Although First Union Securities producers like their independence, their "ownership" of accounts and the lack of pressure, they remain frustrated by a back-office crunch that ensued after Everen Securities' Chicago operations were consolidated into the Richmond, Va., headquarters.
Reps don't mince words on this point. "Operations is weak, confused and inefficient," says one producer. The firm has been having a difficult time finding competent help to handle the growing workload, says another rep. "They're so swamped they're hiring warm bodies who don't even know the business," he growls.
Producers also bemoan the bank's lack of a nationwide presence, especially in the Midwest and West. "We are going to have to work on improving our advertising campaign, especially if we hope to become one of the top players in the industry," says a respondent.
Ongoing training could stand some improvements, as well as the benefits package. "They're promising us a lot of things as far as benefits but so far I haven't seen anything," says one rep.
Technology is another story. Producers generally praise the firm for its up-to-date information system. The firm's fee programs also draw kudos.
Not all First Union brokers are dissatisfied with the merger either. Many expect things to settle down and work out well. "I was at Smith Barney when it went through all the mergers," says one happy camper. "I've been very impressed with the merger [and] the way [First Union] rolls out programs."
"The firm doesn't believe the clients are theirs. It's probably one of the last firms out there with that philosophy, and that's why I'm still here."
"I like having the freedom to do the kind of business I want to do. ... And so far I haven't seen anything with this merger that makes me nervous."
"There are some warts. But they're all fixable."
"Senior management is young but with a high level of integrity and is asking lots of questions of brokers."