According to rank-and-file reps surveyed, UBS brass did a lot of things right this year and can take a bow…and then quickly straighten up and fix the rest of what reps say is still ailing the firm.
The big Swiss financial services firm received a nearly identical rating from reps polled this year as it did last year — which is not a good thing. Aside from Morgan Stanley, UBS is the least loved wirehouse, according to its reps. “Management” was the only category to increase from last year, rising to 7.6 from 7.36 last year. Branch management deserves most of the credit. Rated low last year, it is this year's most improved category, leaping a whole point, to 7.8 from 6.8 last year.
That said, UBS reps, on average, aren't pleased. In 15 of 20 categories, scores for the firm fell or remained the same compared to last year. “Payout,” which was rated a 5.9, received the lowest score overall among UBS reps, and was second lowest among all the firms. “If it wasn't for the firm's stock price shooting up $15 this year, I'd be very unhappy with my compensation,” says one midwest rep. He says he is grateful the firm didn't cut payouts this year, but bemoans that friends at other wires make a lot more money.
One New York-based rep, with a chunk of business in insurance products and managed money, says a 4 percent kicker on fee-based business helps: “It's no secret they want us pushing managed money and not building portfolios,” he says. This pressure on reps for more steady revenue — in the form of fees — could explain declines this year in both the “freedom from pressure to sell certain products” and “realistic sales quotas” scores, which dropped from last year.
Many of the reps surveyed complained that the firm might be spending too much on new recruits. “Hiring and recruiting practices” at the firm sank to 6.5, down from 7.0 last year, with many reps asking if the 100 percent to 120 percent upfront packages for top reps is money well spent. A better use for that money, say reps, would be on benefits, which received a 7.0 this year, up slightly from 6.9 last year, but still the lowest score for all the firms in this category.
UBS also registered the second-lowest score among all firms in the “support” category. Reps are even more ticked this year about the number of sales assistants (6.1, down from 6.4), even if their quality has improved somewhat (7.5, up from 7.3). “Ongoing training” rated better this year (6.4, up from 6.1). Many reps reported that online training programs save them the cost and inconvenience of attending classes, but some older reps still prefer the traditional hands-on get-togethers. “The company is already huge — I wouldn't recognize a single regional director — and these types of moves just make that worse,” says one.
Lastly, some good news. The commonly heard lament from legacy Paine Webber reps that “nobody knows who we are” may finally be fading. The firm's “public image” (7.8, up from 7.6) and “strategic focus” (7.0, up from 6.9) both improved slightly. “People at least seem to know who we are now, even if they don't always know what we do,” says one Florida rep. Another rep says the firm's low profile on the regulatory front is also a plus. A Wisconsin-based rep says the firm's massive advertising campaign (UBS: You and Us) is probably responsible for the new recognition: “We're all over the T.V., so it's just a matter of time, I guess.”
|Score||Average, All Firms|
|Freedom from pressure to sell certain products||8.4||9.0|
|Realistic sales quotas||7.6||8.4|
|Hiring and recruiting practices||6.5||7.8|
|Quality of sales assistants||7.5||7.9|
|Quantity of sales assistants||6.1||7.0|
|Quality of sales ideas||6.4||7.4|
|Quote and information system||7.5||8.1|
|Quality of operations||6.9||7.4|
|Quality of research||6.9||7.9|
|Quality of the products offered||7.5||8.3|
|Your branch manager||7.8||8.0|