Will Edward Jones’ New Ads Lure Experienced Advisors?

The firm wants to recruit more veteran advisors, but recruiters say its campaign may not be enough

While the Internet is full of posts about the failed Pepsi commercial (and United Airlines’ aggressive “customer service”), considerably less attention is being given to Edward Jones’ new advertisement, which aims to help the firm recruit veteran financial advisors and others, like CPAs.

According to the firm, the print ads are designed to “shift misperceptions … by highlighting the firm's position as an industry leader while educating industry professionals about … opportunities” with it.

Edward Jones, which employs a maximum of one advisor per office nationwide, is a “different animal” in terms of how its operates, according to recruiter Danny Sarch of Leitner Sarch Consultants. “The idea that they can successfully recruit advisors by putting an ad in the paper is laughable.”

The firm, which says the ad will appear in national business and industry publications this year, sees the ads as part of a broader strategy of going after experienced reps.

“We do not believe the ads on their own will change advisor behavior,” said Katherine Mauzy, principal of financial advisor talent acquisition for Edward Jones, in an interview. “It’s one of multiple levers pulling to get us to be top of mind …”

Pros & Cons

The firm has some headwinds working against it, recruiters point out.

“They are not on the radar screen for some advisors looking to depart” one firm and join another, “because they have not recruited” in the ways that most other firms do, Sarch explained. “They made a business decision to not to be in the so-called ‘recruiting wars.’ ”

By not giving advisors upfront signing bonuses, based on their 12-trailing-months fees and commissions, the firm puts itself at a disadvantage, recruiters say.

Edward Jones disagrees.

“We are finding out that advisors feel just the opposite about compensation,” Mauzy said. “The upfront bonuses [paid as] employee forgivable loans are like handcuffs vs. our transparent way of supporting advisor transitions.”

Instead, Edward Jones gives advisors an income guarantee during their first year with the firm. “This way, they do not have to worry about changes to their production, for instance, and it reduces risk or uncertainty tied to their income,” the executive explained.

The firm also has a new asset bonus based on the level of clients moving over, she adds. It might be between $900,000 to $1.25 million for an advisor moving $100 million or so of assets. “The award can be significant,” said Mauzy.

Protocol Problems?

Another headwind for Edward Jones’ recruiting is the fact that is not part of the broker-dealer protocol, says Mark Elzweig, an executive search consultant.

“Edward Jones is not a firm that is even on the radar screen of most wirehouse advisors who are considering a move,” he explained in an interview. Thus, an ad campaign could be helpful.

“However, if the firm is not a member of the broker recruiting protocol, it will be very difficult for it to attract experienced advisors. I would never place anyone at a non-protocol firm,” the New York-based recruiter says.

The protocol, signed by about 1,500 firms according to industry speaker and advisor Michael Kitces, allows departing advisors to take “a limited amount” of client information with them.

Edward Jones has gone after a number of reps who’ve chosen to leave its fold, like John C. Lindsey, a million-dollar producer in Southern California who was sued for $5 million and fought back.

Lindsey says the firm is known to “brutalize” departing reps in court and then tries to “get them to settle for about $30,000.”

(At the time, a company spokesperson said that the dispute with Lindsey “was never about [the departure and] … concerned the protection of client information, something we take very seriously."

As Mauzy sees it, “Again, not being part of to the protocol has not proven to be a derailer for us.”

Low Hurdles

With about 14,000 advisors, Edward Jones tries to bring in about 3,000 new reps a year – many of whom are making a career change from work as teachers, for instance, or are veterans.

“We want to grow the [experienced advisor] channel and want to be in consideration” as veteran reps move firms, she explained.

In 2016, the firm attracted just 38 advisors with $250,000 or more in yearly production. “We would love to see more than 60 this year,” the executive said.

As for emerging advisors with production of $100,000 or higher, the firm added over 100 last year and targets 140-150 this year.

“We are excited about the ads,” according to Mauzy. “It’s a very positive time for Edward Jones.” 

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