A.G. Edwards is building an expansive, 200,000-square-foot training center for brokers at its corporate headquarters in St. Louis. And the firm plans to put that space to use by beefing up its broker accreditation programs and internal designations, according to CEO Robert Bagby.

“We want to have the besteducated, best-trained financial consultants in the industry,” Bagby says. The firm's goal is to have people come to Edwards when “they're serious about financial planning.”

Groundbreaking on the three-floor learning center, which will be called A.G. Edwards University, began in June 2000. When completed in mid-2003, the facility will include more than 50 training rooms, a 600-seat auditorium and a studio for the firm's internal satellite television training network.

“We want more professional designations behind our brokers' names,” Bagby says. “We think that's one of the ways we add value.”

The firm would not volunteer specifics, but a producer in the Southwest says improvements in Edwards' training curriculum are already apparent. “They're out doing all kinds of sales training and a heck of a lot more training of financial associates [sales assistants],” he says. “They're taking all that stuff very seriously.”

Another rep, in the Midwest, agrees the firm has made “incredible strides” in its educational offerings in the past year and a half — especially with its online training and its new programs for sales assistants, who have been neglected until recently, he says.

The new A.G. Edwards University building is being constructed as part of the firm's one-million-square-foot expansion of its corporate headquarters.