Largest Brokerages Get Smaller, Annual List Shows

Largest Broker Dealers
Click here for the list of the state's largest broker dealers. (Lists require Adobe Acrobat viewer. Click here for a free copy.)

The most striking thing about this year's Arkansas Business list of the largest broker dealers ranked by registered representatives is the number of firms that reported losing stockbrokers.

The top six firms reported losing stockbrokers since last year.

The biggest drop was for the No. 2 firm, Edward Jones of St. Louis, which went from 200 in 2004 to 158 this year, a loss of 21 percent.

Overall leader, of course, is still is Stephens Inc. of Little Rock with 494 registered representatives. Stephens has more registered representatives than the firms ranked second, third — A.G. Edwards of St. Louis — and fourth — Crews & Associates of Little Rock — have combined.

But Stephens, too, saw its numbers dip a little from 2004, when it had 508 agents.

"It was such a small difference, I don't consider that a trend at all," said Stephens spokesman Frank Thomas. "We're continuing to look at opportunities to grow our business and are very comfortable with where we are and the markets that we're in."

Stephens also had the highest net worth for firms based in Arkansas at $121.38 million. Crews & Associates came in second with a net worth of $17.77 million.

Stephens Inc. also tops Arkansas Business' first-ever list of money managers — more precisely, registered investment advisors. (Click here for page 1, here for page 2.) Its assets under management of $2.8 billion as of September more than tripled that of the state's No. 2 RIA, Foundation Resource Management of Little Rock.

The other top five broker-dealers also reported small decreases in their number of stockbrokers: A.G. Edwards went from 135 in 2004 to 126 this year. Crews & Associates went from 125 to 119 during that period.

For the first time since October 2000, Arkansas Business received numbers from Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. of New York. It reported having 100 registered representatives in the state, which was good enough for fifth place on the list. The last time it appeared, Merrill Lynch reported 115 Arkansas stockbrokers.

Because of Merrill Lynch's entry back into the top five, it knocked Arvest Asset Management of Rogers from the No. 6 position in 2004 to No. 7 this year, even though Arvest jumped from 68 stock brokers to 80 in 2005.

An Arvest official wasn't immediately available for comment.

Also back on the list was Sterne Agee & Leach, which wasn't ranked on last year's list because Arkansas Business didn't have current information for the Birmingham, Ala., firm.

This year, Sterne Agee & Leach reported having 24 registered representatives in its offices in Fort Smith and Little Rock.

This year's list also provided some bad news for AXA Advisors LLC of New York, which has Arkansas offices in Little Rock and Springdale but closed its Harrison office last year. AXA fell from 19 stockbrokers in 2004 to 8 in 2005, which knocked it off the list.

Taking its place was a new entry, Delta Trust Investment Inc. of Little Rock, which has 10 registered agents.

Others making moves on the list were Oppenheim, a division of BOSC Inc. of Tulsa. While the number of its agents increased from 41 in 2004 to 47 this year, Oppenheim fell from No. 9 last year to No. 11 this year.

Field Wasson, Oppenheim's managing director in Arkansas, said the company didn't really have a push to add more stockbrokers.

"We're always looking to hire good producers," Wasson said. "We're always looking for ways to profitably grow the business."

He said there is always a lot of turnover at the brokerage firms.

"This industry is pretty dynamic by its nature," Wasson said.

Another firm that added agents but also experienced a drop in rank was Morgan Keegan & Co. of Memphis.

It had 53 registered representatives in Arkansas in 2004, good enough for No. 8 on the list. This year it added 10 stockbrokers to bring its total to 63 but only ended up in the No. 9 position.

St. Bernard Financial Services of Rus-sellville lost one registered representative during the past year and now has 24.

Robert Keenan, CEO of the firm, said it's difficult to add stockbrokers because St. Bernard doesn't pay signing bonuses.

Still, St. Bernard was able to expand to Conway in the past year, giving it 10 offices in the state.

"We'd like to double every year, but we haven't been able to do it," Keenan said.