In a bid to ensure its financial advisors can compete with specialty wealth management boutiques such as Rockefeller Capital Management, Morgan Stanley is requiring its brokers with some of the firm’s wealthiest clients to complete a 150-hour online course, according to news reports.

The wirehouse is aiming the course at its nearly 525 advisors in the private wealth management unit, which caters to individuals and families with at least $20 million in assets, AdvisorHub writes.

At the end of the course, advisors must take a two-day in-person exam, which includes a 100-question multiple-choice section and an oral presentation of a case study administered by Morgan Stanley’s family office resources unit, a spokeswoman for the company tells the industry news website.

If they pass, advisors receive a Family Wealth Director designation, AdvisorHub writes.

The family office resources unit, which Morgan Stanley expanded last year, includes specialists in areas such as estate planning and philanthropy and is aimed at helping Morgan Stanley’s advisors compete with specialty firms such as Rockefeller, the website writes.

Rockefeller, headed by former Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley president Greg Fleming, has been luring advisors and veteran wirehouse executives in recent months.

“The FWD designation program … arms them with knowledge and skills to be a client’s holistic family advisor, competitive with a multi-family office service platform,” Private Wealth Management head Mandell Crawley tells AdvisorHub. “It ensures a broad level of expertise, and encourages best practices as well as a strong connection to firm resources.”


Morgan Stanley’s private wealth group has 270 teams, and at least one member of each team will be required to attain the FDW designation by the end of the year, Crawley tells the website.

In 2018, around 70 advisors were able to pass the tests, according to AdviorHub. But advisors who fail to pass the course will not be penalized “as of now,” and can retake the tests, the Morgan Stanley spokeswoman tells the website.