Wealth Management

(New York)

Morgan Stanley’s wealth management can be described as nothing other than an unmitigated success in the fourth quarter. The numbers are in, and the data show that the unit is minting cash as the broker enjoys the transition from commission-based to fee-based accounts as provided by the fiduciary rule. Revenue increased a whopping 10% and the profit margin rose from under 10% the previous year to an eye-watering 26% in 2017.

FINSUM: We realize the importance of fiduciary duty, but how is a transition to much more expensive fee-based accounts—which are hugely boosting net profits to big firms—in the ultimate best interest of clients?

(New York)

Like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch is in the middle of a big bet on its wealth management unit The broker has decided to focus less resources on hiring senior advisors and more on training younger staff. Accordingly, its staff costs have shrunk despite growing its advisor base by 2%. By some accounts the early signs for the experiment are good, but it will take a long time to see how well it plays out.

FINSUM: The whole industry has a bit of an inheritance problem right now, since there are herds of baby boomer advisors who are set to retire in the coming years, and as yet, a dearth of young advisors to take their places.


RIAs are furious about one aspect of the broader tax package passed last month. That is the way the government puts limits on the amount of income and type of entity that can use the new lower tax rate for pass through entities. RIAs say the new rules discriminate against RIAs that are not set up as C Corps. There is already a major movement to get the rule changed being led by Savant Capital Management. “We believe RIAs deserve the same tax treatment as other business owners” says TD Ameritrade.

FINSUM: We noticed before the new package got passed that it seemed to very deliberately exclude some sectors. Hard to judge the chances of this push succeeding.

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