Brokers leaving Wall Street; shouldn't you?

The time is right to evaluate your broker. Take control of your own portfolio.

By  Jan 4, 2010 8:18PM

That sucking sound you hear is not jobs heading south of the border because of free trade. It's the sound of Wall Street brokers stampeding toward the exits.


The Wall Street Journal reports today that many Wall Street brokers are leaving the big firms and often taking clients with them.


They're turning to work as independent advisers for their own or small firms. Apparently, the pay can be better, the headaches fewer, and you know better just whom you're in business with.


Frankly speaking, this exodus provides a great opportunity for individual investors now working with a full-service broker to take control and start managing their own wealth.


Think about it for a moment. What has your broker really done for you? During the past 10 years or more, the answer is probably not much. Has paying a broker resulted in superior returns? Is your investment stake big enough that your broker really gives you superior service?



The trend told in this story is only a partial telling of a bigger development. I have been following the discount brokers closely over the last year, and I recommended E*Trade Financial (ETFC) in my Penny Stock Winners newsletter.


Trading volumes and new accounts at the discount brokers are growing and growing fast. Perhaps disgruntled investors are finally figuring out that they can indeed do it themselves, with inexpensive help only from a discount broker.


The metrics are very favorable for the discount broker industry. Along with ETFC, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) should benefit as more accounts are opened. In fact, AMTD is rumored to be interested in buying ETFC.


One interesting trend with the discount brokers is the development of  the smartphone space. Trading at your fingertips with applications tied directly to your account could be a very exciting development for the discount brokers.


Charles Schwab (SCHW), the pioneer in the discount broker space, is another candidate to consider, but I am cautious on that name. Schwab is looking more and more like a Wall Street firm even if they charge lower brokerage fees.


It is hard to say that SCHW is truly interested in providing the best service and tools to the individual investor or are they interested in generating fees. Generating fees is what a Wall Street firm is all about.


Now that full-service brokers are leaving Wall Street firms en masse, perhaps you should do the same. (Read about how two senators are trying to reform Wall Street.)


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