(Sales Assistants) “Both quality and quantity are lacking at this firm. Training: They don’t offer enough for the sales support people or the brokers. Focus: They are making the transition to a fee based business, growing assets under management through the hiring of new brokers.” (Overall) “The firm offers a fine niche marketing to the affluent client. They just need to focus more on hiring more sales assistants and providing them with the training they need to do the job.”
(Hiring/recruiting) “Not doing as much anymore because of the overall market environment.” (Training) “There’s some programs offered for sales assistants but not anything for the brokers.” (Overall) “The best thing this firm does right now is create new products. I think that’s one of its strengths. What they don’t do well is their operations department. But I guess that’s always a problem in any firm.”
“This firm has an incredible focus or vision of where they want us to go and who we are, and that is to be the No. 1 firm serving high net clients. They provide great support to help us, and as far as I’m concerned they are right there with whatever we need. What I’d like to see them do is reward long term, loyal, brokers here versus the newly hired ones.”
(Statements) “Unfortunately our statements are a little tougher to read than other firms. They don’t show performance numbers.” (Research) “Considering the market, I’d say it’s about average. For the most part, most of the analysts work under pressure from the top to perform well in three to six months or get fired. You can’t get honest research under those conditions.” (Focus) “We’re focusing on the high net worth individuals. For me, that’s difficult. Here in Iowa they are really hard to come by.” (Image) “We don’t have a strong enough image here. The firm has a national advertising campaign, but what we need is more of a local push.” (Overall) “We are getting a lot better at getting more of our technology up to date. It was falling behind for many years. We’re good at focusing on the clients. They are good about keeping us informed about what’s going on in the marketplace and we have an open door policy for wholesalers to come in and share their thoughts and ideas. Eighty percent of what I do comes from that so it’s a big plus for me.”
(Training) “Not enough for either sales assistants or brokers.” (Overall) “They give you all the resources you need to focus on your business. They could do with a better training program, especially for the younger or new brokers just coming in.”
(Hiring/recruiting) “Not overly impressed with it. As long as someone passes the tests he or she is hired. I don’t see a high emphasis on quality.” (Sales assistants) “They do a fair job, but they are overloaded with too many FAs for each sales assistant.” (Operations) “Some things seem to get lost along the way and quality suffers. (Account statements) “They are difficult to read and I get complaints from my clients.” (Overall) “They are going towards the high net worth clientele. For some of us in the business just a few years, that can be difficult.”
(Hiring/recruiting) “The firm’s not paying big bonuses to bring brokers here, so I think we’re getting the right type of broker, the kind who wants to be here because he wants to, not because he’s getting a huge payout.” (Sales assistants) “I want my own sales assistant, but they won’t give me one because they have a hiring freeze on sales assistants.” (Overall) “My manager is outstanding. He’s a great coach and mentor. My personal sense is that people here care and really do try to help if they can. Our technology is great. I wish they wouldn’t nickel and dime my clients. I have a $5 million client who I have to charge $35 a year for an IRA. They should wave these nuisance fees. That’s a big issue for me.”
(Overall) “They give us the freedom to run our own business. We get all the support, technology and ideas we need, want and can use. The down side: operations. They need to hire more people.”
(Sales assistants) “They are super smart and work very hard.” (Quantity of SAs) “We could be doing a lot more prospecting if they hired more. But we are in a hiring freeze for SAs, so it remains a sore point for me right now.” (Account statements) “Clients still can’t read them.” (Research) “Outstanding in a different time.” (Overall) “They treat you as a professional. They try to back you up as much as they can in every area.”
“Our image is good, we have great support and I’m very happy here or I wouldn’t still be here after many, many years as a broker.”
“I think the alliance with UBS has solidified its posture for the future.”
(Research) “Everyone hates theirs.”
“Our advertising sucks, which is typical when business is bad. We should be creating a better public image. The firm is cutting costs in all the wrong places [lots of fat in middle management, but the firm is cutting programs that could benefit brokers and clients]. Account statements are difficult to decipher; it’s unclear to the average layperson. There are some good things about it, like the September tax snapshot, but overall it is weak.”
“This firm wastes a lot of money on recruiting efforts. In this industry, there is an 85% failure rate [brokers who have left the firm] two years out. They throw money up against the wall and then look to see what sticks.”
“You need to go out on your own [independent] to get paid. We all complain, but they take it from you one way or another. Grid is typical 20-44% range. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else.”
“I’ve been in business for 48 years. I’ve been at other firms. I really am very comfortable here.”
“I’m in a satellite office, but my on-site supervisor is really not my branch manager. He’s not the decision-maker. The branch manager who works in the main branch downtown is the decision-maker and he really makes bad decisions. Low quality in every respect.”
“Many of us have stopped listening to our research people. I hope if everyone stops listening they'll go out of business. Plus, a lot of analysts are getting canned around here. The guy who's in charge of our research came from Prudential. He hired all his guys to come over with him. They're horrible.”
“UBS … pumped a lot of money into us. We went from 60 foreign analysts to about 600. And now we cover thousands of foreign companies. Are we better in our global focus than Merrill Lynch or Smith Barney? No, but we're getting closer.”
“There's definitely pressure to sell certain things around here. They promote their own products. Also, when it comes to hiring and recruiting, there aren't many good candidates to choose from. You're seeing people come in the door who used to be paint salesmen. There aren't many professional people coming in. Many of the ones coming in are right out of school. It's hard for them to make it, because it's hard for clients to turn serious money over to them.”
