But in an emailed statement, James said he'd like to keep his firm independent.
"Although our stock has experienced a sympathetic 'pop' from this transaction," he said, "the long-term benefits will be achieved by staying the course. While we may be the subject of speculation, we remain committed to independence."Raymond James' shares were up 8.5% in midafternoon trading Thursday. That's a significantly bigger bump than the other regionals, which have also risen in sympathy to Wachovia's A.G. Edwards acquisition announcement. "As usual, the announcement of one regional firm acquired by another larger firm -- in this case, A.G. Edwards by Wachovia -- has caused a plethora of rank speculation about 'Which firm is next?'" James wrote. "Raymond James has consistently proven that remaining independent has rewarded our clients, employees and shareholders," he added. The CEO thinks that consolidation in the industry will likely create more opportunities for his firm, with the expectation that a wave of mergers and buyouts will offer a chance to hire talent and scoop up more market share. Rising costs have made it hard for the regional brokers to compete with bigger firms, but James is hoping his firm can persevere. "When I first started in this business, A.G. Edwards was many times our size. Over these many years, we have almost caught them," he says.