Business is looking good for reps: Over the last couple of years, they have become increasingly satisfied with their firms, on average. At least, that's what our Broker Report Card surveys indicate. The cumulative average for all firms we survey ticked higher again this year to 8.2, from 8.0 last year and 7.8 the year before. In fact, the vast majority of categories and subcategories either rose this year versus last year, or stayed the same. Where average scores did drop, they dropped by only one-tenth of a point. As we noted in our introduction, the product category was the only one in which the score for every single measure (granted there are only three) increased.
Like last year, the mood improved the most at Morgan Stanley: Reps gave their firm a rating of 7.6, up from 7.2 last year. Meanwhile, only reps at UBS and Smith Barney seem to feel that things have taken a turn for the worse: Smith Barney's score dipped to 7.6, causing a tie with Morgan, and UBS slipped to 7.4, putting it in last place. As is always the case, reps from Edward Jones and A.G. Edwards gave their firms the highest marks — despite the fact that A.G. Edwards was in the process of being gobbled up by Wachovia when this survey was being done. One noteworthy point: Edward Jones is just a half a point away from a perfect 10.
Yet again, reps reserved their highest score for freedom from pressure to sell (9.2), but “quality of products offered” was a close second, and the overall product category followed just behind that. The biggest jumps this year for all firms came in the categories of administrative burden and quantity of sales assistants, as firms make an attempt to clear the way for reps to do business more efficiently. See the table below for more specifics.
TAKING IT ALL IN
How FAs say seven of the nation's largest brokerage firms stack up against one another.
|FIRM||A.G. Edwards||Edward Jones||Merrill Lynch||Morgan Stanley||Smith Barney||UBS||Wachovia||All Firms|
|Freedom from pressure to sell certain products||9.7||9.9||9.0||8.2||9.2||9.1||9.1||9.2|
|Realistic sales quotas||9.0||9.5||8.0||7.5||7.7||7.2||7.9||8.1|
|Hiring and recruiting practices||7.7||9.3||7.9||6.7||7.3||7.3||7.5||7.7|
|Quality of sales assistants||8.2||9.5||8.3||7.4||7.6||7.6||7.9||8.1|
|Quantity of sales assistants||8.0||9.6||7.3||6.7||6.8||7.1||6.9||7.5|
|Quality of sales ideas||7.6||9.4||8.4||7.3||7.3||6.9||7.1||7.7|
|Quality of operations||8.1||9.4||8.3||6.3||7.3||6.7||6.9||7.6|
|Quality of research||7.7||9.0||9.0||8.5||8.1||7.9||7.8||8.3|
|Fixed-income desk service||8.2||9.4||8.5||8.3||8.4||7.8||7.9||8.4|
|Quality of the products offered||8.6||9.5||9.2||8.3||8.7||8.6||8.6||8.8|
|Your branch manager||8.3||9.4||8.4||7.8||8.0||7.6||7.7||8.1|