Stifel Financial’s potential offer to buy Morgan Keegan would have had a substantially larger retention payment pool for the firm’s employees, a source close to the situation said on Thursday.

“Part of [Stifel’s] offer for Morgan Keegan included a retention pool between $350 [million] and $400 million, and so the estimate is that that’s double what anyone else had on the table,” the source said. “This is a human capital business, so retention is a huge issue. The Stifel offer, with its retention pool, focused on the brokers and advisors more than any other stakeholder group.”

Raymond James said on Thursday that it plans to pay up to $215 million in retention payments in a combination of cash and restricted stock units to certain Morgan Keegan employees following its acquisition of the brokerage. Raymond James’s retention payment funds are set to include Morgan Keegan’s management and brokerage and capital markets employees, the firm said.

News of the retention packages comes as Raymond James was reportedly competing with Stifel Financial to buy Morgan Keegan as recently as last week. Stifel lowered its most recent bid for the firm to $875 million in order to increase the retention funds necessary for Morgan Keegan’s financial advisors to stay, Reuters reported this week.

In a memo sent to Stifel employees on Wednesday, Chief Executive Ron Kruszewski congratulated Raymond James and Morgan Keegan on the deal.

“We strive in each transaction, including Legg Mason Capital Markets, Ryan Beck, UBS branches, Thomas Weisel Partners, and Stone & Youngberg, to ensure that the employees, those who drive the revenue, are treated appropriately and fairly as compared to the interest of selling stakeholders of any enterprise,” Kruszewski said in his memo. “In any combination we undertake, we strive to ensure that the new associates joining our firm are as excited and incentivized.”

Raymond James executives noted on a conference call on Thursday that Morgan Keegan has a retention program already in place totaling almost $200 million that they are buying on the balance sheet.

 “The anticipated retention amounts paid to FA’s will be very fair and the Morgan Keegan management team expects very high retention,” Dennis Zank, chief operating officer at Raymond James Financial, said in a statement following the deal’s announcement on Wednesday. The $930 million definitive stock purchase agreement is expected to usher in more than 1,000 new financial advisors to Raymond James.

Raymond James’s private client group’s force will total 6,147 with the deal, up from 5,113, the firm said. The deal is expected to boost its employee financial advisor force at Raymond James & Associates by 60%. The acquisition will also boost Raymond James’s ranking to the seventh largest brokerage by assets under management with an estimated $326 billion, up from $256 billion.

Many of Morgan Keegan’s financial advisors have stayed with the firm in the more than six-month interim that Regions Financial was looking for an acquirer for that business hoping for retention packages, recruiters say. Just how well the retention package goes over with Morgan Keegan employees should help determine whether they will stay, they say.

Bobby Allison, president of executive search firm Allison Consulting Group in Memphis, where Morgan Keegan is also based, said he believes Raymond James probably contacted Morgan Keegan’s top 50 producers at the same time they were firming up the acquisition deal.

“You may have a $4 million producer that’s getting a substantial amount of money, and you may have a $600,000 producer getting not so much,” Allison said. “I’m sure that they’ve nailed these top guys down.”

The deal is a big positive for Memphis, Allison said, because of Morgan Keegan’s strong presence in the city and the fact that there are not many regional firms equal to Morgan Keegan’s size. The deal with Raymond James should save most of those Memphis-based jobs, he said.

But the real question is if Raymond James’s retention packages will be strong enough to maintain the strong loyalty that Morgan Keegan’s financial advisor force has shown so far, Allison said.

“I don’t expect you’re going to see a whole lot of movement here early,” Allison said. “I think these guys will settle in and see what’s going to happen, but there will be some fall out, for sure.”

Raymond James also said Thursday that it has also signed employment contracts with certain Morgan Keegan employees at the same time it firmed up the acquisition deal.

That comes after Raymond James said on Wednesday that is planning to appoint certain senior Morgan Keegan leaders in new roles at its firm. Morgan Keegan Chief Executive John Carson will serve as president leading fixed income and public finance at Raymond James.

Also see:

Raymond James Snaps Up Morgan Keegan For $930 Million

Morgan Keegan Deal Portends Possible M&A Activity Ahead

Terms of Raymond James-Morgan Keegan Deal Get Lukewarm Reviews

Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.





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