How Raymond James is helping 'scared' cross-border clients

Steven Marcus saw an opportunity when he moved to Canada after 20 years on Wall Street

How Raymond James is helping 'scared' cross-border clients

After Steven Marcus moved to Canada from New York City 20 years ago, he started carving out a speciality market helping others who had also moved across the border.

“I’m American and I worked in New  York,on Wall Street, for 20 years before I moved to Canada,” Marcus, president and chief executive officer of Raymond James (USA) Ltd. told Wealth Professional.

“I’m associated with Raymond James, and we recognized that there was a problem for Americans, like myself, who moved to Canada after working for a period of time in the United States. If they don’t have anything to do with the U.S. retirement accounts that they’ve been contributing to, once they move to Canada, the U.S. brokerage firms basically send them a letter that says, ‘hey, you live in Canada now, so we can’t service your account. You have 30 – or 60 or 90 – days to transfer this out. Otherwise, we’re going to liquidate it and send you a check, which obviously isn’t very client friendly. It also has tax implications.”

Marcus found that some professionals, like himself, as well as hockey players and entertainers, faced that concern – as did Canadians who had been working in the U.S. for awhile, but then returned home. That concern became even more prevalent during the pandemic as nationals repatriated.

“They’re all faced with this scenario that they need help with their U.S. retirement accounts,” he said. “So, we built out this platform to basically help those individuals and that’s what we do. We help Americans who moved up here, so they don’t have to liquidate their U.S. retirement accounts that they’ve been contributing to. We can hold them until they retire.”

Marcus estimated that there are one million Americans living in Canada who require this kind of support – not including all the Canadians, like his wife, who have also returned after working in the U.S. for years. Raymond James has developed a speciality where its advisors can be licensed and physically located in Canada, but also registered with the appropriate authorities in the U.S., so they can hold both retirement accounts for Canadian residents as well as help the U.S. citizens deal with having to pay taxes on both sides of the border. He said 140 of the company’s 500 Canadian advisors are now licensed to provide this service and they have a total of 4,000 of those accounts.

“Our advisors hold licenses for both regulators, in Canada and the United States, so they’re accountable to regulators on both sides of the border. We do that to give our clients comfort in knowing that our advisors actually know what they’re doing. They’re not just some cowboys up here saying, ‘Yeah, I can take care of people’s life savings'. You want to make sure they’re protected.”

“We went through a pretty extensive process in order to get the regulatory approvals to do this,” said Marcus, noting they’ve now been developing this speciality for a decade – since 2012. “The banks can’t do this, and a lot of the other independent firms can’t do it, either.”

While Marcus noted that some companies, such as Wellington-Altus and Canaccord, can also provide this service, Raymond James is well-positioned because people like him have worked in the U.S., so know it’s rules and regulations, as well as the pitfalls to watch.

“It also helps that we have a huge U.S. parent in Florida, which helps us, where a lot of these independent firms up here don’t have that,” he added. “So, we’re able to go to our U.S. parent, Raymond James Financial Services in Florida, and say: ‘How do we do this? How do we do that?’ Being the size of company it is, it’s got resources across every department that can help us.

“We can provide a more wholesome service to clients on the accounting side, so it’s a really good partnership that we’ve worked out with these cross-border accountants, and it’s working out extremely well for our advisors who have partnered with them.”

While it’s taken awhile to grow this speciality business, Marcus said 80% of Raymond James (USA) Ltd.’s new accounts are now Americans moving to Canada since its advisors can not only help them with their U.S. retirement accounts, but also be the central point of contact to deal with their Canadian assets, as well as their taxes in both countries – or globally – too. So, clients can have one advisor to holistically manage all of their accounts on both sides of the border, which also helps them plan for their ultimate financial goals.

“It’s a win-win. And, you know, I love his job because of all the success stories that I hear when clients send me emails saying, ‘I’m so grateful that we found you guys. You’ve really helped me’,” he said. “We help clients who are desperate, at times, and they’re scared when they get those letters saying that their retirement accounts are going to be liquidated. We can help them, and it’s a good feeling to be able to say, ‘don’t worry. We’ve got you covered'.”