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In a short but impassioned conversation with a Morgan Stanley advisor of several decades, we were struck by his understanding of both the ‘arc’ of the industry and the serious issues that his own firm faces. A lot was said, and we’ve done our best to bring it to you as unfiltered as we possibly can.
Discussing the firm’s protocol exit: “What a sh** show of a decision that is and was. And who benefited the most from that decision? Certainly not the firm or the advisors, but securities lawyers…as nearly anyone with a book of any consequence quickly went out and hired one. If the firm, long term, things that this somehow works out in their favor (as they’ve been heard saying on conference calls) they are dumber than I even believe that they are. At some point a larger migration away from MS will hit the blotter. It will be obvious, when it does.”
Discussing former Smith Barney advisors still upset about the way Morgan Stanley does things: “All of us former SB guys still laugh at the way this place is run and how we are treated. Lip service, yeah that kind of lip service, is given to what we do for the firm at meetings and events with management – but it is only that, lip service. If you did a quick data search on who’s left over the past five years, I’d bet +70% of them are former SB guys.”
Thoughts on current leadership and a little about what Greg Fleming is doing at Rockefeller: “Most of us liked Greg Fleming. He wasn’t a complete douchebag in the classical sense that the ivory tower guys usually are. So he was respected. When he exited stage left we realized that our voice would be less and less heard. What he has built at Rockefeller is compelling and lots of us have given it a pretty good look. They will keep winning with that model, and credit to Greg for doing so.”
On the firms decision to jack up comp grid tiers, further inflaming the firms most succesful advisors: “Listen, you can’t make this shit up, you really can’t. Protocol exit and then a comp grid slap in the face. Seriously, fuck these guys. The protocol deal makes it immeasurably harder to leave, so kudos for that move (sarcasm). The comp grid stuff will add another wave of departures – you can bet on it. At this point, for get about any emotion or loyalty, it turns into math now.”
The conversation lasted about ten minutes and covered even more ground than this, with significantly more colorful language as well. We don’t think it is a surprise to hear a disgruntled Morgan Stanley talk about what ails the firm. It is interesting, though, to hear a 30 year veteran talk about the firm but still remain there. Interesting, for sure.

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