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Exclusive: St. Pete financial service leaders launch an assault on Wall Street in battle for jobs

Margie Manning



Photo by Roberto Júnior on Unsplash

Leaders from Raymond James Financial, Dynasty Financial Partners and Intrinio will travel to the world’s financial capital next month, to make the case that the financial services industry can flourish in St. Petersburg.

Tash Elwyn, president and CEO of Raymond James & Associates, Shirl Penney, president and CEO of Dynasty, and Rachel Carpenter, founder and CEO of Intrinio, will talk about the advantages of a St. Petersburg headquarters during a panel discussion at a Sept. 25 networking event for Finovate, a financial industry conference in New York City.

On the same day, Dynasty is hosting a separate panel discussion on wealth management, featuring Penney and Elwyn, at its Manhattan office.

Financial services is one of the target industries that St. Petersburg is pursuing under its Grow Smarter strategy.

J.P. DuBuque

“The goal is to get people to know that from a financial services standpoint, we have a great density of companies that are doing amazing things and seeing lots of growth. These companies don’t need to be on Wall Street to be successful and thriving. They can do it here at a much lower cost with a much better quality of life,” said J.P. DuBuque, president of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., which is sponsoring the networking event.

DuBuque also will be holding face-to-face meetings with companies looking for expansion opportunities. His selling points for a St. Pete location include access to a quality workforce and overall business costs, along with quality of life.

“It’s easier to be here than in a city like New York,” DuBuque said.

Enhanced earnings power

Dynasty’s Penney, who moved the company to St. Pete from Manhattan, agrees with DuBuque’s sentiments.

Shirl Penney, co-founder and CEO, Dynasty Financial Partners

“Twenty years ago, being on Wall Street was a huge competitive advantage. There were proprietary products you could only get on Wall Street. Some of the smartest people, intellectual capital that you want to advise you to run your money, were on Wall Street. And they had huge budgets so some of the best technology was available on Wall Street,” Penney said.

“What’s happened over last 20 years is a lot of new technology  innovations have come along,  so now some of the best technology for advisors is actually off Wall Street … A lot of the top intellectual capital, portfolio managers, have left the big firms. They’ve created their own independent asset manager and they’ve made that asset management capability available to everyone.”

Cloud-based technology allows Dynasty to run the business as easily in St. Pete as in New York, Penney said. Tampa International Airport’s accessibility makes it convenient for clients to travel to St. Pete and for advisors to travel to clients, and the company’s 12,400-square-foot local office – the entire 15th floor at 200 Central — is just as nice, but 70 percent cheaper than real estate in New York, he said.

“My philosophy is in good times — and we are in good times, a 12-year prolonged bull market —  entrepreneurs should be every bit if not more disciplined in this environment and set the business up for the long-term health of the business. That’s what we’re doing by moving to St. Pete. This is a long-term play… and we think by enhancing our earnings power in St. Pete over time we are in position to have a stronger healthier company ,” Penny said.

Related story: Dynasty’s move makes St. Pete ‘center of gravity’ for financial services

Dynasty and Raymond James (NYSE: RJF) are both industry leaders in asset flow, a measure of growth, and rank No. 3 and No. 4 respectively in a list of “recruiting winners” from AdvisorHub.

Tash Elwyn

“This is such a desirable location for both employers and employees, particularly within the financial services industry,” Elwyn of Raymond James said. “We can provide candidates a better quality of life and lower cost of living than any of our counterparts on Wall Street. Add to that that we’re blessed to live in a community that is flourishing. There’s a vibrant downtown. There’s a prominent arts community and, very critically, there are high quality schools that Raymond James and others in the community can partner with,” Elwyn said.

He also cited the Advisor Choice program that Raymond James unveiled in 2004, underscoring the importance of its independent financial advisors choosing where they can best serve their clients.

“It took a firm off Wall Street, in fact it took a firm here in sunny St. Pete, to make a such a revolutionary change to our profession. It’s not just evolutionary. It’s revolutionary. That’s why we’re so successful in attracting financial advisors,” Elwyn said.

Rising tide

Having two of the fastest-growing wealth management firms in St. Petersburg is very powerful, the EDC’s DuBuque said, and that’s the message he wants to get across at the Sept. 25 networking event, which will be held just one block from the Finovate conferenece venue in midtown Manhattan.

The city of St. Petersburg is sponsoring the event. Reuben Pressman, founder and CEO of software company Presence and the city’s first Entrepreneur-In-Residence, will moderate the panel discussion. The EDC, which is funded by corporate investors, is paying for the trip, as it did for an earlier business mission to Montreal and for an upcoming trip to San Francisco, DuBuque said.

Penney is not worried that competitors will hear his message in New York and enhance their own businesses by opening a local office.

“I’m in big believer that a rising tide raises a lot of boats. The more the area is known for financial services, the more collective talent we all have,” Penney said.

Bryant Jones

A growing St. Petersburg is good for a smaller firm, such as Sabal Trust Co., said Bryant Jones, president and CEO.

“We recruit locally and we recruit nationally. It gives us a tremendous advantage to be able to recruit folks to St. Pete … With the energy of the community and the trajectory the community is on, it is a huge asset for us from a recruiting standpoint,” Jones said.

The impact created by a cluster of firms in the financial services industry builds on itself.

“People know they can move here and if it doesn’t work out at company A, they know there are five other companies that can use their skill set,” Penney said.

To keep momentum going, it’s important to cultivate public-private partnerships, such as a long-standing program at University of South Florida that pairs first-generation college students with corporate mentors, Elwyn said. That’s been a key source of talent for Raymond James.

Both Elwyn and Penney also want to see continued real estate development.

“There’s a need for more high-quality commercial real estate,” Penney said. “The right size is 15,000 to 20,000 square foot floor plates. There are some great flexible spaces, but the availability right in the commercial real estate market in St. Pete is limited.”

A conference facility also would help.

“Our industry holds a lot of conferences for clients and advisors and employees,” Penney said. “There’s no reason we can’t compete with Orlando for smaller conferences, 300 to 400 persons … There’s no facility in town to do that, so that would be a nice addition as well.”

Closer look: Personal financial advisors, New York versus St. Petersburg

Personal financial advisors provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, estate planning, taxes and retirement to help individuals manage their finances, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s how their employment numbers and pay compare in metro New York and in metro Tampa-St. Petersburg as of May 2018, the most recent data available from the BLS.


New York: 27,570

Tampa-St. Pete: 2,120

Employment per 1,000 jobs

New York: 2.903

Tampa-St. Pete: 1.618

Annual median wage

New York: $135,510

Tampa-St. Pete: $70,560

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1 Comment
here we go

1 Comment

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    John Donovan

    August 26, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    While working and travelling for the financial services industry for many years, including a great stint at Raymond James RIA platform, I’ve been telling St. Petersburg’s story. I am surprised it’s taken this long for others to discover.

    Here is one under-utilized idea for your pitchbook. Compare a ride from ORD to downtown Chicago / JFK to downtown Manhattan, at 3pm local time, to a ride from TIA to downtown St Petersburg. The first one is often miserable stop and go. The second is painfully long. TIA to downtown /St Petersburg is entirely highway, very sunny, all the way to downtown. And crosses 5 miles over water in between in well under 30 minutes.

    What kind of mood will your client be in when they arrive under each of these conditions?

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