Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley Restructures Number of Management Roles

From the Desk of Jim Eccleston at Eccleston Law LLC:


In its latest round of restructuring, Morgan Stanley has altered the number of management roles at their branch, complex and regional levels. The top positions affected are Associate Complex Managers (ACMs) and Complex Business Development Managers (CBDMs).

Morgan Stanley wants to expand the role of Associate Complex Managers and their latest changes appear to be doing just that. By early June, Morgan Stanley is looking to increase the number of ACMs by 30, leading to each of the wirehouse’s 82 complexes having an ACM.

In contrast to the increase of ACMs, there will be a reduction in the number of Complex Business Development Managers. After the restructuring, there will only be 56 CBDMs–a 14- person decrease from the previous number of 70. Many CBDMs will need to cover offices in more than one complex to account for this change.

In total, Morgan Stanley’s restructuring will result in a net increase of 16 management positions. This increase, however, will not be spread evenly. Some complexes will end up with a headcount higher than it is today, while others will see a decrease. The complexes which see an increase will be those that Morgan Stanley arbitrarily deems “fertile for growth.”

The attorneys of Eccleston Law LLC represent investors and advisers nationwide in securities and employment matters. Our attorneys draw on a combined experience of nearly 65 years in delivering the highest quality legal services.

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Top Wirehouse and Regional Broker-Dealers Continue to Grow

According to OnWallStreet’s annual ranking of the top regional and wirehouse broker-dealers, wirehouses and regional broker-dealers continue to grow but face challenges.

Last year, Morgan Stanley topped the industry leaders list with increased commission revenues of 6.4%, and fee revenues of 6.2%.

UBS is in the process of transforming itself into a more comprehensive wealth management firm. It is providing advisors with support and training. And to further boost revenues, UBS is aiming to grow its lending business and mortgage offerings. At the end of 2013, UBS already had expanded mortgage lending to $6.7 billion.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which topped the wealth management firms’ list by revenue, is aiming to boost advisor productivity through large-scale technology upgrades. The firm recently launched an iPad app, “Merrill Lynch Clear”, which uses interactive graphics and research to help users identify their retirement priorities. Moreover, the firm also is upgrading and combining its platform into a single advisor workstation, Merrill Lynch One, which is expected to be a vital tool for Merrill advisors.

Regional leaders like Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) rapidly have expanded its force in the U.S. market through a number of acquisitions starting in 2000. The firm reported a roughly 15% profit growth in the second-quarter earnings this year. And according to RBC’s CEO, the firm is moving to the next stage to grow its wealth management and capital market business in the U.S. through organic growth and acquisition. 

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Wirehouse Reps Move Dramatically to Fee-based Model

From the Desk of Jim Eccleston at Eccleston Law Offices:

Wirehouses are shifting away from a commission-based brokerage model to a fee-based business model. Over the past decade, the number of fee-only and fee based advisers has increased to 84% at the wirehouses, compared with about 57% for the rest of the brokerage industry.

The challenge is to find an appropriate price for advice which is competitive with what others in the industry are charging. Some advisors charge between 0.75% and 1% of assets under management as an annual fee rather than drawing commissions.  In order to offset the decline in commission, advisers undertaking the move must be prepared to generate revenue from different sources or to make the shift incrementally.

The fee-based account gives advisers a more stable source of revenue that, over time, allows them to market and to focus on existing clients.

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Wirehouses Hunt for Bank Channel Talent

From the Desk of Jim Eccleston at Eccleston Law Offices:

Wirehouses are recruiting top advisors from the bank channel. As the broker-dealer industry becomes more competitive, even big firms are becoming much more flexible and open in their recruitment in order to ensure success and meet their aggressive recruiting goals.

The effort historically has been risky. Most bank advisers build their businesses through company referrals rather than prospecting, so clients often are less willing to transfer their assets. Moreover, bank advisers pose legal risk. While most brokerage firms have signed the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, banks have shied away.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a member of the protocol, for example, but that does not apply to advisers in its bank channel, Merrill EdgeJ.P. Morgan Securities signed on earlier this year, but clarified that it was limited only to the few hundred advisers in its private client group and excluded the JPMorgan Chase Private Bank.

In addition, bank advisors face tighter restrictions on what client information can be taken. Morgan Stanley was sued earlier this year when it recruited a trust adviser from PNC Bank. PNC accused the firm of helping the adviser misappropriate trade secrets. Bank advisers have employment contracts that have non-solicits or non-competes, or event sometimes a garden leave provision of 30, 60, or 90 days. Competent legal counsel, such as Eccleston Law, should be retained to review and consult.

Another concern is that many bank advisers are working with mass- affluent clients with less than $250,000 in assets, while most wirehouse accounts require investible assets of greater than $250,000 for the adviser to receive a payout. Still, wirehouse managers are willing to take on the risk, especially if a successful bank hire can provide a connection to a big-name client.

The attorneys of Eccleston Law Offices represent investors and advisers nationwide in securities and employment matters. Our attorneys draw on a combined experience of nearly 50 years in delivering the highest quality legal services.

