As they have in the past, Edward Jones brokers rave once again about their autonomy.
"The freedom of expression is tremendous," beams one rep. "The situation we have here is fantastic," says another. "We have the ability to conduct our business the way we see fit as long as we follow strict ethical guidelines."
Indeed, reps rate Jones the highest on freedom and ethics at 9.96 and 9.98, respectively - the two highest scores in the entire survey across all eight firms.
Most Jones brokers practice the same mantra. "I do what's best for the client" is a phrase heard repeatedly among those surveyed. It explains the firm's conservative stance against online trading.
"We could have made a lot of money off the Internet but we decided it was not in the best interests of our clients," says a respondent.
If Jones reps have a complaint, it's about the firm's lack of public image and recognition. "They confuse us with A.G. Edwards," huffs one broker. To address the concern, the firm plans to launch an advertising campaign in 2001, partially funded by fees collected from brokers.
Overexpansion and a slow satellite-based computer system also get some negative comments.
Still, brokers like that Jones emphasizes long-term, quality investments. "We stay away from dot-coms and the latest thing on CNBC," one rep says. "Jones knows the market it is serving."
"We are one of the few firms on the Street that actually practices what we preach, putting the client first."
"All I have to do is run an ethical and profitable office, and I have all the freedom I want."
"Our firm is working to diversify its rep base by hiring more women and minorities so there's more vibrancy within the firm."
"The firm had the foresight not to jump on the [online trading] bandwagon. I wanted to jump on that bandwagon, too. But now I'm glad we didn't."