Here are all of the comments RR heard from Prudential brokers.
"Our entire pricing strategy is confusing to the client and the broker."
"Overall, it’s pretty good here. It’s not the best. There’s always room for improvement. There are a lot of bad corporate decisions. [Upper management] seems to jump from one ‘hot’ idea to the next. A real waste of resources."
"I’m very comfortable here. I have a family here and we get everything we need. We’re in the top 3% of firms. We’re happy with what we do. I get along well with the firm. I couldn’t ask to do better."
(Technology) "We’re trying to keep up with all the change in technology. It’s not easy."
"There’s too much pressure to do wrap fee. Most [brokers] aren’t willing."
"Our firm has recognized the direction of the industry and compensates advisers more to do that kind of business. We’re poor at retaining talent. We’re not public yet, so we can’t retain talented people. But I believe that will change."
"We’re pretty good on technology. It’s a lot of work utilizing and keeping it up to date. We’re making an effort to raise the level of research and it’s baring some fruit. We need to keep up the morale of brokers. We need a better effort in recruiting, better payouts and practices applied to keep good people."
"I have no complaints at all. You can always make more money and work fewer hours, and the payout can always be higher. But this is best place I’ve ever worked. [Previously worked at Merrill.] It’s better because you don’t have to sell proprietary products."
"A year ago, I was worried about the full-service broker because of the ease clients could get to trade executions. Now I think they need us more. There’s just too much information out there. They need us for direction and stability. We take the emotion out of it for them."
"I was here in 1994 when it sucked. It’s much better now. Because of the trouble in the early 1990s, Pru has tried to make up for bad times, and they’ve put massive quantities of money into technology. Basically Pru decided: ‘We’re not gonna let anyone get ahead of us in technology. So whatever it takes we’ll do.’"
"We’re one of lowest paying firms. Will it improve? No, I don’t see that happening."
"We have a lot of assets that we can bring to our clients. We also have outstanding technology that helps us help our clients. What I see as a problem is broker morale along with a general distrust of upper management. Too often they’ll say they’ll do something and although they do it, there is always a wrinkle or it turns out there is more to it than they said it would be. I think we’re too small. We need to either acquire someone or several firms or we need to be bought out."
(Benefits) "They’re getting better. The firm recently revamped its benefit system to include an expanded list of choices for health care and medical coverage. There are also expanded choices for the 401(k) program."
(Sales quotas) "At my level there are no quotas."
(Research) "It’s gotten much better in the last couple of years. We probably have some of the best research on the Street."
(Strategic focus) "We’re definitely putting more of an emphasis on the financial advice side of the business as opposed to the execution side."
(Hiring/recruiting) "It’s about average. The firm has not been a big recruiter of brokerage talent, but that seems to be changing in general, although I really haven’t seen that much recruiting here in this branch."
(Image) "I still think that we’re living a little under the cloud of the partnership problem and insurance problem, although it has gotten dramatically better. Unfortunately, as the brokerage arm of the firm, we still are not viewed as a major firm in the top half of the brokerage business."
"There’s a lot of opportunity here to do well. We’re small enough to be very comfortable. The firm cares about the financial advisers and allows us to develop an entrepreneurial spirit without any restrictions or restraints."
(Account statements) "They’re not very good."
"What do I like [about the firm]? The people in operations who know how to do their job and handle problems."
(Payout) "It’s very poor compared to what I know other firms pay."
(Image) "Our past is still a problem."
(Quote/Info system) "It needs to be improved. It goes down very often."
"Our strength is in our investment management department. The choices we have as financial advisers, in terms of services available, are excellent. There is no pressure on us to buy things that we feel are inappropriate for our clients."
(Benefits) "It’s getting better."
(Strategic focus) "We’re moving in the right direction, but not fast enough."
(Hiring/recruiting) "They’re spending too much money to bring in people without paying attention to the quality of the individuals coming in."
(Sales support) "I don’t think we’re given the kind of support we need to do what we’re supposed to do. It’s supposed to change but who knows when that will be."
(Training) "It’s offered but it’s missing the boat. A lot of what they bring us together for is after the fact."
(Operations) "It varies from day to day. Right now, I can’t seem to get an answer to any of my questions."
"We’re focusing on fee-based business more and transactional business less, which is good. There’s a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction."
