WASHINGTON - Raymond James Financial Services is on track to have its best recruiting year since 2009, according to Scott Curtis, president of the division.

In that unusual year, Raymond James recruited close to 600 new independent advisors, according to the company's annual report, many of whom were fleeing large wirehouses during the financial crisis. Altogether, the company netted 129 new advisors in its 2009 fiscal year.

Speaking at a press briefing at the annual RJFS national conference, Curtis declined to reveal exactly how many advisors he expected to affiliate with the firm this year. He also stressed that Raymond James is more focused on the quality -- and productivity -- of its advisors rather than the total number of advisors.

The key to growth was actually "succeeding by not losing," Curtis asserted. Raymond James' philosophy, he said, was: "Don't lose people you don't want to see going somewhere else."

Curtis also said the composition of new recruits this year is different from in 2009. Most are employees of larger financial service companies; about 25% are independents who are either unhappy with a lack of support from their current affiliation or looking for a "cultural change," Curtis said.

NORTHWEST PUSH

The Pacific Northwest will be a prime recruiting target for RJFS, Curtis said. Raymond James veteran Steven Ciesluk recently relocated to Washington and will head recruiting efforts there. "It really helps to have people on the ground," Curtis said, although he cautioned that the recruiting process "sometimes takes a long time."

Echoing comments made by Raymond James Financial chief executive Paul Reilly during a previous press briefing, Curtis said RJFS was unlikely to make any major acquisitions of independent advisory firms in the coming year. "There are not that many that are attractive, and those that are attractive are not for sale," he said.

Instead, RJFS will focus on "tuck-ins" of smaller firms, such as investment managers, so it can "access different parts of the market," Curtis said. The firm will also help its independent firms acquire other local or regional firms, he added.

Like Reilly, Curtis downplayed the impact of online advisory firms. While he welcomed the new Internet firms who can "raise awareness" about the business, he said, he was skeptical they would gain much traction in an "unbelievably fragmented" industry.

"Clients who are successful tend to focus their time on what it is that made them money in the first place," Curtis said. "They will pay for advice. They don't want to take the time to learn about financial investing or planning. They are willing to outsource that service."

Raymond James will also continue to fine-tune its mortgage referral policies for its bank, Curtis said.

Total net loans at Raymond James Bank grew to $10.3 billion, according to the company's April operating data report,  a 24% increase over April 2013 and a $300 million increase over March 2014. The net increase in loan balances should result in higher levels of interest earnings and loan loss provision expense, the report said.  Meanwhile, compression of the bank’s net interest margin is expected to abate. 

"Raymond James Bank continues to grow its loan balances, which should result in growth of its net interest earnings," Raymond James Financial chief executive Paul Reilly said in a statement.

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