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Acquiring Morgan Keegan brought Raymond James Financial closer to being an “alternative to Wall Street,” CEO Paul Reilly told the firm’s independent advisors this morning. Speaking at the Raymond James Financial Services’ National Conference for Professional Development in Orlando, Fla. today, Reilly said the vision is to have the scope and scale of services of the wirehouse brokerages but the advisor-centric culture of a regional firm.
Raymond James, of course, doesn’t own its advisors’ clients, while most Wall Street firms do. Reilly said their view is not to take the advisors’ book of business, but to support the advisor in servicing their clients. This “alternative to Wall Street” model does not focus on process or products, while other Wall Street firms do.
The Morgan Keegan acquisition, which closed in April, moves Raymond James to No. 7 in the industry in FA headcount and No. 6 in assets, tying with Ameriprise Financial.
Reilly stressed that with the acquisition of Morgan Keegan, the firm’s focus on the private client group would not change, with 62 percent of the firm’s revenue coming from the private client group after the merger. This compares to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, where the private client group makes up 16 percent of revenue, and Wells Fargo, where it’s 14 percent.
Raymond James has always stood by its strategy of slow, conservative growth for the long term, but the Morgan Keegan acquisition was a unique opportunity, a good culture fit and the right price, Reilly told advisors. If the firm becomes more profitable, it can re-invest in better technology and improvements for the firm’s advisors.
In fact, this week, the firm rolled out its new advisor technology platform, Advisor Access. Reilly said the firm previously benchmarked its technology to the regional firms, but now it’ll be benchmarked against Wall Street firms, such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab.
Over the last year, the firm has been building up its technology team, adding Bella Loykhter Allaire, Vincent Campagnoli, Sateesh Prabakaran, and David Allen. Technology spend has also increased to $200 million from $110 million the year before.
The new technology platform can be accessed from anywhere and any device, and it’s integrated, Campagnoli said. The new system was built around the entire client relationship, not individual accounts, so advisors can view all of the client’s accounts in one place. Advisor Access will be available to the firm’s employee reps, independent advisors, as well as RIAs on their platform.
Chet Helck, chief operating officer and head of the private client group, said the Morgan Keegan acquisition will help the firm to continue to develop new technology. With 1,000 more advisors using their technology and contributing to it, Raymond James can invest more. “We have the ability to go faster and farther and develop more,” he said.
Morgan Keegan also came with some good client reporting technology, which Raymond James advisors can now access.
Besides technology infrastructure, Morgan Keegan also has a good municipal finance department, as it’s one of the biggest muni bond underwriters in the industry, Helck said. The acquisition takes the firm from 28th in the industry to eighth.
During a question and answer session with senior executives, one advisor asked how the firm would be able to maintain the same level of back-office support with the addition of 1,000 advisors. Helck said it may seem threatening bringing on more advisors, but he said Morgan Keegan had its own back-office infrastructure, which will remain intact. “They’re coming with the package.”
Those back-office staffers will also be able to fill any gaps or shortfalls on the Raymond James side of things.
As for recruiting, Reilly said the firm expects to keep up the same level of recruiting. He thought the Morgan Keegan purchase would slow down recruiting into the employee side, but it actually sped it up. It showed advisors that the firm is serious about its employee model, and took away any myths that they only cared about the independent contractor side, Reilly said.