Interview series with
Raymond James leaders.

These broad-ranging interviews focus on the role of Raymond James leaders in the industry, the growth of the company as a whole and the expansion of the Tampa Bay complex.

Click on the boxes below to read the interviews.


Paul Reilly

A talk with the boss

“I love that I can be in a meeting with people from all over the firm talking about a new product or service or a business change and inevitably someone will ask the question: What does this mean to clients?”
- Paul Reilly, Chairman and CEO, Raymond James Financial

Q. You’ve done a great job defining the vision of Raymond James as being “the premier alternative to Wall Street.” As CEO, you have a primary responsibility to help execute on this vision. How do you deliver?

A. This is definitely a team effort by everyone at our firm – it’s the idea of having all the capabilities of our largest competitors, within a client-first culture.

In terms of capabilities, we have to focus on continuous growth, because growth is a virtuous cycle that allows us to continuously reinvest in the technology, people and processes that help us respond to a constantly changing environment.

That said, our growth has to be grounded in the client-first culture that has defined us and is the basis for our success. We believe the best way to serve end clients well is to serve their advisors well, treating them as our clients. It’s an approach that results in high advisor and client satisfaction, and is something we’re extremely proud of.

It’s no coincidence that I typically start and end every presentation I give by talking about our values of client first, independence, integrity and conservatism. We all need regular reminders to ensure we don’t get off course, even as we continue to evolve the business.

Q. Looking across the competitive industry landscape, what do you think is going to set Raymond James apart in the industry? What do you see as the defining feature in terms of service, culture or expertise?

A. Our focus on supporting the advisor-client relationship is the key to our competitive advantage, whether you’re comparing us to the more traditional firms, or to technology-driven “robo” platforms. We believe the benefit Raymond James offers to investors isn’t about the firm, it’s about the advisor they work with.

When we make decisions at the corporate level, we are hyper-focused on supporting advisors and their clients. Honestly, this often makes the job for our associates more difficult – it would be easier to just make a change and move on, let the chips fall where they may. Instead, there’s a decided thoughtfulness to our approach that I saw when I joined the firm … it’s the Raymond James way. Associates at all levels are trying to think through potential impacts before they happen and consider questions clients and advisors will have before they have them.

Of course, we must respond to changes in our environment – from regulation to technology to client expectations – so we will remain a competitive partner for advisors and their clients, as well as a reasonably profitable investment for our shareholders. But if we focus on doing things thoughtfully and with great consideration for advisors and their clients, we can evolve even as we remain rooted in the culture that has been, and will continue to be, our competitive advantage.

Q. The firm continues to invest in technology, specifically technology for advisors and their clients. How do you think this will help better our firm and our advisors?

A. Well, first of all, there’s an imperative to invest in technology – access to information and the ability to perform tasks online is critical to our daily lives, and protecting electronic data is a huge part of being a corporation in today’s world.

But our technology investments definitely go beyond the “keeping the lights on” baseline, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Our approach is to create tools to empower advisors – to automate tasks that should be automated, to offer insights based on data that will help advisors meet the sophisticated needs of their clients, and to increase the ability for advisors and their clients to collaborate using technology.

The goal is to give advisors more tools, insights and time to connect with clients and understand their unique needs– which is what the best financial advice is based on – as well as more tools to effectively meet those needs. Again, it’s about supporting the advisor-client relationship.

Q. As you look forward toward the next decade, how is Raymond James positioned to manage the constant changes our industry presents?

A. There’s a reason Raymond James was one of the few firms that navigated through the financial crisis, not only surviving, but thriving. It’s our management approach and our long-term view, but also our willingness to adapt and do the work necessary to meet demands, whatever they are.

