A.G. Edwards 2001 Complete Broker Comments

A.G. Edwards A (Hiring/recruiting) “Consistently at a reasonable rate, so it’s not too many coming at one time.” (Benefits) “If I had to break it down, I’d give the 401ks a 10 and health coverage a seven.” (Sales support) “It’s generally good. I get what I need when I need it. If I call with a question and they don’t have the answer, they get back to me as soon as they can or direct me to the person

A.G. Edwards

A
(Hiring/recruiting) “Consistently at a reasonable rate, so it’s not too many coming at one time.” (Benefits) “If I had to break it down, I’d give the 401ks a 10 and health coverage a seven.” (Sales support) “It’s generally good. I get what I need when I need it. If I call with a question and they don’t have the answer, they get back to me as soon as they can or direct me to the person who does have the answer.” (Training) “There’s a lot of training available, probably too much, but it’s there if you want it or have the time to take advantage of it.” (Quote/info system) “The recent upgrade has really improved things.” (Account statements) “We have new ones and the old clients complain because it’s different. The new clients like it because it’s new. From the broker’s view, it definitely works better.” (Research) “It depends on which way the wind is blowing. It’s not perfect but it’s better than others. Frankly, I have no complaints.” (Strategic focus) “The fact we still have the ‘client first’ philosophy from the top down is top notch in my opinion. We’re staying independent and providing great service. I’m 100% in agreement with that strategy.”

B
(Hiring/recruiting) “We have a problem competing when other firms are really going after brokers and throwing a lot of money around. Sometimes it works against us because our brokers leave to go to companies that pay up front.” (Benefits) “Generally, its pretty good, but our health care provider is terrible. It takes a lot of my time to straighten out billing issues.” (Sales assistant) “I wouldn’t be alive in this business without her.” (Training): “Excellent. I take advantage of whatever I can.” (Account statements) “Ugh. They just redid them after a two-year study and that only brought it up to a seven in my opinion. I would like to see a reporting of performance. No one seems to do that and I don’t know why. (Strategic focus) “We’re committed to staying independent and remaining a retail brokerage firm. I admire and respect them for that stand. However, I’m just not sure the rest of the industry takes that path and I wonder how that will be for us down the road.”

C
(Hiring/recruiting) “Since they don’t give any sign-on bonuses, it’s getting harder to attract serious people.” (Research) “Overall, we have good analysts.”

D
(Hiring/recruiting) “I’d like to see a higher level of quality among those coming in; more experienced as opposed to new and inexperienced.” (Sales ideas) “Most of what I see is related more to the younger people who are initially building their book. For more experienced brokers, there’s not much material relevant to our business needs.” (Research) “That’s a hard one to answer. I don’t think anyone’s research department has been what it’s supposed to be these last 18 months.”

E
(Benefits) “Absolutely great benefits.” (Sales support) “Overall it’s okay, but it could be improved.” (Sales assistants) “We have enough, but we’re not getting good quality.” (Ideas) “Above average, but not excellent. I do use them occasionally.” (Training) “Very good, especially in continuing education. There’s a lot available and you can draw from it very easily.” (Quote/info system) “Greatly improved over last five years.” (Operations) “Back office is excellent, no problem there.” (Account statements) “It’s now being transcribed through the Internet to the broker, but clients tell us there’s too much information in them.” (Focus) “This is a full service firm that doesn’t bend to current winds of what’s in fashion at other firms. They are going their own direction which I feel is the right direction. They think through any innovation or upgrade to make sure it is really in the best interests of the clients and the brokers.” (Image) “We don’t do as much advertising as Merrill so it’s hard to tell outside certain areas what the firm’s image is with the public. Those who do know us think we’re great.”

F
(Hiring/recruiting) “Excellent, I don’t think anyone else does it better. (Sales assistants) “Great. We have enough help if we need it.” (Ideas) “We get lots of them and they’re good.” (Account statements) “I like them. I’ve never had a complaint yet. We just changed them but through the years I rarely ever heard anyone say it was hard to read or understand.”

