The Raymond James tax credit funds, which typically have their biggest quarter in the fourth quarter, actually were relatively uneventful. While we were still profitable in this area for the year, the fact is our normal year-end closing activity ground to a halt.
The reason for that, of course, is there aren’t very many typical buyers for tax credits. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are out of the market; the bigger corporations in America from GE through all the major banks no longer have tax problems.
[There’s] a total lack of credit lines on an unsecured basis available to financial service companies by peer lenders… Some of the major banks like Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) are currently not making unsecured loans to anybody in our industry.
As hedge funds fail, guess where all those money managers are going:
We substantially increased the number of financial advisors here in the fourth quarter... The outlook is very positive going forward.
We had 5,045 financial advisors versus 4,758 last September, and only 4,913 in the immediately prior quarter. These are not small advisors. These are a lot of financial advisors with over half a billion dollars in assets that are looking for homes where there’s stability.
In our venture capital subsidiary, we are now seeing more opportunities for high quality companies in second and third stage financings that are extremely attractive. We have successfully raised a new fund for them. We have surpassed our objective of $125 billion for these small and mid cap type companies located in the Southeast and Southwest… This is exactly the kind of time, when venture capital funds and buyout funds can’t raise money, that you should be investing in those activities.
Some the securities have become liquid in our trading, some of the municipal ones… We have not seen the follow through by firms like Nuveen or PIMCO in terms of stepping up these, merely because of the instability in the marketplace. The rates certainly would justify repurchases.
Some of those guys could look at the remediation of that as positive, because they could buy these assets in at positive spreads and finance them at the window at 1.5 or 2%. Some of those programs really haven’t triggered yet.
A wise lender actually could make some good money in this business… If they could get them refinanced some way and off their balance sheets, it would actually improve the credit conditions at those institutions just the way the direct infusions of capital would.