Client contact and freedom rank high, but more training is needed. Our special section on sales assistants ("Pivotal Players," Page 62) includes what we believe is the first study ever done of sales assistants and certainly the only one ever reported.
My guess going into this project was that sales assistants might grouse about being underpaid and overworked. After all, we know brokers complain about how low pay and thin coverage leads to high turnover among assistants.
I was only partly right. Most sales assistants are satisfied with their jobs. Respondents typically mentioned liking the "challenge" of their work, the client interaction and the flexibility they have. Their responses are a reminder of just how dreary many jobs outside the brokerage industry can be.
What assistants do need is more training. Almost 90% say they basically get no formal instruction.
To read all comments from the survey, go to www.rrmag.com. Click on Front Page and then Cover Story.
Also for the first time, we honor RR's Outstanding Sales Assistants. My congratulations to our five award winners! Few firms have any internal recognition system for assistants. An award program is long overdue.
Thank you to the many who nominated an assistant. Your letters of support were incredibly passionate. Sorting through the nominations showed us that sales assistants do not go unnoticed by those who know them best.
My Broker Retention Package I don't get it. Why are firms pushing reps to participate in deferred compensation programs?
Yes, I know these deals are golden handcuffs to defend against recruitment offers. But why use something that probably isn't legal under various states' laws? In September, a New Jersey court certified a class-action claim against Salomon Smith Barney's plan (see "Deferred Comp Plan Lawsuit Update," Page 32).
If too many brokers are really jumping for bonus checks, perhaps it indicates that broker/dealers are simply commodities. Therein lies the problem.
Instead of an illegal wage-confiscation scheme, here is my idea of a broker retention plan:
Put in place the best support systems, services and software available - regardless of where it was developed. Answer the phone when reps call for help. Develop BOMs with true management skills. Nix the sales seminars, pay for professional skills education and implement sales assistant training. Sell the proprietary product divisions, as well as the trading desks, the specialist units and anything else that may conflict with brokers' roles as advisers.
My plan can be funded with the upfront money now used to maintain the ranks and with the savings gained by eliminating unnecessary management layers.
Best of luck,
This past spring, a new "Registration Comment" section was added to the Web-based CRD system (see "New CRD Tool Offers Potential for Broker-Bashing," Page 38). Firms can use it to put in comments about you, erase those comments and read the comments other firms have filed. You cannot access these statements; they are not part of any official record.
This CRD function is about giving firms a way to blackball brokers (rightly or wrongly) without fear of defamation suits.
No official will admit to this, but my cynicism is well-founded. After all, what CRD registration pros wanted was a simple mechanism to correct clerical errors. What the NASD inexplicably came up with was a way to privately ad lib U-4 and U-5 information.
Mark my words: Brokers will be defamed via these private comments. What's worse, they may never know.