G
(Hiring/recruiting) “We have an excellent training program. A lot of time is spent on the new broker before he or she is put into production. Sometimes, though, I think they give the branch manager too much autonomy in selecting or bringing in new people.” (Payout) “Brokers are always greedy and want more. I’m satisfied. I think they treat us pretty well considering all the resources we have at our disposal that they have to pay for.” (Sales support) “Comes back to a branch manager’s autonomy. If a manager doesn’t want to pay for certain extras, we don’t get it. And if he wants to, he can and we benefit. Maybe it’s just my branch.” (Sales assistants) “If I want a sales assistant I have to pay for it. The firm will pay the benefits, but I pay for the help. It pays off in the end. I hired my own sales assistant. She’s very high quality and she’s been extremely valuable.” (Quantity of sales assistants) “Goes to autonomy again. It’s poor because if I want one I have to pay, otherwise I don’t have one.” (Training) “Makes everything available and it’s all paid for by the firm.” (Account statements) “Can’t please everybody. I think they’re good. They just changed them recently and it’s a big improvement.” (Research) “Everyone’s down on research now considering the market. I think it’s as good as any other firm, but I wouldn’t give anyone’s research department high marks lately.” (Fixed-income) “It’s good. We don’t have a profit center in our bonds department so we’re very competitive and fair.” (Products) “It’s totally up to me. I can sell whatever I want. I am not limited and no one tells me what to sell or not to sell.” (Branch manager) “In my case, she doesn’t provide an assistant or pay for any advertising as some managers do.” (Focus) “We’ve been around for over 100 years and things continue to remain pretty much as they were even though it’s the first time there isn’t an Edwards at the top. We know what works well here and what we’re good at. We know where our roots are and our strengths and we continue to focus on that. Ben Edwards has a motto: take care of your clients and have fun. That’s what it’s really like here.”

H
(Sales support) “That’s our weak link, at least in this branch.” (Quantity) “Never enough as far as I’m concerned.” (Account statements) “We need to include more information, like gains and lose. The more information that clients have, the better off they are.” (Research) “I think we’re relatively good compared to other firms, but it’s tougher for us to hire analysts in St. Louis. A lot of times analysts want to live on either coast rather than in the middle.” (Image) “Most people, if they know who we are, think we’re great. You never see us dragged through the mud.”

I
(Hiring/recruiting) “I think we can be a little more aggressive in our recruiting efforts.” (Account statements) “We just got new ones. I like the old ones better. The readability was very good. I think if we could take the best of the old and mix it with the best of the new, we’d have just about a perfect statement.” (Research) “A bit too conservative.” (Fixed income) “It just can’t get much better.”

J
(Hiring/recruiting) “It’s different because there’s no upfront money. We’re in a city office so it’s difficult to get people to come over with no upfront money.” (Research) “When all stocks are down, no one’s pleased with their research department.”

K
“The firm definitely takes care of its people in its 401(k) plan; 50% of all profits go to shareholders and 50% goes to employees. And we have no long term debt.”

L
“In years gone by, the firm was labeled as making unsuitable people managers, and I think that trend continues. The firm’s image was almost nonexistent in my area [West Coast]. In others it’s probably excellent. We’re just not a household name yet, and that’s one of my major complaints or concerns about the firm. We’re not as recognizable as Merrill Lynch or Smith Barney or any other firm. You call people and say you’re with A.G. Edwards and they ask, “Who is that?” Some people know us from [advertisements during] the Nightly Business Report and Wall Street Week. We’re a client-centered firm. The entire philosophy of the company is structured for the benefit of the client and the broker, rather than the benefit of upper management. It’s totally opposite of most other firms. And I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that distinction.”

M
“We’re not aggressive enough recruiting in this down market. I think there are a lot of good people who have been laid off at Merrill Lynch who we could pick up. Turnover in the back office is a problem. You just can’t pay people enough to stay in those jobs. The people who are there will do anything for you, but their lack of experience and knowledge creates some inefficiencies. I can’t imagine a better workstation. Our image is good, but our publicity stinks. The one thing this firm does really well is that it doesn’t pressure you to sell anything. I think a lot of the litigation that goes on in this industry happens because brokers are pressured into selling products and they probably put some people in them who don’t belong there. That won’t happen here.”

N
“We don’t offer any proprietary products, so we can offer the best products on the street. I never met anyone who had anything bad to say about AG. Our major concern was Ben retiring. But they reiterated all the things that were important, like not having non-compete agreements. Management say its their job to make sure every day that this is a place you want to work and your clients want to work with. That’s unusual. I’ve been with other wire house firms and it’s completely different. No pressure here, no quotas. If you take care of your clients, you’ll make a living here. I have nothing but good things to say about Edwards.”

