Some of the leading distributors of financial products and services are taking a hit when it comes to investor loyalty. Not surprisingly, many of those getting whacked the hardest are companies tarnished by the maelstrom on Wall Street.

An October survey of 4,000 Americans with at least $100,000 in investible assets conducted by Cogent Research found roughly half of the top 23 distributors experienced increased loyalty during the past two years since the last survey was taken, while the rest saw minor to heavy erosion.
Holding down the top spot in loyalty was USAA, a provider of insurance, banking and investment services to military members and their families. USAA also finished first in the prior survey two years ago.

The online brokerage Scottrade finished second in the latest survey, Investor Brandscape 2009. That's a big leap from its 17th-place finish two years ago, and represents the largest improvement among all companies in the survey. The rest of this year's top five-Vanguard, TIAA-CREF and Edward Jones-were all in the top six in the prior survey.

The second biggest improvement came from ING, which jumped to sixth place from twentieth two years ago. The rest of the top 10 comprised Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo.

The next 10 in descending order were LPL, Raymond James, Morgan Stanley, AXA, T. Rowe Price, UBS, Citi Smith Barney, JP Morgan Chase, E*Trade, and Ameriprise.

The bottom three consists of troubled giants Wachovia/A.G. Edwards, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America Securities. Their rankings fell by seven, nine and five notches, respectively.

Performance continues to be a primer driver of loyalty, says Cogent founder Christy White. But this year, "we see that the big differentiator lies in investor perceptions of a firm's financial stability."