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Wirehouses Update Succession Plans for Retiring Advisers

From the Desk of Jim Eccleston at Eccleston Law Offices:

According to InvestmentNews, wirehouse firms, where 30% of advisers are planning to leave the business in the next decade, have been updating their succession programs for aging advisers with new names, higher payouts and lower barriers to entry, as the competition for the assets of retiring advisers heats up in the brokerage industry.

The basic processes for retiring at a wirehouse are similar across the firms. They all aim to provide retiring advisers who meet certain criteria a share of the total revenue from their book for up to five years after they retire. Moreover, the wirehouses have been refining that original plan, and adding more flexibility and options in recent years as new channels come into the marketplace.

Payouts at the wirehouses have been steadily increasing and this year reach as much as 250% of an advisor’s book of business, depending on length of service, size of the book and other firm metrics.

Advisors at the higher end of the range are generally serving on a team, are 55 or older, have been with the firm for a good part of their career and have a number of fee-based accounts and younger clients.

For example, Morgan Stanley is updating its Former Financial Adviser Program this year to provide additional payouts to both lower producing and top-tier advisers. Bank of America Merrill Lynch‘s original Client Transition Program paid out between 70% and 80% of trailing-12 production over four years, but it was updated for 2013 to pay up to 160% of trailing-12 with a minimum of 100%.

The payout is matched with where the adviser falls on the production grid. Even though the payouts are still somewhat lower than the independent space, where the income is often taxed as a capital gain rather than as ordinary income, the wirehouses benefit from the structure and sense of stability the programs provide.


As wirehouses encourage their advisors to team up, they also are doing more to bolster the partnership between the retiring advisor and his or her successor.

Morgan Stanley requires its advisors to have been on a team for at least one year, and will offer enhanced payouts to lower-producing advisors who join a team.

Merrill Lynch’s program is not open to any advisors who have not been on a team for three years.

UBS Wealth Management Americas’ Transitioning Financial Adviser Program provides for a five-year payout, but two of those years are spent in the office in a consulting role, helping clients get to know their new advisors.

Wells Fargo Advisors’ program will pay up to 160% of trailing-12 revenue and will provide a loan to the inheriting adviser for up to 200% of the departing advisor’s book value.


Firms are also lowering the thresholds for entry into their succession plans to make it easier for recently recruited advisors to take advantage of the program.For example Morgan Stanley’s plan has one of the lowest length of service requirements at three years..

Advisors already at the wirehouses are generally receiving large offers, but should still be careful to consider how much they are being offered and compare that with offers at other firms or other channels.

The attorneys of Eccleston Law Offices represent investors and advisers nationwide in securities and employment matters. Our attorneys draw on a combined experience of nearly 50 years in delivering the highest quality legal services.

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Jim Eccleston: Morgan Stanley Suffers Big Asset Loss

From the Desk of Jim Eccleston at Eccleston Law:

The nation’s largest brokerage by adviser head count, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, lost $8.4 billion in client assets during the third quarter, as some of its major producers took their business to competing firms. In the three-month period ended September 30, 2013, the average assets under management of advisers who moved also jumped nearly 25% from the previous year, to $402.2 million. Generally speaking, adviser movement with small books of businesses is not tracked by the data, and advisers do not necessarily take all of their business to the new firm.

Four of the 10 largest departures from Morgan Stanley in the third quarter were to other wirehouses. Three teams managing $7.9 billion in assets moved to UBS Financial Services Inc., while a $1 billion team in the New York area switched to Wells Fargo Advisors LLC.Morgan Stanley did add some major advisers last quarter. However, high-profile losses appeared to offset Morgan Stanley’s recruitment successes last quarter.

Given that Morgan Stanley had 16,321 advisers and $1.8 trillion in assets at the end of the second quarter, according to the company’s regulatory filings, it still is the largest wirehouse by advisers and the second largest by assets.

The attorneys of Eccleston Law represent investors and advisers nationwide in securities and employment matters.

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Consent Order Issued Forcing Former Merrill Lynch Advisers to Return Customer Information and Agree Not to Solicit Their Former Clients to Join Morgan Stanley

On April 27, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, entered a consent order requiring five individuals to return their customer information they took with them and agree not to solicit their former clients to join them at Morgan Stanley.  Now, the matter is in arbitration at FINRA.

Allegedly, an office manager at Merrill’s Birmingham Southeast office caught Christopher Baker and Henry Hagood printing out quarterly review reports for approximately 35 clients just two days before the team members put in their resignations on April 16th.  Other members of the team, after they resigned, allegedly downloaded and printed out customer statements and other information at different times.  The advisers, however, are allowed to keep the basic information on clients allowed under the protocol and can transfer their Merrill clients to their accounts at Morgan Stanley if the clients contact them.

Eccleston Law Offices counsel, represent and defend financial advisers nationwide in regulatory, compliance, disciplinary and employment matters in arbitration and litigation, and before regulatory bodies such as the SEC, FINRA and state securities regulators.  We frequently defend forgivable loan collection actions, prosecute Form U-5 defamation actions, counsel advisers as to how to transition successfully from firm to firm and negotiate the best possible agreements with their new firm, and provide succession planning, buy-sell agreements and other exit strategies and strategic consulting, practice transitions, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.

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