Over President’s Day weekend, nearly 500,000 Morgan Keegan client accounts were moved to the Raymond James technology platform and legacy advisors officially began practicing under the Raymond James brand. The move puts the finishing touches on nearly ten months of consolidation since the $1.2 billion deal was finalized in April of last year.
“It went extremely well,” Raymond James’ private client group president, Tash Elwyn, said in a phone interview with On Wall Street. “Having invested 10-plus months of time and preparation into being ready for the conversion last week, we were confident, we were excited, we were prepared, [and] at the same time you head into it with cautious excitement that everything is going to go as smoothly as you practiced it to be. And the conversion from a technology, data and back office standpoint went nearly as perfectly as one could have hoped.”
Prior to Feb. 19, Morgan Keegan had operated as a distinct brokerage unit under the Raymond James name. The final integration will make Raymond James one of the largest brokerage firms behind the four wirehouses with almost 6,300 advisors in its brokerage, roughly 900 of whom come from Morgan Keegan.
“The Morgan Keegan branch managers - now the Raymond James branch managers - feel very much that for the first time in several years that they now have a tailwind and that they can now pair their value proposition with the Raymond James culture [and] with the access to Raymond James technology and resources.”
Bella Allaire, Raymond James’ executive vice president of technology and operations, said that the success of the integration was a result of the capability of the firms’ cultures.
“Having been through a number of large and complex integrations, I can honestly say this was a far superior experience, and I credit the same reason that brought the two firms together – our culture,” Allaire said.
To help maintain the culture, Raymond James decided to keep the conversion in-house, deploying 100 conversion specialists from within the company to assist legacy Morgan Keegan branches. In many cases, the specialists were Morgan Keegan client associates who had spent three weeks at Raymond James’ home office in St. Petersburg to familiarize themselves with the new platform.
“That successful conversion of a week ago positioned us to very confidently head into the training aspect of all this that too has gone extremely well in that by design we developed an internal team of conversion trainers,” Elwyn said. “Whereas so many of the firms have used outside consultants to lead and manage conversion training by doing this entirely with internal people who not only know the systems but know the culture they’ve been extremely well received within the Morgan Keegan branches.”
Executives also spent the past week traveling to legacy Morgan Keegan branches to check on the status of the conversion as well as to show support.
“Virtually every single one of us spent the entire week on the road this past week recognizing what we saw was the importance of physically being in as many Raymond James | Morgan Keegan offices as we could simply to show our support of all that was happening with the conversion,” Elwyn, who visited with seven Raymond James branches from Atlanta to Memphis, said.
Overall, Raymond James has managed to retain the majority of the legacy Morgan Keegan advisors. While some lower producers left the firm following the deal, Raymond James said that it had retained 95% of the revenue associated with the Morgan Keegan name. Moreover, the firm integrated all of the Morgan Keegan senior executive team, including more than a dozen officers and the former CEO of Morgan Keegan, John Carson, who became the president of Raymond James. The move also resulted in the promotion of two Raymond James complex managers to regional managers, Elwyn said.
The plan was originally for the Morgan Keegan brand to be preserved in certain business segments for up to two years, but several Morgan Keegan executives pushed for the brand to be retired sooner “signaling a sign of confidence in [their] collective future,” Raymond James said.
“While we were certainly sensitive to the rich history and the heritage and the strong reputation of the Morgan Keegan name, it was with the full support and even urging of financial advisors and branch managers of the private client group leadership team that the firms have moved forward with the rebranding to Raymond James as a consolidated private client group,” Elwyn said.