One might say that Tash Elwyn, president of the Private Client Group at Raymond James & Associates, was born of parents with a clear literary inclination.
“I was named after Tashtego, one of the harponers in the American classic novel Moby Dick,” he told us in a recent meeting. If the harpooneer’s primary mission is to take aim and hit the mark, Tash has achieved that objective. Having grown up in the Atlanta area, he graduated from Emory University and joined Raymond James soon after.
“I never looked back,” he said. “I’m privileged to work for a great company which is committed to serving the needs of its clients first and foremost.”
He sees the mission of the company as “a noble profession.” “Physicians are dedicated to taking care of the body; pastors are concerned with spiritual well-being. Likewise, we’re committed to helping people take good care of their money, and make good decisions throughout their lives. That’s a tremendous responsibility, one we take very seriously indeed”
Raymond James has certainly succeeded in building a solid business along those lines. Founded in 1962 by Robert James, in its most recent fiscal year the company reported revenues of more than $4.5 billion. The company has 2,500 offices.
Raymond James has moved strongly into Mississippi as a result of its acquisition of Morgan Keegan, completed in 2012.
“Our clients in Mississippi have total assets of more than $5 billion,” he explained. “We’re very pleased to serve these folks.”
The company has over 160 employees in Mississippi, and sees a bright future ahead.
“We love Mississippians,” Tash said. “There is a real sense of community in this state.”
Asked what he sees as the key issues facing businesses in the next five years, he suggested that the ongoing “demographic shift” can have a significant impact on business.
“As the baby boomers retire in large numbers, it’s going t0 change the dynamic of the country. The workforce and skill sets, how we do business — lots of changes ahead. This is a time for the Gen X’ers and Millennials to establish a solid financial foundation.”
He also suggested that following the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the “pendulum has swung too far toward government regulation. Many businesses are feeling the pressure of complying with all the new regs, and that will naturally have an impact on how they do business, the risks they take, and so on.”
Could there be another financial crisis on the horizon?
“Given the growth in the federal deficit and long-term debt obligations, anything can happen,” he said. “Obviously, we need to get our fiscal house in order as a nation.”
What can the average investor do to safeguard their financial position?
“We believe that businesses and investors must have a long term, conservative approach that will carry them through any difficult times. For instance, I can tell you that Raymond James did not seek or receive any TARP money. We weathered the storm, and we’re pleased with that record.”
Tash summed up the company’s position about making the right financial decisions. “We look both ways before we look both ways,” he said.
Defining himself as “bullish on America and American business,” he sees a key need to provide effective educational opportunities. To him, this doesn’t just mean a focus on university education.
“We need to pay attention to developing a skilled workforce, through technical education,” he said. From his point of view, there will by many opportunities and needs for skilled workers, such as shipfitters, plumbers, electricians, and the like. “And, a lot of those folks will make competitive money with people who have bachelor’s degrees,” he pointed out.
Asked whether he sees the Affordable Care Act as a positive or negative for business, he suggested that in the long term, it may be more of a negative from a business perspective. “It seems inevitable that this will produce higher regulatory burden, and consequently, higher costs, on business. It may be a good example of the law of unintended consequences.”
He’s not all glum on the government, though. “After all,” he said, “every two or four years, we get to elect new people, and if we’re lucky, we’ll put some good people in office.”
That comment probably hits the mark with the impact of a harpoon.