Raymond James’s retention bonus offers to Morgan Keegan’s financial advisors are starting to trickle in following the deal to acquire the firm earlier this month, and so far it looks like they’re being graded on a bell curve, one recruiter said Wednesday.

Ron Edde, senior executive recruiter at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Armstrong Financial Group, said he has spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday talking to a sampling of Morgan Keegan financial advisors after he learned what the terms of the retention packages will be from sources at both firms.

“Some of them are saying point blank; ‘we are staying. We would have stayed for less money,’” Edde said. “And others have told me; ‘this isn’t going to fly. We’re going to go.’”

Many of the financial advisors are still waiting to hear news on their retention packages, Edde said. For all of the financial advisors, Edde said he heard it is going to be a seven-year promissory note. The plan is to defer taxes for the first two years on those notes, which could strengthen Raymond James’s retention power, he said.

“Rather than an incremental tax bill, it would be a huge tax bill all at once,” if a financial advisor decided to leave in the third year, Edde said.

For producers at $500,000 and $1 million, the payout will be 50%, Edde said. For some of those high producers, Edde said, that deal could be driven up to as much as 70% with if some enhanced notes are forgiven and restricted cash accounts accelerated.

The payout offered will decline to 40% for producers between $400,000 and $500,000. For those between $300,000 and $400,000 the payout will drop by 30%. Low-end producers at less than $300,000 may get small offers, if anything at all, Edde said.

Some of those lowest producers’ situations may be taken on a case-by-case basis, Edde said, where they are offered a slight bump in their commission grid for one year.

Edde said the top producers at $1 million and more and the lower producers at $300 and below that he has spoken with are equally disappointed with the terms. The producers who are most satisfied with the deal fall between $450,000 and $750,000 in production, Edde said.

“A lot of them are really disappointed, and some of them are pretty pleased. It’s kind of surprising,” Edde said.

Morgan Keegan financial advisors earned a reputation for their loyalty to the firm in the past six months as reports of the ups and downs of Regions Financial’s search for an acquirer played out in the press. Some of the financial advisors Edde spoke with expressed that same loyalty, saying they would stay with the firm regardless of the retention bonus terms.

“I’m actually stunned by it. I guess in some respects I respect it,” Edde said of those advisors’ loyalty.

The terms of the retention bonus also say that Morgan Keegan’s financial advisors also will not have the choice to assimilate with Raymond James’s independent advisory practice and still get a retention bonus, Edde said. If they still decide to go to Raymond James’s independent side, Edde said the firm is saying they can pursue their clients to keep the revenue on one side of the firm.

A Raymond James spokesperson did immediately return a call seeking comment.

Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.






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