Financial advisers feeling heat from all sides

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Think your job is stressful?

Try being a financial adviser during the middle of a recession. Or try juggling while pedaling a unicycle – it might be easier.

Financial advisers have all the worries about the economy and the stock market that everyone else has – plus, they have to reassure their clients that the stock market will recover and then some. It always has.

But midway or so through the recession, investors are still harried and nervous.

Last week, national and international news agencies reported that UBS had doled out salary increases of 50 percent for many worldwide UBS managing directors in investment banking to prevent their being poached by competitors.

Talk about career envy.

Their wooing contrasts sharply with how many financial advisers are being treated. Large wirehouses are shooing away advisers who are not top producers.

If financial advisers don’t bring a company upward of $300,000 per year in revenue, they are shown the front door.

A protracted recession and too many companies getting involved in toxic assets have created a perfect storm with four major developments, said Greg Von Berg, managing principal at Waddell & Reed.

Multiple mergers and acquisitions in the industry have made clients and advisers fearful. Next, were – of course – the layoffs.

“Thousands of people in the industry were let go – lower level producers, rookie brokers,” Von Berg said.

And many wirehouses made their penalty boxes more difficult to avoid, by increasing production-level cutoffs. Which led to punitive payouts – and then firms stopped paying advisers on small accounts, often anything less than $100,000.

“That’s stupid because small investors become large investors,” Von Berg said. “The wirehouses won’t touch these accounts when they’re little, but when the account is big, they try to steal them away.”

Recession or no, the country is full of people and businesses that know an opportunity when they see one.

Smaller financial firms have moved in to fill that gap, offering plug-and-play for advisers, providing support staff and administration and taking a percentage of what financial advisers make.

“There’s been a tectonic shift in the industry,” Von Berg said, as advisers migrate to smaller companies that pay better and don’t penalize smaller producers.

And in tumultuous times like these, many independent financial advisers are grateful not to have the support or burden of a mothership.

While independent advisers don’t have to worry about layoff notices, they are still contending with the economy.

Certified Financial Planner Mary Alyce Brooks, of Brooks Financial Planning in downtown Colorado Springs, said that business is down somewhat.

“But I think we are insulated here because of the military,” Brooks said.

The economy has caused some of her clients who were “on the cusp of retirement” to delay such notions, while others have made major changes to the structure of their investment plans.

“By and large, it hasn’t been really bad – I’ve not had anybody in a panic,” she said.

Not that she’s taking anything for granted.

Brooks is updating her Web site, making it interactive, adding an introduction video and soaring into social networking.

“I just took a Twitter class,” Brooks said.