O
“The support is here. I can call St. Louis [headquarters] and they’ll talk to me. I couldn’t do that when I was an Edward Jones. I always get an answer. I wouldn’t want to work for any other firm. Our name is well known and I think we all work together.”

P
“It's difficult for the firm to hire experienced RAs due to their policy of not offering upfront money. Most firms steal RRs with upfront money. We don’t. However, we end up hiring high quality people.”

Q
“We have a wonderful 401(k) plan. But I'm still trying to figure out how to read the account statement.”

R
“It's tough to get decent sales assistants. The firm won't pay enough to hire decent ones. And their research needs work.”

S
“Anyone serious about a career as a broker would be wise to apply for work at this firm. The longer you stay, the better it is. Any broker who's been participating in the 401(k) plan for some time now, and has been a reasonable producer, is a multi-millionaire by now.”

T
“It's a pleasure to work where you don't have to be on the defensive about pitching a proprietary product. They do the right thing by their clients.”

U
“In this poor business environment, it's nice to have a firm behind you that's not firing people right and left or putting pressure on you to sell more. That keeps morale up during bad times. I know the people in St. Louis really care.”

V
“I worked for two big wire houses before coming here and A.G. Edwards is definitely the best. Support from the home office is strong.”

W
“We're in the midst of takeover rumors. We're an attractive takeover candidate, with no debt, rising fee income, little compliance problems. The Wall St. Journal has been saying that a bank wants to take us over. But we want to stay independent. The problem is no one owns enough stock to thwart a takeover attempt, not even the Edwards family.”

X
“They hire people who speak English. Before coming here, I worked for five different Wall St. firms, and those New York firms' back office sometimes spoke Spanish. I had trouble understanding them.”

Y
“I think as far as taking care of clients, integrity and doing what’s best for the client, no firm is better.”

Z
“I came here in ’87 and was with Merrill Lynch prior to that. I think this firm is very supportive. To some degree, we missed the boat in the bear market in terms of sell recommendations. We need a stronger “sell” indicator. I’ve been very impressed with his firm. The focus is 100% on the client. You want to know 100% of energies are devoted to the client. I can talk to analysts directly or can do a conference call with a client and an analyst. I’m happy. It’s unique here. It’s a big firm. The only thing is I wish we had a little more advertising.”

AA
“I’ve been here almost seven years—that says a lot these days. It’s a great firm. There’s no pressure to sell any specific product. We have a strict compliance department that keeps us out of trouble, and keeps our firm out of trouble. There’s flexibility in using outside resources to enhance your business. They allow us to run our own business. As long as you’re bringing in assets and treating clients right, you’ll get rewarded on a long-term basis. They’re allowing us to build relationships. They encourage us to see clients in person—that solidifies the relationship. It’s a great experience. I plan on being here for awhile.”

AB
(Quote and information system) “I love it.” (Account statements) “They give you more information.” “I’ve been here 19 years. They won’t allow us to do callable CDs. Other firms have sold them wrong. There’s a huge market for them. Our competition is selling them. They’re so worried about our customers. They’re so conservative, they don’t allow us to be effective. [Overall] I love the firm.”

AC
“It's a real good firm.”

AD
“Our benefits are the best in the industry, and I couldn't be happier about payout. I think the firm should start advertising more, get the name in the public, and be more proactive. We need to keep growing. Commissions are down at all firms and they're trimming some fat, in particular, the lower producers. We could get rid of some dead weight. If you're not doing $225,000 [in commissions], you should consider another career. I'm working 7:30 to 7 plus two Saturdays a month, transitioning to fee based assets. I'll keep this up another year or so, then maybe I'll go to 7:30 to 6.”

AE
“I'm very happy. I looked at several large firms, and chose A. G. Edwards. Why? Because of the client-first environment here. It all comes back down to basic structure of the home office. We have no profit centers within the home office. The bond department is not a profit center. There aren't people telling us to sell this or sell that. There are no proprietary products. We can put the client with the right product. Yes, we do investment banking. We have less than stellar analysts. We have a great branch manager; in this business, we live and work in the branch.”

