ML vs. MSSB - which feels more like a wirehouse after the mergers?

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Mar 24, 2010 11:27 pm

Trying to decide between ML and MSSB.  Given that they are fairly equivalent I am trying to reconcile the following "points":

1) - Is the chance for bank driven turmoil equal or does it seem that at ML there is still a bit of unrest and a "wait and see what the bank tries next" attitude.

2) - Are the training programs equivalent?  I would suspect so.  I was thinking of going to one of the Oechsli weekend seminars.  Has anyone done this or is it unecessary? 

3) - This is not an issue specific to firm, but how does one balance the need to build book as quickly as possibly while trying to annuitize a book with > $500k accounts?  I did see the 500 day war thread (good stuff) but it seemed unlikely that you could be concerned with balance if you were trying to meet hurdles.

4) - What distinction is used between a $500k 401k rollover versus a $500k cash investment when discussing AUM?

Thanks and I did roogle. 

Mar 25, 2010 9:27 am

My opinion on ML:

Bank of America sucked them up at a discount, they are nwo trying to pump as many BOA products into them as possible (bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, etc.).  In a few years when their value is higher (MER's), they will spin them off/sell them/MER will go private (on of those), and BAC will have made a fortune on the deal and also have gained tons of new banking clients in the process.

MSSB is there to stay, I think.  MSSB is probably the most stable of all the wires right now.  Financially, I think they are all fine other than UBS (if you still consider them a wire).  But I think MSSB has the least risk of another structural change in the near future.  Who knows with WFA.  Solid company, though.

Mar 25, 2010 9:28 am

Oh, and yes, I think you will deal with far more "bank" crap at ML than at MSSB.

Mar 25, 2010 10:47 am

Thanks for the feedback.

I have developed the sense that MSSB is more stable but I started to second guess.  Probably because I saw a recent thread in here that said mssb was laying off a slew of FA's in training and it was dated  fairly recent.

Question about the 401k rollovers and annuitization:   If I am shooting for >$15M AUM Yr1 should I care whether something is a 401k vs a straight cash investment or whether its transactional vs fee based?

I think "ideally" you would build for the long term blah, blah, blah... but I'm thinking the only "luxury" I'll be able to afford myself in that regard is to know what I'm doing benefits the client.   After that criterion is satisfied, its a mad dash to my goal >$15 AUM.

Has anyone here, in their first year of production, had the stones to set a 500k account min and strategize how to cold call/connnect while annuitizing their book?

Mar 25, 2010 10:58 am

Well, if you bring in $15mm AUM in yr. 1 (from scratch), I don't think it will matter WHAT type of investmetns you use.  That would be insane.  However, I will say, if you were able to annuitize most of that at around 1% on average, you will set yourself up very nicely for the future, and take some of the pressure off.

Could you set a 500K minimum?  Sure.  Most scratch starters would fail out prior to that, as it is tough to FIND enough 500K+ households that will talk to you, let alone land them, in year 1.  But looking at it another way, let's say your average HH is 600-700K, you really need only 2 clients per month to hit your bogey.  Easier said than done, but who knows, maybe it's more logical than trying to land 10 clients per month at 150K.  You better have lots of wealthy people in your area to solicit..

Mar 25, 2010 11:11 am

Clearly at this point I'm talking out of my a$$ because I am not even through licensing yet.  BUT, it should be doable, I'm in an area better than most.

I am still somewhat confused on what constitutes a $500k household.  If its simply a household that can roll a $500k 401k that should be over 40% of the households in my area.  If its based on a certain level of income/yr say >$500k that probably drops it down to <10% I would suspect. Can you clarify that?

Mar 25, 2010 12:23 pm

When you see figures suchas a $500k household this is referring to the assets that they have that are investible - in general and hopefully with you. I suspect, if you are in an upper middle class/affluent area, there are likely many households where the average income is about $100K per year.  If there are also a number of households who have residents in the 50's, then you might be in a great area.  Working with a client in that wage band/age group, could prove quite good for you and there is a good chance - if they have saved in their 401K/IRA, etc. along the way, they could have that $500K in investible assets that you are looking to bring over.  As to your other question, when you consider AUM it really doesn't matter how you "manage" those funds, the key is that they are invested with YOU - that is what counts toward your AUM. Now as B24 said, the greater amount of that which is in an annuitized account (for instance a 1% wrap account) the better for the long run, as this is a revenue stream you can look toward in the future (if you retain them as a client), rather than if it was all brought in transactionally. Of course, even if it was primarily transactional business, it still counts toward your AUM and once they are clients, and you have that $500K there is much that can and will need to be done with them. Just my 2 cents - good luck!

