First Union 2001 Complete Broker Comments

A (Sales support) “Not always easy to get questions answered.” (Quality support) “We don’t get our own sales assistants. We actually share one from a different office. That’s a little bit of a problem.” (Sales ideas) “We get a lot of ideas emailed to us regularly.” (Quote/info) “Technology is not super terrific here. We’re hoping it will get better.” (Operations) “It’s not always easy to find the

(Sales support) “Not always easy to get questions answered.” (Quality support) “We don’t get our own sales assistants. We actually share one from a different office. That’s a little bit of a problem.” (Sales ideas) “We get a lot of ideas emailed to us regularly.” (Quote/info) “Technology is not super terrific here. We’re hoping it will get better.” (Operations) “It’s not always easy to find the right person when you have a problem or a question.” (Research) “Fortunately, we use research from other firms as well.” (Branch manager) “He’s very hands-on, which works at this branch.” (Image) “We hope!” “Management has a hands-on approach. We have good communication with our manager. He gives us plenty of ideas and resources. On the down side, we’re getting so big, sometimes just being able to locate the right person is a problem.

(Branch manager) “Our branch manager is pro-business, not pro-quota.” (Focus) “It’s hard to tell what the focus is now with the pending merger with Wachovia.” (Image) “There’s not enough exposure. Since we’ll eventually merge with Wachovia, they’re holding back on their advertising until that’s a done deal.” ”This is the second firm I’ve worked for and I believe they truly let you do whatever you want to in order to successfully run your business. There is no proprietary products, they don’t do any underwriting and there are no IPSs. They never have a fund of the month. I like the ease of doing business and the back office support. There’s this feeling that they really want to help you succeed. The back office staff is held accountable if they don’t help you.”

(Sales assistants) “They’ve been cutting back on that.” (Research) “The equity side of the research department here has not been good lately, but I guess in this market, that’s not surprising.” (Image) “We’re starting to get some good press.” “Our technology is absolutely the greatest. The training side, as far as regional sales training for brokers, seems a little stale.”

(Sales support) “We have a good ratio of support in spite of some turnover lately.” (Sales assistants) “It was perfect but we’ve had a couple of people leave recently so it’s down a bit. And the problem is we’re in a hiring freeze so it doesn’t look like we’ll get help for a while.” (Research) “We have a strong research department, which is pretty good, but we’re not limited to that. We have access to three or four others as well.” (Products) “We shop and compare, there are no proprietary products. We can shop for the best.” (Focus) “We’re in the middle of a merger with Wachovia right now and we’ll eventually change our name again. This will make us the sixth largest brokerage and the fourth largest bank. I’m not sure how it will affect the brokerage side yet. It could be good because a lot of our clients in this region know Wachovia very well.” (Image) “They were probably just getting used to us and our image was starting to be strong. Now we’re going to confuse the public once again.” “Changing your name every few years is just part of being in the financial industry. If you want to be the largest you almost have to morph into it. It’s a necessary evil if we want to dominate the financial industry.”

(Hiring/recruiting) “I don’t think they have a very active program currently for hiring and recruiting.” (Sales ideas) “They’re offered, I just don’t use them.” (Training) “Not a lot offered as far as I can tell. I’ve been here a long time so I probably wouldn’t use the training even if I did come across something.” ”Best thing they do is leave the broker alone, especially those with relatively high levels of experience. In the area of communications and distribution of information and research, they haven’t done a very good job in getting it out to the brokers.”

(Sales assistants) “I hired them so I think they’re great.” (Sales ideas) “I don’t pay any attention to most of what they send to us. I do my own thing.” (Operations) “There are gapes in some departments. Some are very good about what they are doing and others seem to struggle to get anything done right.” ”They give us a lot of tools to work with, planning tools and asset allocation tools, lots of information from which to pull ideas and do your job. Otherwise they pretty much leave us along as long as we operate within compliance rules. Operations needs some work. As to the merger, I think it will be a non-issue for us in this region.”

