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AGE/Wachovia vs. Edward Jones

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Apr 15, 2008 1:17 am

I have currently have two offers - one from A.G. Edwards/Wachovia and one from Edward Jones. I like the culture of midwestern down-to-earth culture of both firms, but am not sure what to expect on the AGE side given the merger. I am new to the industry and know they both have good training. The tradeoff between the two companies as I see it (but am more than willing to be corrected is):

Edward Jones
-High advisor satisfaction
-High customer satisfaction
-Good company culture

-Lower payout
-Product-centered advise
-No office to start
-Lower starting salary
-Highly structured training

-More flexibility in the business model
-Higher payouts
-Good technology
-More robust platform

-A lot of uncertainty about the future as a result of the merger. AGE may lose its culture.
-Unsure how well training prepares a new financial consultant

First of all, am I missing anything here? Can anyone add additional pros and cons?

Second - Long-term I’m really leaning toward Wachovia given its more robust platform and flexible business model. I am just having a hard time getting over the uncertainty right now with the merger. Has anyone recently started at AGE/Wachovia new in the industry that can comment? Would you recommend getting in right now?

Edward Jones seems like it might be better short term because of their structured training program. They leave no stone unturned.

If you were starting out new and faced with this decision, what would you choose and why? Thanks in advance for your insight.

Apr 15, 2008 3:20 am
While considering my slightly limited knowledge about being a FA for the long run...    If I had to choose I would say Wachovia/AGE.    I don't have the greatest impression of Edward Jones but I think they may be really good if you are totally new in financial services.  I hear they train pretty well but I have heard they have a very limited product offering relative to a Wachovia.   I am pretty sure AGE also has a pretty descent training program.   I am pretty sure that anyone on this board who doesn't have an affiliation with either firm would probaly say Wachovia/AGE is a more presigious firm.   Just my opinion, though.  I won't bother answering you with any wishy washy hypothetical questions.  That is one straight up, non qualified opinion.  Kind of rare on this board when these types of questions have been asked in the past.
Apr 15, 2008 5:36 am

I was in your same shoes a few months ago, and am starting at Wachovia in a month.

  It seems that EDJ focuses on 'door knock or bust' whereas Wachovia doesn't really care what you do, as long as the results come in.  AGE has a very good training program, which is being adopted by Wachovia.  I got the feeling that a rep at Wachovia had much more flexibility than a rep at EDJ.  They could structure their business however they wanted, rather than just being a mutual fund salesman.  Also, I believe AGE ranks just about as high in advisor satisfaction.    The main factor in my decision was the type of people I met from both firms.  One of the EDJ advisors tried selling me on how EDJ was great because of company trips and showed me tons of pre-made packets, folders, hand-outs, etc.  It seemed routine. The Wachovia manager I met with said he really had no idea how the training program was structured, but he did know what it takes to make a broker, and that if I wanted it bad enough, he could work with me to make it happen.   The point I'm getting at is that things like initial payout, training program, and company prestige don't matter nearly as much as the personalities of the people in your office.  Find somebody who is not just willing to lend you a hand, but who you would most like to become. 
Apr 15, 2008 6:11 am

Well I have a buddy that currently works for Wachovia (formally Atlas) and he cant wait to get out.  He is going to come to Jones.  The payouts are fairly similar but the atmosphere isn’t so good.  He has to split time between two branches and work with tellers/bankers that just are difficult to work with.  Not to say it couldn’t work but just keep that in mind if your going to be in a branch.  The main reason he is coming to Jones in the single office per FA model that we have at Jones…oh and if you think going to Wachoiva is going to give you more flexibility…think again.  My buddy is constantly being hounded on what he needs to push this month…and he is a $1MM/month producer.  One plus about being in a bank is you know where the assets are.  Not as much cold calling is involved when you work in a bank.

Apr 15, 2008 12:41 pm

Thanks for the replies, they are all helpful.

  TSS - I agree, one of the things I liked about Wachovia was the fact I can run a business how I see fit. If I want to doorknock, I doorknock. If I want to cold-call, I cold-call. If I want to do seminars, I do seminars. As long as it produces results. AGE does rank high in advisor satisfaction before the merger, but I'm not banking on that to remain the same. From what I've heard (which was admittedly from a EJ guy) Wachovia's culture can be very cut throat.   The EJ guy said he had a friend that started at a Wachovia that was three stories with an open atrium in the middle and offices along the outside in a rectangle. The lowest producers were at the bottom, the middleweights were on the second floor, and the top producers were on the third floor. He said the happiest day for someone on the second floor was to see someone on the first floor quit, because they got to divvy up the clients/assets. And the happiest day of a broker on the third floor is when a guy on the second floor quit cause they got to divvy up his clients/assets. I don't know if this is typical of Wachovia (I know that many firms are very cut-throat). I like the former A.G. Edwards culture as opposed to this, but am just unclear on what the new org. will look like.  Can you/other Wachovia people describe their culture? Also TSS, are you new to the industry or did you move from another B/D? What type of payout are they giving you - Wachovia or A.G. Edwards?   Eye - I should have clarified that I was referring to starting with Wachovia Securities, not with Wachovia Bank. We don't even have any Wachovia Banks where I live so I don't know if it is quite the same situation.      
Apr 15, 2008 1:47 pm

With the list you provided I would say AG Edwards. I work at Jones and I think its a great firm to work with from beginning to end but our motivations are different.

