Morgan Stanley Sends Its Upscale Brokers Back to School

(advisor hub) Some of Morgan Stanley’s most accomplished producers have been sent back to school.

The firm is directing the almost 525 advisors in its “private wealth management” group to enroll in an approximately 150-hour online course that ends with a two-day in-person exam. Graduates earn a Family Wealth Director (FWD) designation that they can splash on business cards and websites.

The program’s main purpose is to ensure that advisors utilize the “family office resources” unit that Morgan Stanley bulked up last year with specialists in estate planning, philanthropy, wealth “education” and lending to help them compete with a burgeoning number of specialty firms, such as Rockefeller Capital Management.

“The FWD designation program… arms them with knowledge and skills to be a client’s holistic family advisor, competitive with a multi-family office service platform,” said Private Wealth Management head Mandell Crawley.  “It ensures a broad level of expertise, and encourages best practices as well as a strong connection to firm resources.”

The course ends with a 100-question multiple-choice exam and an “oral case study on an Upper High Net Worth scenario” that is administered by the family office resources unit (and videotaped for training purposes), a company spokeswoman said.

Morgan Stanley is requiring at least one member of the private wealth group’s 270 teams to have the internally generated FWD designation by the end of 2019, Crawley said. About 70 passed the course last year.

Crawley, a lifelong Morgan Stanley employee who achieved the FWD designation last year, acknowledged that some experienced advisers resist having to take more training and are likely to be wary of potential plans for FWD review courses. The private wealth unit targets individuals and families with $20 million and above in their accounts.

A spokeswoman said there is no penalty “as of now” for failing to get the designation, adding that the firm is “on track” to meet its goal of enrolling most PWM advisors in the academy. Advisors who fail the tests can retake them, she said.


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