A.G. Edwards

The retirement of A.G. Edwards Chairman, CEO and President Ben Edwards III in March once again ignited merger speculation. But Edwards brokers breathed a collective sigh of relief this year as the firm remained independent. Brokers are passionate about the freedom they enjoy, the accessibility of top management and the firm's client-first culture. A change of control could destroy those aspects, they

The retirement of A.G. Edwards Chairman, CEO and President Ben Edwards III in March once again ignited merger speculation. But Edwards brokers breathed a collective sigh of relief this year as the firm remained independent.

Brokers are passionate about the freedom they enjoy, the accessibility of top management and the firm's client-first culture. A change of control could destroy those aspects, they say.

“We want to stay independent,” says one worried rep. “The problem is that no one owns enough stock to thwart a takeover attempt, not even the Edwards family.”

Reps are pleased that new chief Robert Bagby says he won't change Edwards' culture. “This is a full-service firm that doesn't bend to current winds of what's in fashion,” one respondent says. Says another: “Unlike other firms, we're not fake. Our words are truly genuine.”

“It's a great firm,” an Edwards producer says. “As long as you're bringing in assets and treating clients right, you'll get rewarded on a long-term basis.”

Brokers continually rave about the firm's 401(k) plan. “When we put in $1, the company puts in about $3,” a respondent says.

Still, there are plenty of complaints about Edwards' refusal to pay sign-on bonuses, which is hurting recruitment efforts, some say. “I think there are a lot of good people who have been laid off at Merrill Lynch who we could pick up,” one rep says.

Brokers also complain that branch managers — some with poor management skills — enjoy too much control over budgets and policy. Lack of firm name recognition hurts, too.

The firm's new account statements generate a broad array of feedback. “Ugh,” says one producer, grousing that the statements are cluttered. But others like the additional information.

Sums up one Edwards rep for many: “Ben Edwards has a motto: ‘Take care of your clients and have fun.’ That's what it's really like here.”

Firm Score Average: All Firms
Work Environment 9.30 8.32
Freedom from pressure to sell certain products 9.96 9.23
Realistic sales quotas 9.64 8.65
The firm's hiring and recruiting practices 8.22 7.66
Payout 9.12 7.72
Benefits 9.56 8.36
Support 8.45 7.94
Sales support 8.74 8.02
Quality of sales assistants 8.16 7.87
Quantity of sales assistants 7.94 7.20
Quality of sales ideas 8.16 7.82
Ongoing training 8.92 8.15
The quote and information system 9.10 8.70
Quality of the firm's operations 8.64 7.96
Account statements 7.96 7.83
Product 8.50 7.98
Quality of the firm's research 7.55 7.54
The firm's fixed-income pricing 8.56 7.77
Quality of the products offered 9.40 8.64
Management 9.09 8.60
Your branch manager 8.84 8.31
The firm's strategic focus 8.59 8.25
Overall ethics of the firm 9.74 9.31
The firm's image with the public 9.18 8.54
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