  Best of luck!   Miss J
Apr 15, 2008 5:27 pm

I’m suprised you put highly structured training in the Cons list for EDJ.  If I’m a new guy, I want all the structure I can get until I figure out what the heck I’m doing.   Sounds like the training at AGovia might be akin to throwing the baby in the pool to teach him to swim. 

  The only thing Jones tells you that you have to do is doorknock during the training process.  From there if you want to switch to cold calling or seminars, more power to ya.  It's your office (once you get one), run it the way you want.    Again, if I'm the noob to the industry, I don't want to have to think about things like how do I structure my business, what brochures to hand out, what flyers to mail, where to have them printed, etc.  I want to focus on survival.  How do I land new clients.  Where do I find them.  What do I say.  If there are already brochures or flyers already made by the company, great.  One less thing for me to worry about.   Anything that can help me do that is a bonus. 
Apr 15, 2008 6:53 pm

You’re right spaceman, I actually meant to put it in the “pros” category rather than the “cons”. I do see the highly structured training as a big benefit. AGE is supposed to have good training as well, it was ranked high in the Training magazine top 100, but I don’t know if it’s got the same structured approach. TSS, have you been through the training? Did you feel well prepared?

Apr 16, 2008 12:22 am

People who make it in this business (for the most part) could make it at any “name” brokerage.  Prestige, product availability, and training are down the list as to how you become a successful broker.  Do you prefer to work alone or would you be more comfortable in an office with other brokers?  Do you want an office on day one with higher expectations, or work from your home until you earn an office?  Culture is such an overused word here.  What does it mean to you?  I am with WachWards, and there have been two major changes in my business.  The product availability has been increased tremendously, and sights have been set higher.  That is it.  My manager is still the same person, the other brokers are still the same.  As far as training, AG training is recognized as one of the best.  Does it prepare you for what you face, not really.  They can tell you about different products, methods of prospecting, how to close, blah, blah, blah, but the most difficult thing starting out is being able to hear “no” 50 times a day and continuing to prospect.  That is the same at every firm.  Do not believe all the kumbaya (sp?) you hear in the interview, it is BS.  Go with the situation that feels right and do not look back. One last thing, do not be concerned about changes.  This is an everchanging business.  Jones or Wach could look very different in two years than they do today.

Apr 16, 2008 2:10 am

Thanks Primo, I appreciate the post. Culture may be an overused term, but more than a buzzword it describes something very real. For example, within 10 minutes of an interview with UBS I knew it wasn't the place for me. In particular, when I refer to culture in this context I'm talking about the wirehouse type feel which I associate (perhaps wrongly) as being cut-throat, take-no-prisoners vs. the more down to earth approach which companies like the former AGE and Edward Jones possess. This does not mean that I don't hold myself to the highest of standards, only that I also value other things such as cooperativeness in a company. One is not better than the other, only certain people thrive in the different environments. I identify more with the values of the former AGE and Edward Jones.

Primo, can you expand a little on what you mean by "the sights have been set higher"?  Thanks.
Apr 16, 2008 2:38 am

Please tell what you mean by cut-throat, take no prisoners.  At AGE, $350m was club level, you were recognized.  At WS, $350m is below average.

Apr 16, 2008 3:18 am

I’m coming from a different type of financial service sales business and have not even begun the training program yet.  Don’t get me wrong, the training program at Wach/AG is very structured.  It’s just not nearly as important as the specific people who you’ll be in close contact with when you start producing.  I like the environment of having veterans in the office who i can ask quick questions to if something comes up.  That’s why I prefer the wirehouse route rather than EDJ personally. 

  As far as compensation, i've got a salary of just under 40k for up to 2.5 years.  At EDJ, they were talking much less than that (25-30k in my area) for just one year.  I'm young and haven't built up much savings, so this will help out quite a bit while getting my feet on the ground.    One thing I like about wachovia is the focus on fee based business.... it seems like EDJ is starting to head towards that direction, but that its a work in progress.    As far as the cut throat atmosphere, the office i'm joining actually just had a guy leave, and the other brokers were talking about how they'd divide the book up.  I dont know the whole story, and instinctively this would seem like a negative, but when I think about it, I would probably respond the same way... thats just how sales is - competition is competition.    
Apr 16, 2008 3:49 am

Primo - What I mean by cut-throat is when the people around you - your co-workers - want and even hope that you will fail. I can understand dividing up a book from a broker who's left (what else are you going to do?), but I personally can't identify with wanting and hoping the people around me fail. Does that make sense? That said, I don't know if Wachovia/AGE falls into that category or not. What would you say based upon your experience working there?

TSS - The items you mentioned are definately big pluses for me as well. The fee-based focus, being surrounded by more experienced advisors, and a reasonable starting salary.