Edward Jones and Raymond James finished in a dead heat for the top spot in financial employee advisor satisfaction in a survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. Both companies scored 879 on a scale of 1,000 in the 2008 Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study released this week.

According to the survey, St. Louis-based Edward Jones excelled in providing a satisfying work environment and in supporting its advisors. Raymond James, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., scored points in areas dealing with job duties, products and offerings, compensation, and firm performance.

The second annual survey gauged the satisfaction of advisors employed by investment services companies (labeled as "employee" advisors) and independent advisors affiliated with broker-dealer firms. It looked at eight areas tied to employee advisor satisfaction--internal operational support/people; administrative and compliance support; work environment; firm performance; compensation; products and offerings; problem resolution; and job duties.

Among employee advisors, the most important driver of satisfaction is firm performance. The profitability of a firm directly impacts compensation packages among employee advisors, which often includes various incentives and stock options. Among independent advisors, support is of primary importance. 

"Clearly, independent advisors have more of a pioneering spirit, and it's not surprising that what they need most is support through sales, training, resources, and technology and compliance to grow their business," said David Lo, investment director at J.D. Power, a marketing information services company in Westlake Village, Calif.  "Supporting employee advisors is also of particular importance considering an average of 63% of clients follow their employee advisor when they switch firms."

Among other ranked firms in the survey, Merrill Lynch's index score of 697 was the only other firm to register above the industry average of 655. The other firms on the list and their scores are: Wachovia Securities (627), Citigroup Global Markets (624) and UBS Financial Services (598). These were the only firms who had enough respondents to qualify for ranking purposes.

The survey is based on responses from 3,124 financial advisors who are registered with the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). The survey was conducted online between May and June 2008.