In yet another change in the country's evolving banking landscape, Raymond James Financial said it plans to become a bank holding company. Late last week, the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based financial services company confirmed information reported in the St. Petersburg Times that it planned to convert its Raymond James Bank unit from a thrift to a commercial bank. To facilitate the change, the parent company will apply to become a bank holding company.


Raymond James said its conversion plan was in the works since last year and is unrelated to current market turmoil that led to last week's announcements that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would seek to convert from investment banks into bank holding companies.


Raymond James said it concluded that converting its thrift into a commercial bank would enable the bank to do more corporate lending, generally a more profitable business with less interest rate risk than the thrift model.


It expects the transitions to be completed by next summer, after which the Federal Reserve will regulate Raymond James. Oversight of Raymond James Bank will transfer from the Office of Thrift Supervision to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Other than that, the company says it expects its new status will have little impact on its overall operations and structure.


Raymond James has more than 4,900 financial advisors in the U.S., Canada and overseas, with roughly 1.8 million accounts and $211 billion in client assets. The company has 3,150 independent advisors, which it says places it second behind LPL Financial.


"It's important to note that this move isn't in response to an immediate need or to follow in the footsteps of other firms, although it's becoming obvious that the future of the industry is to be regulated by the Federal Reserve," said Raymond James Financial CFO and Raymond James Bank Chairman Jeff Julien. "Both Goldman and Morgan Stanley will have a grace period of approximately two years to modify their business model in order to meet Fed requirements. We're not in an emergency situation or trying to quickly secure funding; instead, we're simply moving forward with our plan, while, of course, paying attention to the market environment."