JAN broker movement highest in 6 months

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Feb 17, 2010 2:00 pm


NEW YORK, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Broker movement surged to a six-month high in January, while big brokerage advisers kept heading to independents, industry tracker Discovery said in its latest monthly report.

UBS Wealth Management (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N) and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MS.N) (C.N) lost the greatest number of advisers in January, Shrewsbury, New Jersey-based Discovery said.

The company, which maintains data on about 600,000 registered representatives, said 2,372 switched employers last month. That was highest level of movement in six months, but down dramatically from the anxiety-filled days of early 2009.

The figure includes licensed brokers and dealers who work outside of retail brokerage.

Last month, 360 brokers left the four largest "wirehouse" brokerage firms -- Bank of America's Merrill Lynch (BAC.N), Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and UBS. Discovery said 104 of these brokers moved to rival wirehouses, but 93 joined or launched an independent advisory firm.

The hardest-hit firm was UBS, which added 17 brokers but lost 98 in January, a net loss of 81 people, or 1 percent of its total advisory force. The recently merged Morgan Stanley Smith Barney was next with 102 departures against 68 additions, although that is a blip against its 18,000-strong brokers.

Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia Securities and by extension A.G. Edwards, lost 94 brokers and added 72. Merrill Lynch suffered the least attrition as 66 brokers left and 53 joined.

More than a year after the darkest days of the 2008 market meltdown, the pace of movement to and from the biggest brokerages has slowed dramatically, Discovery said.

Even so, wirehouses are still experiencing net losses to other employers. Compared with last year, the numbers of brokers moving among wirehouses fell, while those breaking away and going independent increased, Discovery said. (Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)