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12 Best & Worst Broker-Dealers: Q4 Earnings, 2020

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Most financial services firms with large broker-dealers — eight out of 12 — reported higher earnings in the fourth quarter of 2020 versus a year earlier. Two produced triple-digit earnings growth for the period. 

On the downside, four of the 12 broker-dealers regularly included in our quarterly earnings slideshows reported lower year-over-year net income. None, however, reported negative earnings (or a loss).   

These 12 firms and other financial services companies will start reporting their first-quarter results for 2021 on April 14.

All figures in the slideshow represent year-over-year changes in net income and earnings per share, as well in the number of financial advisors or other reported results tied to wealth management or private banking operations.

Advisor Headcount

Overall, the four wirehouses — Bank of America (Merrill/Private Bank), Morgan Stanley, UBS and Wells Fargo — saw their combined headcount shrink by 790 financial advisors over the past 12 months. 

They had a combined 53,000 financial and wealth advisors in the Americas as of Dec. 31, 2020 — down from 53,889 a year ago, or roughly 1.5%. Morgan Stanley is the only wirehouse firm to have boosted its advisor headcount year over year in the fourth quarter.

Four other large broker-dealers tracked by ThinkAdvisor — Ameriprise Financial, LPL Financial, Raymond James and Stifel Financial — had a total of 37,721 advisors as of Dec. 31, 2020. That’s up 1,105 from a year ago, a 3% rise.