(Image) "There’s still a residual effect that keeps haunting us. It is going away, but it’s slow."
(Sales assistants) "We need to pay them more."
(Training) "Could use more especially for the support staff."
"Our technology and online capabilities are second to none right now. Our clients get Internet access to all kinds of resources. What we need to do is tighten the belt a little, trim some fat to become even more efficient. We’re making a move to go public so there’s a lot of restructuring going on."
(Research) "Overall the coverage is weak. There doesn’t seem to be any accountability."
(Hiring/recruiting) "It’s changed a lot over the years. It used to be tough to get a job. Now it seems too easy. Quality has gone down and turnover has gone up."
(Operations) "For the most part, the operations department is pretty good, but sometimes we get the run around when we’re looking for answers."
"We have a great computer system, but we need to work on improving the quality of our research."
(Research) "It’s just fair."
(Recruiting/hiring) "I don’t believe in high payouts to bring others over. I haven’t seen any positive reasons for doing that."
"At the local level, the power of the back office to resolve problems is very good. They know what they are doing. I’m not bugged by my branch manager, or anyone else, to sell a product that’s not appropriate for my clients. The technology that the firm provides is cutting edge. The firm is committed to providing us with motivation, information and training. It’s all there if you want it. They have made it an easy environment in which to work."
(Research) "Many of our analysts aren’t able to cover the whole scope of what’s out there. Fortunately, the firm provides outside research as well."
(Strategic focus) "It’s excellent. The firm’s use of technology and its dedication to clients is outstanding."
(Hiring/recruiting) "It’s difficult to recruit here because of the size of our community. It’s not like a big metropolitan area where there are greater numbers from which to select."
(Image) "We fighting a little residue that we can’t seem to shake. On top of that, unlike 10 years ago, the general perception of a broker has changed and not positively, either. It used to be OK to say you were a broker. Now we try to find ways to wrap ourselves around it by calling ourselves financial advisers, financial consultants or financial planners. The bottom line is we’re into sales and that always carries the baggage of suspicion."
(Sales ideas) "The firm works very hard to provide us with many different ideas to excite and motivate us."
"I’m impressed with the quality of support we get from the back office. The people there are helpful, approachable and seem to really want to help us."
(Payout/benefits) "It’s pretty poor right now. The plan is that we’re going public one of these days, so I don’t know what kind of impact that would have on payout or benefits. It could get worse."
(Research) "We’re sort of in the middle. Size matters in terms of research and we’re a mid-sized firm, not one of the giants. If you look at the people who tend to be quoted a lot in the press, you’ll see it’s not often one of ours."
(Branch manager) "We have a good one. He creates a good environment for us. He keeps things positive."
(Hiring/recruiting) "I see a lot coming in who are not mature enough. They’re not the right ones for the job and as a result we’re seeing a high turnover."
(Ethics) "We’ve had our scandals, so I guess you could say our ethics weren’t that great. Fortunately, we seem to be getting better now." (Sales assistants) "We have a lot of turnover here. No one stays for any length of time. But then again, the firm doesn’t really pay them well and it’s a tight job market. Many of the qualified ones can do better elsewhere."
(Training) "They don’t offer anything to those who have been here a long time. Most of the training is for the new guys."
"Our strength is in technology. Our weakness is on the support side. The problem is that with unemployment so low, we’re reaching down to the bottom of the barrel in many cases and the quality is just not there."
(Research) "It’s mediocre. Analysts don’t stay around long enough to do any good for us."
(Hiring/recruiting) "They don’t do anything for the old-time brokers. They spend a lot of money upfront to bring people in. That alienates us old guys."
(Ethics) "They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. They say what’s ethically right, but in practice they don’t follow it."
(Quality/quantity SAs) "They’re not hiring quality people and there’s a real lack of training for the ones they do bring in."
"They’re saying the right things. We’ll see about execution of the strategic plan. The most recent things they’ve annunciated have made logical sense. We’ll see if they’re enacted."
"I think that the firm is a lot better than people perceive it to be. They base it [the bad rap] on things that happened 15 years ago. I wouldn’t be here for 21 years if I didn’t like it."
"I’m happy. I think things have really turned around here and are headed in the right direction."
