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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