Morgan Stanley to cut 200-300 brokers and trainees

By Joseph A. Giannone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley <MS.N> plans to fire 200 to 300 poorly performing brokers and trainees at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, a person familiar with the plan said on Wednesday.

The move will likely bring its ranks of financial advisers down to about 17,800 at the end of this month, compared with 18,043 at the end of December. Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Morgan Stanley makes the move after its broker force stabilized following a wave of departures around the time of its June 2009 acquisition of a controlling stake in Smith Barney. The firm's executives have said they intend to have between 17,500 and 18,500 advisers over time.

Brokerage firms are judged in part by the productivity of their advisers. Culling the lowest producers can help boost average revenue generation.

Morgan Stanley trainees are people new to the brokerage business who have been with the firm from six to 36 months, a group that generally does not immediately contribute to the unit's earnings. Morgan Stanley had set out to bring in about 2,000 trainees last year.

Weak producers could include brokers with five years of experience but who generate only $75,000 a year in fees and commissions, the person familiar said.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney's average production rose to $742,000 at the end of last year, up from less than $700,000 a year earlier.

(Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone, editing by Matthew Lewis)