Paul Reilly, who recently took over as chief executive officer of Raymond James Financial, believes the U.S. economy is “at a pivot point, not a sinking point," he told an audience attending the 16th Annual Raymond James Women Advisor Symposium Thursday morning.

At the same time that the economy is heading for slow but improving growth, Reilly said he wants to take Raymond James to a new level, building on its reputation for having 90 consecutive quarters of profitability, in order to attract top-performing financial advisors from other firms and create new programs to aid the advisors already at Raymond James.

“This is our real opportunity,” he said in a wide-ranging speech. He told the roomful of women advisors that he wants Raymond James to be the premier alternative to the Wall Street powerhouses but “still have the feel of family, regional firm.” In its efforts to get more large producers, the firm is planning to adjust its transition assistance polices or loan packages for new hires, Reilly said. He acknowledged that a lot of the large firms, such as the wirehouses, have paid a lot of money to their current advisors to lock them down.

In addition, Raymond James will be seeking growth in its investment banking and municipal securities operations. The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based firm is also looking to create new product offerings while maintaining open architecture, Reilly said. One area will be to offer more non-purpose lending for high-net-worth clients and business owners, Reilly said.

Finally, when asked about diversity at Raymond James, particularly women in the management ranks of the firm, Reilly said that “the financial services industry is horrid” when getting women into top management and executive positions. “You look at the industry and it’s done a horrible job at diversity.” But he said that it’s a supply problem because there haven’t been more women in the pipeline. Reilly, who headed up Korn/Ferry and KPMG before coming over to Raymond James, said that those firms had systems in place to aid diversity efforts. “One of the reasons I think [Raymond James is] behind is that we’ve had a lot managers who have been here a long time,” he said. “We haven’t had many positions open up.” But, he also noted: “You have to fight subtle biases.” And the firm examines gender and diversity statistics in every manager’s review. “It’s a challenge but we’ll get there over time.”

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