Here are all of the comments RR heard from A.G Edwards brokers.
"We focus on client rather than product. We’re a conservative firm so there is no focus on technology and that’s not necessarily a bad thing."
"Overall, not too many things we do poorly. Overall our reputation is better than other firms, nothing we really do badly. So overall, we’re pretty good."
"We’re a people firm. That’s No. 1. Very employee-oriented. The firm will do anything to help the financial consultant be as good as he can. Firm is very broker friendly."
"They have clients’ best interest at heart, don’t nickel-and-dime them. They care about customers. I’m happy with the new computer system/ workstation."
"Firm does a good job of making people aware of the products offered, and lets the broker use what he sees fit. Our research is not as good as it could be. We’re rolling out our new technology, called ClientOne. It is a step up. It has much more capability and flexibility. It’s light years ahead of what we had."
(Ethics) "Client first--do what is right for client, keep him happy. Fees and costs are best in industry. Cost is lower based in St. Louis. Don’t spend enough on advertising. Some TV, but no sports on TV."
"Firm lets reps do what they’re supposed do without interference from the firm or home office. Whole new computer interface does everything."
"We have no growth goal and that works out well. A year in a down market and the only way to make it up is to charge clients, and then you’re doing it to meet a financial goal, not doing what is best for clients. We have no quotas, no proprietary products. There is no interest to do what is not best for clients."
"Firm takes care of employees. They listen and respond. Incentives and sales support are lacking."
"Firm provides an excellent working atmosphere for serving my clients. But, it has inadequate broker recruiting process. Other firms offer signing bonuses. Edwards does not offer enough incentives to people to come here, nor does it expose itself to develop more staff."
(Hiring/recruiting) "Edwards has the lowest disciplinary action record in this industry. That shows me they are continuing to hire and recruit quality people rather than trying to become some penny firm or boiler room outfit."
(Training) "They make a lot of training available to us either through regional conferences or by flying us back to St. Louis. It’s there if you want it."
(Operations) "I’d like to have things expedited a lot faster, but I guess that’s true of many other brokerage firms. You’d think with all the technology out there, we could do account transfers in a shorter period of time than it seems to take."
(Account statements) "I gave it a nine because we are about to get a new computer system that is expected to greatly improve the current account statements. What I like is the ethics of the firm. Having the firm back me and not put pressure on me to sell products is very ethical. I try to do what’s right for my clients, and I’m at a firm where that’s its No. 1 objective. I came from other pastures. This was the greener pasture. There are no other greener pastures out there in my eyes."
(Research) "Depends on what level you’re talking about. I work with managed money so for me the research is excellent."
(Fixed-income) "Excellent. The cheapest place in the world to buy bonds."
(Strategic focus) "Their focus continues to be based on their traditional values. They are not trying to be all things to all people. They want to be consistent with what is best for the clients. They are not likely to change from their historical perspective."
(Image) "The overall image among those who know us is excellent, at least a nine. But if Edwards has a weakness, it’s in advertising, we don’t sponsor every golf game or tournament. So a lot of people don’t know who we are."
(Sales support) "Could be a little stronger from an advertising standpoint. They just are not good at marketing themselves."
(Sales ideas) "We have a plethora of ideas, you just can’t do them all."
(Training) "For the most part there is a lot of training offered, but it’s dependent on how much you are willing to go after it." (Quote/info) "I’m basing my answer on the new system we expect to have installed soon. They tell us it’s the best one in the business. What we have now is very outdated."
(Overall) "Edwards lets me be a consultant for my clients. No pressures, no propriety issues, no sales quotas. They give me the freedom and support that allows me to be what I want to be, and to do what’s right for the client. The only downside is their lack of advertising. They have no concerted marketing effort, and that seriously needs to be looked at and improved. We’re the fourth or fifth largest brokerage firm in the world, and there are still many people out there who do not know who we are."
(Research) "I guess if I compare it with the other firms I’m experienced with, ours is actually quite good. Not every single stock they pick goes straight up, but I don’t know of anybody’s that does."
