Time was, if you were a successful broker on Wall Street, your company sent you on trips to mingle with other top producing brokers, at which the only planned activities included playing golf, getting drunk, and falling ass-backward into the pool. Then the financial crisis hit and suddenly firms couldn’t afford the bad press associated with a gaggle of their employees passing out naked on the ninth hole at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Well now they can!
To a point. The trips are back but now they included actual business-related events, which some people are finding is kind of a buzz kill.
In late April, a few hundred of Morgan Stanley’s top stockbrokers and their spouses jetted off to Hawaii for a gathering spiced with golf, deep-sea fishing and suntanning. When they arrived at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, on Maui, the first perks of their all-expenses-paid trip were waiting for them: “pillow gifts” of GoPro cameras and Maui Jim sunglasses, according to one attendee. With the stock market at record levels and wealth-management fees rising, Wall Street is reviving posh “recognition” junkets that were abruptly suspended in the 2008-2009 financial meltdown, when banks taking government bailouts wanted to avoid the appearance of extravagance. Morgan Stanley’s Hawaii gathering was its most lavish since the crisis and its first outside of the continental U.S., according to advisers.
Industry executives and analysts say the return of the junket reflects the bullish market and growing competition for top revenue-producing brokers, who, in addition to high pay, expect significant rewards for their efforts. Still, trips aren’t as costly as those in precrisis days, and many now include work-related education and training. “Prerecession, those trips were nothing but fun, but those are never coming back,” said Steven Dudash, a financial adviser and president of IHT Wealth Management in Chicago, who has been in the industry for 15 years and recently left a job at Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch. [...] “In the old days it was basically you went and didn’t have to attend any meetings or seminars. You just went to Paradise Island or Puerto Rico and had a good time,” said one Wells Fargo broker. “Now you’re in meetings most of the day. I feel sometimes I’d rather be back in my office.”