What is the best firm?

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Mar 1, 2008 4:30 pm

What is the best firm to work for?  AG Edwards, UBS, ML, MS, Wacovia, Edward Jones, Smith Barney, or any others?  Which firm will give me the best chance for success overall?

Mar 1, 2008 5:02 pm

There's no such thing as a "best firm" to work for. It all depends on your situation, what type of business you want, your location, the specific branch you would consider, etc. You can find many advisors at each firm that would claim their firm is the best to work for. It's all very subjective.

Mar 2, 2008 1:32 am

One that has your name on it...

Mar 2, 2008 8:48 am
Ashland:

One that has your name on it...





True, except I get the impression he is just starting out. Tough to start out Indy.

Mar 2, 2008 10:20 pm

I come from a small RIA firm and there are two real differences I've noticed :

1) At a smaller firm, or at least at mine anyway, upper level management will take more time to work with you to build your book. I'm not saying they're going to spoon feed you clients, but it has less of a sink or swim mentality. I know that after the first two years If I was a few million short of a quota I wouldn't be ousted instantly.

2) As far as the best chance of success, earlier on I believe a small firm is the "safer" choice, since you have less of a risk of being jobless in two years. However, long term success I've notice seems to halt around $40 - $60 in AUM. Seems like most FAs have trouble getting past this. (Not sure why) My only guess, and this strictly a guess, is that bigger Wire House firms can gather up clients easier then small firms. Specially the HNW or UHNW clients.

If you got a call from John Smith at Merrill Lynch who wants to look over your accounts, or John Smith at "Small Advisory Firm # 18".  Who would you be more likely to meet with first?

Just my two cents.

Mar 3, 2008 12:28 am

Ice, would you say that is a mentality that each FA has personally, or is it something that firm "culture" sort of brings to the table?

Mar 3, 2008 8:56 am
iceco1d:

I would think that FAs that plateau at 40-60M AUM do so because of complacency; either subconsciously or by choice.  To get to that point, you are in the 10% that "make it" past 5 years.  That means, you've spent years busting your arse; whether that means paying for seminar dinners and watch plate-lickers eat (literally) away at your bottom line, or being told to STFU when cold calling, or kissing butt to gate keepers while door knocking...at the 40M AUM point (and up), you've "made it" - it's time to enjoy life...plus, with that much AUM, you should be able to get enough referrals to sustain a reasonable growth rate if you have half a brain. 

 
Ice, I think you are exactly right.  That is exactly what I see in my region at Jones.  In addition to that, many of the adivors are 2nd-career or 3rd-career FA's, so they may be in their late 40's and 50's (or older).  Once they hit about $100-125K in net income, they are satisfied, as they are only working 30 hours a week to do it.  Nice pay for a job you can coast with.  And like you said, once guys hit "critical mass" they sort of stop doing what they did to get there.
Mar 3, 2008 9:14 am

On average what does an FA make with $40M-$50M AUM?

Mar 3, 2008 10:05 am

I disagree. I get the impression that larger firms gather up our clients once they reach higher balances.

What appears to be happening is since our advisors pretty much take anybody as a client, they end up with literally thousands of clients. Its impossible to

establish a good relationship with

all of them.

Therefore, making it easier for bigger firms to get their business when accounts are large enough to meet there minimums.





Mar 3, 2008 2:00 pm
iceco1d:

Billy, that is a  broad question.  Typically you estimate gross production @ 1% of AUm.  So in the 40M AUM scenario, you are looking at 400K in production.  At a wirehouse, you are probably looking at a 45-50% payout, with some other perks as well (so $180K - $200K in payout).  If you are Indy, or work for an Indy firm, your payout could be anywhere from 50% - 98% (although you pay your own expenses, etc.). 

 
Keep in mind, that 1% number is an estimate.  There are books that are all transaction based A-shares, that are only paying like 25 bps in 12b-1s for the most part.  That would put your gross production at 100K (and your payout could be as low as 50K).   Conversely, there are RIAs out there that charge 1.5%, 2%, or even 3% (although I've never seen it), so that would put gross production much higher. 
 
Use the 1% to estimate gross production on AUM, it works reasonably well.
 
It also depends on whether you are asking how much THOSE assets are producing, or how much that ADVISOR is producing.  An advisor that has amassed $40mm AUM in 3 years is probably out-producing the 12 year guy with $40mm, by a wide margin (as he is still in the active growth phase vs. the "auto-pilot" phase).  Also depends on how much insurance you do, as well as your ancillary income (i.e. at Jones you get profit bonuses, so it will depend on your office expenses, to a certain degree).
Mar 3, 2008 3:09 pm

Based on your first question, no matter where you start--be prepared to work your butt off for the next 3 to 5 years...a rookie is a rookie at all firms!  As far as your income--work hard, be honest, and do the right thing and you will make a very good living---don't do one of those and you might do well for awhile!  Good luck!