(Strategic focus) "Not quite on the cutting edge of technology issues as I’d like them to be, but we seem to be trying to catch up so I guess there’s hope."
(Overall) "The new workstation we just got is fabulous, the best I’ve ever seen. The firm’s commitment to doing a good job for clients and charging a fair price is real. It’s so darn rare to find that in our industry it’s amazing. That said, I’d also like to see more strength in investment banking, that’s a definite area in which I’d like to see us improve."
(Research) "I do a lot on my own. The department’s pretty good at technological analysis and economic research, but overall I don’t rely all that much on them."
(Overall) "What I like best is the lack of sales pressure and the freedom. What I believe needs to be addressed, and it’s probably true in every firm in this industry, is the lack of adequate sales assistants without having the broker pay out his own pocket."
(Benefits) "Our retirement plan is great, excellent really, best in industry."
(Research) "I get more ideas from them on smaller to mid-sized companies, that’s probably their research strength."
(Strategic focus) "Their focus has always been to serve the clients and keep the brokers happy. That’s why they stay away from things that aren’t necessarily a positive for clients, like online trading."
(Image) "They don’t do a lot of national advertising. Inside the industry we have a good reputation, but I still find people who have not heard of us."
(Sales ideas) "They bombard you to death sometimes with sales ideas. The home office is pretty proactive when it comes to ideas."
(Operations) "Great. If you have a problem, you address it once and never have to address it again, it gets done."
(Account statements) "They are working on that as we speak. We’re getting a new system in very soon."
(Overall) "The people here are great to work with and very helpful. They are not pushy, they tell you something and you feel it’s the gospel. If you need assistance they are there to help, deliver and then leave you alone to do the business you need to do. What needs to be addressed is our image, nationally. I’d like to see us become better known."
(Fixed-income) "I don’t think it’s competitive enough, it could be better."
(Branch manager) "I gave him a one, and even that’s high. I don’t want to go into it."
(Sales assistants) "It’s an office problem. While the firm advocates quality, that does not always mean that an individual office is within the guideline of that dictate. We have serious office problems because of our branch manager."
(Overall) "I can call the home office anytime I want to and get answers to my questions, and have confidence that it’s the best answer and the best situation for my client. On the down side, the office management is in the trenches here. I don’t believe in a manager being a producer and that’s one of the problems here."
(Training) "You can have as much as you want, whenever you want. There is definitely a lot offered."
(Account statements) "New system’s in place and it’s fantastic."
(Overall) "Very good in most of the areas you asked me to rate. They try their best to take care of clients and those who work for them. They believe that if the broker is happy then the broker will do a better job for the client. No one has a better 401(k) plan than we do, and everyone on the Street knows that."
(Research) "I don’t use it that much. It seems to go through phases. It was weak when I first started here years ago, then it got better. It’s still not strong so I don’t use it much."
(Branch manager) "It’s chaos here because of him, he doesn’t exercise a lot of control over things."
(Strategic focus) "I like that they continue to put clients first, but they are slow to adopt to the internet strategy and whether or not I think that’s particularly meaningful to clients, the clients seem to want it and ask about it often. But that’s Edwards, they are typically slow and like to let others be the pioneers and blaze the trail. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad."
(Overall) "We rate high on ethics. There is no pressure to push any particular product, the firm always puts clients first, brokers second and the firm third. On the downside, they tend to be a little too slow on new trends, which as I said can be good or bad depending on what the new trends lead to."
(Research) "We have good people who really provide excellent service, but sometimes when stocks go down they don’t inform us effectively enough or expediently enough."
(Branch manager) "Weak in offering help for accelerating gross, offering ideas, incentives, etc. It would be nice if he came around once in a while and asked what he could do to help."
(Sales ideas) "Dramatically improved with our new computer system. Information comes through faster and more efficiently."
(Training) "They don’t really bring people into the branch to converse with us, all our training is either in St. Louis or through the computer system."
(Overall) "I’ve been in the business a long time and part of that time with other firms. I think Edwards is outstanding in terms of responding to the needs and requests of their clients and brokers. They provide us with information quickly, efficiently and accurately. All that stems from top management and that’s a real plus. What I’d like to see is better in-branch training, roving ambassadors if you will, coming in to give us the necessary training on trust services, for example."
