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Ten to Watch: Andy Saperstein

Ten to Watch: Andy Saperstein

The Mediator

AGE: 43

POSITION: Managing Director and Head of Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney


EDUCATION: Harvard Law School, Wharton School/College of Arts and Sciences at University of Pennsylvania.

Andy Saperstein has a big challenge over the next 12 months: to preside over the smooth integration of Morgan Stanley with Smith Barney, creating the biggest retail brokerage in the business, with 18,444 advisors and $1.4 trillion in client assets. The deal closed on June 1 and management has said that full integration of the two firms could take up to two years. So far, financial advisors at the newly combined firm say not a whole lot is happening, and that may be a good thing. “The biggest challenge is going to be to get this thing done in the least disruptive way to clients and advisors,” says Charlie Johnston, president of the combined organization. “Two years is a long time. Communication is going to be a challenge.”

Luckily, Saperstein seems to be well-liked, and a good listener and talker. Advisors at all levels say he is responsive when advisors have questions, is very frequently on the road visiting with the troops, and is honest with his answers. “He's not a big presence like Charlie, he's only about five-foot-eight, but, when he talks, it's from his heart and his head, no script,” says one top legacy Smith Barney advisor in New York, who says he bets Saperstein is being groomed for greater things.

Of course, retail brokerage mergers are never easy, and morale at Smith Barney has not been great. Hundreds of brokers left the firm in the months before the merger, but management says those brokers were smaller producers, and that since the deal closed attrition has returned to pre-2007 levels. Still, Smith Barney advisors may need winning over. Says one advisor on the Smith Barney side, “The Smith Barney people have been beaten up, lied to; they've lost the majority of their net worth that was tied up in Citi stock. We're pretty much numb to the idea of getting together to sing happy songs. We just don't believe it until we see it.” What would really make him happy? If Morgan Stanley's stock price went through the roof.

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