Mar 3, 2008 6:30 pm

Why would you ever want to be in standard A shares? That sounds like shooting yourself in the foot. With a book that so transactional, god I don't even want to think about it.

Mar 3, 2008 7:58 pm
Insideman:

Why would you ever want to be in standard A shares? That sounds like shooting yourself in the foot, With a book that so transactional, god I don't even want to think about it.



The "why" is not so difficult.

Option A: invest assets (say $100,000) using A shares, earn roughly 5% or $5,000 today.

Option B: invest same $100,000 on AUM fee basis of, say, 1%, earn $250 this quarter, $1,000 this year.  By end of 5 years, (ignoring any change in value of assets) you 'break even' and earn the same $5,000 you could have earned up front.  Thereafter, you earn more.

Probably the bigger question is how can some advisors manage to make the switch to fees, GIVEN these economics.  It takes discipline and a determination to opt for the AUM fee business model.  It's advantageous in the long run, but tough in the short run.  Some don't have the luxury of doing it, and some choose not to.

For those of us who believe in it and pursue it AND manage to get over the difficult transition, it can be great.  But I certainly understand why many don't go this route.

Mar 3, 2008 8:07 pm
Morphius:
Insideman:

Why would you ever want to be in standard A shares? That sounds like shooting yourself in the foot, With a book that so transactional, god I don't even want to think about it.

The "why" is not so difficult.Option A: invest assets (say $100,000) using A shares, earn roughly 5% or $5,000 today.Option B: invest same $100,000 on AUM fee basis of, say, 1%, earn $250 this quarter, $1,000 this year. By end of 5 years, (ignoring any change in value of assets) you 'break even' and earn the same $5,000 you could have earned up front. Thereafter, you earn more.Probably the bigger question is how can some advisors manage to make the switch to fees, GIVEN these economics. It takes discipline and a determination to opt for the AUM fee business model. It's advantageous in the long run, but tough in the short run. Some don't have the luxury of doing it, and some choose not to.For those of us who believe in it and pursue it AND manage to get over the difficult transition, it can be great. But I certainly understand why many don't go this route.





Boy, I for one would love to earn 5% on a 100K ticket. Sign me up for that fund family.

Mar 3, 2008 8:18 pm
Broker24:

Boy, I for one would love to earn 5% on a 100K ticket. Sign me up for that fund family.



I never thought about home much more difficult AUM fees would be then a transactional based book. With that knowledge, therein lies the rub.

Unfortunately I'm really naive to how AUM fees work, since currently everything is transaction, with mostly 12b-1 trails. I would guess that it's 25bps gross every quarter.

Mar 3, 2008 8:48 pm

"Why would you ever want to be in standard A shares? That sounds like shooting yourself in the foot. With a book that so transactional, god I don't even want to think about it. "

 
A new person has to survive before they can thrive.  "A" shares can help them do it. 
 
 
 
Mar 3, 2008 8:49 pm

Good information to have.

Mar 3, 2008 9:24 pm
Broker24:


Boy, I for one would love to earn 5% on a 100K ticket. Sign me up for that fund family.



As I hope you know, I was oversimplifying with the "roughly" 5% figure simply to make the point about how A shares pay more now vs. AUM fees, rather that trying to be precise and get into break points and splitting between fund families and other details not critical to the main point about why someone would use A shares. 

Mar 4, 2008 9:09 am
Morphius:
Broker24:


Boy, I for one would love to earn 5% on a 100K ticket. Sign me up for that fund family.



As I hope you know, I was oversimplifying with the "roughly" 5% figure simply to make the point about how A shares pay more now vs. AUM fees, rather that trying to be precise and get into break points and splitting between fund families and other details not critical to the main point about why someone would use A shares. 

 
Yeah, I got it.  I was just being a wise a$$.  My point was that you don't even get 5% up front on most tickets.  I rarely drop tickets anymore that aren't hitting 100K breakpoints.
Mar 4, 2008 11:01 am
Insideman:
Broker24:

Boy, I for one would love to earn 5% on a 100K ticket. Sign me up for that fund family.



Most A shares I've seen are more likely around 4.25%, and have breakpoints after 100K.

I never thought about home much more difficult AUM fees would be then a transactional based book. With that knowledge, therein lies the rub.

Unfortunately I'm really naive to how AUM fees work, since currently everything is transaction, with mostly 12b-1 trails. I would guess that it's 25bps gross every quarter.

 
Every fund family I've ever seen has the first equity fund breakpoint at $50K.  A few of them have one at $25K.  Bond funds usually hit their first breakpoint at $100K. 
 
You said you work with an RIA, right?  But you also said everything is transactional and that they get mostly 12-b1 trails.  Those two things don't normally go together.  Aren't RIA's normally fee only advisors? 
 
Which ever route you choose to go, fees or transaction, the name of the game is still AUM.  The more you have the more you make.