A.G. Edwards Ready For Its Close-Up

The St. Louis-based firm hires a marketing agency for the first time in 115 years.

After years of thriving as a well-regarded, lightly publicized regional firm (albeit the largest one), A.G. Edwards is stepping it up a notch. For the first time, the St. Louis-based firm has hired an outside agency, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch, to handle its advertising and publicity. The firm wants to raise its nationwide profile, which is vastly lower than that of the larger wirehouses.

“Our surveys say that the clients who know us, love us,” says Peter Miller, A.G. Edwards' director of sales and marketing. “There just aren't enough of them. We're just trying to amplify a message that already exists.”

The firm, ranked first by J.D. Power & Assoc. in a 2002 investor satisfaction survey, wants to position itself as a more refined, higher quality brokerage, similar to the way Porsche (a Carmichael Lynch client) is positioned in the automobile industry, Miller says.

That's even though A.G. Edwards serves more middle-market clients than its larger rivals do. The sales force of 7,300 had about $235 billion in client assets as of the end of 2002, or about $32 million in assets per broker, which is lower than Smith Barney, UBS PaineWebber and Merrill Lynch.

In the past, A.G. Edwards' marketing has been done either in-house or by local agencies. Miller says not to expect commercials in the first half of the Super Bowl, however. “This will not be a quick-hit, seasonal-type of campaign,” he says.

Reports have placed the deal as worth $20 million, though Miller denies that figure. A “tangible” plan, including what media will be used, should be in place by the fall.

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