(Payout) "It’s adequate. Of course, I’d like to see it even higher."
(Research) "Sometimes they do a good job, sometimes they don’t. It’s not an exact science and there have been a few that we’ve missed, but I guess that’s pretty much the case throughout the industry."
(Hiring/recruiting) "I think the process could be improved on a little, maybe with better screening."
(Image) "Weak, but we don’t do any advertising so a lot of people haven’t heard of us."
(Sales assistants) "I share with two others and that can be difficult at best."
(Training) "Very good when you first start, after that you’re pretty much on your own."
(Operations) "We have 4,000 people working in St. Louis, sometimes it’s hard to determine who you need to call for a specific issue."
(Overall) "What I like is the down-home family atmosphere. Even though we are very large, it remains a family atmosphere, which comes from the chairman down. What I don’t like is the lack of ongoing training for long-time brokers. I also think managers need to be hired for their managerial skills, not just because they are good brokers. A person can be a very good broker and not be an effective manager and vice versa."
(Overall) "Our strategic focus is on the client and the employee. So many firms, and I have been associated with a few, pay lip service to the client. Ben Edwards says two people row this boat: the client and the employee; the rest takes care of itself. Edwards is absolutely head and shoulders above any other place I’ve worked, they seem to have the answer. No upfront money, so we’re at a disadvantage in recruiting. You really must love Edwards to come here, because you’re not getting anything upfront. Anybody who does anything wrong here might as well kiss their butt good-bye. Among people who know us, our image is spectacular. But we’re still referred to as a regional firm because we’re not headquartered in Gotham, so no one seems to know us. Heck, we have more brokers than PaineWebber. A.G. Edwards is one of the best-kept secrets in the country, A.G. Edwards also owns its headquarters buildings and has no debt. If someone tries to take us over, and I think someone will, they’ll be getting a real chunk of merchandise."
"Integrity permeates this firm. Everyone truly believes that the client comes first."
"I worked for another firm for 10 years; this is the best career move I ever made."
"It’s so good here that I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. Been here for seven years after leaving Merrill, and there’s just no comparison. I can be an entrepreneur and put my client’s best interest first. At Merrill, you couldn’t. Plus, you were forced to do a specific number of financial plans or my payout was cut. Had to do X amount of quotas or your payout was cut. You’d get penalized up the wazoo if you don’t play ball their way. Here at A.G., I run my biz. There’s no bull."
"I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. I like the fact that I don’t have any quotas put on me and we don’t have any proprietary products. We can do what’s best for client. I have a buddy who’s a branch manager at ML and a buddy at Paine, and there’s no way I’d ever go over to those firms. The hoops they have to jump through are too much. They can’t even leave there; they’re handcuffed because of retirement programs."
"I was frustrated that we fell behind the curve, technology-wise, with our computer system, but I just saw the new prototype and it’s intense. Probably the best of the lot of all the firms. But right now, I’m using a dinosaur that had a 486 and no CD-ROM."
"I’m very happy here. Been here for 20 years. What’s kept me here? A lot of things, the benefits for one. You’re proud when you work for A.G. Edwards. Other firms have production quotas, where they had to do a certain percentage of the firm’s business, sometimes 40%. It’s more rigid at other firms. There’s a different mindset here. Ben Edwards said in 1990: ‘I want you guys to do good, quality business. I don’t care if you set the world on fire with volume production. If you do a quality business, we’ll be happy and you’ll stay as long as you want.’"
"The motto here is do what’s best for the client, and don’t worry about what’s best for company. If you take care of the client, the good of the company will follow. The most powerful aspect that’s influenced me about working here is the sales attitude of the company. The internal philosophy about doing what’s best for the client and not worrying about what’s best for the company. There’s no pressure here. They don’t go out and buy a block of stuff and give us a quota to sell it. There’s no pressure to sell this or that. If I had a boss telling me ‘You have 1,000 shares of this stock to sell,’ I’d go crazy. If I didn’t believe it in, I’d have a tough time at that kind of firm. This company doesn’t put in that situation. Having no proprietary mutual funds is great. I’m able to offer what I feel is the best fund that I can put forth to my client. Whether it’s AIM, Putnam or Hartford."