Mar 25, 2010 12:34 pm

Thanks, got it.

Avg salary is well above $130k.  I have been making between $100k and $130k for the last couple of years and am lower middle class here, so the area is fairly affluent and there are loads of people in that age 50 bandwidth.

My only concern is "keeping the lights on" while I build my book.

Mar 25, 2010 12:52 pm

130k salary? Doing what, selling crack? And where are these 500k accounts going to come from? Are you picking them off the 500k client tree during one of your drug induced dreams?

Mar 25, 2010 1:31 pm


Getting those $500k accounts very well may be like pulling teeth.  Don't know yet....  I do know it will be like a swift kick to the nuts if I have to build my book by using only accounts <250k... we'll see

What is the avg salary in your area? I take it <$85k if the $130k mark is something you cannot fathom.

Mar 25, 2010 1:45 pm


I think the point being made here is that, despite having lots of HNW ivnestors in your area, it may also mean that most of them are serviced by the abundance of seasoned advisors that I am sure are pervasive in your area.  I am guessing you live in Fairfield County, CT, Virginia, Maryland, or New Jersey?  Maybe PA?

Mar 25, 2010 2:00 pm

All depends on where you are at Phil.  The median household income in my town is $52,000.  That's how we roll.  Needless to say, I won't be prospecting in my home town.

Mar 25, 2010 2:01 pm


Thats right, they are probably represented.  Though there is a continual influx of new families from transfers etc to my area.

Local office failure rates are allegedly 65-75% (i suspect its higher).  So it won't be a walk in the park.  But when it comes down to outworking other advisors, I choose me.  I have to work my [email protected] off out of the gate until my natural network starts to bear fruit in probably the 2nd year. 

Mar 25, 2010 3:06 pm

I guess I misunderstood your previous post. I thought you said you were making $130k as a new advisor. If you were used to 130k before, are you in a position to survive on $60k? Chances of making more than that are slim for the next couple of years. How experience are you at cold calling? Networking can take a few years to pay off. What do you have to offer a $500k client, that can't be matched by 50 or more other FA's?

Mar 25, 2010 4:35 pm

If you are one of the better ones, you'll make more than 60k.  I never made less than 75k in any of my first 3 years at ML.

Mar 25, 2010 7:48 pm

Nope, i'll have to use candles and a tent to live on 60k, hoping to get the base higher than 75k then via bonuses end up near 95k. If not then I would need to continue consulting on the side say 10-20 hours per month.

Apr 18, 2010 9:33 pm

Here's my question about your 500k minimum target...WHY? The point of having high minimums it to keep your book at your target number of accounts. You don't increase you AUM by increasing accounts you increase your AUM by increasing your minimums and keeping your account total the same. So, why start off with a limit of 500k when you don't even have your total account numbers maxed yet?

May 8, 2010 2:17 pm

B of A presence is felt, but they are really looking only for more new assets and to cross pollinate. The Bull is still on the  door and on the building. if you have the book, you will have no problems. Besides B of A counts 1 out of 2 adults in the US as banking customers. Think: Prospects for ML

Sep 11, 2012 2:38 pm

Anyone have any different views since it has been 2 years since this post originally started? I have the same question. Thanks

Sep 12, 2012 1:34 pm

ML without a question is better for training. I was a little over a year in the MSSB program, and one of 3 (out of 30) people still remaining from the day I started when ML called me to meet with them. I came over a few months ago and my business has taken off exponentially ever since. Nothing against MSSB, it's a good firm, but they are pumping all of their money into recruiting established advisors instead of training new ones. If you are starting off new in the industry, ML's PMD Program runs circles around MSSB's FAA Program. The BOA side is present, but isn't jammed down your throat, and it gives you access to banking and lending solutions that MSSB can't compete with. PM me if you have more questions.