A final handshake on Morgan Stanley’s acquisition of Smith Barney will tie up some lingering loose ends, including a smoother clearing process for client assets, in one of the largest wealth management industry deals in the past decade.

After a four-year process, Morgan Stanley has agreed to purchase the remaining 35% share of Smith Barney from Citigroup as soon as next week, the firm announced on Friday.

A financial advisor at the firm, who didn’t want his name used, said he is glad assets that were held at and cleared through Citi will now be with Morgan Stanley instead. That means that clients wishing to access their assets will no longer experience a lag time between firms, a delay which clients sometimes did not understand.

“When it’s your money, you want it right away,” the advisor said. “It’s just going to streamline the process.”

Other positive outcomes, the advisor said, are an increase to the firm’s bond inventory, trade processing and index for public offerings.

“This is a historic day for Morgan Stanley,” the firm’s CEO, James Gorman, said in a statement. “It is the culmination of a multi-year effort to transform our business model into one that offers stronger shareholder returns and greater stability in volatile markets.”

Symbolic Value

The four year-long effort has already yielded a number of benefits, including crowning Morgan Stanley one of the largest wealth management firms with 16,284 financial advisors and $1.79 trillion in assets as of the end of March. Closing the deal is a symbolic affirmation that Morgan Stanley has emerged as a “big winner,” Alois Pirker, research director at Boston-based consulting firm Aite Group, said.

“When you look at the last couple years there are few firms that really have been able to gain a tremendous amount of scale throughout this crisis,” Pirker added. “Morgan Stanley as a whole is coming out as a winner here.”

The remaining 35% share Citigroup held was not a major drain on the decision-making process, but it will make it easier for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and its head, Greg Fleming, to chart its own course, Pirker said. The board will no longer have to report to Citigroup or share a percentage of the profits.

“If you have a shareholder of 35%, you’ve got to keep them posted on what’s happening,” Pirker said. “It’s just a bit of a weight attached to your leg that you’ve got behind you.”

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