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Raymond James lands $1B team from Wells Fargo

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Raymond James picked up a $1 billion team from Wells Fargo, making it the biggest hire of an already busy recruiting year for the St. Petersburg, Florida-based firm.

The nine-member team joined Raymond James' employee channel in New York and includes support staff and four veteran advisors: Stephen Adler, Mark Levy, Roger Jee and Michael Lubin.

They were drawn to Raymond James for its culture and as a place to grow their expanding practice, they say.

"It represents the way we like to do business. It's client-centric and FA-centric," Levy says.

Though the team considered going independent, they discounted the idea, not desiring to be burdened by the obligations of being a business owner. A trip to meet Raymond James leadership at the company's St. Petersburg headquarters helped seal the deal.

"Not a lot of pretense," Levy says of the top executives. "We liked that."

Equally important, the team members wanted to move now in case Wells Fargo pulls out of the Broker Protocol. Last year, UBS and Morgan Stanley exited the industrywide accord, which permits advisors who switch employers to take basic client contact information with them.

Raymond James "harkens back to a time when advisors owned their own book," Levy says.

The brokerage firm has remained in the protocol, and Raymond James & Associates President Tash Elwyn has called on his counterparts to create a new Broker Protocol to permit advisors to maintain ownership of their books. Wells Fargo has not indicated it intends to leave the protocol.

Raymond James has been an aggressive recruiter in recent years, picking up advisors for its independent and employee BD units. That hot streak has continued into 2018. Head count hit a record 7,719 advisors as of June 30, a net increase of 434 from the year-ago period.

Like other regional and independent firms, Raymond James has also benefited from an exodus of advisor talent from Wells Fargo.

The beleaguered wirehouse has faced intense regulatory scrutiny stemming from scandals on its consumer banking side. Meanwhile, advisor attrition has picked up. Wells Fargo had 860 fewer brokers for the second quarter of this year than it had at the end of the third quarter of 2016 when the bank was first buffeted by the scandals.

Its troubles don't appear to be over. Earlier this month, Wells Fargo paid $2.09 billion to settle a U.S. probe into the bank's creation and sale of loans that contributed to the financial crisis.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to comment on the departure of Levy's team, which had been affiliated with the wirehouse since 2006, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Levy and Adler's partnership goes back 30 years to when the duo were working at Oppenheimer & Co.

Jee and Lubin have 24 and 20 years of industry experience, respectively, according to BrokerCheck records.

Also moving with the team are Allison Guzman and Stephen Orzo, both of whom are now in Raymond James’ advisor training program; Loriann Montanez, senior registered client associate; Christopher Swanson, senior investment management specialist; and James Havell, practice marketing associate.

The team's large size has been critical to its success, Levy says.

"My philosophy is that we can't be individually all things to all people. We have our specialties. So I am a big believer in organic growth, allowing people on the team to follow career paths that they would like," Levy says.

It's an outlook long shared by his partners, Levy says.

"Steve Adler and I were always content to have a smaller piece of a bigger pie if it meant surrounding us with talented people," he says.

The transition to Raymond James has gone well, according to Levy, who praised the resources and manpower that the firm had made available. The group changed registrations on June 30, according to BrokerCheck records.

The younger team members, Levy says, will now have fresh avenues of growth and an opportunity to expand a longstanding practice by capturing next gen clients.

"We're already dealing with my original clients' grandchildren," Levy says.

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