RayJay Chief Says Recruiting Back on Track, Firm Lands $871 Mln-AUM Merrill Team
Raymond James Financial’s sweetened deals for experienced brokers in its employee division are paying off, even without matching the high-water mark offers of some rivals, Chief Executive Paul Reilly said on Monday.
“We didn’t go up to what everyone else did, but our recruiting is now ahead of last year,” Reilly said, according to a transcript provided by Sentieo, an online research platform.
He did not discuss specifics of the targets, or its offers, which recruiters have said nearly doubled in some cases to as much as 2.6 times a broker’s trailing-12 month production. The firm raised its offers this year after a slowdown in hiring into Raymond James & Associates, its employee channel.
“We do lose some people, to the people who pay a lot more, but we’re close enough,” Reilly said. “We believe it’s kind of a positive self-selection of people willing to join us for a little less money, but believe in the long term, in the culture.”
Reilly criticized some of the high-end deals as “uneconomic,” particularly with markets hovering near all-time highs and inflating brokers’ production. He did not name competitors, although recruiters have said aggressive firms such as Wells Fargo Advisors, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Ameriprise Financial are offering as much as 340% or 320% of production, respectively.
His remarks came at the same conference where executives at Raymond James’ larger wirehouse rivals took divergent views on veteran broker recruiting. Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman on Monday lauded its weekly net positive recruiting numbers as a sign the model is working without having to pay “souped up” deals.
At Merrill Lynch, which has stood by a 2017 recruiting freeze, President Andy Sieg panned the practice as not a “good formula for clients, shareholders, or the firm.”
In a testament to Raymond James’ revival, the firm in a previously unreported move last month hired from Merrill a seven-person team managing nearly $900 million in client assets in Salt Lake City. The team’s four brokers had logged more than 100 years with the “Thundering Herd” before leaving the wirehouse on May 7 for Raymond James’ employee channel, according to registration records and a source familiar with the move.
The team, which is called Williams & Townsend Wealth Management Partners, is led by Steven G. Williams, Kevin S. Townsend, Steven R. Williams and Pamela A. Fisher, each of whom had been with Merrill more than 20 years. They were joined in the move by three associates.
Steven G. Williams, who had spent his entire 27-year career with Merrill, and Townsend, who had joined Merrill in 2000, ranked 11th and 10th, respectively, on Forbes’ 2021 list of “Best-in-State” wealth advisors in Utah. The team had managed about $871 million in client assets, according to Forbes.
Reached at his new office on Monday, Steven G. Williams declined to comment, citing company policy.
Joining Raymond James & Associates as managing director, Steven G. Williams had started his career with Merrill in 1993, according to BrokerCheck. Townsend, also joining as managing director, began his career with Fidelity Brokerage Services in 1997 and joined Zions Investment Securities later that year until leaving for Merrill in 2000, the database said.
Steven R. Williams, joining as senior vice president, also started his career with Fidelity, where he worked from 1994 to 1995, and did short stints with Zions Investment Securities, Key Investments and McDonald Investments from 1997 to 1999 before joining Merrill in 2000, according to BrokerCheck. It was unclear whether Steven R. and Steven G. Williams are family related.
Fisher, also joining as senior vice president, had been registered with Merrill since 1987, and had long served as a senior registered client associate before becoming a financial advisor in 2015, according to BrokerCheck and her current firm biography.
A fifth broker, Douglas L. Howard, who was part of the former team at Merrill, remains with the wirehouse, according to the source and Howard’s BrokerCheck profile.
Spokespeople for Raymond James and Merrill did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, in March, Raymond James’ Alex. Brown unit that caters to mostly high net worth clients recruited an up-and-comer at Merrill who’s splitting his time between Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Raymond James’ headquarters office in St. Petersburg. The firm in April lured a $2 million-producing Merrill broker in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to start his own practice affiliated with Raymond James Financial.
Raymond James ended its fiscal second quarter of 2021 with 8,327 advisors, a net increase of 179 over the 12 months ending March 31. The total included 3,375 employee brokers, a net decrease of 1 year-over-year.