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And with that, I’ll turn it over to Jim.James Cracchiolo Good morning. Thank you for joining us for our second quarter earnings discussion. I’ll begin with my overview of our business performance for the quarter and then Walter will discuss our financial results in more detail. Afterwards, we’ll take your questions. As we reported yesterday, our headline operating results were impacted by a few items, the largest of which relates to taxes in prior periods. Walter will explain these in more detail. If you exclude these items, EPS and return on equity would have been up nicely. Overall, results in the quarter were solid despite the challenging market conditions and low interest rates that continue to pressure revenue levels which you are seeing across financial firms; and as you would expect, we are adjusting our expense levels to reflect this decline. We’re making good progress executing our strategy in helping our clients navigate a difficult market environment. Our business fundamentals are sound with solid traction in our advisory business, good client acquisition, and strong retail net flows. In asset management, we’ve completed our integration of Columbia Management and together with Threadneedle have a global platform with strong performance and expanded distribution. In protection annuities, we maintained good books of business with strong risk management and underwriting. We continue to manage expenses prudently and our balance sheet and capital management underpin our firm. Meanwhile, we have the flexibility to invest for business growth and return significant capital to shareholders while maintaining the flexibility afforded by our free cash flow and large excess position. During the quarter, we devoted $428 million to share repurchases and dividends. With the increased dividend we announced last quarter, our dividend yield is about 2.9%, which is at the higher end of our peer group. In fact, over the past six quarters we’ve returned more than 130% of our operating earnings to shareholders, putting us in the top quintile of financial companies in the S&P 500.
Now let’s review our business segment performance. First, advice and wealth management – we generated nice improvements in profitability in the quarter considering the market headwinds. Total retail client assets increased 4% year-over-year to $331 billion aided by strong client net inflows in the quarter. We’re continuing to invest in capabilities that will help our advisors reach more clients and serve existing clients more fully.One of our largest investments is our new brokerage platform. It’s a multi-year project and its rollout has been successful. All our employee advisors and more than half of our franchisee advisors are working on the new platform with the remaining advisors making the switch later this quarter. While training will continue, the larger investments for this project will wrap up later this year. We also continue to invest in our brand and have enhanced our web presence and online capabilities. Heardable Score, which measures online brand performance, ranked Ameriprise third in full-service investment brands online, topping many other large firms. Overall, we feel good about our brand positioning and consumer awareness. With an established brand and strong value proposition, experienced advisor recruiting is going well. During the quarter, 91 experienced advisors with good books of business joined Ameriprise. Approximately 400 advisors have moved their business to Ameriprise over the past year, and we have seen a steady increase in the productivity levels of recruited advisors. I feel very good about the quality of the advisors who are joining Ameriprise and our efforts to bring them onboard. They have strong practices and share our values. In addition to our recruiting success, our long-tenured advisors remain highly satisfied, resulting in very strong retention rates. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com