More than three dozen Morgan Stanley Smith Barney advisors have told management they plan to quit over what they describe as a multitude of technical problems caused by the firm's new "3D" technology even as they are taking steps to keep their retention bonuses, according to published reports.
Several high-level teams of advisors who manage billions of the firm's client accounts told management on Friday that 3D system glitches have produced trading delays, foreign currency transactions problems and inaccurate account statements and bounced checks, according to a Reuters news report. The advisor group has drafted a letter to Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman explaining their objections.
The group has also retained a lawyer to argue they should be able to keep retention payments even if they quit. The payments, according to published reports, are nine-year forgivable loans they received in two lump sums in 2010 and 2012 that are supposed to be repaid if they quit.
Rolled out in early July, MSSB's 3D system manages clients' money, stores information and looks up research reports and market data. The system rollout has taken longer than expected and been beset by technical problems that have frustrated both clients and advisors.
Mark Elzweig, founder and president of New York-based national executive search firm The Mark Elzweig Company, says many advisors on the Smith Barney side view the 3D operating system as a step backwards because of its limited technological capabilities.
"Despite the fact the firm offered extensive training in advance on the new system, many brokers feel its capabilities were over hyped and that there was no warning or preparation on how to manage functions and that the 3D system doesn't handle as well as the old technology," Elzweig says.
Elzweig said that although Morgan Stanley did provide training for the new system, the new system can't do some things that the previous one could. "Unfortunately, Morgan Stanley did not do a very good job preparing people for the fact that some of the system capabilities would not be as robust as they had before," he says. "People were surprised and flustered."
Elzweig says advisors also became increasingly frustrated over frequent technical breakdowns. "Of course in any kind of technology conversion there's always going to be operational glitches," he says. "But when the new system does not have some of the capabilities that the old one had, then advisors need to be prepared for that; they shouldn't have been surprised. That's what happened here."
MSSB management, according to published reports, have informed the advisor group that they are aware of their complaints and are taking steps to rectify the problems.
Elzweig says that MSSB management's promises notwithstanding, there's likely to be more advisor departures. "I'm sure that they're trying to address some of the issues with the 3D system, but many advisors will hit the bid elsewhere," he says.