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Morgan Stanley is somewhat like a well-known female celebrity. Let’s use Britany Spears for this particular analogy. Yeah, that sounds about right.

At times looking and sounding like the ‘bell of the ball’ (as PG as we can put it), then losing its way and turning into cringe worthy headlines, getting caught with its pants down (protocol exit), shaving its head (misguided comp changes), then back to prominence again after shedding a little weight and basking in the glow of Vegas black lights and tight fitting clothes.

Over the past several months we’ve seen large teams from UBS, Wells Fargo, and Merrill Lynch all join Morgan Stanley. Teams that have brought, collectively, billions in assets and tens of millions in revenue. So the makeover certainly is taking shape.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Morgan Stanley has decided to be super aggressive in deal making with elite, tier one advisors and teams. When you include deferred compensation matching in a ‘deal of scale’ for the right team – the total number can stretch to nearly 400%.

A little math for context: A $4M team at 400% rings in at $16M. With at least half of that paid moments after you walk in the door and are handed your brand new Morgan Stanley business cards. And if you are a tough negotiator, that number could be $9M.

**Reminder: “…money talks and bullshit walks.”

The other attribute that seems to be weighing heavily on potential advisor moves to MS is a concept that mattered 15-20 years ago, and seems to be making a comeback: brand equity.

Morgan Stanley remains a name that matters to UHNW investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone with capital needs beyond run of the mill asset allocation and financial planning. Morgan Stanley resonates as a ‘pure play’ in an industry that continues to be in transition – with many competitors having a hard time figuring out what and who they are. Morgan Stanley doesn’t have that problem. To say it best, it’s ‘big boy’ investment banking and wealth management, pure and simple.

In fact, for once in a generation there principle investment banking rival, Goldman Sachs, is racing to play catch up in the wealth management arena. And GS is waaaaay behind. Morgan Stanley essentially has a 25 year head start in the HNW space. That matters to advisors who aren’t interested in the RIA/Independent space and are ready to ‘hit the bid’.

Morgan Stanley, surprisingly, ala Britany Spears, has found its sweet spot.

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