(Sales quotas) “We never know what we’re getting paid till the last day of the month.” (Sales ideas) “If I find that they’re doing something I get out of it. I stay away from their ideas. I generate my own.” (Research) “Some good stuff comes down occasionally. There are a couple of folks in the department who I know, trust and am willing to work with.” ”Technology here is light speeds ahead of other brokerage firms. The firm has poured more money into technology for us than any other firm on the street. I have a lot of buddies at other firms and they don’t have anything that comes close to what we have. As to the merger, we’re very positive about it. Very comfortable with the idea. I think it will enhance our overall shareholder value, our image and the number of clients we get.”

(Sales quotas) “The more the production the better the payout. That’s not good for the new broker trying to make a living.” (Training) “They really do try to keep us educated and on top of things.” (Operations) “It’s wonderful except for the insurance department. They are trying to improve that.” (Ethics) “They promote that very well.” (Image) “Not so strong in this area. Not sure what will happen after the merger. ”We have great technology, everything is at our fingertips. They do a good job providing tools and products for us to use to present to our clients and to gather assets. I’m just disappointed in our insurance department. A few people are getting a little stressed about the merger because it means another name change. It’s more of a problem for the clients. As a broker, I’ll get new stationery, new business cards and business will go on as usual.”

(Operations) “We’re still working on the merger so things are getting a little slow in that area.” (Image) “I don’t think it’s strong at all, especially because of the merger. We’ve had two or three name changes in the last four years. That has to affect our image with the public. ”Workstations are very good, second to none. I like the regional culture they’re trying to maintain. Communications here is not always great in regards to keeping us informed. The merger has me a little concerned. Continuity is always better and this merger is disruptive. How it will affect us or our clients is hard to tell at this point.”

(Hiring/recruiting) “It’s very fair. We don’t throw out a bunch of money like other firms do to get brokers.” (Sales assistants) “Basically it’s a matter of lack of training. Brokers here don’t get enough input as to the hiring process of sale assistants.” Training: I went through it and felt it could have been better on the sales side. Of course now we have a freeze on hiring so there are no more trainees coming through. ”We have the freedom to sell and run our own business. We’re not strangled to sell proprietary stuff. There’s total flexibility to offer our client whatever is best based on the client’s needs. As for the merger I think it could be a positive as long as they keep the bank out of the brokerage side.”

“Our 401(k) stinks. Right now it's limited to the firm's proprietary products. They're supposed to change the investment choices (broaden the choices) any day now, but I'm not holding my breath.”

“There's no pressure to sell any particular products. The firm feels the client belongs to the advisor, so there are no unattainable sales goals imposed on us.”

“We've gone through a lot of changes with all the merger and acquisition activity, and it's still going on. Our name will likely change again soon, with the acquisition of Wachovia Bank. It's difficult because we don't have a lot of name recognition anyway, and every time the name changes, what little recognition there was disappears.”

“The operations department is a half continent away from us. And the people working in operations are unskilled and low-paid. I understand, however, that the operations function is going to be de-centralized, which could improve things. Also, senior management is on the right track.”

“We don't have the most appealing name for a brokerage due to the banking connection. However, the firm has managed to retain a regional feel. Whenever I call headquarters they know me and they know what my clients like, which is awesome considering the amount of growth they've experienced. They don't try to get between you and your clients.”

“Even though the firm has been expanding and buying up other firms and banks, it hasn't had much of an impact on our office. We're still able to do business the same way. They have a hands-off approach, allowing us to do our own style of business.”

“The operations department is hurting. Their voice response system is not good. They grew too fast and they're understaffed now as a result. Those are the only negatives. Their technology is good. They're nice people. We have a lot of freedom.”

“We’re free to produce or not produce according to our own preference. There’s no pressure to sell. Our network of resources is fantastic. We have an excellent HR department. Research is improving because of a new leader in that department. Our image five years ago was about a two. Today it is about a seven. There’s not a big-firm feel to this branch, more of a boutique feel -- largely because of the branch manager. I really enjoy the firm. It is working extremely hard to improve. Good people at the top.”

“First Union Securities is totally unknown here (Dallas). It’s not like we’re on the East Coast. Like all firms, they ramp up staffing and advertising in good times, when they don’t need to be spending that money. And when times are bad and money is tight and we need excellent service, excellent advertising and excellent everything, they don’t do anything. They never learn.”

