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Even recruiting maven Raymond James has ‘a long way to go’ in this region

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The advisor ranks at Raymond James may be bolstered by new recruits, but executives still see “a lot of territory and opportunity” up for grabs on the West Coast.

Prompted by an analyst for an update, CEO Paul Reilly said the St. Petersburg, Florida-based company was upping recruiting resources in the region.

“The pace [of hiring] is higher. But we have a long way to go because we are really just getting started in the market,” Reilly said during an earnings call.

Aggressive recruiting has pushed headcount at Raymond James to 7,862 independent and employee advisors for the first quarter, up 258 from the year-ago period and 47 from December 2018, the company reported.

The firm has attracted talent from rival firms— particularly the wirehouses — based in part on its corporate culture. Along with technology and other resources, Raymond James showcases that culture to advisors during tours of its home office. More than 650 advisors made the trek to St. Petersburg during its last fiscal year.

Executives and advisors who have joined the firm say such trips play a key role in their career decisions. Targeting the West Coast, Raymond James and its top executives have taken a version of this VIP tour on the road as recently as March.

During the earnings call, Reilly said the firm would continue to rely on organic recruiting efforts instead of M&A, noting that industry consolidation had reduced opportunities there.

“There are some companies that are strategically and culturally good fits, but they simply aren’t for sale. If that changes... we are ready, willing and able,” Reilly said.

Short of M&A targets, recruiting remains a strategy firms employ to boost AUM and revenue.

Raymond James reported assets under administration rose 9% year-over-year to $760 billion for the quarter. At $1.27 billion, net revenue for the private client group was flat compared to the prior year, according to the company.

Pretax income for the private client group slumped 16%, dropping to $132 million. Raymond James attributed this to lower brokerage revenues and market-driven declines in fee-based accounts during the fourth quarter of 2018. Those accounts “are predominantly billed based on balances at the beginning of the quarter,” the firm said.

Raymond James is also trying to improve its track record in hiring minorities and women financial advisors. The firm recently said it tapped Pedro Suriel as vice president of diversity and inclusion. Suriel, who was previously managing director of client services at diversity and inclusion consulting firm Cook Ross, will work with Raymond James’ networks for women and black advisors. He’ll also oversee the company's diversity strategy.

Minorities and women have long been underrepresented in wealth management, and trade groups and firms have redoubled efforts in recent years to address that shortcoming.

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