Even with powerful Citigroup behind it, Salomon Smith Barney reps say the firm has an identity problem.
"Our image is not as good as it should be," says one rep. "I don't think the public is as aware of our firm as they are of Merrill Lynch."
There's some amount of confusion, too. "People wonder if we're Citigroup, Travelers or Smith Barney," says another rep. "The average guy on the street most likely doesn't realize that we're owned by the largest company out there."
But some reps instead focus on what having a sizable parent delivers. "Citigroup has created a powerhouse where clients can access everything they want in terms of financial services," a respondent says. The firm's managed money program especially draws positive remarks.
Brokers say the success of the firm rests on the shoulders of its CEO. "Sandy Weill is gold," says a rep. "I feel good about the direction he's taking the firm. I particularly like the firm's [deferred compensation] CAP plan."
"Sandy Weill has great leadership, great vision," adds another broker. "He really cares about growing the wealth of the firm's employees, shareholders and clients."
At the same time, some criticize SSB for being tight. "It's a long process to get things done around here," grumbles one rep. "They watch their pennies."
In particular, brokers say they could use more sales assistants. And some accuse analysts of being too focused on investment banking.
"The best thing about Salomon Smith Barney is that it has made a good commitment to where the business is going - more fee-based instead of transactional. There's also a big directive toward online services. They're looking ahead."
"Sales assistants' pay is pretty low for the complexity of their job. Brokers are supposed to make it up. We just keep cascading lower in terms of quality."
"Our compensation package is terrific. I have a lot of confidence in the firm."