Thousands of advisers got their start at storied firms that are now long gone, such as Smith Barney, A.G. Edwards and Dean Witter. Now, Raymond James has pinned part of its hopes for future growth on the revival of one such name: Alex. Brown.

"Right now, there are almost no boutiques left in our industry," Mark Elzweig, a New York-based recruiter, says. "You have Alex. Brown now, and J.P. Morgan, and beyond that you don't really have many other boutique choices."

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