Edward Jones, Commonwealth Financial top J.D. Power list of top brokerage employers

Firms were rated on qualities such as client support, compensation and firm leadership

Jun 28, 2018 @ 4:41 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

When it comes to workplace satisfaction among broker-dealers, some firms stand out from the pack.

According to the latest research from J.D. Power, Commonwealth Financial, Raymond James Financial and Cambridge Investment Research fill the top three slots among independent broker-dealers.

Among employee-adviser firms, Edward Jones ranked highest, followed by Raymond James & Associates, and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

The J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study is designed to gauge satisfaction among advisers employed by broker-dealers, as well as advisers affiliated with broker-dealers.

The seven factors evaluated were client support, compensation, firm leadership, operational support, problem resolution, professional development, and technology support.

With satisfaction calculated on a 1,000-point scale, the top three firms in each category earned between 841 and 955 points.

For firms representing employee advisers, the average score was 726 points, up seven points from a year ago.

At firms with independent advisers, the average was 753, up one point from last year.

Among the eight firms making up the employee-adviser group, Edward Jones scored 909 points, while the bottom of the list was represented by Merrill Lynch with 697, Morgan Stanley with 682, and Wells Fargo with 618 points.

The seven firms making up the independent-adviser group showed Commonwealth earning 955 points.

The bottom of that list included Ameriprise Financial with 799, Advisor Group with 751, and LPL Financial with 707.

While the firms ranking highest on the list are all uniquely different in terms of size and scale, Mike Foy, director of the wealth management practice at J.D. Power, said the common thread was leadership that advisers generally trust and believe in.

"A lot of it is about confidence in the company's leadership and culture," he said. "If you think about all the disruptive factors right now, including regulatory uncertainty, technology disruption from robos and other competitive entrants coming into the space, a big part is that advisers should like that their leadership team understands and appreciates the role of the adviser."

Mr. Foy specifically cited Edward Jones and Raymond James as examples of firms where "wealth management is the primary business."

"Many of the folks in leadership at those firms are people who started life as an adviser, and they understand the issues facing advisers," he added. "And their goal, as leaders, is growing the adviser centric model of wealth management."

A sub-theme of this year's study, which was based on responses from 3,227 advisers during the first four months of 2018, was female adviser satisfaction.

The average overall satisfaction score among female advisers was 786 among employee advisers, which was 59 points higher than their male counterparts.

Among independent advisers, average satisfaction among women was 793, which was 39 points higher than male advisers.

The research also found that female advisers are more likely than male advisers to say they "definitely will" stay at the same firm over the next one-to-two years by a difference of 86% to 56%.

The same pattern, but to a lesser degree, was illustrated when female advisers were asked if they "definitely will" recommend their firm to others; the difference was 60% to 50%.

Female advisers expressed less satisfaction than their male counterparts when it came to matters of work-life balance, understanding their compensation, and believing in the effectiveness of mentoring programs.

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