The year I joined the firm – 2009 – wasn’t the best year in financial services industry history, to say the least. (I have impeccable timing.) But it was the most successful recruiting year in Raymond James’ history. Yes, advisors were fleeing failing firms and we were a haven for them, but I think part of what we saw was our associates really step up. They were working under extreme circumstances – their peers at competitor firms were losing their jobs, there were compensation and hiring freezes at Raymond James so we wouldn’t have to take that next step – but they didn’t back down from the challenge of bringing on all these advisors. They saw the opportunity to introduce a different way of doing business to them, and made it happen.

That ethic is why we’ve successfully integrated firms like Morgan Keegan and Alex. Brown. It’s why we continue to innovate and introduce new technology tools to advisors. It’s an attitude that permeates the firm, and is one of the reasons I have confidence in our ability to not only react to changes, but take advantage of them in a way that helps advisors and their clients be even more successful.

Q. Raymond James has proven to be successful with integrating acquisitions while maintaining the strong cultural values of the firm. How do you plan to continue to feel small as you approach 7,200 advisors and continue to grow?

A. Raymond James has emerged as a well-recognized player in the wealth management industry over the last 10 to 15 years, and that idea of the premier alternative to Wall Street we talked about previously has really resonated with advisors, leading to successful recruiting, as well as high retention of advisors when we combine with other firms, and – even more important – ongoing retention of existing advisors.

That growth is great, but it does bring the challenge of maintaining culture. How can you offer the same level of service to 7,200 advisors and their clients that you did to half that many? How can you ensure the support associates we hire today will have the same commitment to our Service 1st philosophy that those who have been with us 20 years demonstrate?

I’d say it’s a matter of attitude, not size. It’s a discipline of staying focused on our core values and how we manage the business. Of communicating – repeatedly – what is important and then demonstrating – consistently – that it’s not just talk.

I love that I can be in a meeting with people from all over the firm talking about a new product or service or a business change and inevitably someone will ask the question: What does this mean to clients?

That focus on clients really defines Raymond James and is the litmus test for everything we do. Being in those meetings and hearing questions like that tells me we’re doing something right. We’re not perfect, and we make mistakes, but we start from the right place.

We’re focused on growth, yes. But you don’t continue to grow if you make short-term decisions that don’t first consider the people you’re serving … eventually those kinds of choices come back around, usually with not-so-great consequences.

I’m confident that the foundation Bob James created and that Tom built this great company on will continue to be the reason for our ongoing success. It’s worked for more than half a century; I don’t see any reason to change the fundamental principles that got us where we are today.

Tash Elwyn

Interview on growth of the division with Raymond James & Associates President Tash Elwyn

“The best demonstrate over and over again a willingness to get out of their comfort zone and take the steps that create real results and real growth.” - Tash Elwyn, President and CEO, Raymond James & Associates

Q. With your climb from cold caller in Atlanta to president of Raymond James & Associates, you have held a few positions in our firm. What have you learned along the way?

A. I’ve learned one never stops learning. I enjoy the challenge of getting outside of my comfort zone to gain new experiences and business and life lessons. A day without new experiences is a missed opportunity. I’ve also learned, as well as witnessed, over my 20 years with Raymond James that we have a tremendous opportunity as financial advisors to make a difference in the lives of our clients. This is a noble profession, and we should be proud of our contributions to our communities and society.

Q. In addition to your other responsibilities, you are proactive when it comes to recruiting and try to meet with every advisor who visits our home office. Why?

A. I’m passionate about our story and demonstrating to advisors that no matter how commoditized products and cultures have become throughout the profession, Raymond James is different. By helping advisors recognize these differences, we arm them with the information they need to understand how our unique strengths can better serve their clients and their business. Plus, many of these advisors ultimately join Raymond James. Spending time with them from day one begins the process of building the lasting relationships that help to perpetuate our culture of accessibility.

Q. Meeting with advisors, I can imagine that you hear best practices they use to power their growth. Are there any common threads you might share?

A. One common thread is execution. The best in our industry have figured out that, while it’s important to optimize marketing and practice management strategies, it’s far more important to simply execute. The best demonstrate over and over again a willingness to get out of their comfort zone and take the steps that create real results and real growth.

