Stephens Adding Brokers While Most Competitors Are Shrinking

(Click here for a list of the state's brokerage firms.)

While most other firms were shedding stockbrokers in 2002, Stephens Inc. was hiring them.

With 515 agents, the Little Rock brokerage firm still has 103 more registered agents than No. 2 broker Edward D. Jones Co., No. 3 A.G. Edwards & Sons and No. 4 Morgan Stanley Dean Witter combined, according to this year's Arkansas Business list of the state's largest broker-dealers.

Stephens Inc. has gained 58 brokers since the last time Arkansas Business published the list in December. At that time it had 457 agents.

The number of each firm's registered representatives in Arkansas were supplied by the firms.

Stephens spokesman Frank Thomas said the addition of agents is "just a reflection of our efforts to expand our private-client division, which is primarily a retail function of Stephens Inc."

Thomas said he hopes to see more growth in the future.

"We've expanded our operation in some of the Arkansas cities, primarily Conway and Hot Springs and Fayet-teville, and that's where a lot of that [growth] is reflected," he said.

Another Little Rock-based firm that saw an increase in registered agents was Crews & Associates Inc. Its 106 agents pushed it to No. 6 in the state. Last year, it was ranked No. 7 with 78 agents.

Sterne Agee & Leach also saw its numbers and ranking climb. The Birmingham, Ala., firm moved from No. 13 to 12 on the list with 33 Arkansas agents this year, eight more than it had in December.

Although Arvest Assets Management of Rogers only lost four agents, it dropped from No. 6 on the list to No. 8, with 83 registered agents. The move ends a record run for the firm, which had quadrupled since 1998, when it had 21 agents.

Arvest was not the only firm losing agents. Excluding Stephens, the top firms also witnessed their number of stockbrokers diminish.

Edward D. Jones & Co. of Maryland Heights, Mo., held onto the No. 2 position while seeing its number of registered representatives fall from 168 in December to 152.

A.G. Edwards & Sons of St. Louis also held onto the No. 3 position even though it went from 153 agents in the state to 144.

And in fourth place is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter of New York, which dropped from 124 agents to 116.

Combined, those three firms lost 7.2 percent of their agents in 2002, dropping from 444 in 2001 to 412 this year.

Merrill Lynch & Co. of New York hasn't responded to requests for Arkansas-specific information in two years, so its number couldn't be determined this year. But the company did see its net worth fall from $5.8 billion on Dec. 29, 2000 to $5.715 billion on Dec. 28, 2001.

Salomon Smith-Barney Inc. did not respond to requests for information.n

Largest Broker Dealers
Ranked by Net Worth

Rank — Firm — Net Worth (millions)* — Headquarters

1 — Salomon Smith-Barney Inc. — $6,860.00 — New York
2 — Merrill Lynch & Co. — $5,715.00 — New York
3 — PaineWebber Inc. — $2,671.00 — New York
4 — Morgan Stanley Dean Witter — $1,606.80 — New York
5 — A.G. Edwards & Sons — $1,324.50 — St. Louis
6 — Prudential Securities Inc. — $744.60 — New York
7 — Edward D. Jones & Co. — $601.50 — Maryland Heights, Mo.
8 — American Express Financial Advisors Inc. — $549.40 — Minneapolis
9 — Morgan Keegan & Co. — $339.00 — Memphis
10 — Stephens Inc. — $127.20 — Little Rock
11 — Sterne Agee & Leach — $21.40 — Birmingham, Ala.
12 — AXA Advisors LLC — $20.10 — New York
13 — Crews & Associates Inc. — $16.90 — Little Rock
14 — Oppenheim, a division of BOSC Inc. — $8.40 — Tulsa
15 — American Municipal Securities — $1.50 — St. Petersburg, Fla.
16 — Arvest Asset Management — $1.50 — Rogers
17 — St. Bernard Financial Services Inc. — $0.02 — Russellville

Source: Arkansas Securities Department
*Net worth is stockholders equity or partners' capital on the firm's fiscal year-end as taken from annual statements filed with the Arkansas Securities Department. For firms based outside Arkansas, stockholders equity for the entire corporation is listed.