Saturday, July 21, 2018
Business

Trigaux: Investors rank Raymond James average among brokerage firms

Judging from whose clients appear more or less satisfied with their investment firms, I'd rather be Charles Schwab & Co. than Raymond James Financial. Then again, I'd rather be Raymond James than Morgan Stanley or AXA Advisors.

Such is the pecking order in a new J.D. Power survey of 20 investment firms ranked by how satisfied investing clients are with their firms. Ranked "among the best," Schwab tops the list, followed closely by Fidelity Investments and Edward Jones.

Raymond James, the fast expanding firm based in St. Petersburg, landed exactly in the middle or average, registering an 819 rating on a scale of 1,000 used by J.D. Power to represent various levels of satisfaction.

Other investment firms prominent in the Tampa Bay market fared well while others lagged. UBS was deemed "above average" while the bulk of best known players here — from Wells Fargo Advisors and Merrill Lynch to Ameriprise, RBC Wealth and PNC Wealth management firms — were, like Raymond James, all tagged "average" in satisfaction. Those below that rank included high profile Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and last-placed AXA Advisors, part of French insurance conglomerate, with offices in Tampa and Clearwater.

Every investor tends to be happy when the stock market is rising. Things get more interesting in downturns.

Do the rankings matter? Well, Schwab would say absolutely and AXA would probably downplay the arguably modest differences in customer satisfaction.

For Raymond James, which is in a multi-year growth push into the Middle Atlantic, Northeast and California markets, an "average" ranking is not a great selling point. To its credit, Raymond James has been running a clever ad campaign in recent years with the tag line "Life Well Planned" that outshines a lot of its competitors' marketing pitches.

The ads may lure customers but keeping them well satisfied is what will make them loyal to Raymond James.

Is that really an issue? J.D. Power says yes, at least when it comes to any investment firm trying to woo and maintain millennial customers as their income and savings build with age.

"Surprisingly," the survey finds, nearly half (48 percent) of emerging affluent investors (defined as millennials with at least $100,000 in investable assets) currently working with an advisor say they "probably will" or "definitely will" leave their current firm. That compares with just 8 percent among all other generations of investors.

One way Raymond James hopes to up its game is through new technology. The firm earlier this year said it will soon roll out a new robo-advising service. Called Connected Advisor, the firm's 7,100-plus wealth advisors will be able to use the platform to automate some basic investment management for certain accounts, communicate with clients and analyze client data.

The movement to robo or computer-driven investment services is catching on quickly across most Wall Street firms. They view the new tech as both a lower-cost way to handle smaller accounts and supplemental service to aid their firm's human advisors.

Will it work? Done well, robotic or automated investing advice could help — but only if such advice yields competitive returns to the customer. Tech-embracing millennials, especially, may be most accepting of such new services.

That has implications for investment firms like Raymond James. Suggests J.D. Power: "Firms that are able to create loyalty among millennial clients today can expect significant ongoing rewards."

Perhaps even higher rankings in future surveys.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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