Morgan Stanley's brokers can tweet (somewhat) freely.
Morgan Stanley advisers with 15 or more followers will be able tweet and retweet on their own, but it first has to be approved by the firm. Advisers have been allowed to write their own LinkedIn posts since July, 2012.
The bank's army of 16,000 financial advisors have been until now limited to only tweeting pre-written content provided by the firm on economic news, investing and wealth management, and some topical tweets.
Under the new policy, brokers will have to put up with all the same guidelines about public communications from financial advisers — no testimonials about their performance or tweets about niche investment products like derivatives or structured products that would typically require disclaimers, said Valentina Chtchedrine, an executive director for digital strategy in Morgan Stanley's wealth management division. Also, whenever a Morgan Stanley advisers tweets, a supervisor will have to approve it to be published.
Of Morgan Stanley's 16,000 advisers, 6,500 are part of the firm's social media program and 1,300 are approved to use Twitter, a number that Chtchedrine expects to go up now that advisers can author their own tweets, "the ability to do custom content and engage with followers will cause a lot of advisers to reconsider and be active on Twitter," Chtchedrine said.
The move is another marketing push for the firm's wealth management business, which following the acquisition of its brokerage joint-venture with Citigroup, is now a bigger than ever segment of the bank. Expanding the size and profitability of wealth management, which brings in steadier profits and uses up less precious capital than higher risk trading business, has been one of chief executive officer's James Gorman's biggest strategic moves during his tenure.
Gorman, who took over as chief executive officer as 2010, was a senior wealth management executive at both Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, and has referred to the bank's wealth and investment management businesses as Morgan Stanley's "ballast." In 2013, wealth management brought in 43.5% of the firm's annual revenue, some $14.2 billion. In 2006, its $5.5 billion only accounted for 18.3% of revenue.
One thing the new policy promises, less of this: where Morgan Stanley advisers across the country were all saying the same thing.
Last week, some Morgan Stanley financial advisors tweeted about then-recently released economic data:
Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.
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