Raymond James Financial has spun off its RIA business into the Investment Advisors Division, and appointed Bill Van Law as president, the company announced. The moves are designed to position the St. Petersburg, Fla-based firm’s RIA business as an attractive place for the industry’s best advisors.

Several priorities underpin Van Law’s growth strategy for the new division, particularly getting the word out to advisors that Raymond James is committed to growing its RIA business. 

“We need to make people aware that this is an option for them,” Van Law said. “We need to be competitive about pricing, have the best technology, offer seamless integration and we need to have a comprehensive platform that allows the industry’s top advisors to easily transition from their present firms.”

A lot of those pieces are already in place, Van Law said. The company has ramped up offerings in technology, asset management and lending capabilities. Now the firm needs to do a better job getting the word out, Van Law said. Indeed, the company recently polled newly formed RIA firms that had not affiliated with Raymond James Financial about whether they had considered the firm in their transition plans. 

“The single biggest issue was they were not aware that we were serious about being in this business,” Van Law said.

Van Law’s career trajectory has closely mirrored several trends in the advisory industry, namely the rising popularity and sophistication of the RIA channel. Before joining Raymond James Financial in 2003, Van Law spent 18 years at Merrill Lynch, where he started his career as a financial advisor. Then he held several management positions, including complex director and district sales manager.

Once at Raymond James, Van Law steadily gravitated toward the independent and RIA space. He joined as senior vice president and divisional director for Raymond James & Associates, the firm’s traditional broker-dealer unit. The firm said Van Law played an integral role in developing the firm’s independent-employee model, and helped to enhance the training, education and development opportunities for financial advisors across the firm.

In October 2006, he became senior vice president and national director of business development for Raymond James Financial Services, the firm’s independent broker-dealer, and led the unit’s recruiting efforts. He also helped develop and execute strategic plans for RJFS and supported the growth of the Independent Contractor, Financial Institutions and Investment Advisors divisions. 

“Freedom is what motivated me and what motives advisors,” Van Law said. “Look at the transition that advisors make — first, there is the Merrill Lynch experience at the wirehouse, then the regional firms, independent contractor and RIA channel.” 

Donna Mitchell writes for Financial Planning.