While rivals are working behind the scenes, Morgan Stanley is moving publicly—and quickly—to embrace social media, experts say. The Wall Street firm said recently that it would allow its 17,000-plus advisors to use Twitter and LinkedIn with certain restrictions.
Morgan Stanley shared its initial social-media push with the press and investors about a year ago. That’s when it let 600 or so advisors start a pilot program.
“We have a library of preapproved content,” said Lauren Boyman, director of social media at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, in an interview. “We view the library as another distribution channel of the content that advisors send out to clients and prospects all the time.”
Some other wirehouse firms are, of course, also embracing social media—though not to the extent that MSSB is. “Many firms are quietly working on these initiatives, but they are not disclosing” much about their social media efforts, said Chad Bockius, CEO of Socialware, Morgan Stanley’s tech partner, in an interview. “I can say that Morgan Stanley is, without a doubt, the furthest along. It’s been the most aggressive with its rollout and the associated steps that have to be taken with this.”
Such efforts could prove helpful to MSSB as it wraps up the tough task of integrating Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney advisors onto one information-technology platform. It is also facing plenty of pressure from other broker-dealers on the recruiting and retention fronts. Raymond James Financial, for instance, most recently attracted four ex-MSSB advisors in Westlake, Ohio, to join its independent channel with about $400 million in client assets.
“Anytime a firm goes through any type of transition … advisors may leave opportunistically,” according to Mindy Diamond, president and CEO of Diamond Consultants, a recruiter for Morgan Stanley and other firms, in an interview. “Once the transition is over … advisors should be wowed by the technology.”