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|
|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|
|Quality of sales assistants||8.16||7.87|
|Quantity of sales assistants||7.94||7.20|
|Quality of sales ideas||8.16||7.82|
|The quote and information system||9.10||8.70|
|Quality of the firm's operations||8.64||7.96|
|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|
|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|