© 2020 Arizent. All rights reserved.
JD Power advisor satisfaction cover.jpg
Broker-dealers with the best leadership and culture have proven the most adept at handling the disruption posed by regulation, technology and competition, according to their financial advisors.

Perennial top-rated firms Commonwealth Financial Network, Edward Jones, Raymond James and Cambridge Investment Research received high marks in J.D. Power’s annual advisor satisfaction study. LPL Financial, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo lagged far behind the leaders.

The study, which the Costa Mesa, California-based consumer research firm released June 28, also revealed notable differences among male and female advisors. Women gave their firms much better marks than men, but they reported lower scores than men for work-life balance, pay and mentoring.

“These findings didn’t surprise me. As someone who has worked in the financial services fields for many years, I have seen firsthand the satisfaction that this career brings to women,” Kathleen McQuiggan, a planner who serves as the CFP Board’s special advisor on gender diversity, said in an email.

The work-life issues result from the so-called second shift of women “caring for children or parents at home, where getting to 50/50 (with spouse/partner) still hasn’t happened,” McQuiggan continued.

“Overall, I think firms that have created a culture and environment where ‘everyone’ can thrive and be successful have a competitive advantage of being able to keep the most talented financial planners. That talent is more loyal, supportive and act as advocates and brand builders for their firms.”

Women advisors at employee BDs rated their overall satisfaction at 786 on a 1,000-point scale, 59 points higher than the male advisors’ average score of 727. Female advisors at independent BDs gave an average score of 793, compared to 754 among men.

The higher satisfaction also resulted in a substantially higher share of women saying they “definitely will” stay at their firms for the next one to two years and recommend their firms to others.

On the other hand, the results also display an industry in which only 23% of CFPs are women and female advisors earn substantially less than males. Women were less likely than men to say that they understand their compensation or believe that it reflects their performance.

Efforts around equal pay, flexible work plans and mentorship are “critical” to the industry addressing gender disparities and supporting women advisors, according to Mike Foy, director of J.D. Power’s wealth management practice.

Firms’ overall marks in the survey often revolve around compensation and changes advisors see as limiting to their ability to serve clients and operate their practices as they see fit, Foy adds of the low scores for wirehouses. The fiduciary rule prompted major shifts in recent years at BDs of all kinds.

On the more positive side, Commonwealth and Edward Jones have led the advisor satisfaction rankings for years on the strength of their leadership and culture, according to Foy. The majority of the top-rated firms also stand out as being privately held, says Jodie Papike, an IBD recruiter with Cross-Search.

“That makes them very unique. I think, with privately held firms, it’s easier for executives and the management to keep the focus on what’s going to make the advisors happy,” Papike says. “It’s pretty glaring to me that those privately held firms are doing a good job of taking care of their advisors.”

Foy credits Edward Jones for developing talent through its training programs and for having a management team with several former advisors. Commonwealth also benefits from a “very advisor-centric culture” and its emphasis on treating advisors as the firm’s clients, Foy says.

Regulatory matters, the challenge of technology and increasing competition have brought firms’ management to the forefront in recent years. Foy calls perception of leadership one of the main drivers of advisor satisfaction.

“Strong leadership becomes more important, in terms of advisors believing that executive management is supporting their role and has a vision for how to navigate through the complexity brought by a lot of those changes to the landscape,” he says.

J.D. Power conducted the survey among 3,227 advisors at employee and independent BDs between January and April. Advisors rated firms in seven areas: client support, compensation, leadership, professional development, problem resolution and operational and technology support.

The research firm only reports firms’ scores if it gets 100 responses from advisors at BDs which collectively make up more than two-thirds of the market. Independent BDs haven’t had enough of a sample size to be included in the results since 2014.

To see how the firms stack up against each other and their industry averages, click through our slideshow. To view last year’s rankings, click here.
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo15 copy.png
15. Wells Fargo Advisors
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 618
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #15
2017 satisfaction index: 607
2018 vs. 2017: +11
2017 rank: #7
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo14 copy.png
14. Morgan Stanley
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 682
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #14
2017 satisfaction index: 646
2018 vs. 2017: +36
2017 rank: #6
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo13 copy.png
13. Merrill Lynch
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 697
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #13
2017 satisfaction index: 682
2018 vs. 2017: +15
2017 rank: #5
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo11b copy.png
11. (tie) UBS Wealth Management Americas
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 707
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #11
2017 satisfaction index: 730
2018 vs. 2017: (23)
2017 rank: #4
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo11a copy.png
11. (tie) LPL Financial
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 707
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #11
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 755
2018 vs. 2014: (48)
2014 rank: #8
JDPower2018_AdvisorEmpavg copy.png
Employee channel average
2018 average overall satisfaction (on a 1,000-point scale): 726
2017 average overall satisfaction: 719
2018 vs. 2017: +7
2016 average overall satisfaction: 722
2015 average overall satisfaction: 701
2014 average overall satisfaction: 721
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo10 copy.png
10. Ameriprise employee channel
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 740
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #10
2017 satisfaction index: 731
2018 vs. 2017: +9
2017 rank: #3
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo9 copy.png
9. Advisor Group
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 751
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #9
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 747
2018 vs. 2014: +4
2014 rank: #9
JDPower2018_AdvisorIBDavg copy.png
Independent channel average
2018 average overall satisfaction (on a 1,000-point scale): 753
2017 average overall satisfaction: 752
2018 vs. 2017: +1
2016 average overall satisfaction: 755
2015 average overall satisfaction: 773
2014 average overall satisfaction: 778
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo8 copy.png
8. Ameriprise franchise channel
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 799
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #8
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 797
2018 vs. 2014: +2
2014 rank: #7
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo7 copy.png
7. Cetera Financial Group
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 806
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #7
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 803
2018 vs. 2014: +3
2014 rank: #6
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo6 copy.png
6. Stifel Financial
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 841
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #6
2017 satisfaction index: N/A
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo5 copy.png
5. Raymond James & Associates
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 857
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #5
2017 satisfaction index: 867
2018 vs. 2017: (10)
2017 rank: #2
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo4 copy.png
4. Cambridge Investment Research
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 864
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #4
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 913
2018 vs. 2014: (49)
2014 rank: #3
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo3 copy.png
3. Raymond James Financial Services
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 865
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #3
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 899
2018 vs. 2014: (34)
2014 rank: #3
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo2 copy.png
2. Edward Jones
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 909
Employee channel average: 726
2018 rank: #2
2017 satisfaction index: 925
2018 vs. 2017: (16)
2017 rank: #1
JDPower2018_AdvisorNo1 copy.png
1. Commonwealth Financial Network
2018 satisfaction index (on 1,000-point scale): 955
Independent channel average: 753
2018 rank: #1
2014 satisfaction index (the last year data was available): 954
2018 vs. 2014: +1
2014 rank: #1
MORE FROM FINANCIAL PLANNING