Raymond James Financial has spun off its RIA business into an 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 says. "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 says. The company has ramped up offerings in technology, asset management and lending capabilities. Now the firm needs to do a better job of publicizing that, Van Law says. 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 says.  - Donna Mitchell


The global effort by the U.S. government to catch American tax cheats intensified recently as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom have agreed to support a broad new U.S. law requiring foreign financial institutions to disclose information about the foreign bank accounts of U.S. citizens. In return, the United States has agreed to automatically supply information on accounts by citizens of those countries in the U.S.

"I'm surprised how much it comes up even in a practice like mine where just 10% of my clients have some assets in foreign bank accounts," says planner Troy Thompson, the founder of Thompson Advisory in Portland, Ore., and a former tax lawyer.

"People are going to have legitimate concerns about this if they can't get a bank account in England. It's going to be hard on them," Thompson adds. Critics of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act say it could drive foreign institutions to close accounts held by U.S. citizens.

The regulation would also enable foreign instititutions to report data directly to their own governments. The governments, in turn, would then pass the information on to the United States. It is hoped this move will enable the institutions to stay in compliance with national privacy laws. - Ann Marsh


Generation Y investors are losing faith in their retirement prospects, according to a study by MFS Investment Management. In a survey last October, 59% of investors aged 18 to 30 agreed that, "Over the past few years, I've lowered my expectations about the quality of life in retirement." That's up 15 percentage points from last June as economic uncertainties continue to weigh on the minds of a majority of young investors.

"The youthful optimism we would like to believe this generation possesses has been stymied by a decade of economic challenges, market volatility, and prolonged unemployment," according to William Finnegan, senior managing director and director of U.S. retail marketing for MFS.

While Generation Y, which still has more than 35 years on average to plan for retirement, recorded the largest increase in pessimism, Generation X, baby boomers and mature investors also reported a more pessimistic outlook. On average, 49% of all investors surveyed were less hopeful about retirement, compared with 44% who shared this sentiment last June.

The challenge for financial planners, says Finnegan, is to build younger investors' confidence in the future and build relationships that will allay short-term fears for the sake of long-term financial security. The online survey took into account the responses of 929 individual investors with $100,000-plus in household investable assets.  - Mason Braswell


Jonathan Foster, former president of Carson Wealth Management Group, the Omaha, Neb.-based RIA firm, has launched his own RIA firm, Angeles Wealth Management. Foster, president and CEO of the new firm, is looking to build a team of advisors who will bring institutional-level wealth management services to HNW and ultra-HNW investors, particularly households with $5 million to $50 million in investable assets.

He actually consulted Angeles Investment Advisors, the new firm's parent company, while serving on the board of two non-profit groups that used Angeles Investments institutional advisory services. It sparked an idea, Foster says.

"If we could figure out a way to take a high-quality firm advising on $40 billion of assets and make it available to the private client market in a non-watered down way, we should do it," Foster says. - Donna Mitchell


The Tax Relief story in the February issue reported incorrectly that a law regarding required mandatory distributions from IRAs was still in effect for 2012. The story also stated incorrectly that distributions could be gifted under the law; the rule applied only to charitable gifts.