Raymond James Executive Chairman Tom James believes that successful financial planning comes first and foremost from adhering to sound business practices.

"Our business is you the client and your financial well being," said James as opening speaker at day two of Raymond James Financial Services' The Power of Independence national conference in Orlando today. "It is very important that that became the central core message of the (Raymond James) firm -- the modus operandi for us to do business."

James told conference attendees that effective and ethical financial services firms need "good systems, budgeting and planning. We need performance reviews. We need accountability. We need risk management -- boy, we just learned about that again."

James entered the financial advising industry in 1966 when he joined his father's Florida-based brokerage firm Robert A. James Investments. He eventually started his own venture capital firm Investment Management Research that later merged with Raymond James. The firm has grown from the $26,000 made by James' father in 1962 to an estimated $3 billion in investable assets.

While Raymond James' credo is "Clients come first," financial advisors are a close second, James said. "They're our representatives; they're our field contact people with clients. Without advisors, you can't do the job -- our reputation is totally dependent upon you."

And finally, to be successful, James says financial advisory firms must communicate directly and frequently with their clients. "And not just by e-mail either," he says. "We need to walk the talk. It can't be all this euphemistic B.S. about 'We take care of the client,' and then not really making decisions for their benefit -- even when some of them are painful for the firms and the individuals in the firm. If you take care of your clients, then you will do well."

-James McConville