Raymond James Executive: We’re Open to Flexible Work Arrangements for Advisors
Raymond James Financial Private Client Group President Scott Curtis said on Thursday that the firm is considering whether to let advisors work from home long-term as pandemic-related restrictions subside.
His remarks, corroborated by a person on the call, appear to be the most definitive to date from a large wealth management firm about the lasting lessons for business from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
A spokeswoman for Raymond James said that the firm has not finalized its remote work and return-to-office policies. They will ultimately depend on “potential regulatory requirements and other considerations, including the safety of associates, advisors, and their clients,” she said.
Curtis did not discuss the details or financial implications of a more flexible work location policy, sources said, but noted that Raymond James is considering the real estate implications of the “office of the future.”
The firm, which has about 3,400 branch-based employee advisors as well as about 5,000 independent contractors who cover most of their real-estate costs, is testing a co-working employee advisor model in Houston, said a recruiter who spoke on condition of anonymity. It has consolidated two branches in the city, supplementing the resultant single office with “hot desks” that advisors can reserve at selected locations, he said.
Corporate executives nationally are debating the tradeoffs between work-from-home cost savings and cultural losses that can come from isolation. Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman, after speculating in the early lockdown days on the efficiencies of closing offices, has more recently endorsed the productivity, cultural and teamwork benefits of in-office hours.
“I firmly believe that the office is important for mentoring, development, socialization, creativity, brainstorming—all the things you do together with others—but we can certainly be more flexible,” Gorman said at an industry conference in October. About 10% of Morgan Stanley’s more than 60,000 employees worldwide were back in the office, he said at the time.
Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon said at a Credit Suisse virtual investors’ conference on Wednesday that the work-from-home era is an “aberration” and that it is “not a good idea” for the company.
Raymond James’ flexible approach to work location could be a competitive advantage in recruiting, according to some headhunters.
“Advisors are actually asking in the recruiting process if they can envision a point in time when they will be required to come in because they want the option to stay remote,” said a headhunter who heard Curtis’ remarks. “It’s actually become a recruiting point.”
Few companies have issued absolute guidelines on workplace returns due to the vagaries of the pandemic, although more are expected as Covid vaccinations expand.
In the wealth management sector, most firms have kept skeleton operational crews in offices while differing on their flexibility in allowing advisors who wish to return to do so. Merrill Lynch had a flat ban on office returns until recently, while advisors at UBS Wealth Management and Morgan Stanley have been allowed to return in most regions, sources said.
Edward Jones has allowed its 19,000 advisors to work from their largely two-person offices throughout most of the pandemic, and last summer permitted most to meet clients and other guests in person. A Jones spokesman said he could not immediately comment on the firm’s current policy.
Raymond James is currently operating at 50% capacity in its wealth branch offices, Curtis told recruiters on the call. But he and other executives also said many are eager to return to the workplace norm.
As head of the Florida-based financial firm’s biggest business, Curtis returned to his St. Petersburg office in November, noting on the call that he had missed the social interactions of office life. Thomas A. James, the 79-year-old billionaire son of Raymond James’ founder and its chairman emeritus, never stopped coming into the office, Curtis said.
Haig Ariyan, president of Raymond James’ Alex. Brown division and of the private client group’s wealth product platforms, told recruiters on a call on Wednesday that he was speaking from a newly renovated firm office in Chicago. It was the East Coast-based executive’s second business trip of the year, he said, and it was “energizing” to meet personally with recruits, advisors and clients.