Q. How about the other side of that coin? What are you seeing that makes you scratch your head a little bit?

A. The most frustrating thing I witness is when I meet with an advisor or team and hear them agree we have a better culture, stronger support, a great platform and a more competitive compensation plan, yet they just can’t make a change. It is as if their fear of change is so powerful they would rather tolerate a situation that, by their own admission, shows no signs of getting better. Our greatest success stories come from those who are thoughtful enough to weigh their options, decisive enough to make a decision and strong enough to have the courage to say, “I am making a change because it is the right thing to do for my clients, my business and my family.”

Q. Paul Reilly has said numerous times that growth in the Western United States is a priority for us. What do you see as our biggest impediment to success in these markets?

A. While we’ve had success with our independent contractor affiliation option in the West, we still have some work to do in educating advisors about who Raymond James & Associates is. We need advisors to understand that we’re a service firm that is superior by almost any measure to the alternatives today. As we share the employee affiliation option with advisors out West, we’re seeing great interest and improving success, as evidenced by our 10 traditional private client group branches opened in California over the last five years or so. As we accomplish our goal of making Raymond James more well-known, we need to get the message out that Raymond James can’t be placed side by side on a spreadsheet. There is much more to this firm.

Q. How do you mean that?

A. Well, how do you put on a spreadsheet things like qualifying for your own assistant at a production level almost half that of the firms we usually compete against? How do you quantify the impact our lower client fees, significant investment in mobile technology and commitment to continuous advisor training will have on an advisor’s practice?

Q. That’s a tall order.

A. It’s a tall order until they visit us in St. Petersburg, spend some time with people they will interface with every day and see that maybe our distance from New York and freedom from bank influence are meaningful advantages. If an advisor is considering a change, even if the decision is a few years away, I would suggest they owe it to their clients and their practice to experience firsthand why Raymond James is truly the premier alternative to Wall Street. Our firm is big enough to have the tools, technology and resources they need to effectively serve their clients, yet small enough to have successfully preserved the culture many of us grew up with. Investing the time to understand who we are has zero downside and they just might discover, as we have, that Raymond James is an exceptional place to call home. Thank you, Tash. Always a pleasure.

Mike White

Find your voice: A conversation with Chief Marketing Officer Mike White

“We work with thousands of advisors each year, but recognize that each practice has a unique story. We view these stories as the foundation from which we collaborate with them to develop and articulate their brand.” - Mike White, Chief Marketing Officer

Q. Mike, the Marketing department is one of the most talked about departments after every advisor visit to our home office. What makes your department so unique?

A. We are built like a full-service advertising agency within the firm and staffed with nearly 150 employees dedicated to the philosophy that the advisor is our client. We work with thousands of advisors each year, but recognize that each practice has a unique story. We view these stories as the foundation from which we collaborate with them to develop and articulate their brand.

Q. So you brand not just for the firm but also for the advisor?

A. Yes. We believe that if we can help advisors better manage and build their brand – help them clearly articulate their value proposition and consistently express their values, personality, commitment to the community, etc. – they will get more referrals, have better success with networking, and strengthen relationships with clients and centers of influence. It’s all part of an integrated marketing plan that includes logo designs, various forms of collateral and a digital presence.

Q. Social properties?

A. I’m talking about a carefully crafted LinkedIn profile that provides a summary of the advisor’s credentials; a team or practice Facebook account to reflect the advisor’s values, commitment to the community and personality; as well as an active Twitter presence to demonstrate subject matter expertise important to the advisor’s clients. All these, tied together with a customized website that spells out a compelling value proposition and is designed to be optimized for search engine results, should help convert more referrals into in-person meetings.