“With what they pay SAs, it’s impossible to find qualified people. You’re only going to get so much for $30,000 a year. The firm doesn’t advertise enough, now that we’re a big wire house. It doesn’t push the name out, compared to the boutique firms.”

“The best part of this firm is that is allows us to run our business as we like. And the worst part is that it is too big, and it has lost identity with our back office help.”

(Quote and information system) “It eats up a lot of memory.” (Quality of the firm’s research) “It’s a mixed bag. What the firm provides to me—First Union's research is a one (rating).” “I work for First Union Securities Financial Network. What makes that good, I have all of the support/products of a wire house and the freedom of being an independent. First Union bought Wheat First—their computer system, Infomax, was phenomenal. It’s like having an assistant in a box plus access to inventory, and the ability to check accounts. They had all this computerization and spent tons of money. So they decided to buy some brokers. They bought EVEREN, JW Genesis. It makes a lot of business sense. It’s a win/win situation. I’m happy.”

“I’m very happy. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

“I’m happy working here. With the Wachovia purchase, corporate knows where they’re headed. Our business goes up and down with the markets. We all hope the problems at Richmond headquarters are going to be corrected. We all hope operations will be well staffed. I would think our industry is having trouble with people wanting to be in branch management. There have been a lot of (BOM) changes here. In the past the firm relied on producing branch managers.”

“Payout is the only bad part.’ (Ongoing training) “There's not really enough ongoing training.”

(Quote system) “Our computer system is behind, but it has improved somewhat.”

Payout with the former firm was better, than now. Ours will be lower after first of the year. (Ongoing training) “None, and no new people either.” (Image) “Not much. First Union in New York State is not well known. Overall, I'm fairly well satisfied.”

(Operations) “Back office support needs improvement, needs more experienced people who know what they're doing and who care. Statements need to be understandable. Cost basis should be included.”

(Asked about low numbers he had given on several questions). “If you're here, no explanation is necessary.”

“We are definitely a throwback operation. We’re quite relieved to not have to sell a given mutual fund or plan or given anything.”

“Not a bad place to work, but it could be better. There’s a lot of room for improvement-like with image, sales assistants, benefits. But I’d rather be here than out of a job.”

“I have to question the strategic focus. I’m wondering what that focus is--if there is a focus. Training is poor. There are a lot of brokers who come through here who know very little. I’m shocked they got that far.”

“First Union is a great place to work--and to me it’s only going to get better. There’s not much I don’t like about it here. I have no plans to move.”

(Payout) "We pay the highest, or the second highest on the street; we may not be the highest, but we're close." (Sales support) "I think we need to focus more on research." (Quality of sales ideas) “We don't have many good sales ideas; just generic. We don't do anything out of the ordinary." (Training) "No question, it needs to be improved dramatically." (Operations) “(Better); it used to be a 3." (Branch manager) "One of the best in the industry." (Strategic focus) “(The firm has gotten) "too big, too quick." (Image with the public) "Don't know if they have one."

"I was at Pru for 16 years and it sucks; this place is great (for not having pressure.)” (Benefits) “401k is terrible, but it's going to get better." (Quality of sales ideas) "Blind leading the blind; nobody's got a clue." (Quote and info system) "Great, very fast, best system on the Street." (Research) "Better off throwing darts at a board. But every wire house is exactly the same way."

(Products offered) “One of the attractions in coming over here (from Pru) is that they don't push products down your throat." (Strategic focus) "Basically, they've been able to acquire a number of diverse firms and turn them into one good vision." (Image) “(On the West Coast,) a lot of people don't know who we are."

“We've got growing pains because of all of the mergers. We've gotten big too quick." (Image) "I don't know if they know who we are" (in Texas, where First Union doesn't have a banking presence).”

(Benefits) "That would be a 10 except for the retirement plan." (Quote and information system} "I think the quote system could be improved."
(Account statements) "Can't read them. They're confusing. Every time we redo them, every two years or so, they get worse."

"There could be additional sales training offered to all brokers more often. They seem to be somewhat lacking in that area."

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