Smith Barney or Merriil - for new FA

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Feb 28, 2006 10:01 pm

Late twenties, successful sales experience.Been in the financial market now for almost three years. Started with a private firm. Now looking at Merrill, Smith Barney, or UBS. Honestly, I am leaning more towards Smith Barney. From the experience that I have had, Smith Barney branch has a better culture & support for new FA’s. I should be able to make a final decision sometime early next week. The compensation package is the same with all three, pretty much.

Mar 1, 2006 8:55 am

Narrow it down between SB and ML.  Both are solid firms, with good reputations.  You will find better tech, support and platforms at those two.

Mar 1, 2006 7:40 pm

good luck, you'll need it.

Mar 1, 2006 10:41 pm

I can only speak on SB:


I would be extremely focussed on the broker to sales assistant ratio, the average production of the office - you actually want it to be fairly low ($500k or so), as the attention you will get is greater and the chances of an SB office being closed in any area is basically minimal.


Assistants start at $30k in new york and are only paid an extra $1,200 a year for being registered. Their pay goes up at 2-4% a year. There is no performance bonus. Ratio of assistants to production is 1/$1.1mm.


Health plans are very good.


SB is insanely bureaucratic because of the Citigroup connection - essentially it's an extra layer of everything.


Because there isnt a special division for ultra high net worth, the specialist personnel available to a smaller producer are better than any other wirehouse firm (estate planning attorney for every region to consult with clients).


FAR less entrepreneurial than it was even a few years ago.


There are many massive producers in the firm (dozens [really!] above $10mm in production) - all from boutique investment banks (lehman, goldman, robinson stephens) and all in their 40s, so you can never expect to be a real producer in the firm. Never seen a broker move into the $1mm+ in the last few years- all were recruited from investment banks.


ALL of the managers are young and inexperienced (firm is very short on managerial talent - many retirements). No one in ANY position of management has spent a significant percentage of their career as a broker.


Excellent client and financial planning oriented research.


Very cheap firm - branch managers must pay for everything out of pocket and I don't think that the base pay is very high.


Quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the firm from old guard. More departures than ever seen in previous years.


Challenge articulated at last Director's Council meeting is "net asset growth" - firms' assets are just being recycled.


I think Citi's leadership has decided that the endgame is SB serves the "mass affluent" ($500k to $10mm) with a special level of srevice at the $5mm to $10mm range and Citi Private Bank will serve the UHNW.



Mar 2, 2006 10:23 pm

San Fran Broker,


Thank you very much for the detailed break down of Smith Barney. I feel that the Smith Barney environment is better, but I still think that the Merrill name can open more doors (meaning new accounts) and larger assists under management in a much faster time frame then Smith Barney.


Mar 2, 2006 11:42 pm

Well, then you are screwed.  Neither name opens any doors....or, let's say ML may open the door .1 inch and SB only opens it .09 inch.


A ML/SB name may prevent doors from CLOSED faster than they would otherwise, but it's kinda like the Brinson asset allocation study--90% or more of the variability in success (mostly lack thereof) of new people is based on factors other than the firm they work for.  This is hard.  Not complicated, but difficult.