Raymond James’ Van Law: “Freedom and control cornerstones of RIA discussions…”

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k-tcc and Andrew Parish had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Raymond James’ Investment Advisors Division President, Bill Van Law. Bill came to Raymond James with a wealth of experience having spent 18 years at Merrill Lynch as a $1MM producer and providing leadership in previous roles at RJ as the National Director of Business Development. During their conversation it became clear that Raymond James has a clear vision for the growth of their RIA division and believes that it is the space where explosive growth will avail itself over the next 5 – 10 years. Here is the bulk of their discussion:

AP: Bill – walk us through the growth of the RIA space at Raymond James. What have been some key differentiators for the platform?

VL: “Raymond James provides a full service platform to RIAs.  The vast resources of our firm provide efficiencies and a real competitive advantage for advisors in the RIA channel.  Our experience in working with top advisors in our other channels reinforced the benefits of combining industry leading technology and resources with an advisor-centric culture.  While this is certainly a key differentiator, the over-arching theme is to be an active partner with our RIA clients.  We work hard to deliver the comprehensive support required to help them achieve their organic and inorganic growth goals.  Being an active partner and providing unmatched resources is what really defines the value proposition.”

“This even includes transition assistance to help them build their firm.  To be clear, the growing trend of advisors moving to the independent space isn’t for transition dollars – it’s for the freedom to build a legacy and the long term financial benefits. Supporting their growth is important, too, and we’re actively partnering with RIAs to help them achieve their growth objectives.”

AP: Raymond James has had tremendous success recruiting from the wirehouse firms. What has been the key to that success?

VL: “You are absolutely right. Raymond James has been enjoying tremendous growth via wirehouse firm recruits. The reality of superior teams is that their expectations are significantly higher than most advisors. They have clients who need services and resources beyond the average advisor. We have a great understanding of what those needs are and tailor those services directly to the team and their clients. I spent 18 years at Merrill before joining Raymond James. As a $1M+ producer, I know first-hand that top teams have complex clients, ergo, they require special services. That is truly what we try to provide across all of our channels. It’s all about partnerships and having the best platform.”

AP: When you get right down to it, and you do a little math, wirehouse advisors are walking away from 300% transition deals and another 200% in retirement transition dollars to establish an RIA. Explain an advisor’s decision-making process to turn to Raymond James’ RIA platform and eschew all of those dollars?

VL: “Great question. The first has to be the discussion of freedom and control. At Raymond James, elite teams and advisors now have the freedom to establish their own internal culture while simultaneously controlling all aspects of their business – costs and expenditures included. There is an element of that freedom that is extremely liberating once an advisor realizes the opportunity. Second, is an economics discussion: Tax challenges and very real differences in W2 income generally lead the economics discussion. The W2 differences alone, for an advisor’s first year on our platform, can be upward of 60%. That is a dramatic change in the right direction. Add that to the possibility of evaluating the opportunity to monetize your practice at retirement and those numbers are eye popping as well. We believe that our transition assistance, significant year-over-year income advantages and a free market for the sale of your best asset, your business, make the real numbers work out better for the Independent Business Advisor over any upfront money. Bottom line, there are tremendous long and short-term benefits in the RIA space.”

AP: What are the differences in the Raymond James Independent platform and the RIA platform?

VL: “The differences in the Raymond James independent and RIA platforms? Essentially, not many: Our independent advisors are mostly FINRA registered and many also operate their own RIA, while in IAD, they are both RIAs and Hybrid/RIAs. We still provide the full range of resources and best solutions in each of those channels, as we do in our financial institutions’ and employee channels. Raymond James offers all the tools that an advisor in any business model could want. The differentiator from other firms is we have a culture that is advisor centric – across all platforms. It is that culture that currently has us tracking for our best year ever in the RIA space. Raymond James’ AdvisorChoice model allows advisors to select how they want to execute their business. So when you add our capabilities to the specific RIA story of offering “freedom and control,” you end up with growth that is currently surpassing our expectations. It’s the result of delivering a resource-rich platform from a firm that’s willing to truly partner with its advisors.”

The RIA space remains the fastest growing platform in the industry. Raymond James believes that it can take on custodial firms like Fidelity and Pershing and match them for advisor service and client satisfaction. In fact, there bet is that they can exceed the service levels of those firms. Mr. Van Law’s leadership has gone a long way to creating a culture within Raymond James’ RIA platform that expects to win. As they continue to add assets, large teams and headline grabbing advisors more and more elite advisors will take notice. Seems that movement is well on its way.

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