I have teenage girls. They are wonderful kids and I am sure that many of you share some of the same challenges and funny experiences that my wife and I deal with every day.
Have you noticed that teenage girls have a habit of bragging about things that they are supposed to be doing? (For the Chris Rock fans out there: Yes, this parenting/brokerage story is inspired by a Chris Rock classic comedy bit). They will say to me: “I cleaned my room” or “I did my homework.” Well, they are supposed to clean their rooms and do their homework. Those things are hardly worth bragging about.
Recently, when I talk to Morgan Stanley Advisors, it sounds like I am talking to my teenage girls. Knowing that I and others in the industry have been critical of Morgan Stanley's technology woes over the last year, these advisers are occasionally defensive. But their protests sound a lot like my teenagers: “My system is not down” or “My notes did not disappear.”
Well, your system is supposed to be up and the notes that you put into your contact management section about your last conversation with your client are supposed to stay saved when you click the save button.
As the Morgan “3D” system during 2013 has its one year anniversary this spring and summer, many of its most aggravating traits have been fixed. Most importantly, the system is more stable and is rarely crashing during the business day. The “notes” entry, though somewhat improved, remains a crap shoot. One adviser describes his experience this way: “I enter the notes of my conversation with my client. Then I take a deep breath, and I realize I'm feeling anxiety, like I used to feel when I first learned to jump off the high diving board. Because I still way too often get an error message and all those notes end up being lost.”
Three other common complaints that have still not been fixed:
- It takes four days to get a client his or her money when the client needs to get some cash from selling some securities. The adviser says: “I just manage their expectations. If we sell something on Monday, I let them know that they won't have their cash until Friday.”
- Performance reporting is still inaccurate when certain assets are included. One former Morgan Stanley employee, who remains a Morgan Stanley client, told me that his adviser cancelled his review that was scheduled because she knew that the performance reporting for his accounts was not correct.
- The 3D system still does not have a “back” button. Look at the top left of your browser or indeed most computer programs or apps. There is a left arrow which allows you to go back to the previous page. Somehow, that was left off the system. In case of an errant click, an adviser has to start his or her session from the beginning instead of just going back to where he or she was before.
Morgan Stanley's latest quarterly financial results appeared impressive this week. This is right after Morgan Stanley's advisers' satisfaction appeared at the bottom of the J.D Power and Associates survey.
Shareholders first, advisers and clients second: In my opinion, their priorities have never been more clear.