Lakeland Bank has abandoned its long-time third-party broker-dealer for Raymond James.

The New Jersey-based bank was looking for expanded opportunities to grow its investment services program after a 14-year relationship with Essex Securities, which was acquired by Infinex Financial Group earlier this year.

"As a local community bank, it is essential to have a competitive advantage to meet the financial needs of our customers," Thomas Shara, the bank's president and CEO, said in a statement. "This partnership enables us to deliver investment, trust and financial solutions that rival the largest firms on Wall Street."

The bank's investment services program, which is 16 years old, employs four financial advisers, five support staff and a program manager. The four advisers collectively manage approximately $350 million in consumer and business client assets, according to Raymond James.

"Their decision to partner with us is further proof that Raymond James' resources and support continue to attract great bank advisers and investment programs," John Houston, managing director of Raymond James' Financial Institutions Division, said in a statement. "We look forward to helping the professionals at Lakeland Financial Services expand their investment services, while supporting the client-first culture and values established by Lakeland Bank."

Lakeland Bank operates 53 New Jersey branch offices in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties; five New Jersey regional commercial lending centers in Bernardsville, Montville, Newton, Teaneck and Wyckoff/Waldwick; and two commercial loan production offices serving Middlesex and Monmouth counties in New Jersey and the Hudson Valley region of New York.

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