Which wirehouse did high-net-worth investors rate tops?

Jan 21, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

By Jessica Toonkel Marquez

After all of the controversy and consolidation in the wirehouse sector, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC remains the top-rated firm among high-net-worth investors, according to Cogent Research LLC's 2010 Investor Brandscape report, released today.

Of the top 10 distributors, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney ranked three overall but first among the wirehouses. Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. ranked fifth, and UBS ranked number seven.

It seems that Morgan Stanley has carried Smith Barney, which it acquired this year, said Meredith Lloyd Rice, an author of the report. Last year, Smith Barney came in at No. 7 in the rankings. “Morgan Stanley is the last man standing, and out of all the wirehouses, it is the one that has performed the best in terms of branding and customer loyalty,” Ms. Lloyd Rice said.

Cogent surveyed 4,000 investors with more than $100,000 in investible assets for the rankings.

Still, the dust-up on Wall Street has provided a sizable opening for rivals. Indeed, online brokerage firms Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., and Fidelity Investments took the first and second spots, respectively. “The banks and wirehouses have really taken a hit over the past couple of years, giving room for the online brokerages to move up,” Ms. Lloyd Rice said.

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