As we were putting this issue to bed, the terrorists struck. At this point, there is nothing to add to the heart-wrenching stories of human travail we have already seen and heard.
There are many heartwarming stories, of course. Brokers overwhelmingly report that in the days following the attack their clients' concerns focused only on them, the brokers.
As RR Senior Editor Michael Hayes put it, in an e-mail while reporting on this event:
“Dan, I think it says something about this industry when America finds itself on the brink of war, the financial markets are threatened and the economy is shaky — and investors are more concerned about the safety and well-being of their brokers than they are about their portfolios.
“[Merrill CEO David] Komansky said [prior to the attack] that brokerage firms need strong client relationships to survive in 2001. Obviously, these relationships are alive and kicking.”
Wall Street is a community. It is not just a physical place, but rather a far-reaching web of people, relationships and systems across New York City, the country and the world. The industry and its people know risk and danger. They know setbacks. Wall Streeters everywhere are some of the most resilient individuals and institutions in the world.
As we go to press on this issue, we're seeing proof.
Outstanding Sales Assistants
I liked seeing Mayor Giuliani make a calming, even jovial call for people to get out and about the day after the attack. It was, and is, important to get on with normal business.
As is our tradition now, each October we feature an Outstanding Sales Assistant on the cover and run a package of stories celebrating these everyday heroes (see “Outstanding Sales Assistant Awards,” Page 50). Last month's tragic events did not change that.
Read about how these important service providers help both their clients and their brokers. See details on what sales assistants want from their careers — mainly a chance to focus on client service, and be involved in the marketing and planning of their brokers' businesses. Want to help your SA move to the next level? Consider adding a clerical assistant to your team to take on the mundane duties sales assistants say often interfere with client service.
RR Roundtable: Designations
I must give Wall Street some credit for coming around to the realization that proprietary educational programs and designations are not the way to advance brokers to a higher level of professionalism. A few firms have internal designation programs, which is fine, but these offerings can never be as prestigious or as credible as a mark conferred by a truly independent standard-setting body (see our roundtable interview, “Advanced Studies,” Page 43).
Years ago, the industry discouraged reps from obtaining outside certifications. That attitude has turned 180 degrees.
More Doggie Biscuits
Morgan Stanley, like Prudential Securities and Merrill Lynch, is offering brokers higher pay for fee-based accounts. In Morgan Stanley's case, it's a temporary 50% payout incentive to move those fee-based Choice brokerage accounts out of the showrooms (see “Morgan Stanley Offers 50% Payout on Fee Accounts,” Page 34).
Enough of this. Not that brokers shouldn't be getting 50% payouts. But reps who jump at dealer incentives shouldn't be reps, in my opinion. We should have a professional culture of “financial advisers” and “investment consultants,” and leaders who don't manage with doggie biscuits.
Best of luck,
P.S. We have collected and reported information about events last month on our Web site (www.rrmag.com). There you will find links to select news service stories, relief funds and firm information.