From the November 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

View from Wall Street: 'A Challenging Time'

Paul Santucci, head of Field development and talent acquisition for wealth management U.S. at UBS, says that advisors are not leaving UBS "in droves," as some pundits had anticipated with respect to the wirehouse brokerage firms. The wirehouse advisors overall, though, are having more conversations about switching firms than ever, he notes. "That's because the deal economics on the street are more enticing than ever."

"Right now, financial advisors are making decisions based upon the platforms that organizations have, based upon the tools and resources they have, and based on management, senior management and those closest to them. Their branch managers and their economic package are the most important factors," he says, when it comes to the firm they want to work for.

While some wirehouse firms are still trying to entice advisors from rival firms, the current situation is so unsettling that such offers may not be enough to get brokers to move. In other words, advisors aren't as "easily poached" as some recruiters have been suggesting.

"Advisors look at the client side first and foremost, and clients are feeling unsettled," Santucci explains. "And clients want to be with a reputable firm with financial stability.

"Advisors are not moving in droves. There are some special events affecting them, like a merger or change of senior management, and that is prompting more advisors than ever to engage in conversations about changing firms."

Advisors may be looking at other firms, he says, but they are not about to make any quick moves. "They are really taking a deep look at these firms and asking how the firms will help them grow their business. They are also looking at the branch managers."

And there are other details to consider, Santucci explains. "You have to do your due diligence as an advisor, because you have to be sure that all your business will transfer. That has to do with whether or not there truly are the same platforms at the firms involved."

To keep its advisors, and by extension their clients, as comfortable as possible, UBS is adhering to a policy of "total transparency," according to Santucci. "Our CEO Marten Hoekstra has, on a day-to-day basis, been forthright with staff, not only at the headquarters but also out in the field. No financial advisor is left out of the loop."

Hoekstra has also participated in a client-focused webcast, for instance.

UBS has been helping advisors boost their business recently with specialized programs focusing on business development, high-net-worth clients, and ultra-high-net-worth investors.

"Thus, we have several programs to raise the skill level of our advisors," Santucci says.

Nearly 30 advisors joined during the week ending September 19, for instance.

"This is a challenging time for all firms," notes Santucci. "We feel very comfortable in terms of what we have to offer and how we can help advisors at this time, which is very exciting."

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Janet Levaux, MBA/MA, is the managing editor of Research; reach her at jlevaux@researchmag.com.

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