Edward Jones Reopening Offices to Clients
(Updates in fourth paragraph with additional details on reopening.)
In another sign of the reopening of the economy, Edward Jones & Co. is telling some of its 19,000 brokers spread across the U.S. and Canada they can begin meeting clients face-to-face in their offices.
A Jones spokesman confirmed that it told brokers in about 30 of its 300 regions this week that they can slowly open their doors to outsiders. The St. Louis-based firm has about 15,000 branches, most of which are staffed by a single broker and a branch office administrator. Each region has 40-70 advisors, according to a Jones website.
“The firm is taking a cautious, phased approach to begin reopening branches to the public with social distancing, cleaning practices and other measures in place,” said Alex Reed, the spokesman. He emphasized that the openings conform with local shelter-in-place requirements and decisions about reopening are ultimately up to the advisor.
Regions that are reopening as local health authorities permit include Vermont, mid-Missouri, California, and Hawaii, Reed said. Jones is still prohibiting brokers in the regions from meeting with prospects. Clients who visit will be asked to make an appointment and to sanitize their hands upon arrival and departure, he said, and masks are required in some states.
Like most U.S. companies, Jones continues to discourage brokers from traveling. Its end-of-March decision to freeze wages and suspend overtime pay for client associates and to halt hiring of non-broker personnel are policies that remain in place.
Jones Financial, the St. Louis-based broker-dealer’s parent company, warned in regulatory filing in early May that profits for the remainder of the year were likely to fall and broker departures likely to escalate as a result of declines in fees and commissions caused by investor uncertainty. The filing was made before the stock market roared back, erasing almost all of the corona-crash losses.
Edward Jones also is offering no-interest loans to brokers whose production dips below 80% of their trailing-12 month levels. It began processing loan requests from brokers this month and does not yet have a tally of how many have applied, Reed said.
Wealth management firms with large urban presences continue to tell advisors that they expect to cautiously sanction returns to offices later this summer.
“Each location will be managed to the higher of either the firm’s standards or local safety and health requirements,” J.P. Morgan Securities Chief Executive Chris Harvey said on a Zoom call with the firm’s approximately 475 brokers Wednesday morning.
People “in high-risk situations” will continue to work from home, he said, and those who return to the firm’s 21 largely big-city offices will be asked to honor social distancing mores and wear masks in public areas (but not at their desks).
Harvey, a J.P. Morgan veteran who took the reins of its traditional brokerage franchise three years ago, congratulated his brokers on their work ethic while laboring from home. Production per average advisor amid the pandemic is up around 13%, he said, and the approximately 6,000 new accounts they opened in recent months is the best since he took the reins of the franchise.
In a presentation to investors on Tuesday, Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive James Gorman said he plans to personally visit his midtown Manhattan office this week and will “slowly start to go back more often” as summer progresses.
—Jed Horowitz contributed to this story.