FA Playbook

Raymond James moves to free trades for advisors and their clients

Key Points
  • Financial services firm Raymond James announced on Monday that the independent advisors in its Investment Advisors Division will now have fee-free trades on stocks, exchange-traded funds and options.
  • The move is aimed exclusively at professional advisors, where there are no direct trades by individual clients.
  • One advisor says the change will help advisors compete as firms like Charles Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade move to zero commission trades.
Guido Mieth | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Raymond James' independent registered investment advisors have reason to cheer.

The firm announced on Monday that it is eliminating transaction fees for stocks, exchange-traded funds and options in a division serving those professionals.

The move was announced on Monday at a conference in Bonita Springs, Florida, for the firm's Investment Advisors Division, which focuses on registered investment advisors, also known as RIAs.

The change exclusively affects RIAs in that division. The company did not disclose how many advisors that includes.

Officials at Raymond James declined to comment, citing a quiet period.

The move by the company comes amid a mini-stampede among financial services firms to offer commission-free trades in recent months.

That includes consumer-facing businesses of Charles Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade. On Monday, Bank of America said that it will now offer unlimited free trades to certain loyalty customers through its Merrill Edge online service.

Why Fidelity has jumped on the commission-free trading trend
Why Fidelity has jumped on the commission-free trading trend

But the transition by St. Petersburg, Florida-based Raymond James is slightly different because it only affects the fee-based accounts offered by certain financial advisors, which has no direct trades by the client.

The change is big news to Charles L. Failla, certified financial planner and principal at Sovereign Financial Group, with offices in New York City and Connecticut. Sovereign uses Raymond James' RIA platform as its custodian.

"We frankly, up until this morning, started thinking in terms of, do we really need to be thinking of moving our custody over to other platforms like Schwab or Fidelity, because a zero transaction fee is better than a transaction fee," Failla said.

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"They've taken that off the plate," Failla said. "We don't have to disrupt our clients' relationships and still deliver best-in-class transaction pricing."

The fees the advisors were paying typically ranged between $8 to $10 per trade, depending on the size of their practice, he said.

For clients, it's also a win no matter what they were paying, Failla said. "No one was at zero and now everyone is," Failla said.

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