Among other initiatives for 2007, Morgan Stanley is planning to upgrade its financial-planning offering for retail advisors—and apparently it’s overdue.

In the question session during a town-hall meeting with retail chief James Gorman Thursday, one Morgan Stanley advisor complained that a lot of advisors at the firm are frustrated with the usability of the current financial-planning offering, adding that it lags the offerings of other firms. The advisor also said that there is a perceived lack of progress on that front, and wondered what was being done about it, according to Jim McCarthy, managing director of retirement solutions for the firm. Gorman’s answer was, we’re on it, and Jim McCarthy is your man.

McCarthy told Registered Rep. that he was assigned to upgrade the financial-planning offering just two weeks ago. “The barrier to use is too high,” McCarthy explained. It can answer the essential questions that clients have about their financial futures and more, “but I have to engage in this three- to four-hour bear hug.” he said. “So, what James said [in the town-hall meeting] is, we need a system that is easy to use and simple to understand—not simple in calculative, analytical capability, but simple to interpret. It has to bring in all of the data and create a plan in the context of the overall dashboard of the client.”

McCarthy says the project will primarily involve data integration, as Morgan Stanley is planning to license external financial-planning software rather than build its own, and that the new program should be installed in the fall of 2007.

Since he took the job of retail chief last February, James Gorman has been holding quarterly town-hall meetings with retail advisors at the firm. This time CEO John Mack joined him.