Q. Most advisors don’t have the time or expertise to know how to put all that into some type of coordinated action.

A. You are right; this takes work and a thoughtful marketing plan, and this is where our team can add value. We don’t expect advisors to be creative geniuses or even strong marketers, so we take them through a process to help identify their growth objectives, articulate their brand and pull everything together with the resources of our award-winning in-house agency. Case studies of our work can be found on, and more information about our broader marketing support within the context of our practice management resources can be found on

Q. Our best ideas on a public website?

A. Yes. This is a natural extension of our philosophy of transparency and commitment to service. Both and let us demonstrate how we serve our advisors as clients and can partner to help them achieve their objectives for their practice.

Q. OK, last question. Let’s say I’m an advisor a bit late to social media. How should I get started?

A. I think it’s important to treat this like any other marketing or communications activity. Be clear about your communication objectives. Then think about what your practice stands for and how you’d want your clients and centers of influence to speak about your team to potential clients. With that in mind, you should then develop mini-plans for each social platform you intend to use, understanding who you are trying to reach and what your communications will say about your brand and your value proposition. Having an editorial calendar to ensure you cover certain topics on a regular basis can keep you on track (e.g., you might plan to post something related to a local charity your practice supports once a month to reflect your values). Finally, working with a marketing agency that’s familiar with the regulations associated with the financial industry can help ensure you remain compliant, leverage available best practices, and effectively build your brand online and otherwise.

Josh Bohlander

Getting technological: A conversation with Josh Bohlander

“If you think about it, technology is the conduit through which we interact with our clients and the firm. It is ever-present and can be a source of great advantage or tremendous irritation.” - Josh Bohlander, Vice President, Technology

Q. Josh, superior technology is an essential element of building and managing a successful practice. Let’s talk about our commitment to technology.

A. You don’t have to look far to confirm our commitment. There are 900 employees in our technology areas based in four locations across the country - all of this to serve our 6,500 advisors. However, I think the thing that makes our technology a true competitive advantage cannot be measured by headcount or line items on a budget. We are unique because everything we do begins and ends with input from our advisors. Advisors help us prioritize our efforts and provide input into how we allocate our budget. They also help to shape the specific features and functionality we create. Each advisor’s practice is different and, because of long-term projects that have changed the way our technology backbone is structured, we can deliver a product that is completely customizable to fit their unique needs.

Q. Help me understand what you mean.

A. We had always provided a competitive technology platform but, like all firms, it had been built over time with functionality added as needed. However, this only works to a point. Getting earlier versions of technology to communicate with more modern platforms became increasingly difficult. Each program had its own data silo, so the second we needed access to this data, the challenges began. Our solution started with making sure all our technologies “talked” to each other.

Q. It appears this project was successful.

A. Yes. Client Center is an excellent example. Client Center integrates information from more than 30 systems. Our advisors have access to client reporting, trading, money movement, contact management, outside accounts, charting and detailed holding information, all within this one program.

Q. Is this data integration challenge the reason advisors at other firms need to jump between several programs to access the information they need?

A. Exactly. What we accomplished was not an easy task; however, it cleared the path to create the single, elegant platform that is Client Center. Plus, because it is current generation software, we can quickly make changes and add features and reports as prioritized by our Technology Advisory Council.

Q. The Technology Advisory Council decides what changes you make to the platform?

A. We recognize what may seem revolutionary to a 26-year-old software developer might have zero impact for our advisors. We created the Technology Advisory Council to help us remain focused on what our advisors need today. The council is a diverse group representing the vast majority of our users. In addition to feedback meetings throughout the year, we host the council here in St. Petersburg for an intense multiday meeting in which we set priorities for the coming year and review key functionality. We ensure our advisors are involved in everything we do.

Q. Are our competitors taking this approach?

A. Not to my knowledge. We didn’t arrive at this position by accident. Several years ago, senior management set a goal to have the best technology platform on Wall Street. The firm hired industry veterans Bella Allaire, executive vice president of technology and operations, and Vin Campagnoli, chief information officer. Their expertise, combined with direct advisor feedback, makes possible what we have today. I believe the results have been transformational.