"The technological capabilities at the firm is great. Everything is state of the art. And they’re trying to keep brokers from leaving by developing a retention program [not yet in effect] that, once a broker’s contract is up, would offer the broker a bonus to stay at the firm."
"The firm won’t go public until the end of the year. That’s been the talk. What other reason would you do that unless you were positioning the firm to be bought out? The beef I have is that they’re very late getting into the game of positioning themselves within the financial services arena."
"By today’s standards, the firm’s 401(k) plan is poor. It only has eight different investment options. I couldn’t even present a plan like that to my clients. This problem is being addressed, however. It’s on the front burner."
"There’s been a move within the firm to try to make the fixed-income trading desk more of a profit center, which has reduced our incentives to sell fixed-income products. That’s particularly true when it comes to municipals."
(Hiring and recruiting) "The firm is getting ready to go public, so they sacrifice quality and hire anybody. Maybe it’s the tight labor market. They’re hiring people who don’t perform and don’t fire them. I’m talking about sales assistants. The brokers are up to par. But our president wants to cut the broker out. [How?] Managed money. When a broker leaves the firm, they’ll get those clients to stay. Some are in the firm’s proprietary products. There’s also the fee-based wrap program. It was a $100,000 minimum. Now it’s $50,000. Brokers feel threatened. They’ve lowered the grid on everything."
(Image) "Our image is rather bad but not irreparable."
(Clients trading on the Internet) "They can work with a Prudential adviser and trade for $24.95. We can discount them if we like. We have a great branch manager here. Our analysts had high ratings, then most of them left for other firms. We should do a better job of retaining analysis."
"What the firm is doing well is recruiting good analysts the last couple of years."
(Fixed-income) "Whenever I’ve done it, I’m amazed at how non-competitive we are. I see a price on a bond, but the bond desk gets their cut. If I see 93 quoted, then the trader says 96. Each bond desk is an independent profit center. I do fee-based business, managed money, so I no longer take a cut. But it shouldn’t be an independent profit center."
(Quality/quantity SAs) "They don’t pay sales assistants enough. It’s a job that requires a thick skin and a lot of skill. They have to deal with totally jerk clients. A lot of producers are jerks, too. They’re under compensated for what the firm asks them to do. If you want a good operations manager, you won’t get them for $25,000 or $30,000 a year, and you can’t get a good sales assistant for $17,000 a year. They need to open the wallet a little. Instead of hiring someone who is really qualified, they’d rather go through three or four or five people, and most of them will wash out. The best thing for a sales assistant is to work with a producing team."
(Ethics) "The firm knows where it wants to be, and it’s taking steps. It’s a huge company, and as they say, you can’t turn a houseboat on a dime. Their ethics are impeccable and any negative perception the public may have is related to past events or else is misguided. If I were a client and if I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t think twice about coming here. If you have a particular client, who wants 500 shares of XZY for a retirement account, you wait for them to send the check. You can’t just do it with a retirement account. You have to have the money before you make the trade. They’re very strict about that. I’ve had offers to go to other firms, some for a lot of money. But I’d rather stay with Pru. However, I’ve decided to leave this office for a new city, where there’ll be more opportunities."
"What the firm is doing best is technology initiatives. It has upgraded all our systems. Now clients have the ability to reach us online."
(Strategic focus) "We’re getting ready to go public. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there. It’s unclear how it’s all going to work out. Overall I’m fairly happy; there’s no perfect world."
(Account statements) "I think they’re pretty good, but a lot of clients say they can’t read them.
"Our focus on fee-based business is progressive. The firm isn’t really pushing it, but they offer good training in that area."
"They should pay brokers to stay and create more loyalty. The only reason they leave is for money, improved benefits and stock options. I get offers every week, but I’m pretty satisfied."
"What the firm is doing well is that it’s devoted to being a technology leader. The information system is excellent. They keep us trained on all new technology."
"In our office, we’ve got some of the highest ethics standards I have experienced, and the firm seems to be doing the right thing for the client. On a negative note, they could streamline a lot of our operations, trim some of the paperwork."
"After Prudential had that bad time in the early 1990s, they’ve become sticklers in the ethics area. Our image has improved."
"There is an incohesiveness here. The firm has trouble tying things together. They’re out of touch. But for the most part there is no pressure, lots of freedom."
"I like the new MasterShare deferred compensation deal."