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The demographics have been clear for some time and the advisory industry continues to fret about the impending tsunami of retiring advisors in the coming years. As a result, firms are putting together succession programs as a way to ease the transition of client assets from older advisors to the much younger set. 

Three executives from Raymond James discussed this phenomenon at the firm's annual women's symposium, near its headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Chet Helck, Raymond James Financial's executive vice president and chief executive officer of its Global Private Client Group, said that 80% of advisors currently practicing may be retiring in the next couple of decades. And, he noted: "There will be a significant number of advisors that will retire in the next five to 10 years." 

Helck, along with Tash Elwyn, who heads Raymond James & Associates (the employee channel), and Scott Curtis, who presides over Raymond James Financial Services (the independent arm) pointed to a robust year of recruiting  advisors and the acquisition of Morgan Keegan as two examples of how a brokerage/wealth management firm grows and increases its national footprint.

"Technically, even though this was an acquisition, we approached this more as a merger," Elwyn said of the Morgan Keegan deal. "Morgan Keegan is a very good firm." And for RJA, the deal strengthened its presence in the Southeast, including getting a Morgan Keegan branch manager and his team who were based in Birmingham, Ala. "Their team has built a very successful practice," Elwyn added.

Curtis, president of RJFS, has thousands of advisors spread out in 1,700 locations around the country and he is putting renewed emphasis on the overall firm's practice acquisitions and succession planning department. He said the firm will continue to expand the number of people in the group. "They're becoming even busier," he said.

But one strategy that Raymond James is banking on for its success is this: building its female advisor force. And, it is a trend that is slowly asserting itself at other firms as well. Consider Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, which has a website devoted to its women advisors and a number of regional events around the country. Minneapolis-based RBC also holds a company-wide event for its female advisor force. More firms are taking those steps as more young women get degrees in majors that relate to financial services.

However, Helck said, Raymond James has been investing in this concept for quite some time. He recalled when management guru Tom Peters spoke at this symposium nearly a decade ago. At the time, Peters said that female advisors were the future of the industry. The firm that supports that movement will be a winner, Helck said Peters pronounced. However, Helck said, "you have to create role models. Training is the key." With that in mind, the firm is placing its bets on recruiting more women into its advisor mastery class. We will see if it pays off in both the short and the long-term. 

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