Morgan Stanley Flirting With Dropping The Smith Barney Name

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 00:50
Morgan Stanley Flirting With Dropping The Smith Barney Name

Tags: Morgan Stanley

There are strong hints that a Wall Street brand with roots going back to 1873 may be ready for the history books.

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Morgan Stanley is reportedly shopping around some prospective new names to clients. All revolve around some variation on "Morgan Stanley," which acquired control of Smith Barney as a joint venture with Citigroup in 2008 and then absorbed the rest of the company a year later.


None include any version of "Smith Barney."


While internal spin doctors have positioned this as a routine brand-checking exercise, the fact is that both firms have retired multiple secondary brands in the past -- Schroder, Salomon Brothers, Dean Witter, Shearson, Reynolds -- and it's unlikely that Smith Barney would have lasted forever in any event.


Much as "Schroder Salomon Smith Barney" or "Morgan Stanley Dean Witter" was a transitory mouthful, any combined brand that forces all stakeholders to routinely cough out 7-8 syllables was a headache for all concerned.


Still, for diehard Smith Barney advisors, the continuation of the old brand provided emotional security that will now need to find other ways to connect to the new firm -- or else go elsewhere. We'll just have to see what happens there.


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