Raymond James likes the Goldilocks approach to operating within the wealth management industry: aim to be not too big, not too small, but just the right size.

"We envision ourselves maintaining our unique position in the middle, simultaneously big enough in terms of the resources, technology and intellectual capital, but small enough that we continue to deliver to our advisors and their clients the culture of accessibility and responsiveness they grew up with and continue to value," says Tash Elwyn, president of Raymond James & Associates.

As part of our special report on the state of wealth management, Elwyn forecast the evolution of firms in the near future, and how Raymond James managed to be 'an oasis of safety' for advisors and clients during the financial and economic crises in 2008 and 2009.

What are the qualities all firms should be looking for in advisors, given all the challenges and changes in the industry?

First and foremost, candidates for a career in this profession have to possess integrity and intellect — both of those are a given in terms of requisites. Above and beyond that, you need to have dynamic personal skills, as well as a tireless work ethic. I think you see a lot of candidates attracted to this profession who certainly have the intellect, particularly when paired with the training curriculum. They are fully capable of having a positive impact on people’s lives. However, if they can’t pair that intellect with the interpersonal skills, and they can’t build trust with that prospective client, to an extent it almost doesn’t matter how impactful they could be [because] they can’t inspire people to take action on the advice.

At the same time, advisors are under pressure to communicate with clients in new ways.

What we are certainly seeing is a change in how clients wish to consume advice, with the advent of digital and social [media]. But what remains constant is the value that advice can deliver.

How do you get younger advisors into the profession?

It is evident that whether it is three to five years out or seven to 10 years out, there is an inevitable retirement tsunami that will hit the profession as baby boomer advisors retire. It is imperative that Raymond James as well as others in the profession prepare for that challenge. With our preparation and our focus on succession planning, as well as attracting and training the next generation of advisors, I’m confident this challenge will be a considerable opportunity for Raymond James.

Are younger advisors asking for things that weren’t part of the recruitment formula in the past?

Advisors today are asking for and are receiving mentorship. We are seeing the profession evolve within Raymond James in such a way that this is becoming an apprenticeship model. Approximately two-thirds of all financial advisors that join our training program today are formally part of a team, and even the one-third that are developing their businesses as sole practitioners have a mentor within the branch. Our mentors are receiving training as well, to ensure that they create the best experience with the best outcomes possible for the new financial advisors.

Raymond James has been a fast-growing regional firm. Can it keep up the pace?

I am confident and excited in my conviction that Raymond James will continue to differentiate itself within the profession, and continue to attract and retain the best advisors in the profession.

2014 has been a great year for Raymond James. The fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, was the second best recruiting year in the history of Raymond James & Associates, second only to the fiscal year that encompassed ’08 and ’09 during the fiscal apocalypse. Raymond James was an oasis of safety for clients and advisors alike. So our recruiting results this year will be up over 50% from last year’s strong performance.

It’s exciting to see so much recruiting momentum as our firm continues to differentiate itself relative to the rest of the profession.

Your firm has benefited from the horse-trading of advisors the industry has witnessed lately.

Research shows that advisor movement is down year-over-year, yet despite that, Raymond James is on pace for the second-best recruitment year in its history, That’s reflective of continued advisor dissatisfaction with how they believe their clients and they themselves are being supported, and advisors are yearning for a type of culture they grew up with, a culture in which they had access to home office support, a culture where they have responsiveness. They not only want that culture, but they want it paired with the depth of resources at the biggest firms out there, and that is where Raymond James is creating comparative advantages.

Can the regionals stay regional, or is there the specter of mergers or seeing your business chipped away by RIAs?

I think the industry will continue to evolve in such a way that, either through collapse or consolidation, you’ll continue to see the extremely large, arguably too large firms on one end of the spectrum, and on the far end, regional boutiques and upstarts, and we envision ourselves maintaining our unique position in the middle, simultaneously big enough in terms of the resources, technology and intellectual capital, but small enough that we continue to deliver to our advisors and their clients the culture of accessibility and responsiveness they grew up with and continue to value.

So what are you most hopeful for at Raymond James, and what keeps you up at night?

What I’m most hopeful for, and most confident about, is our ability to continue to remain true to who we are. Our culture is our differentiator, and it is our greatest strength. What keeps me up at night — I say this only partly in jest — is trying to create enough time in the day to be responsive enough to the seemingly limitless recruiting opportunities we have around the country.

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