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Best Investment Firms Ranked by Advisors: J.D. Power 2013 Satisfaction Survey

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Satisfaction among independent advisors made a nice improvement over the past year, while that of employee advisors declined slightly, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study released Thursday.

The survey firm, which interviews about 2,500 financial advisors each year and ranks BDs on a 1-to-1,000 scale, found that satisfaction among employee advisors is higher that it was two years ago. Among independent advisors, it has increased significantly in each of the past two years.

“The brand image of the firm an advisor works for or is affiliated with may have a direct impact on their client relationships and, as a result, may strongly influence advisor satisfaction,” said Craig Martin, director of investment services at J.D. Power and Associates, in a press release. “Advisor satisfaction is based on more than just firm brand image, but when client relationships are potentially harmed, it raises questions about the risks and rewards of being affiliated with a firm.”

According to J.D Power, most advisors fall into one of two groups: those who have high satisfaction and are “dedicated” to their investment services firm or broker-dealer; and those who are less satisfied and are “indifferent,” or those who lack a strong attachment that might otherwise affect their decision to remain with or leave a firm.

In terms of the specific measurements, satisfaction of independent advisors is up 29 points from 2010 compared with a 12-point improvement among employee reps, the study found.

A high number of employee advisors, 36%, and a good numberof independent reps, 23%, express an indifferent attitude about their current broker-dealer—a signal that they are open to the influence of recruiters and also rival BDs.

Over the past 12 months, the satisfaction level of advisors working for three out of the four wirehouse BDs rose. At Morgan Stanley, however, it declined substantially—from 649 in 2012 to 595 this year.

The firm believes the survey results do not reflect the true satisfaction level of its advisors, according to a statement.

First, a Morgan Stanley spokesperson says, fewer than 150 out of its 16,000-plus FAs responded to the survey. Second, J.D. Power did not ascertain whether or not these respondents were “representative of the FA population at large; given the tiny percentage who completed the survey, it is highly unlikely that they were,” a spokesperson commented.

 As for the independents, Commonwealth Financial saw its satisfaction level rise by a wide margin—to 945 from 917.  

(Check out Best Advisor Firm rankings for 2012 at AdvisorOne.)