Q. Two questions I often hear involve our mobile capabilities and data security.

A. Clearly the mobile advisor is a trend that is accelerating. We are taking a leadership position in mobile access and functionality. We support Apple, Microsoft and Android devices. Our objective is to deliver full practice functionality, enabling the advisor to transition seamlessly between the desktop and mobile environment. Advisors are demanding it, and we believe we are delivering. Data security is at the forefront of everything we do. We have a dedicated Information Security department and a Privacy Office that are focused on data protection. It starts with 24/7 monitoring in our Cyber Threat Center and includes multiple layers of security that allow us to proactively detect and counter any attacks should they occur.

Q. Any advice for advisors considering a change?

A. If you think about it, technology is the conduit through which we interact with our clients and the firm. It is ever-present and can be a source of great advantage or tremendous irritation. I would make sure that a robust technology demonstration is part of any due diligence process. Focus on how you will interact with the platform on a typical day – activities like reviewing account holdings, trading, report generation and CRM. Equally important, understand how you will get support when you need it.

Joe Weaver

Trust worthy: A conversation with Joe Weaver

“Our mission is to be a world-class trust company, and it begins with our most valuable asset, the 8,200 advisors across the firm.” - Joe Weaver, CFP®, President, Raymond James Trust, N.A.

Q. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Why don’t we start with a little history of the Trust department.

A. For the past 23 years, Raymond James Trust has focused on providing our advisors’ clients with a dedicated corporate trustee. Today we work with over 3,500 families and have $3.4 billion in assets under administration. With 90 trust associates located in eight offices across the United States administering personal and charitable trusts for individuals and families, we’ve grown by over 15% per year for the last five years.

Q. To what do you attribute this growth?

A. The increase in the number of experienced financial advisors within the firm can’t be overlooked. However, we also spend considerable time introducing the benefits of incorporating a corporate trustee in overall estate planning. There are many non-tax reasons for trust planning, like asset protection and preservation, and this is motivating clients to consider transferring wealth into trusts as opposed to outright transfers to heirs. I think advisors are recognizing this need and are responding appropriately.

Q. I read recently that one of our competitors is exiting the trust business. We obviously are moving in the opposite direction.

A. Trust companies, especially those owned by banks, are experiencing not only increased regulatory requirements since the financial crisis but are also struggling to grow assets with a skeptical distribution network. To build a reputable and viable trust company, to invest in the resources needed to own the technology and attract the talent required to deliver the fiduciary oversight and administration required of a corporate trustee, there must be complete commitment from the top of the organization. I’m proud to say we have that commitment at Raymond James. Our mission is to be a world-class trust company, and it begins with our most valuable asset, the more than 7,000 advisors across the firm. We work alongside them, serving the client as one team. And unlike most firms, we don’t take over the advisor/client relationship. In fact, our advisors remain fully engaged with the client and involved in the investment process. I think this really is one of our key differentiators.

Q. How so?

A. Two things. The trust business is, at its foundation, a business of trust. By keeping the advisor involved, the grantor has confidence that their beneficiaries will have, to a large degree, a service experience similar to their own. Also, within reason, the advisor maintains control over the investment process. Clients like the idea that the advisor they know and trust will be involved every step of the way. I think you would be hard-pressed to find this approach at other firms.

Q. OK, what are we not so good at?

A. That is a great question. Today we are starting to see more requests from clients seeking a trustee that specializes in special needs trust administration. We should be better at this, and we are recruiting new talent with expertise in this arena. Also, occasionally we get requests to serve as a trustee for Delaware Asset Protection trusts that can provide additional protections from creditors due to their state statutes. This is an area we will need to address as today you must have a physical office in Delaware to be considered a qualified trustee for these types of trusts. Q. Can California advisors be comfortable that Raymond James Trust will commit the resources to support growth in this market? A. Three years ago, we hired an experienced trust consultant, Jon Muir, to serve California and some other western states. His ability to raise awareness of our capabilities and the financial strength of Raymond James, combined with our reputation of service and our competitive fee structure, have resulted in many new opportunities. We’re committed to California and the West and plan to scale up our resources to stay in front of these opportunities. How we grow will depend greatly upon the needs of the advisors and clients.

