Morgan Stanley told its 15,000 reps and advisers last week that for the most part, it isn’t making changes in the compensation plan for next year. But the firm did add new hurdles or targets to emphasize the wirehouse’s push for advisers and teams to do more financial planning and have clients engage with technology and online brokerage platforms.
In 2018, Morgan Stanley launched its digital dashboard, WealthDesk, as part of that push. Last year, Morgan Stanley planned tougher compensation hurdles for its advisers but has delayed putting them in place as advisers and the industry as a whole dealt with a multitude of unknowns this year due to COVID-19.
“There are very few changes for next year,” Vince Lumia, head of field management, wrote in a memo to advisers dated Dec. 8.
Next year’s pay plan “demonstrates our continued commitment to support the growth of your business as you deliver the highest standard of care to your clients, even in the most challenging of times,” Lumia wrote.
According to the memo, highlights of the 2021 adviser compensation plan include: a simplified pay plan guide; the introduction of a new client engagement target, or hurdle, for team pay; and an increase in the threshold or minimum for households that elite private wealth management advisers work with.
Morgan Stanley is making it easier for advisers to qualify for bonuses tied to lending and next year is removing the hurdle of six new loans for its “lending growth award.”
By the middle of next year, teams of advisers at Morgan Stanley will face new targets to get bumped up to the level of pay that matches its most prominent advisers. Those targets are based on teams building net new assets, advisers writing financial plans for 10% of clients, and 75% of clients signing up for Morgan Stanley Online.
Tweaking advisers’ pay to link it to platforms like WealthDesk and online brokerage is part of the long-term effort at wirehouses like Morgan Stanley to hang onto clients, critics say, while many advisers enjoy the speed and simplicity of working with the better technology.
“The trend is inexorable,” said Danny Sarch, an industry recruiter. “The firm is saying, we want to tie your clients more to the firm and tie the adviser to the firm and make it more difficult to leave.”
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