“I don't think the research department works for the brokers; I think they work for the banking department. Research will put a buy rating on a company just to pump up an investment banking deal they've got with that company. If they happen to get the research right for me, it's just a coincidence. I'd never take advice from someone with an axe to grind. Everyone west of the Hudson River is just providing liquidity for the New York people. I'm very cynical about it (conflict of interest issue).”
“The rolling six-month grid bugs me. Other firms are at 12 months. Here, they just look at your last six months. If I take two weeks off, and end up with one bad month as a result of that, they'll drop my payout just based, in effect, on the fact that I took two weeks off. That bothers me. In addition, we've been focusing on fee-based business for a longer time than the other firms. But the other firms get paid more for doing fee-based business than we do. Even so, they've done a great job in giving us access to the money managers.”
“When you look at our ongoing training, there's so much stuff on the computer. We don't have time to go through it all; we get 10 programs to look at in one week. It used to be they'd send you here or there for a workshop or seminar to learn the new stuff; not anymore. And they say top producers focus on one specialized area like mutual funds or retirement or insurance, but to me it's a joke because there's no way I could learn it and keep my business going at the same time.”
“The firm is taking low-level producers and making them managers. That's the cheap way for the firm to go. And these managers are expendable. They're getting fired left and right. We don't have much respect for the branch managers. We don't look to them for guidance. In the past, you'd ask the branch manager how they did something. You can't do that now, because the manager never had any experience in the trenches like they did in the old days.”
“I'm tickled to be here!”
(Quotas) “The quotas were realistic when the market was good. Now the market is down and they haven't changed them.” (Sales assistants) “There are never enough of them.” (Overall) “The firm is very much on top of compliance issue. We call compliance the sales suppression unit. They keep it clean; they let you build your business your way. They don't tell you what you're going to sell. We're moving away from transactional business; the firm is encouraging people to do it. It's hard to switch if you started out as transactional. There's encouragement to switch, but not pressure."
“I'm pretty happy here.”
(Research) “They recommended American Airlines on Monday.” (He probably meant 9/17/01).
(Benefits) “It's not up to snuff. My wife works at the university, and I use her benefits.” (Hiring practices) “I don't think they look for the best people. They'd have to hire a headhunter who'd call them up. The guys here talk to brokers [at other firms] more than the firm does.” (Sales ideas) “They don't seem to have them. Mutual fund, annuity people come to see us and they have ideas. What's on the squawk box is not remarkable. At Merrill the ideas were good.”
“There's something great about having money and that's being able to say "no." I was in Saudi Arabia for 21 years, doing the same thing as here, but handling bigger money. Once, when I was there [working for Merrill], I was asked to do something illegal, but I had enough money that I could say "no." [The person who did is still in jail there.] Later, when Merrill asked me to sell things I didn't want to sell, I had enough money that I could say "no." Merrill wants you to put Merrill first, and I didn't want to do that. My clients are my friends, and I wanted to put them first. At this firm I can do that.”
“I'm happy to be here. Since UBS took over, the management has been there to support the retail brokers. We have innovative products that no other firm has. In particular, some equity based products that offer the growth of equities and some protection on the downside as well.”
“Our firm is for the down to earth individual, more of a personal touch. Always has been. It’s not so much of a high-ranking firm where they put a lot of pressure on you. It’s more for an individual practice where they give you tons of support.”
“Very happy here. Been here 18 years. Only firm ever worked for. In our market, we’re the No. 1 firm, based on number of assets and reputation. I can’t conceive of working for another firm. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about other firms. It’s not often I hear anything bad about us. This is a firm that’s very fair with employees.”
“I’m happy here. What’s good about working here is the freedom.”
“It’s an OK place to work. I’m looking to move on, if I can. Problem is, I have a lot of business here and I’m afraid I might lose a lot of it if I go elsewhere. I’m always afraid they’ll prohibit me from contacting my clients. So I’m caught in a Catch 22 situation. Why am I unhappy? I just want to be out on my own. I’m tired of working for a big corporation. They do things-like with programs and salary-that you have to question.”
“I’m happy after 22 years here, but I do have my complaints, things I wish they’d do different. But for a big wire house firm, it’s probably better than the rest. I’d never work for Merrill, Smith Barney. I started with Smith Barney and I’ve seen them go through too many changes. Changes are not good. That confuses clients and makes my job harder. Merrill treats their brokers like crap. If you’re not a million-dollar producer, you’re just a pea-on. PaineWebber puts more emphasis on their advisers. They give them support. They’re advertising is geared toward a relationship with the adviser. That’s what made us successful, especially at times like this, when the relationship with the adviser is crucial to maintaining clients at a firm. I think because of this we’ll be gaining brokers from other firms as opposed to losing them.” Golden handcuff package is fantastic. The best around.”
“[The firm should give brokers] a little more support."
(Sales support) "Could use improvement." (Sales support) “[Lacking in] knowledge of what is going on with current conditions in the markets."
(Payout) “[There’s a] "trade-off" in terms of a lower payout at the wire houses in exchange for working for a "well-known firm" and having "the support staff and overhead."
(Training) "Turnover is high. No better than it was 30 years ago." (Payout) "My biggest disappointment."