Steve Raney

Raymond James Bank success with President Steve Raney

“Our success has been and will always be directly tied to the success of our financial advisors.” - Steve Raney, President, Raymond James Bank

Q. Steve, recently I visited our home office with an advisor who is considering joining our firm. When asked a question about the bank, our chief executive officer, Paul Reilly, said, “We have a bank. It has one branch and two ATMs, and we have no plans to double either one.” What did he mean?

A. We will never measure the success of Raymond James Bank by the number of branches or the size of our ATM network. In our world, we simply don’t need to build all that out. Raymond James Bank ranks as the third largest bank in Florida based on asset size. We originated about $500 million in mortgage lending last year and with a growth rate of around 10%, we were among the fastest-growing banks in the country – not bad for a bank with one branch and two ATMs.

Q. To what do you attribute this success?

A. From day one, our bank was created to serve the advisors of Raymond James. Our success has been and will always be directly tied to the success of our financial advisors. During the financial crisis when other institutions were taking TARP money to survive, the financial advisors joining our firm brought significant new assets to the bank. We actually had to stop taking incoming deposits because the board of directors limited deployment of the holding company’s capital. Today, we are growing both as a result of competitive product offerings designed to address the needs of our client base and the integration of the advisors that joined us from the acquisition last year of Morgan Keegan.

Q. Why would the board limit the deployment of holding company capital to the bank?

A. I think it’s their way of never having to worry that the culture of the firm will be overly influenced by the bank. Everyone at the bank understands that Raymond James is first and foremost an investment management firm. In FY17, the company generated roughly 69% of its revenue from investment advisors serving their individual investors. We are a strong contributor to the overall firm’s success. However, we understand that we are but one instrument in a diversified orchestra of revenue contributors.

Q. You mentioned competitive product offerings. Can you elaborate?

A. The securities-based lending offering is an excellent example. I can think of no other firm that prices their loans not just on the value of the securities pledged as collateral but on the value of the entire client relationship, across accounts. While a few account types are excluded, this offers a significant advantage to the client, and our advisors are winning business as a result. Of course, we also offer traditional home mortgage and home equity line products. Raymond James Bank credit cards and checking are offered to clients through our advisors.

Q. What’s missing? Where could the bank do a better job?

A. There are certainly traditional bank products where we have chosen not to compete. For example, from time to time I will speak to advisors that used commercial lending to build their book. That business isn’t what the overwhelming majority of our advisors are asking for, so we aren’t investing our intellectual and investment capital there. As for doing a better job, bank lending remains paper intensive and sometimes things happen to slow the process. This keeps me up at night, and we continue to invest in people and processes to minimize these events. Failing to satisfy the client in lending can have a very real impact on the client relationship for our advisors. We want no part of that.

Q. The firm is experiencing rapid growth in California. What is the bank doing to support us?

A. When well-informed advisors have access to competitive products their clients need, everyone wins. That is exactly what we want to create in California. We recently hired a California-based banker who we hope can become an extended member of the team for our advisors there. Having knowledgeable, accessible support can help those advisors with an interest and need for banking products serve clients with confidence.

Q. How do you envision the future of banking as it relates to investment advisors?

A. Banking is certainly going to always be a part of the equation. However, I think the advisors’ view of banking and banking products will depend greatly upon where they sit. Banks made a lot of assumptions when they acquired their way into this industry. I believe most miscalculated the difficulty of distributing their products to individual investors. Their distribution mentality clashes with the independent nature of our industry’s successful advisors. Add in their well-publicized quest for higher margins and I think you have a recipe for continued discontent. Many of the advisors I speak with from other firms have seen credit card offers and other bank products directly marketed to their relationships. No advisor approval and, of course, no advisor participation. That’s one way we differ. Raymond James Bank will not step between the advisor and the client. That goes against everything we stand for, and we simply won’t do it.


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