AF
“The firm has focus. It's very ethical. After seven years I'm very satisfied.”

AG
“The firm has invested a lot in technology and in helping brokers become more productive. Our workstations, account statements, etc. have improved. They give us a lot of training, everything from planning strategies to computer basics, with A. G. Edwards University. It's over our ‘intranet.’"

AH
(Hiring and recruiting) “Firms are constantly in competition trying to hire the best brokers by putting a carrot in front of them. Edwards doesn't pay up-front money. I would rather see other firms and the SEC come down on up-front money. It puts pressure on the broker to generate numbers. You might do something not beneficial to the customer. When you accept front money you're giving yourself away for a check. We have to do what's right for the customer. That's what we're known for and it's more important than any advertising. We hire more brokers in a down market. We allow them a comfort level over the next year. This market is worse than 1987-88. The down market is longer. But it's more of a traditional market, the way things were before the dot-coms. I don't like the decimals. Compac is down 11 cents. What on earth does that mean?” (Firm's image) “Image a function of advertising. I think our ads are good now. I would like to see national campaign with a combination of all media.”

AI
(Payout) “Ours is over 40%, probably the highest among the wire houses.” (Benefits) “Our 401(k) plan is terrific. It works out to when we put in $1 the company puts in about $3. We can offer any products, no conflict of interest, our planning tools very good.” (Ongoing training) “Ongoing training is great. We get info on the intranet and get to go to St. Louis, too. They haven't traditionally spent money on updating technology but now we're good, although it would help to have a color printer. Our office isn't fancy, compared to some, but we get to take home more money.”

AJ
“The reason we're here is because of the firm's ethical philosophy. I've been with the firm 22 years, and wouldn't be with anyone else in the industry. All firms say they put the customer first. This is the only one that does it. Pricing is fare, product is good, and research is excellent. Some of our brokers are fee-based. It's up to each broker in the system. You can be transaction oriented or fee based. It's left to the individual broker. You could do all insurance, or all commodities. There are no mandated products. It is an absolutely fabulous firm. I never met a broker who ever went anywhere else. You die here; you don't leave.”

AK
“What’s good about A.G.? The people, the culture. Where other firms provide lip service for what they say they’re doing for the client, we truly do what we say. We always do what's best for the client. We’re not fake, unlike other firms. Our words are truly genuine.”

AL
“I like working here because we don’t have any proprietary products. So I don’t have my manager trying to ramrod me into making people buy stuff that’s crap. So if you buy something here that’s crap, it’s your own fault.” “Our benefits package is good and our payout is one of the best in the industry.”

AM
“People are always trying to recruit me but I have no impetus to move because I like it here so much. I can’t think of another firm to work for. I don’t have to look over my shoulder and worry about what management is up to. I just put my head down and work, and I don’t have to worry about some force working against me. Everyone is working toward helping the client. We’re all headed in the same direction.”

AN
“The company lets us be who we are. The attitude and philosophy of the company and main office filters down, from the headquarters to the branches. The ethics and putting the client first and not grinding us is very important. They give us freedom. From what I know, we’re the only ones without a quota, which is wonderful. Nobody is grinding us and we’re not grinding the clients.”

AO
(Hiring) “I’m pleased we don't give upfront bonuses." (Strategic focus) “I honestly don't know what our focus is right now. [Firm has] the same strategic focus that Ben Edwards had, but I haven't seen any policy moves, one way or the other."

AP
(Hiring) “A lot of turnover." (Account statements) “[Old statements] "were a lot more readable. [New ones] read like Greek to most people." (Sales ideas) “[Firm] just seems to be a little bit behind the curve, not as instantaneous as they might be." (Operations) “[Firm] needs to hire better quality people.”

AQ
(Benefits) “We're the best in the industry." (Account statements) “A little difficult to get to the bottom [line] of it."

AR
(Quantity of sales assistants) “Not enough." (Quality of sales ideas) “They need to diversify their ideas.” (Operations) “They've always done a fair and adequate job." (Research): “Bad year to pick on them." (Quality of products offered) "They offer everything."

AS
(Sales Support) “A lot of sales ideas and a lot of product. Sometimes it’s cumbersome trying to find it all." (Firm’s Integrity): "The thing I probably enjoy the most is their consistency. They've consistently held to their principles. They treat everybody here very well."

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