UBS plans to make the first payment of its GrowthPlus Award, a retention plan for advisors that was unveiled last month, in March rather than in December as originally announced, according to a source familiar with the plan.

While the full details of the changes are not yet clear, information has started leaking out. According to another source familiar with the deal, the changes will also provide an increase in the amount advisors will be paid upfront.

The original plan awarded advisors producing at least $500,000 with at least five years of service an additional payout ranging from 2% to 9% of trailing 12 month production. The plan runs from 2010 through 2017, and a large chunk of the award is provided to advisors upfront.

For example, an advisor producing $500,000 with five years length of service would receive an additional 2% payout per year. The firm was going to provide the first four years of this bonus upfront. This means the firm would multiply the 2% by four to reach 8% and give it to the advisor as a cash payout in December.

Under the new plan, the firm will pay the first six years upfront. So it will multiply that 2% by six and pay it upfront over two payments, the first in March and the second in February 2011. So in the above example, the advisor would now receive a 12% payout upfront rather than the 8% payout, according to a source.

“Essentially, they’re advancing more of the money upfront,” the source said.

By providing the first payment earlier, UBS is attempting to stem broker defections, sources said. “[Advisors are saying]: If you want to keep me in my seat, give me a check now, not a year from now,” the source said.

The payout is structured as a loan forgivable over the eight-year period. If an advisor leaves the firm before the end of period he or she will have to pay back the balance to UBS.

The earlier payments also mean that the award will be based on the advisor’s production figures from 2009, rather than this year as originally planned, according to another source familiar with the deal.

Deborah Aronson, a manager with Chester, N.J.-based recruitment firm Diamond Consulting, said she was speaking to a high-producing UBS advisor who had heard rumors of the enhanced award but found the whole plan difficult to understand.

“This plan is very convoluted, but often times they’re convoluted for a reason,” she said.

Still, Aronson said, the retention award did make UBS more attractive to its advisors, even if they still have concerns. “It’s still unknown what UBS will look like under Bob McCann, and advisors are questioning whether its better to take an upfront check from another firm rather than wait it out at UBS,” she said.

UBS wealth management chief, Bob McCann, is believed to be holding a conference call with managers this afternoon. The company declined to comment.

UBS is working hard to create a compensation plan that will enable it to retain clients as many continue to leave the firm. On Tuesday, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney announced it hired two million-dollar plus teams from the financial services company.

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