Unlocking Real Value Blog

AK In The News: Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Have Best Brands

I was asked to comment on a Fundfire (a Financial Times Service) article about which financial services firms have the best brands. Readers were polled, and the firms that came out on top as having the best brand reputation were Merrill Lynch and Fidelity; BNY Mellon came in last. I was asked to comment on two things – why BNY Mellon did so poorly, and if I thought these results among financial services professionals would be the same if high net worth individuals were asked the same question.

On the BNY Mellon question, I honestly think that since most of the respondents were probably either RIAs or B/D brokers, they probably didn’t know that much about BNY, more of a boutique firm. I don’t think it reflects any problems with the firm itself; while being associated with a bank might hurt its standing, it certainly didn’t seem to affect Merrill Lynch’s standing.

The second question was more interesting, because I do think that if high net worth individuals would have been polled, they would have had a different answer. To quote from the article:

“Experts offer differing opinions on whether firms’ reputations within the wealth management industry differ from their reputations among the client population – high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth investors.

Klausner sees a potential difference in public image and industry image, particularly in light of the bad press that some types of firm have received since the 2008 financial crisis. “Especially with the term ‘too big to fail’ mentioned so often, it seems logical that any financial services firm associated with a bank – like UBS or Merrill Lynch – will probably have a worse image with the public than with people in the industry who know how these firms really operate and what their relative advantages and disadvantages are,” he says.

“I would imagine that Fidelity and Schwab have good images with investors as they have escaped a lot of the bad press,” he notes.”

I would be interested to see which side you agree with!

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