UBS Shutters Training Program for Financial Plan Developers
UBS Wealth Management USA is ending a program that trained newcomers in creating financial plans as a prelude to joining teams and ultimately becoming advisors, and also has tightened the requirements for other “next-gen” development programs.
In a memo sent in the past few days to the firm’s more than 6,000 brokers and their associates titled “preparing our next-generation FAs,” training head Patrick Corry wrote that the firm has stopped hiring Wealth Planning Associates “effective immediately.” The WPA program was a two-year “curriculum” to prepare newcomers to develop what UBS calls Financial Goals Analyses for customers and prospects, plans aimed at locking them into long-term advisory account relationships.
“They train kids in planning, and seat them in a branch in hopes that a team would want to take them up,” said one veteran broker, who said the trainees effectively prodded some teams that were lax in converting customers from traditional commission accounts to advisory fee-based accounts.
The WPA program will be replaced in the coming months as “we increase our focus on Advisory conversion,” the memo said without providing details. The old program aimed to have its graduates qualify as certified financial planning certificants and move on to become financial advisor associates, working on a team as part of a three-year Wealth Manager Development Program.
Curtailing the training program appeared counter-intuitive to some advisers, who said it appears to coincide with other cost-cutting efforts, such as last week’s elimination of UBS Wealth Management USA’s practice management group that provided sales and team development advice to veteran advisers.
A UBS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision or the number of planning associates who have graduated into becoming full-time advisors. Corry, who wrote that trainees “are essential to delivering on our UBS growth strategy” by “supporting and honing our top talent,” also did not respond to a request to clarify his memo.
The final WPA class will convene next month, Corry wrote in the memo, which said that existing WPAs will not be affected.
The firm will continue its three-year Wealth Manager Development Program that WPAs aspired to join. “FA associates [in WMDP] hone their skills as they embark on a role as a producing member of an FA’s team,” Corry wrote, but he noted in boldface that ideal candidates for the core training program should “have a minimum five years’ work experience.”
Training programs throughout Wall Street have notoriously high failure rates, and the work experience preference could indicate that UBS wants more serious candidates for the program.
The memo said that UBS also has tightened qualifications for its “Inter-Generational Advisor Program,” which allows advisors to “bring their sons and daughters into their practice.” The program this year is open only to advisors who are members of the firm’s “recognition clubs” for top producers, the memo said.
In April, UBS cut its payout level for trainee advisors to 35% from a lucrative 45% grid-rate that had rivaled what high-end veteran producers could receive.