Raymond James, on a recruiting roll, looks for an acquisition in the West

CEO says its acquisition of Alex. Brown has helped the firm recruit advisers with wealthy clients, but that it hasn't found a similar company to buy on the West Coast

Apr 26, 2018 @ 2:55 pm

By Bruce Kelly

Raymond James Financial Inc. added 67 more brokers and advisers in the first quarter, pushing its total adviser workforce to 7,604 — a 5.3% increase from a year ago.

"The private client group has done very, very well and continues on its steady trend of growth," said Paul Reilly, the firm's chairman and CEO, during a conference call on Thursday with investors and analysts.

In 2016, Raymond James said it completed the purchase of Deutsche Bank's U.S. private client services unit and revived the unit's founding name, Alex. Brown.

Mr. Reilly pointed to that acquisition as a recent force in recruiting advisers, particularly those with wealthier clients. Since 2016, 30 advisers have either joined or committed to join Alex. Brown, he said. And many of those are in the Northeast or West, two areas the Florida-based company has targeted for expansion.

"We have a lot of room to recruit in the Northeast and West, and if we can get anywhere near average market share in those two states, we'd be growing a long long time," Mr. Reilly said. "We've made good progress but we didn't have the kick starter of an Alex. Brown" in the West, he said.

While Alex. Brown has a significant presence in Baltimore, New York and Boston, Raymond James hasn't found a similar type of potential acquisition for the West Coast in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. But the firm is focused on organic growth there and is increasing recruiting resources, Mr. Reilly said.

Meanwhile, addressing regulatory issues, he said that the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule would likely disappear after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in March struck down the regulation.

He called the Securities and Exchange Commission's new investment advice rule "workable."

"There's not everything we love in it, but we think it is certainly more balanced," Mr. Reilly said. "The SEC will be taking comments over a comment period, so that rule could change, but from a distance it looks like a positive trend and a more balanced ruling for investors."

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