing measures and intensified cleaning protocols. We’ll make adjustments as we approach September if necessary.
- We understand that conditions are constantly changing and there is renewed concern about variants of the virus. While we are working toward a full return, we are monitoring updates from public health officials including the CDC, WHO and reports from our local communities, and will respond to changing guidelines.
- We delivered great service and supported advisors and clients while nearly 100% remote for over a year … our teams and infrastructure are battle-tested, and we know we can raise the bar even higher as we return to the office and embrace flexibility.
- Mobility is an important competitive consideration for attracting and retaining associates and advisors. Some individuals will expect flexibility in how and where they work, and we must evolve and adapt to attract top talent and maintain exceptional teams.
- Successfully working remotely during the pandemic only validated our direction – our journey to a more flexible work environment began well before COVID-19, with technology tools like Advisor Mobile and Zoom already in place, as well as adding a leading corporate mobility expert to our leadership team.
- There are productivity benefits for many activities and roles, along with personal benefits that aid work/life balance. We’ve learned that certain types of work can be done more productively working remotely.
- Our footprint won’t change in the near future but over time, embracing various work arrangements will enable us to save considerably on real estate costs, our second largest expense.
Benefits of in-person work
Our success is built on highly functional working relationships and trust. Relationships can grow and expand in virtual settings – we all enjoyed the creativity and camaraderie of Zoom social gatherings – but as we know in every aspect of our lives, connections develop more fully and organically from in-person interaction.
- Collaboration can be managed remotely, but it’s challenging and requires more planning. In-person teamwork can also lead to improved service. It’s hard to replicate the real-time support from a colleague sitting next to you when solving a problem or presented with a new challenge.
- With the number of associates we employ, along with regular turnover and growth, approximately 20% to 25% of our coworkers have been with the firm for less than 24 months. Newer associates haven’t benefited from the in-person mentoring and training by seasoned colleagues.
- Our culture is built on in-person interactions … it’s how we drive growth for the future — for the firm and for all of us.
A September return
With that said, assuming health conditions remain safe, we are planning for a full return on September 13 — with more flexibility but also with a heightened appreciation of in-person work. Part of flexibility means evaluating each role in each of our diverse business units to assess the right model, using consistent standards to ensure fairness and seeking an optimal mix of remote and in-person work. Unlike many firms that are applying a one-size-fits-all approach to their return-to-office and future plans, we are working to ensure our businesses and support teams have the flexibility to best serve their clients and stakeholders, while balancing work arrangements to provide associate and advisor flexibility as roles and responsibilities allow. In the coming weeks, your manager will be talking to you about what this means for your team and your role.
Once we return we will work together, making assessments and adjustments on an ongoing basis. We have invested significant time evaluating the organization’s needs and positions, but this is a new frontier for all of us. We will ask you to help gauge what’s working well and where we can improve.
Given our people-first culture and unwavering client focus, I am confident we will emerge from this experience an even stronger organization. By embracing an evolving approach to work, we will be even more prepared and better equipped to deliver on our vision to transform lives, businesses and communities through the power of personal relationships and professional advice. Just as we have throughout the pandemic, we will get through this next season together … with the same commitment and culture that makes Raymond James so special.
In the months ahead, I look forward to interacting with associates and advisors at our offices around the globe, in our St. Petersburg headquarters’ hallways and cafeterias, and at upcoming conferences. In the meantime, thank you for your continued support and dedication to clients and each other.
Chairman and CEO