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Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Review

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This review was produced by SmartAsset based on publicly available information. The named firm and its financial professionals have not reviewed, approved, or endorsed this review and are not responsible for its accuracy. Review content is produced by SmartAsset independently of any business relationships that might exist between SmartAsset and the named firm and its financial professionals, and firms and financial professionals having business relationships with SmartAsset receive no special treatment or consideration in SmartAsset’s reviews. This page contains links to SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool, which may or may not match you with the firm mentioned in this review or its financial professionals.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is the wealth management division of the investment bank Morgan Stanley. The division serves individuals, families, businesses and institutions. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offers a range of services, including wealth planning, investment management, estate planning and IRAs and other retirement solutions. It operates in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Background

Though Morgan Stanley as an investment bank has served clients for more than 80 years, Morgan Stanley moved into wealth management in the 1970s. In 2009, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management merged with Citigroup’s Smith Barney to create Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

In 2013, Morgan Stanley completed the purchase of the joint venture, becoming the full owner of the massive wealth management franchise. The investment advisory division had changed its name from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in 2012. The affiliated brokerage portion of the business still operates under the name Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Client Types and Account Minimumsini

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management serves individuals, families, businesses and institutions. It offers a variety of account programs, each with different account minimums and for varying levels of investment experience. 

There’s a $100,000 minimum for most equity, balanced and fixed income accounts in Morgan Stanley’s Fiduciary Services program. For most municipal bond, high yield and tax-efficient equity accounts, as well as financial planning services, there’s a $250,000 minimum. Account minimums for the firm's consulting and evaluation services, investment management services and Private Wealth Management (PWM) Manager Assessment Program can range from $250,000 to upward of $5 million.

Moreover, different divisions of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management require different account minimums and are geared toward different types of clients. Here are the divisions within Morgan Stanley Wealth Management: 

  • Private Wealth Management

Private Wealth Management is a division of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management that exclusively serves ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Morgan Stanley declined to disclose the account minimum required to enroll in Private Wealth Management. However, ultra-high-net-worth individuals are defined as people who have at least $30 million, not including personal assets. 

  • Global Sports & Entertainment

As the division's title indicates, Morgan Stanley's Global Sports & Entertainment division is focused on serving sports and entertainment professionals. The firm says its sports and entertainment directors have experience serving actors, directors, film, TV and theater producers and writers, musicians, songwriters, music producers, professional athletes, coaches and owners across all major sports. Morgan Stanley does not specify an account minimum for this division.

  • Access Investing 

This is Morgan Stanley’s robo-advisor service. Morgan Stanley Access Investing is aimed at much lower-level investors, and it requires an account minimum of just $5,000, the lowest minimum of any of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s offered account programs. For more information, you can read SmartAsset’s review of Morgan Stanley Access Investing

Services Offered by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management claims that it provides services relevant to each stage of life. Its services include:

  • Goals-based wealth planning
  • Investment advice and management (both discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Long-term care and disability insurance
  • Trust and estate planning
  • Cash management and lending solutions
  • IRAs and other retirement solutions
  • Tax planning
  • Insurance solutions
  • Education funding
  • Income protection strategies

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offers financial planning through its LifeView® Advisor and LifeView® Personal Wealth Advisor programs. A financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management can help you evaluate your financial goals and craft an appropriate strategy to meet those goals, which may include saving for retirement or funding an education. 

Additionally, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management also provides services specifically for business owners. These services including advice on starting a business, ongoing business planning and succession and exit planning. 

Investment Philosophy

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management provides both model and custom portfolios, and it claims to offer its clients the choice of 140 different investing products. It says it commonly uses stocks, bonds, money market funds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and cash for client portfolios. For qualified investors, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offers alternative investment opportunities.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management says it employs a “spectrum” of investment approaches. One of its featured approaches is impact investing, which focuses on making investment choices that will also produce positive social or environmental effects. The firm says it identifies these opportunities through advice and comprehensive research.

The wealth management arm of Morgan Stanley will also incorporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors, which manage exposures so as to avoid investing in what it describes as “objectionable activities, sectors or geographics.” The firm also allows for restriction screening, which serves a similar function by screening out objectionable investment opportunities.

Additionally, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management offers values-based investing, which will strive to align clients’ portfolios with their personal values. Another option is thematic exposure, in which clients can choose particular themes or focuses, like sustainability or technology, to center their portfolios around.

Fees Under Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Just as the account minimums vary by program type, so do the fees. For investment advisory services, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management say its fees are generally based on a percentage of the total value of your assets under management at the end of the previous quarter. These fees are charged in advance each quarter. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management says it may also receive commissions and markups, as well as other fees and charges including account maintenance fees, account transfer and termination fees, cash management services fees, third-party fees and investment specific fees.

