Joseph Grano, who led UBS from 2001-2004, said Wednesday on CNBC that the wirehouse business model is fundamentally unsound and that he expects the breakaway-broker trend to continue. “In this decade, those firms lost their way. The capital-markets side of those organizations over-levered, going up to 40 to 1 in some cases, and violated good balance-sheet quality and quality earnings, etc.,” Grano said in a televised interview.
The main issue today at these firms, according to Grano (left) – who worked for Merrill Lynch from ’72-’88 before joining PaineWebber and helping it merge with UBS in 2000 – is that the four major Wall Street firms “continue to pay extra money to advisors for [sales of ] proprietary products and will be in trouble for this in the long term,” he explained. “You’re creating an unhealthy incentive.”
The focus of advisors as purveyors of financial insight and capabilities are especially important today, says Grano given the increasing complexity of the global markets and longevity. Beyond the advisors’ fiduciary responsibility, they “almost have moral responsibility” today to care for their clients’ needs, he added.
“If you’re a large organization looking at the advisor as nothing more than a distributor – not really as the component and marketing mix of advice and counsel – you’re going to lose your way,” he continued.