Affluent investors rated Charles Schwab the number one “distributor” or brokerage firm, bumping Fidelity into second place, according to Cogent Research’s recently released 2010 Investor Brandscape report. Behind Fidelity came Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Edward Jones, Merrill Lynch, Raymond James, UBS Vangaurd, Wells Fargo Advisors, and lastly Ameriprise.
The rankings were based on a composite rating of brand awareness, customer loyalty, market penetration, client mix, and wallet share of all major firms across the industry. Cogent surveyed 4,000 affluent and high net-worth investors in the United States, who gave Fidelity a lower brand awareness and favorability ratings as a brokerage. Meanwhile Schwab usurped Fidelity mainly because it has managed to attract and retain more affluent clients than Fidelity.
For comparison, the first year Cogent came out with the Brandscape report in 2006, Merrill Lynch was the number one brokerage firm, says Meredith Llyod Rice, an author of the Cogent report. In 2008, in the midst of the market meltdown, Fidelity rose to number one and Merrill dropped to number four.
Rice says the wirehouses and the banks maintained their 2008 spots this year, but they still haven’t made up for ground lost in 2006. (While this survey was based on investor sentiment and not actual asset flows, the wealth management divisions of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch enjoyed strong fourth quarter results.).