The integration of First Union Securities (FUS) and IJL Wachovia is proceeding on schedule, but executives aren't sure what they'll call the new brokerage company.
In April, officials said the combined brokerage division would be named Wachovia Securities. But Brand Meyer, president of the Financial Services Group at FUS in Richmond, Va., says nothing has been decided, and no deadline has been set for an official change.
“There are still a lot of internal discussions about the whole branding issue,” Meyer says. “We're going to take our time and make sure we're making the absolute best decision.”
Efforts to combine the companies are “moving ahead at a pretty good pace, at about the clip we anticipated,” Meyer says. Senior management positions have all been filled with either FUS or IJL Wachovia executives. Those executives are in the process of appointing product managers and filling other middle-management positions. And as part of the merger, IJL Wachovia's 600 retail brokers received a new compensation package in September.
Some FUS producers say the firm's corporate identity and mission remain fuzzy after a series of acquisitions.
Meyer disagrees. “We have a very strong identity as a firm,” he says. “We have a very decentralized model and high-quality, professional financial advisers. [Brokers] understand and appreciate what we are.”
He says the firm continues to embrace a culture of freedom and flexibility traced from its regional-firm roots.
But FUS brokers complain that too many layers of bureaucracy make it difficult to tap the firm's resources. Meyer is responding to that criticism by moderating a series of seminars throughout the country aimed at increasing broker productivity. He hopes to reach 3,000 producers by the end of this year.
“We have really been proactive this year in making sure all our financial advisers understand everything we have on the table,” Meyer says.
The firm has also resolved lingering back-office problems that frustrated brokers since the acquisition of Everen Securities two years ago, he says.
“I believe the Everen merger was the largest conversion, relative to information bits from one system to another, in the history of the industry,” Meyer says.
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