NEW YORK, Mar 2 (Reuters) Morgan Stanley, which has served small investors for decades with its retail brokerage, will rename the business Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management Group, as it tries to attract more affluent clients worldwide.
James Gorman, in his first official act since joining Morgan Stanley last week as president of retail brokerage, told employees in a memo Wednesday that the name change would help the firm's 9,500 financial advisers take advantage of the corporate brand.
''We are in the business of helping people manage their long-term wealth,'' Gorman wrote in the memo. ''Our new name better reflects both our activities and aspirations.'' Dean Witter was a Main Street broker formed in 1924 that grew to become one of the largest U.S. brokerage firms with a focus on middle class investors. Dean Witter in 1997 merged with investment bank Morgan Stanley &Co. and became known internally as the Morgan Stanley Individual Investor Group.
About three years ago, as millions of investors saw their accounts shrink in the aftermath of the 1990s bull market in stocks, Morgan Stanley dropped the Dean Witter name and began selling brokerage and wealth management services under its own, more-upscale brand.
The latest name change comes as Morgan Stanley tries to revive a business that lags its rivals in per-broker revenue and average account value and in the breadth of products available.
Investors and analysts for years have urged Morgan Stanley to shed the brokerage, which has generated lower earnings and returns than both its rivals and other divisions of the company. Brokerage also incurred large financial penalties for a series of regulatory problems.
Still, Chairman and Chief Executive John Mack has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to retail brokerage since rejoining the investment bank last June.
Mack has told investors that he wants the division to boost revenue growth by selling a broader array of services, loans and alternative investments to a wealthier clientele in the United States.
Assets in accounts with $10 million or more rose 12 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, while accounts with $1 million or more rose 9 per cent. Customer accounts with less than $100,000 in assets fell by 21 per cent in the same period.
The wealth management business also figures prominently in Morgan Stanley's expansion plans for Europe, India, the Middle East and Far East Asia. Morgan Stanley has had significant brokerage businesses in the U.K. and Spain for years.
Overall, $56 billion of Morgan's brokerage client assets come from outside the United States, out of total client assets of $617 billion at the end of fiscal 2005.
Gorman, formerly the head of Merrill Lynch&Co. Inc.'s industry-leading private client group, joined Morgan Stanley last week with the mission of reviving the retail division.
REUTERS SD HT1840