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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

CEOs Share Views on Turnover, Transparency

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Morgan Stanley Chairman & CEO James Gorman says the industry is now through the mayhem of the financial crisis that led many brokers to switch firms. Plus, with consolidation in the industry, there are fewer firms for advisors to jump to.

If “you look at where the industry, the wealth management industry now is, it’s very concentrated. And during the period of turmoil of the crisis, post-crisis and then our acquisition of Smith Barney … there was a lot of attrition, a lot of moving people between different firms,” Gorman explained on a recent call with analysts.

That is the tax on the industry obviously, and it’s inconvenient for clients in many cases,” Gorman said. “But that level of turnover has dropped significantly, and we expect it to continue to drop. So that reduces your overall compensation costs, because obviously recruiting deals can be very expensive.”

In related news, UBS Group CEO Sergio Ermotti says the proposed disclosure of upfront payments paid to advisors who switch broker-dealers should reduce turnover. The transparency, he said on a call, “is going to clearly prevent or slow down the amount of people, the turnover of financial advisors, in the industry.”

Over time, this means that firms will see “a beneficial effect on compensation,” Ermotti added. “But this is not something that you will see on a quarter-by-quarter basis. It’s going to take time [and] it’s clearly a good news in respect of improving the economics of the difference.”

Gorman discussed advisor-turnover issues after Morgan Stanley said its third-quarter earnings from continuing operations nearly doubled to $1.01 billion vs. $560 million. Revenue grew about 7% to $8.1 billion from the year-ago period, excluding debt value adjustments.

Wealth management operations at the investment bank, which account for 43% of total sales, grew 8% year over year to almost $3.5 billion. And the unit’s net income jumped to $430 million, a 32% gain over last quarter and nearly double the year-ago period’s results.

The number of advisors at Morgan Stanley grew 1% to 16,517 in the third quarter from 16,321 on June 30 and 16,378 a year ago. Its advisors had trailing-12-month production of $848,000 on average, down 2% from the prior quarter but up 8% from last year. Total client assets were $1.83 trillion.

Meanwhile, Bank of America said its third-quarter net income rose to $2.5 billion, a jump of more than 600% from last year’s $340 million. Its Global Wealth and Investment Management unit had revenue of $4.4 billion, up 8% from last year but 2% off last quarter’s results. Asset flows were $9.7 billion, a nearly 80% year-over-year growth rate.

Total GWIM client balances were $2.28 trillion, of which $1.85 trillion were held in Merrill accounts. Merrill Lynch revenues were $3.6 billion, up close to 7% over last year but down nearly 3% from Q2.

Advisor fees and commissions averaged $1.3 million for each veteran rep, and total advisor productivity was $1 million on average for all advisors.

BofA says it has a total of 15,624 advisors, down 135 from the prior quarter and 1,135 from a year ago. It also reports that is has 16,846 wealth advisors and 19,534 client-facing professionals.

Wells Fargo said its net income rose 13% year over year in the third quarter, despite a 42% drop in its mortgage banking income. Its 3Q net income was $5.6 billion, or $0.99 a share, vs. $4.9 billion, or $0.88 a share, last year.

Wealth, Brokerage and Retirement reported net income of $450 million, up 4%, from Q2. Revenue of $3.3 billion grew 1%.

The retail brokerage segment had client assets of $1.3 trillion, up 8% from the prior year. Its headcount of client-facing professionals stands at 18,632—including 15,285 financial advisors and 3,347 licensed bankers.

As for its third-quarter earnings, UBS had a profit of 577 million Swiss francs ($644 million) vs. a $2.1 billion-franc loss in the year-ago period. The Wealth Management-Americas unit recorded a pretax profit of $218 million, up 32% from a year ago but down 11% from Q2.

Invested assets were $919 billion, an increase of 3% from $892 billion in Q2 and up 10% from last year. Revenues were $1.748 billion, up 12% from $1.565 billion a year ago but down 2% compared with $1.780 billion last quarter.

The number of advisors rose to 7,137 from 7,099 in the second quarter and 7,032 a year ago. Net new money was $2.1 billion, giving the unit 13 straight quarters of positive inflows. Average invested assets per financial advisor increased to $129 million, up 2% from Q2 and up 9% from $118 million a year ago. Average fees and commissions per financial advisor were $994,000, down 1% from $1,005,000 in Q2 and up 12% from $890,000 in a year ago.

“We are not the high payer for recruiting bonuses at this point in time. We have a very disciplined process on that,” said CFO Thomas Naratil during a call with analysts. “We think that we’ve got a very attractive model … As a result, we don’t have to pay the highest price to get the best-quality advisors.”


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