ML vs Fidelity

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brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

I started about a year ago with MS and was doing pretty well, but our district decided to lay off trainees, so now I'm trying to decide which direction to go.
I have 2 offers on the table; join ML's training program or take a position with Fidelity.  I've asked several people I respect for advice and it always ends with "Put a lot of thought into it", so I thought it would be good to get the advice of some folks who have some experience in the business.  Here are the major factors I've considered;
 
ML: Starting salary is substanially more than what I made at MS and production goals are much much lower.  Large office in a very affluent area.  Lots of team opportunities.  Great training and name recognition (I'm not looking for any company bashing, I know all companies have good/bad, but in our area ML is very well known and respected).
 
Fidelity:  Decent salary, but it's more of a corporate job.  You manage fidelity's accounts and don't really get to "build your own business".  It's more of an inside sales job where you're given a book to manage and build upon.  Money is very good (should be in the 6 figure range within 3-4 years), but will never make the kind of money that is possible at ML, MS, etc.
 
I know that I really want to be an advisor with my own book eventually, so I'll want to be with ML, MS, SB, etc. but my biggest problem is age, I'm only 25 and my biggest objection from prospects is that I'm too young.  So...my big decision is go to ML and continue working the 60-70 hour weeks and build my book.  Or, go with fidelity for 5+ years, build my network and skills and then join one of the wirehouses when i'm in my 30's.  Also, I should mention that I would probably make more money at fidelity for at least the first 5-7 years and I've already met with my 2 biggest clients/prospects and they both seemed to be pushing for fidelity.  Both would invest with me, but given my age and inexperience they think it's going to be a huge obsticle to bring in the 5-8mm/year i would want to bring in and wouldn't feel comfortable giving me referrals until I get a couple more years under my belt.
 
What would you guys recommend?  Any other factors I should consider in my decision making?  Thanks in advance for reading this long drawn-out message :)

Dark Knight's picture
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Joined: 2008-01-30

ML

brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

wow, thanks for the quick reply Dark Knight!  Why do you recommend ML?  Honestly, that's the direction I'm leaning myself though.

Cvbarker's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-12

brian.ra
 
Go with ML not question.  Fidelity is indeed a corporate job and you don't "own" anything.  ML is more rewarding in that you are building your own business.  Look at your age as a positive not a negative.  You are at a point where you can work 60-70 hours a week and once you make it you have the greatest job in the world whereas if you go to FIDO and then move to a wirehouse it may be more difficult because at that point you may have more life responsibility (wife, kids) and taking a pay cut at that point might be do difficult.
 
Bottom line: Go to ML and work your tail off for 5 years and then come back to this board and tell us how glad you are that you went to ML!!  Good luck! 

brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

iceco1d: I'll definitly stick around no matter which position I choose.  This site is awesome, I wish I had found it earlier.
 
I'm still really leaning toward ML but I'd like to play devil's advocate.  This is the arguement that 2 of my biggest prospects made to me; "Go to Fidelity and work your 40 hours a week, then work your butt off building an "internal network" for a few years.  When you're confident that you can go to one of the wirehouses and bring 10 million bucks with you, then go for it."
 
This seems like the "safe" plan, but the problem is, I don't want to take the "safe" route.  I have to admit, it is tempting to take the safe job that'll pay 6 figures within the first 2-3 years, but something inside me keeps pushing for ML. 

brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

I should've said guaranteed 100k after 2-3 years.  I was doing well with MS, but not well enough to be making 100k/year that quickly.  Unless I landed some big accounts within that time, the pace I was at would take me 5-6 years to make that kind of money.  It can be done of course, but Fidelity hands you a large book of business and pays you a salary+bonuses so you're much more likely to be making 6 figures.  With the broker position there, they would give me a book worth 500million minimum account size of 300k to manage right in the beginning.  Within 3-4 years they would expect to promote me (dependent upon performance of course) and give me a book with minimum AUM of 1 billion, min. account size 1 million.  At that point you're looking at making about 150-200k/ year.  Even if it took 5 years, that's a lot of money for a 30 year old to make.  Problem is you pretty much stop at that point, you're never going to make significantly more than that. At the ML office I'm looking at the average advisor makes 350k, a few of them bring home 1 million++ a year...so there's much greater long-term potential at ML.
I don't know if it would make me less marketable, I hadn't really thought about that.  Good point though. 

Dark Knight's picture
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Joined: 2008-01-30

Wow, 1 billion AUM, that's a lot of money to be over.  No wonder the prospects you see with Fidelity accounts have such disorganized investment portfolios.  Tough to do a good job with as many accounts as that translates into.

Spaceman Spiff's picture
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Joined: 2006-08-08

I think it depends on what you really want to do as an FA. 

 
My understanding is at ML they teach and train you become a Financial Advisor, get your CFP, cold call, build a book on your own, build RELATIONSHIPS, etc.  That's valuable experience that will follow you for the rest of your career.  No matter if you stay with ML or not, that experience is yours.  Plus you have the ability to build YOUR business the way YOU want.    
 
At FIDO they ASSIGN you a bunch of people who you don't know.   Most of those people either chose Fidelity because A) that's where their 401K was and they just left it or B) they hate the idea of paying fees and went no load.  Trying to get them to follow you to another firm may be more difficult than you think.  Chances are you will only talk with people on the phone.  You will only manage their money.  You probably won't build any RELATIONSHIPS.  You'll be the name on the statement and the signature on the letter once a year.  They won't know you personally and won't have any remorse about leaving you. 
 
Perhaps the FIDO route is the path of least resistance.  Maybe  you just have to decide what path you want to take.  The more rewarding (on many levels), but difficult one or the sure thing, but not as self satisfying one.  I know the one I'd choose.  

brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

Yeah very well put Spiff...that kind of puts a different perspective on it.  I appreciate your guys' inpute and I'll let you know which I decide.  I have to let them know by the end of the week so I'll keep everyone updated. 
 
Thanks again for the help everyone :)

brain.ra's picture
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Joined: 2008-02-20

Ok I've decided...I'm making the obvious choice and going with ML.  What it really came down to was the fact that I get really excited thinking about going to work at Merrill and not at fidelity.  I appreciate all of the opinions and advice you've all shared, it definitly helped me to make well-thought-out decision.  Thanks a million.

Brooklyn's picture
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Joined: 2012-02-04

brainra: How did it turn out?

Bearish's picture
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Joined: 2012-02-15

ML Vs Fidelity is analogous to Mercedes Vs Honda

biggamejames's picture
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Joined: 2012-02-12

Brain.ra how did it turn out? I hope he answers haha 

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