(Quality/quantity SAs) "We have twice the assistants that most firms do. The support is unbelievable."
"They’re trying to find a balance between transaction-based business and fee-based advisory services. They let you do what you want, there are no quotas and that’s the biggest plus. But they need to upgrade the quality of the sales assistants."
"I haven’t met anyone at the firm who thought they were a high-up muckety-muck. The top execs are like everyone else. They’re highly accessible."
(Benefits) "I never dreamed I’d accumulate this much money in my 401(k). The retirement package is great. I get calls from headhunters who offer me big bucks to go to another firm, but I can’t stand the thought of leaving. Ben Edwards does a conference call to employees every other Wednesday. After the first time I listened in, I called my wife and said I’m going to be here for the rest of my life. That was in 1983."
"It’s been great here thanks to Ben Edwards. He’s the greatest CEO in the country. His sole focus is what’s in the client’s best interest." AG
"The account statements are really poor. They’re confusing for clients and we get complaints about them. I like the fact that there are no proprietary products and no grid system, and the fact that a bank doesn’t own us."
(Overall) "I’ve worked with four different firms, and A.G. Edwards is far superior. I worked for major wirehouses and regionals. The brokerage payout as well as the profit-sharing benefits are probably as high as anybody. In terms of pressure to produce, there is virtually none. You can do the kind of business you want to do. I do managed stock portfolios, and I don’t have to do syndicate. Now, the question is, who’s going to buy us out?"
(Hiring/recruiting) "They don’t offer upfront bonuses. They do a pretty good job at it. They offer a high payout."
(Quote/info) "We’re just getting a new one."
"I think you can probably tell by the [rating] numbers that I think it’s a great firm to work for. There’s never pressure. I’ve been here for 11 going on 12 years, and I have never felt pressure to sell any particular product. We don’t have proprietary products. It’s been a very pleasant experience."
(Pressure/quotas) "We don’t have any."
(Hiring/recruiting) "They don’t do upfront bonuses. This is the only firm I’d work for."
(Sales support) "The home office is the best. With Pru it was terrible. I can talk to anybody--an analyst, etc."
(Operations) "I’d give it a 10. Three years ago, I would have given it a 10-plus. As we’re getting bigger, the more people you need, the lesser the capabilities."
"If I couldn’t make a living here, I would retire. I feel all of this bigness [of other firms’ mergers] is going to affect service. The average investor will suffer as a result of that. If somebody comes along to buy us out, I would seriously consider retiring. Now, it’s a very client-oriented firm. The client is first--what we do is in their best interests. That’s my philosophy, too. The bottom line: I wouldn’t work anywhere else."
"Overall it’s pretty good. It’s probably the best firm for my personality type. We don’t have a sales quota--that’s a big plus. It doesn’t skew your judgment. You can do what’s right for the client."
"Great firm, love working here."
"I think they lost sight of what’s happening in the industry. I think we won’t be independent down the road unless they get a better handle on what’s going on. I came here to be less wirehouse-oriented and more customer-oriented; they’ve gone toward the wirehouse model without the benefits of a wirehouse. [Asked to be more specific] The way they treat the reps. They’re not treating reps with the individual respect we used to get. We’re treated more like a commodity than we used to be. Been here eight years, and I’ve been a broker for 30 years. The firm may be taken over. Insiders don’t own much stock. ... I wonder why."
"Been here 25 years, have another 15 to go. It’s been a great firm, have enjoyed the relationship. I think the firm is headed in the right direction."
"I was with Merrill before. I’ve seen both sides of the business. Every firm has its faults."
(What the firm is doing well) "Technology: the quote system."
(What the firm is doing well) "Technology--the upgrade has enhanced our productivity. Strategic focus is realistic and well balanced. It’s a pleasure to work for them."
"I’ve been in the business many years and this is the best firm. A firm that treats their employees as well as Edwards is a firm that will attract more clients."