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Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley Get A’s in “Report Card”

SuperUser Account posted on December 05, 2014

December 5, 2014

Advisors at the six biggest full-service brokerages liked their lots a bit more this year than in 2013, according to a survey carried out from late September through October by WealthManagement.com.

The website’s Broker Report Card poll of 2,965 brokers at Wells Fargo Advisors, UBS Financial, Raymond James, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Edward Jones awarded an average overall approval rating of 8.2 out of 10 — up from a score of 8.1 last year. Brokers at Edward Jones once again gave their firm the highest approval rating (9.5), followed by those at Raymond James (9.1), Morgan Stanley (8.1), UBS (8.0) and Wells Fargo (7.9). Merrill Lynch trailed the pack with a broker rating of just 6.6.

The view from Merrill, Morgan Stanley, UBS and Wells Fargo — the four so-called wirehouses — may have been clouded by “pressure to sell clients banking services,” writes WealthManagement.com. Taken together, 37% of advisors at these firms “report they have been pressured to sell banking and/or loan products,” an increase of 7% over last year. Though only 12% of wirehouse brokers say cross-selling has actually hurt their businesses, WealthManagement.com figures their umbrage at the concept stems from fear of losing “control over the client experience.”

Merrill’s brokers not only gave it the lowest rating but were especially scathing about senior management, to whom they gave a score of 5.7 out of 10 as opposed to a big-brokerage average of 8.1. For compensation, Merrill employees gave the firm a 6.6 compared with 7.9 industrywide.

“Merrill Lynch management has an arrogance problem and they always have,” industry consultant Rick Rummage tells WealthManagement.com. “They have the mind-set of, ‘We’re the biggest name on Wall Street and you’re lucky to work here.’”

As germane to the interpretation of the survey’s results as this view may be, it’s worth noting that only 84 Merrill advisors took part in the study — from a head count of 14,000. For that matter, only 137 of Morgan Stanley’s 16,000 advisors participated. The biggest contingent to complete the survey was from Wells Fargo (1,437), followed by Raymond James (539), Edward Jones (457), UBS (218), Morgan Stanley and Merrill. In other words, the two largest, wealthiest — and at least arguably most productive — brokerages were underrepresented in the survey.

According to the latest Broker Report Card, Morgan Stanley brokers led the way with average assets under management of $150.5 million. Next came Merrill ($141.4 million), followed by UBS ($139 million) and Wells Fargo (127 million). The two non-wirehouses on the list came in at $101 million for Raymond James and $95.6 million for Edward Jones.

Average gross production was highest at Morgan Stanley ($1.17 million), then UBS ($1.03 million) and Merrill ($1.01 million). However, while the survey has Morgan Stanley’s per-broker production falling off from last year, production at UBS and Merrill rose year over year. In fact, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo were the only brokerages whose advisors self-reported an average rollback in production numbers.

By Thomas Coyle