NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bucking the industry trend, Raymond James is holding firm: The firm has no plans to offer clients a robo solution.

“We won’t create a platform that disintermediates the financial advisor,” says Scott Curtis, president of Raymond James Financial Services, the independent arm of the financial advisory firm. “Direct-to-consumer is not our model.”

However, if a robo-type service would help the firm comply with the new Department of Labor fiduciary rules on serving retirement accounts, then Raymond James “certainly will explore” an automated investment option, Curtis said.

Scott Curtis, president, Raymond James Financial Services.
Scott Curtis, president, Raymond James Financial Services.

Following his general session address to around 3,500 professionals attending the company’s annual national conference, Curtis said Raymond James is still carefully studying the 1,000-plus pages of the new DoL rule.

“A lot of questions have to be addressed, and we’re going through them step-by-step,” he said.

COMMITTEE TO REVIEW RULE

Raymond James has formed a steering committee to review parts of the business that are likely to be affected by the fiduciary rule, including compliance, legal, fees, costs, risk and products, Curtis said.

After the review, the committee will “engage” with financial advisors to formulate “workable” solutions for implementation, Curtis said.

Noting that firms have until April 17, 2017, to comply with the DoL rule, he said Raymond James is telling advisors, “Don’t start changing anything today until we can provide guidance.”

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“We won’t create a platform that disintermediates the financial advisor."

The DoL rule may provide Raymond James with recruiting opportunities, but it’s still “too soon to say,” Curtis said. He did point out that financial firms will interpret the rule differently, and if advisors aren’t happy with their firms’ procedures, they will look elsewhere.

TECH CHALLENGE: CLIENTS

In addition to discussing the regulatory environment with advisors at the general session, Curtis said he also focused on technology, challenging advisors to keep up with client expectations.

Clients are using mobile devices, social media platforms and aggregating their account information from various financial institutions, Curtis noted, adding he wanted advisors to have a conversation with their clients about what technology they were using and needed.

A new digital tool Raymond James is making available to client next week, Curtis said, is Client Vault, which will allow clients to keep copies of any documents they want in a secure location they can access with their Raymond James account.

Asset growth remains the company’s top priority, Curtis said. The potential headwind of slowing market growth, he added, puts increasing importance on net new assets and recruiting advisors to join the platform.

Charles Paikert

Charles Paikert

Charles Paikert is a senior editor with Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.