Morgan Stanley says that its U.S. wealth management business is now branded Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (MSWM). In other words, the group’s name no longer includes Smith Barney.
The joint venture between Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney came together in 2009, with Morgan Stanley having a 51% share and Citigroup 49%. Recently, the two parties agreed that Morgan Stanley could increase its majority ownership of the venture and assume full control by June 2015.
With the name change, Morgan Stanley executives praised the effort’s results to date, while experts gave it more mixed reviews. “Today, as we move under one name, we are culminating a three-year effort to integrate two outstanding franchises,” said Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman, in a press release.
The venture was valued at $13.5 billion on Sept. 11. It included about 16,930 employee advisors as of June 30 with some $1.7 trillion in assets. The number of advisors as of the second quarter dropped 2% from March 30 and 6% from last year.
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“The name change was not unexpected,” said Danny Sarch, president of the recruiting group Leitner Sarch Consultants (which works with several key rivals of Morgan Stanley), in an interview. “Finally, we have the culmination of what was not a joint venture, but a takeover.”
Others see it a bit more positively. “It’s a smart branding move for Morgan Stanley,” said Chip Roame, managing partner of Tiburon Strategic Advisors (which lists Citigroup as a client), in an interview.
“They spend so much on advertising. It’s smart to leave no consumer confusion between the MS brand used by all its businesses and the MSSB brand,” Roame explained.