Mergers can be difficult. So it's no surprise that our annual broker report card shows that some financial advisors are less than thrilled with the state of affairs at MSSB — especially veteran Smith Barney folks. Indeed, 72 percent of those advisor respondents who previously worked for Smith Barney said they view the merger between the two firms as negative, while 29 percent of Morgan Stanley advisors do. (In total there were 50 former Smith Barney respondents, 24 Morgan Stanley respondents and 1 who did not identify which firm he worked for previously, which admittedly may skew our results.)
“We have met every deadline we've set, are now fully integrated in terms of pricing, FA comp, investment products, branch structure and management,” Christie Pollack, a spokeswoman for the firm, wrote in a recent e-mail. “We've been upfront from day one that it will take another year or more to create and deploy a new technology operating platform.”
But in the meantime, morale seems to be suffering. One complaint came up repeatedly among former Smith Barney advisors: while Citi pretty much left them alone to do their own thing, Morgan Stanley's management style is more hands-on. Smith Barney advisors also seem to feel that Morgan Stanley is nickling and diming them — and their clients. “They raised our commissions 30-40 percent, charge households between $500m-$950m exorbitant fees and have created administrative hurdles that waste time over simple things like waiving commissions on small trades for loyal clients,” said another advisor.
But some analysts feel that MSSB will emerge from the integration a stronger firm. And it doesn't seem to be losing many advisors or clients. Total client assets are up to $1.6 trillion from $1.5 trillion a year ago, and headcount is flat.
Share price (23 Nov.): $24.66
Pre-tax operating income Q1-3: $766 million
Net revenue Q1-3: $9.3 billion
Total Client AUM (9/30/10): $1.6 trillion
Net new client assets, Q3: $5 billion
Number of advisors, Q3: 18,119
Average annualized production per advisor: $686,000
Average AUM per advisor, Q3: $88 million
*Results shown are for the Global Wealth Management segment of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.