Morgan Stanley says the MSWM fee, the annual fee it charge for its services, is a minimum of 2.00% or $250 per year, depending on which is lesser. For the Private Wealth Management (PWM) Manager Assessment Program, you'll pay the MSWM fee and the manager separately for the services that each provides. The maximum annual rate is 2.50%. Morgan Stanley also charges a platform fee of 0.045% to client assets in select programs.

For financial planning services, the maximum fee for the delivery and review of a financial plan, aside from the firm's LifeView Connect Program, is generally $5,000. However, the maximum fee may increase to as much as $10,000 if more than $5 million in assets are considered in the financial plan and the financial advisor managing the plan holds a specific certification, such as a certified financial planner (CFP) or a chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Brokerage Partnerships

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is also registered as a broker-dealer. The broker-dealer designation for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

As a broker-dealer, Morgan Stanley will make securities transactions on your behalf, among other services. Unlike the wealth management side, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney does not have the discretion to buy and sell securities for its clients, nor does it have a fiduciary nor advisory duty to its clients. Morgan Stanley financial advisors can provide both brokerage services and investment advisory services.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Personnel

Morgan Stanley has an exceptionally large team of 15,712 wealth management representatives. However, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management makes it easy to sift through its thousands of advisors to find the right fit for you. 

The wealth management homepage features a search bar, where you can enter in your zip code. The search results display financial advisors near you, and the results can be further filtered according to your occupation, investment needs, language preferences and whether there are any particular certifications you’d like in an advisor.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s search feature also allows you to search for an advisor by name or to find nearby branches.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Awards and Recognition

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, including the Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management division, has earned a slew of awards from major financial publications in just the last year.

In 2017, Barron’s ranked Morgan Stanley Wealth Management No. 2 on its list of the nation's top 40 wealth management firms, after Bank of America Global Wealth and Investment Management. One of Morgan Stanley's financial advisors, Karen McDonald, topped Barron's list of the top 100 women advisors in 2017.

Seven Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management advisors made the top 20 on Forbes' list of the top 250 wealth advisors in 2017. Forty-six Morgan Stanley Wealth Management advisors and 39 Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management advisors snagged spots on Financial Times' 2017 list of the top 400 financial advisors.

What to Watch Out For

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has more than 100 disclosures on record with the SEC. This isn’t necessarily unusual for such a large financial institution, but it’s something current and potential clients should be aware of. 

Recently, in January 2017, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management paid $13 million to settle civil charges after the SEC accused it of overcharging more than 149,000 of its wealth management clients due to coding and billing errors. The errors reportedly resulted in the bank receiving $16 million in excess fees between 2002 and 2016. Morgan Stanley says all affected clients were reimbursed and company policies were reviewed. 

Opening an Account with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Finding a nearby Morgan Stanley Wealth Management financial advisor, branch or private wealth advisor is as simple as going to the wealth management section of the firm’s website and entering your zip code. You’ll be provided with a list of nearby financial advisors, as well as the advisors’ certifications, areas of focus and websites. You can then contact an advisor to discuss the process or set up an appointment.

To enroll in one of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s offered portfolio management programs, you’ll typically need to complete a client profile and fill out an investment questionnaire. Clients interested in Morgan Stanley’s financial planning services will go through a discovery process with their financial advisors. This process includes a review of any requested financial documents and a discussion about a client’s current financial situation, future needs, liabilities, income sources and expenditures, tax status and retirement, estate and insurance planning needs.

Tips for Finding the Right Financial Advisor

  • Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Think about what you need in a financial advisor. Financial advisors offer a variety of services and may specialize in serving certain types of clients. As you search for a financial advisor, it’s important to keep in mind whether you’re looking for someone to help you get ready for retirement or manage your wealth.
  • Consider your alternatives. If you’re just starting out or you don’t have a lot to invest, consider a robo-advisor instead of a traditional financial advisor. Robo-advisors typically require lower account minimums and charge lower fees.

How Long $1 Million Lasts in Retirement

SmartAsset's interactive map highlights places where $1 million will last the longest in retirement. Zoom between states and the national map to see the top spots in each region. Also, scroll over any city to learn about the cost of living in retirement for that location.

Rank City Housing Expenses Food Expenses Healthcare Expenses Utilities Expenses Transportation Expenses

Methodology We weighed potential expenditures for a prospective retiree with a  $1 million nest egg to assess how many years that fund would cover in retirement in America’s largest cities.

We applied cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research to adjust those national average spending levels based on the costs of each expense category (housing, food, healthcare, utilities, transportation and other) in each city. Using this data, SmartAsset calculated the average cost of living for retirees in metro areas across the U.S.

We assumed the $1 million would grow at a net annual return of 2% after inflation. Then, we divided $1 million by the sum of each of those annual numbers to determine how long $1 million would cover retirement expenses in each of the cities in our study. Cities where $1 million lasted the longest ranked the highest in the study.