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Wirehouse metrics reflect different strategies

Newly compiled InvestmentNews research shows how the nation's biggest brokerages rank across four key metrics

Jul 31, 2015 @ 9:27 am

By Ellie Zhu and Mason Braswell

Adviser headcount
Source: InvestmentNews Data

Head count ticked to a new low for Morgan Stanley, although the firm's CEO, James Gorman, told analysts on a conference call that he is comfortable with the scale. Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, has added to recent gains, which it attributes to recruiting wins and some payoffs from updates it made to its training program. Wells Fargo reported a slight increase after losing some people. UBS continued to tick down, but executives said that 60% of the departures were low producers.

Asset per rep
Source: InvestmentNews Data

Assets per adviser has grown consistently and generally mirrors adviser productivity. It was somewhat flat from the first quarter as AUM overall remained mostly flat.

Annualized productivity per rep
Source: InvestmentNews Data

“In the land of the wirehouses, the game has become assembling a collection of top producers,” says Alois Pirker, a research director in the wealth management consulting division at Aite Group.

UBS pulled farther ahead of Merrill Lynch as it reported it was generating more revenue despite fewer advisers. Merrill's declines have come almost concurrently with its turnaround in headcount. Bank of America Merrill Lynch CEO Brian Moynihan said it was taking time for trainees and new hires to build their business.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley has come from behind to nearly overtake Wells Fargo.

Assets under management
Source: InvestmentNews Data
Note: Certain data points are unavailable for Wells Fargo in 2012 and Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley in 2010

Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch remain neck-and-neck on assets under management. Both are growing at a relatively equal pace. Overall, AUM was relatively unchanged at most firms from the first quarter, a fact that executives attributed to weak market performance.

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