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Scott Curtis, president of Raymond James’ private client group

Raymond James Bets Big on Client App and AI

As if Zoom weren't enough, the broker/dealer is working on an augmented reality application that will allow advisors and clients to 'meet' in a virtual room.

Raymond James Financial plans to boost investments in technology, with a focus on a new client application along with new initiatives using artificial intelligence and augmented reality, said CEO Paul Reilly, speaking at the firm’s virtual investor day this week.

“We’re already using artificial intelligence and machine learning and robotics to make us more efficient, to help our compliance and management systems be more effective and help streamline the processes,” Reilly said. “Now we’re rolling out more of that artificial intelligence to our advisors—to look over portfolios, to make them aware of things, to give them ideas. Their client, their choice, but we want to use it to make the advisor experience much better.”

This summer, the firm plans to provide the board of directors with a demo of an augmented reality application that will allow advisors and clients to "meet" in a virtual room—a truer-to-life experience than the typical virtual meetings advisors and clients have been engaging in over the past year. 

“Just like our desktop platform, we want to leap where the market is today. That’s why we’re looking into augmented reality, and testing, and already working with Microsoft and Google and others.”

Reilly said the firm is rolling out a new client app, which will initially be for an advisor's client, but may eventually be accessible by smaller investors directly, allowing users direct access “straight into ... our asset platforms.”

Digital innovation is a primary area of focus for the firm over the next decade, said Scott Curtis, president of Raymond James’ private client group. Tech investments will focus on helping the firm’s 8,300 advisors become more productive and deepen client relationships, with an emphasis on things beyond investments and wealth planning, including longevity planning, family legacy issues, estate planning and charitable giving.

“That requires more than just investment-focused applications on our platform. It includes providing advisors with a holistic platform, primarily integrated but perhaps not fully integrated, depending on what that application is,” Curtis said.

The firm recently launched a new proposal tool within its tech suite, which will be available to all advisors this summer. The tool, which incorporates advisors’ branding, helps with the entire proposal process from planning and research to execution and reporting.

The firm also recently hired Raj Bhaskar, a former head of strategy for the product suite at E*Trade Advisor Services, as a vice president of technology strategy for the firm’s RIA & Custody Services (RCS) division. Bhaskar will be responsible for building upon the tech suite for RIAs.

As the industry continues to move toward a planning-based fiduciary model, the firm has focused tech efforts on helping advisors document the advice they’ve provided and move away from paper. eDelivery, for instance, has become more popular, he said.

“Many clients prefer that method of delivery, versus having hard copy documents end up in their mailbox. The eDelivery to date—we’ve saved over 35 million documents, and that is becoming more and more adopted by clients every single day,” he said.

The firm has seen an uptick in the use of eSignature or DocuSign, with that usage up over 62% year over year. More clients are using the firm’s client-facing website, Client Access, with the number of clients accessing it up more than 34% in the past year. Usage of the Vault, where clients can store and share digital copies of important documents, was up almost 60% in the past year.

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